In the act of “naming”, we not only acknowledge the subject’s inherent qualities and boundaries, but also imbue it with meaning, thus positioning ourselves in relation to it. Consequently, there is a manifestation of power that is both generated by us and at our disposal, ultimately allowing control—not unlike the belief that to gain control over a spirit, we must know, and utter, its name.
Though a musician may recognize the initial importance of choosing a band name or a moniker, the name is likely to take on greater significance as an artist progresses personally and professionally. It is, however, when a name is spoken aloud that it becomes sound; the very thing by which musicians differentiate themselves, the very thing that gives them power.
It is by wielding this influence, by combining sounds, disciplines and technologies, that musicians further redefine that which defines them. It is in this work, in this expression, in these choices, that an artist explores the facets which make them unique and reinforce the qualities of a name.
Julianne Shawe, who goes by the moniker PATHS, has taken a significant step towards reinventing herself as an artist. PATHS is a willful deviation from Julianne’s comfort zone and a critical departure from her prior musical trajectory. The moniker brings to mind the nature of sound as brave little waves of energy forging their way into the unknown to ultimately find themselves in new and interesting circumstances.
Her first solo release “Neoprene” stems from the pivotal moments in a frustrating relationship when you begin to ask why, while trying to cope with the perplexing options of staying, going, or compromise. Feverish, yet inexplicably soothing, Neoprene is a striking track with sweet melodies and gritty overtones, embodying a vibrational transcendence delivered by frenetic sequencing and a curious musical process.
The accompanying video lends mood and complexities to a rich musical composition that showcases Julianne’s expertise as a musician and technician. Surrounded by LED light arrays, Julianne stands in a dark, abstract, reflective structure; a condition that adds enigmatic subtext to the overall highly charged situation. Oddly enough, the absorbing visuals bring about a feeling of watching some mini physics experiment, reminiscent of the tokamak setup in Oxford which fuses hydrogen to create and release the energy contained in a star—or maybe I’ve simply reached maximum gin saturation.
In a most unassuming sense, Julianne seems to have woven a poignant metaphoric note that is both misleading and accurate depending on your frame of reference…
Citizen LA: Your debut single release is called “Neoprene”; a material used to make wetsuits, and sex toys—
Citizen LA: So which of those two is your song talking about?
Julianne: Oh George, let’s not go into THAT! [laughs] Interesting that you would mention a wetsuit. I was doing a lot of body-boarding at the time, so I named it Neoprene.
Citizen LA: Ahhhh… so NOT from the toy?
Julianne: Noooooo! Hmm… Maybe I should change that story to make it more interesting!
Citizen LA: Maybe by the end of this interview you’ll tell me all your secrets!
Citizen LA: This song brings to mind a beautiful frenetic quality found in Balinese music. Was this a stylistic choice? Or this a glimpse into your intense personality?
Julianne: I write these songs using clean guitars, however, I knew this would be a one-woman-show and didn’t want it to feel too acoustic. Working with producer Rory Fryers took, we chopped up the song and processed it through a synthesizer. In doing so, we shortened the guitar into sharp distinct notes, which are played at a fast pace on a keyboard, making it more driven… but, yeah, there’s definitely some of my intensity in there [giggles].
Citizen LA: And you’ve never heard Balinese music?
Julianne: No I haven’t.
Citizen LA: There’s a specific Balinese instrument that looks like an ornate Glockenspiel played with metal hammers; a high-pitch high-velocity instrument. You’ve slipped into a musical execution style that has been used in transcendental storytelling for millennia. I’m impressed.
Julianne: We’re trying to create our own instruments, often somewhat strange and bizarre. It’s definitely something that will follow through into my other music as well.
Citizen LA: The video for “Neoprene” was shot in East Belfast, at a public bathhouse, built way back in the 1800’s. Any particular reason?
Julianne: The bathhouse itself has wonderful acoustics, and the reflectiveness of the LED lights against the original old tiles of in the pool looked fantastic. I programmed and sequenced all the LED lights that appear in the video, which react to certain parts of the song, those that are very emotive. The location brought to life the essence of the song. The Belfast Bathhouse was a perfect location, and it’s steeped in history.
Citizen LA: Sounds amazing. Yeah… the bathhouses in Los Angles may lack stunning craftsmanship and a rich history, but they make up for it in debauchery. Maybe you can do a tour of bathhouses in LA?
Julianne: That would be different!
Citizen LA: Additionally, the Belfast Bathhouse website states that the shipyard men, who worked on the Titanic, would bathe there on Friday evenings before going to the dance halls. Is this your midnight ritual as well?
Julianne: Though it is near my home, I missed all that by about a century. But I was one of the last people to showcase anything in the original structures, as they are in disrepair and basically condemned.
Citizen LA: Of course it’s completely wrecked! You know how feisty those over-worked shipyard men can get.
Citizen LA: We touched on your use of guitars in songwriting. Is this your weapon of choice?
Julianne: Absolutely. Though I’m into electronic sounds now, the guitar is the essence of all my music.
Citizen LA: Did you go to music school?
Julianne: I’m pretty much self-taught, and was brought up playing piano. I really connected with the electric guitar during the brit-pop / grunge era. Back then, CDs would come with the guitar tabs, which meant that I could play along with the songs. I was also in rock bands, so it’s always been about electric guitar and distortion. St. Vincent is a big influence on me. She’s an amazing guitar-wielding rock god!
