Devi is the Sanskrit word for “goddess,” which sounds like an ambitious name for an artist, but it’s an apt description of what the local electro-popper who adopted the handle aspires to be –– at least in the musical sense. Her goal, shared with her producer Samuel Culp (Bryce Bangs, Vogue Machine), is to fill what she sees as a gaping void among the deep and diverse well of talent in the Fort Worth music scene: the lack of pop artists. She’s about to drop her debut single, and she’s hoping that it will move her one step closer to completing the transformation from demure, pixie-ish 22-year-old Hannah Witowski into Devi, enthralling pop star deity.
“I was really into yoga a few years ago, and that’s how I found out about Sanskrit,” she said. “I’ve always liked the way the word [devi] sounds. I like that it kind of sets you up for becoming that –– becoming your own creator and controlling your own life.”
In her former life, Devi explored multiple genres. A songwriter since the age of 13, she’s flirted with country and folk and even fronted hard rock bands. At some point during the time she honed her writing method, she began toying with digital music software, initially making little backing tracks simply to have something to sing over. Unwittingly, with the beats and tracks she’d created, she had stumbled upon a previously undiscovered sound within herself that she’s since been developing –– a sybaritic blending of trip-hop, electronica, and radio-ready pop.
“Throughout all [those previous projects] I had been mingling in GarageBand, creating these little electro beats –– not really knowing what I was doing,” she said. “But it was fun and another way to write songs. “Then I realized that’s actually what ‘production’ is,” she added with a laugh. “Throughout that whole time, I was really into [making electronic music], but it took some time going through all those other genres to make that realization, and then the conformation with myself that, like, ‘Hey, this is a good sound for me and this is what I truly enjoy to do.’ ”
The single, which borrows a title and some sass from Britney Spears, is called “It’s Devi, Bitch.” Any comparisons to the childhood-star-turned-late-night-talk-show-punchline end there. The track is infectious and danceable but thankfully offers a bit more substance than conventional Top 40 fare. The low end slams, and the undulating synth bed inspires body-movin’. But Devi’s breathy and dreamlike intonations hit listeners in the limbic system as well the feet. Clocking in at a radio-friendly 2:20, the tune manages to pack more than a few interesting and contrasting moods and moments into its brevity, something Culp –– who co-owns the music production service Common House Collective with local producer/engineer Peter Wieringa (Siberian Traps, Jake Paleschic), said he attempts to do with all of Devi’s tracks.
“It’s pretty produced,” Culp said of the music. “We’re trying to adhere to a pretty strict pop format while at the same time existing just outside of it. I try to incorporate at least four movements into each song, which isn’t always easy.”
On the song, Culp pared down the original mind-numbing 130-plus individual recording tracks to a more manageable 70 or so before passing the work along to Wierenga for mixing. Grammy-winning engineer Jordan Richardson (Son of Stan, Oil Boom) mastered the song for release.
Despite the club-banger title, the track is deeper lyrically and musically, with themes inspired by an Alice in Wonderland-like dream about spiraling out of control. Dreams are a common source of inspiration for Devi, she said, and she tries to capture those abstract subconscious muses into songs. Her dreams are more often nightmares, and she often has to twist and refine some of the darker themes, smoothing over some of the rougher edges into a more accessible product.
“It’s Devi, Bitch” is the first of three singles Devi plans to roll out as her introduction over the next few months before releasing a four-song EP after the first of the year. The track and its accompanying video, which features trippy 3-D computer animation by video artist Madie Braswell, will be debuted at a special listening party at Dreamy Life Records and Music on Friday.
“I really want people to dance and feed off each other’s energy,” she said. “Emotionally, I’m trying to evoke a sense of raw honesty and an acknowledging of vulnerable moments, then allowing people to let go of them and find peace.”
Devi debut single listening party
7pm Fri at Dreamy Life Records and Music, 1310 W Allen Av, FW. 817-733-5463.