Uffie Talks About Her New Album “Sunshine Factory” And The “Indie Sleaze” Phenomenon
As soon as I arrive at the door of Tenants of the Trees, an infamous bar in LA’s Silver Lake neighborhood, I realize I’m not on the list. But when I tell the doorman I’m with Uffie, who’s DJing inside, he unties the velvet rope and ushers me inside. “It’s a legend,” he said.
He is right. Uffie’s first album, Sexual Dreams & Denim Jeans, which she rapped apathetically over with a vague British accent over Parisian party beats, set the tone for much of the music and style currently in vogue, even though it was released a while ago. 12 years. Without Uffie, there might be no Kesha, no Charli XCX, and no poster boy for the blogging era that has recently been dubbed “indie sleaze.” But the man at the door can’t remember the glory days of the Hype Machine — To him and the hundred people inside the bar, Anna-Catherine Hartley, 34, is a legend for different reasons.
Tonight, she plays a rare techno DJ set at the underground party Lights Down Low, which takes place just hours before flying to Paris to begin a European tour. Before heading to a downtown Los Angeles warehouse tonight, she volunteered to host a fundraising cocktail party for a local public elementary school. Although not what I expected for the first stop of our evening together, it makes sense. Uffie is the mother of a 12 year old girl and a 9 year old boy, and is friends with the mum who organized the event. Renowned party photographer The Cobrasnake snaps while parents and teachers dance to “TThhEe PPaARRtTYY,” his track with banger makers Justice. For a minute it looks like 2007 – but it’s not, and Uffie is happy. Instead of wandering down memory lane, she’s much more interested in taking her fans somewhere new. She calls it the Sunshine Factory.
“For me, the Sunshine Factory was an experience I fantasized about,” she tells me over a grilled octopus and a bottle of orange wine at a restaurant down the street after the fundraiser. The name came to him during the pandemic in a vision with the image of a gray rainbow. At first, she didn’t know if it was a brand, a party, an album or something else. So she started with an album, her first in 12 years, released on May 20 on Toro y Moi’s Company Records.
The pair met when Toro y Moi DMed Uffie from his personal account in 2018, telling her she was his favorite rapper. At first, she didn’t believe it; as far as everyone knows, she was retired. After the birth of her son in 2013, she quit music to focus on her family. “I had been hustling and touring since I was 16, and I just needed a break to learn how to be a human. I feel like there’s this extension when you have a manager, a business leader, all those things, you grow up really fast but you don’t have to learn how to do shit,” she recalled. She moved from Paris to Joshua Tree, where she lived her dreams of being a desert mother while studying biology at a local university and interning at a zoo.
A few years later, she divorced and moved to Seattle to be closer to her sister. Then something happened that she hadn’t expected or even thought she wanted. She was drawn to music and moved with her two children to Los Angeles, where she began to dabble in the world of songwriting, including co-writing Pink’s track “Hurts 2B Human” with Khalid. The job meshed well with motherhood, giving her the stability and schedule to stay close to her children. She could imagine doing it for the rest of her life, and that was the plan.
While fans remembered and tweeted that they missed her, there was no label harassing her for a new record, no industry machine with a plan for how and why to make a comeback. That’s how she knew she really missed making music as Uffie. She self-released her EP Tokyo love hotel in 2019, switching to self-tuned sugary pop vocals with lyrics focusing on the dark side of partying, rather than cutting the VIP line with her friends.
The same thing happened with sun factory, which she originally planned to self-release before Toro y Moi offered to release it on her label. “There was no expectation; nobody knew I was making a record, and it was just pure freedom. It gave me the assurance that if I don’t like it, no one has to hear it. It gave me camaraderie and bravery,” she says. She made the album in two weeks at an Airbnb in Portugal – one of the only places she could legally travel during the lockdown – with Lokyo, a bassist and music producer she had met during a session of random studio. This meeting resulted in the song “Cool”, her favorite since “Pop the Glock”, the first song she had ever written. At the time, she had no idea that “Cool” would be the lead single from her next album, she just knew it was something special. “I wanted [the record] to be a film and sound version of the night I missed and the community I wanted to be with,” she says. During the pandemic, Uffie was struggling with her mental health and wanted to transport herself elsewhere. She missed the concrete walls of the Berlin superclub Berghain, but she also dreamed of being immersed in a verdant forest. “Sunshine Factory popped into my head and I was like, ‘This is where I want to be, this could be everything,'” she explains. And it’s; sun factory has groovy bass lines, indie pop vocals, Southern California ska, and rave anthems — in fact, there’s hardly any rapping at all.
The first line of the album is “we enjoy at the same time.“Even though it’s not a love record, like a lot of things, it started with a guy. “It was fun and then it wasn’t, kind of like the journey of the record,” Uffie says. The relationship ended over the phone on the last days of his recording sessions in Portugal, which led to songs like “Giants” near the more emotional end of the album.
sun factory takes listeners through the experience of a night out at Uffie’s fantasy club. After entering and drinking, dancing and taking your mind-altering substance of your choice, the inevitable descent ensues, followed by the return home and fall into your lover’s arms. She was inspired by the theatrics of drag queens and their commitment to bringing people joy and experience with their art. Between the tracks, she placed interludes from her friends: electroclash legend Peaches, drag race Queen Ilona Verley and musician Teddy Geiger. “I wanted to add to the experience of being in the club, so these are meant to be voice notes that you receive,” she explains.
The album is a big departure from the nonstop collaboration experience with Pharrell she had with her debut album on Ed Banger Records in Paris. Uffie reappeared in a new landscape with new priorities. She’s not an apathetic club fiend, and she’s not part of a super team of French DJs – she’s a mother who lives in the suburbs of Los Angeles who picks and chooses the parties that are worth it. . Even though it seems perfectly timed, she had no intention of returning to the core of her debut nostalgia. “I’m really frustrated to be associated with bloghouse. Every fucking post is like ‘the queen of blogs’. I know that’s where I started and I know I took a break, but I do substantial work with doped people – let’s focus on that,” she says, taking a puff as we finish the wine.
Although she is proud of the work, she is anxious about the release. She first became a rapper almost by accident, when producer Feadz asked her to write lyrics for a song and she rapped because she was not a strong singer. But everything she does now is intentional. “I have really crippling social anxiety. I get up at 6 a.m. and take care of the kids and do all these things, and I don’t have the same confidence I used to. I don’t know if it’s age or humility or just being human, but I don’t have the ignorance that protected me then,” she says.
Even though tonight might not be a night at the Sunshine Factory, it’s still a trip. Since coming off her hiatus, Uffie has performed at retro and trendy queer parties, but she admits to being a little nervous about tonight’s DJ set. “I just heard that people there don’t care who you are, they just want good music to dance to. It’s so flexible to have a party,” she says. someone who’s been partying all over the world since she was 15, she holds DJs to a special level, remembering when they actually slowed down the BPM with their fingers.That night at Lights Down Low, Uffie encounters a bit of USB drama at the start of her set, but that doesn’t stop her. “internet girl or whoever she is. She’s got more orange wine in a red bucket full of ice on the floor behind the DJ booth, and her longtime friend Spank Rock shows up to dance on the sidelines. They say a guy she went on a first date with that afternoon might pass too, but she assures me she d should go home and pack up for the tour as soon as the party is over.
On “Where’s the Party Going?” – one of the singles sun factory – she answers her own question by singing that it “never ends”. But tonight – or technically, morning – for at least a few hours, she’ll have a moment before the next begins.