Feature photo by Ryan Van Ert 2011
So, The Metropia Experience is upon us. If you can’t make it tonight to the intimate mini-festival up north, then make sure you snag some tickets for tomorrow. Here’s another little exchange with one of TME’s most exciting artists. The roster is packed full of talented locals, but none caught my attention quite as much as the queer-scene duo, Shuteye, representing a truly international perspective. I love learning about different people and different cultures, and Shuteye is just that kind of mix. Coming from foreign backgrounds, the two artists united in Chicago and entered the Chicago dance scene with grace and poise. The duet have made quite a name for themselves, touring, winning awards, and playing Chicago gigs pretty steadily. Their involvement with the queer community is a huge plus in my book, but rather than regurgitate their accolades, I’ll just let the two lovely ladies say it best.
Looks like Alena and Elysia have some upcoming shows at the Metro and Milwaukee’s Pridefest, so get ready.
Tell us who you are, where you’re both from and what brought you to Chicago?
Alena: I was born in Kiev, Ukraine which was then USSR and came to Chicago with my family in 1988 to escape communism. We initially landed here because this is where we had family and it made it an easier transition. I ended up staying because I fell in love with Chicago House music in the 90’s, and later left college to pursue music full time. Chicago was the center of it all and a very inspiring city.
Elysia: I was born in Toronto Canada, but lived in the U.S. since I was 2 years old. My home town was a small suburb called Avon Lake, located about 20 minutes off of Cleveland. I naturally fell into music when I was a little kid, and as I grew up, I knew I had to leave to grow in what I wanted. I wanted to be more surrounded by art, music, and a more diverse and inspiring environment. I first visited Chicago when I went to go see a show at the Metro. The overall experience and liveliness of the city was exactly what I wanted to be emerged in. From there on out, I knew that Chicago was where I needed to be.
How long have you been here and how do you find the scene?
Alena: I’ve been here since 1988, the scene has obviously changed quite a bit. I’ve always found Chicago to be inspiring and full of talent and culture. It’s definitely played a major part in my life and influenced me greatly.
Elysia: I moved here in November of 2007. I know I definitely haven’t been out here as long as Alena, but even the time I’ve spent here already, I’ve noticed a lot of change. In any thriving city, things are always evolving or being recreated at a faster pace, but I like it that way. There’s always something interesting taking place whether it’s in the music scene, art scene, film, etc.
Tell us about the queer community and your involvement with the crowd here…
Well being that Alena is a part of the queer community we’ve received a warm welcome and lots of support. We’re playing shows at Berlin and Milwaukee Pridefest this month which we’re really looking forward to, and hope to do more in the future. Queer kids love to dance and are all about fun so it’s really vital to have their support.
How do you define your music, your art?
When we started recording we didn’t set out to create a specific sound, and wanted to just be open to create. It took us a bit to really figure out a balance and find the direction we want to go in, we still try to leave it open ended, but we’re currently heading towards a dance floor friendly electronic sound. We chose the name Shuteye because it was the closest definition to what we felt our sound can be defined as: a periodic state during which consciousness of the world is suspended.
Why do you do what you do?
Because we love it. Music is our greatest love and defines us, we would be lost without it.
How’s it feel being involved with The Metropia Experience, in its initial launch.
We’re so excited to be playing at The Metropia Experience. Everyone involved is really great and so supportive! It’s an amazing concept, and we really hope it takes off this year. People get so consumed by headliners at fests, they forget that everyone was a local band at some point, so it’s nice to have an event that strictly showcases and supports local artists.
I heard you have been getting some attention for your recent work… tell us about it?
We recently won the Monster – Diesel Vektr Headphones contest which is a big honor. They initially chose 20 bands for the semi finals and then a panel of judges from fashion and music blogs selected the 5 winning bands. The top 5 had their tracks turned into 3D songs and are featured on the Monster Products and Diesel websites as well as displays for the Vektr headphones around the globe. It’s been a great experience for us. We’ve met some amazing musicians out of it as well, and are collaborating on new music which is great.
What’s next for you as artists?
We are finishing our first full length album which will be out this summer as well as working on collaborations and remixes. We also have a lot of shows coming up locally, so it’s an exciting time for Shuteye. We’ve got a great team behind us, and we’re just going to keep working hard and getting more music out to the world.