abbi press debuts two emotion-packed chillwave tracks
After choreographing her roommate Yaeji's 'Raingurl' video, Brooklyn producer Abbi Press shares two ethereal songs of her own.
Photography Lissy Laracchia
Abbi Press may not be a familiar name, but there’s a good chance you’ve come across her work. As a choreographer, she helped design the dance moves for Yaeji’s “Raingurl” video, which was one of our favorites of 2017. But when she’s not getting people into formation, Abbi Press is making her own ethereal electronic music. Today, the New York-based artist, who also happens to be Yaeji’s roommate, is premiering two new songs on i-D.
To fully experience Abbi Press, it’s best to let her songs wash over you like a warm summer’s day. She builds each song from a symphony of electronics and uses her soulful voice to lightly massage your senses. A fog lingers over “Never Try, Never Know” as she repeats, “the sun has gone, where is the sound.” The song is about being connected to someone through technology, but never physically feeling their presence. It was inspired by her own attempt at a long-distance relationship. “Verge of Fears”, is driven by a beat and has a seductive vocal hook that lingers longer than the song itself. The line, “You better get out of my head,” is an instant earworm and concludes with “you’ve gotta get out of my head and get into my bed.”
Where did you grow up and when did you start making music?
I was born in Madison, Wisconsin and lived in five states and thirteen houses before I settled in Iowa for the longest part of my childhood. Within those earlier years we lived on a forty-acre farm and I was homeschooled ‘til fourth grade. Homeschooling was really awesome because we’d be done by 10am and then would just run outside all day. I am really thankful that my parents did that, because once I started school I was way ahead of everyone else.
My dad was a librarian, but he also has a masters [degree] in organ performance. He played in church and he met my mom at university in Arizona. She was studying opera. He inherited this baby grand piano and would practice sometimes six hours a day. As a kid I would constantly hear this piano music and I would play underneath it when he was practicing. My mom would sing with him, too, and they would have dinner parties and she would sing Billie Holiday, Diana Krall and classical pieces. I was not allowed to go to them because they were adult parties, so my sister and I would sneak down onto the stairs and listen.
What made you want to pursue electronic music?
I credit it to Imogen Heap. I remember hearing “Hide and Seek” when I was in high school and just being really stunned, first by how it was made, and then once I realized it was a girl who made it I was pulled into figuring it out myself... So I started in Garageband and made some songs in my senior year of high school. [Then] when I went to college they actually offered an electronic music class. That’s where it really kicked off for me.
“Never Try, Never Know” is about loving someone who is only ever present through technology, never in real life. What more can you tell us about the song?
It’s about a specific person who I met by collaborating through SoundCloud. It was a two-year, long-distance relationship. I’d never been in a long-distance relationship before and I don’t know if I would put myself through it again. I don’t regret any part of it, I’m so glad that it happened, but it was really painful to be away from that person. I want to give respect to the person it’s about, so I don’t want to say too much.
What other ways has technology played a role in your music career?
I think the biggest thing I did that was facilitated by technology was book a whole European tour through SoundCloud. I have a lot of collaborators overseas, so I hit them all up and was like, ‘Hey, I wanna come out. Let’s either work on some stuff or put on a show.’ I did nine cities and seven countries in two and a half weeks. I went to the SoundCloud headquarters in Berlin and to the Red Bull Studio in Amsterdam. That was a big win for me. It was great to put faces to musician profiles.
You helped design the choreography for Yaeji’s “Raingurl” video. Do you approach choreography the same way you approach songwriting?
Choreography is always really connected to the music, so in that way it’s just another flavoring within. I guess yes, because it’s imagery, and I’m thinking of the final viewer verses the person hearing it. The “Raingurl” video was so fun, and Kathy [Yaeji] is such a gem. How she comes across online is just how she is. She’s a really genuine friend and she deserves everything.
You and Kathy live together. Do you share tips and ideas with one another?
I’m such a fan of her music and she’s been a huge inspiration to me. We were on the train coming back from an event last night and were talking about different performance styles. I was telling Kathy how playing guitar chords has changed my writing in a really big way — more than I thought it would — and then she said her voice, using it as an instrument, it also does that for her. She’s always there to talk about anything and everything with music, that’s how our friendship has always been. We’re always learning from each other.
On your website there’s a video called “busk city” . Can you tell us what that’s about?
That was a project of mine. I told my friends, "I have this idea. We should cover Missy Elliott and go and sing it in the subway." Busking was something I’d always wanted to do but was scared of doing — it was a lot easier to do with friends. Missy Elliott actually commented on my friend’s Instagram when she posted it and we were all so excited because she’s such a huge inspiration.