Citizen LA: Amazing and photogenic! I was lucky enough to shoot her at Coachella.
Julianne: Ooh! I wanna play there!
Citizen LA: You should play there! [pause] You know what?? Coachella lies in a desert valley which has mineral springs and bathhouses… so…
Julianne: There’s a connection!
Citizen LA: I see a warm-water U.S. bath tour in your future.
Citizen LA: Switching gears… so why do you think music creates an immediate emotional response?
Julianne: I think music is a mix of escapism and an emotional sensory connection, possibly tapping into a particular frequency, which can be hypnotic to specific individuals. I’m into music that fills me with adrenaline.
Citizen LA: Definitely somewhere between escapism and an altered state of consciousness, which are often one in the same. Like eating an alarmingly spicy pepper to get your endorphins firing while chanting on the edge of an active sacred volcano.
Julianne: That’ll get your adrenaline going!
Citizen LA: What about the need to discover something buried deep within yourself?
Julianne: Since my early teens, I always wanted an instrument that was “free”. So I picked up the guitar and played whatever poured out of me. It could have been noise, but they were my emotions. It was often angry, fast, and a way of getting my feelings out at that time. At that age, you’re seeking something to describe what the hell is going on with you! We’re talking hormonal fourteen or fifteen–
Citizen LA: What you’re telling me is that when women are no longer teenagers, they’re no longer hormonal?
Julianne: Well, let’s just say women learn to… embrace it. Some through their music, which helps get some of that frustration out.
Citizen LA: Should we circle back to the neoprene toys, now? Or keep moving on?
Julianne: I see what you’re doing here.
Citizen LA: Bad boy.
Citizen LA: Is yours an inward journey or an outward adventure?
Julianne: I’m in place where I know who I am and what I want to do, and as my music progresses, I see real strength in portraying that. So definitely an outward adventure. A few years ago I was on an inward journey, still playing in bands, often with a lot of frustration, but now I’m comfortable going solo.
Citizen LA: Is there room for anyone else in this solo journey?
Julianne: Umm… well… musically, no.
Citizen LA: Well, well, well. The plot thickens!
Julianne: [laughs] There are amazing moments when playing in a band, but when you’re creatively confident, you tend to lead, and that can obviously cause a lot of problems with people who aren’t on the same page. Bands are relationships, and I’ve had a lot of four person relationships.
Citizen LA: So it’s just you, your bodyboard… and the wave.
Julianne: I think that analogy is perfect for this single, but also with what’s happening within me right now. It’s so true. There’s only one person clinging to that bodyboard—just you and the bodyboard. And there certainly are a lot of waves out there.
Citizen LA: Lots of waves to test your resolve and resilience.
Citizen LA: You go by the moniker of PATHS. Explain.
Julianne: There was some anxiety about coming up with the right band name, but then “PATHS” kinda just came out of nowhere. It’s like trying to name your child, who will be stuck with this name forever. Or like getting a tattoo. It should be easy to say, to remember, and hopefully create many connotations. I’m on an exciting solo journey and I have many paths ahead of me, so the name works.
Citizen LA: You say that the name kinda just came, but it kinda just came because of the act of releasing energy. We must release what’s in our hands, to have the empty hands, to receive what’s next.
Julianne: It makes a lot of sense.
Citizen LA: Concerning the lyrics “one of these days we’ll meet in the middle”, is this commenting on the nature of neoprene?
Julianne: Well… the song is about two frustrated minds which have gotten to the point in a relationship where they’re considering that things are never gonna work. Do you leave? Do you stick with it? Do you meet in the middle?
Citizen LA: So it’s like two people in one wetsuit.
Julianne: There you go! Never gonna work!
Citizen LA: So what is a musician’s role in the music industry in 2017? How do you see yourself fitting in?
Julianne: Going solo can be a struggle, as we have to do most everything ourselves. Now I must be a jack of all trades, because not only do I have to produce music, but I have to make myself into this online “image” that’s socially attractive in order to connect with people.
Citizen LA: Creating a successful social media presence can be an enormous challenge.
Julianne: The fans expect more of artists now. This may be particularly difficult for creative people who are exceedingly inward, like Bob Dylan or Prince and others who like their privacy. You probably wouldn’t see them all over Facebook posting shamelessly about themselves. I’m definitely more of a private person.
Citizen LA: Well… there are plenty of relaxing places throughout the world from which to disconnect and draw inspiration. The world is your bathhouse.
Julianne: This could be my thing!
Neoprene presents us with a song title, which fits within a lyrical context, which fits within a transcendental soundscape, which fits within a circle of photons, which fits within a location steeped in history, which works to create a cohesive whole, which elegantly describes Julianne Shawe’s artistic philosophies.
In the Hindu Namakarana ceremony, a child is given one ordinary name and a second “secret name” derived from astrology. Although we’re pretty certain that Julianne didn’t participate in this ceremony, the name PATHS is certainly fitting—regardless of where in the universe it originated. And if sound is energy, and consequently the driving force behind all existence, then PATHS is a name destined to take Julianne along for a ride.