Julia Hale, otherwise known as Den-Mate, has an electro-musical style that is dark, whimsical, and constantly changing. SNAP. was able to catch up with her at her first headlining performance at the art exhibition opening of "Fallen" at Epicure Café in Fairfax. In an exclusive interview, she gives exclusive details on her upcoming album and what it’s like to work in an industry that doesn’t take too kindly to solo female artists.

Q: You were formerly known as Julia Hale. What caused the change?

Den-Mate: I wanted something a little bit more interesting. Julia Hale can sound kind of plain Jane, and I kind of want to keep that a secret of how I came up with it, but it means a great deal to me, and hopefully, in the future, I can shed a little more light on what it means.

Q: In an interview with Graveyard Collective, you say that you got it from an article about a Hungarian collective.

Den-Mate: I made that up on the spot for the person because the person was very irrelevant, but Den-Mate, I don’t believe that’s how you say it, but it is in a Hungarian language. It derived from that.

Q: Your sound has changed over the years from more acoustic to more electronic. Can you give more insight into how and why?

Den-Mate: Growing up, I think I started making music when I was probably 14, and I’ve always had a very diverse sound. I grew up in a very musical family, so I don’t know. I get very bored with making the same type of music, and I think it’s very good to be diverse, but honestly, what it comes down to are materialistic things that I’ve been able to be exposed to. Like, at first, I only had a guitar. I didn’t have a synth. I didn’t have an amp. I didn’t have any of these things, so all I could do was work with the guitar, and I guess as I collected these instruments, that’s when the Den-Mate sound started. So, once I was able to get my synth and start working with programs, that’s when Den-Mate kind of started.

Q: When did Den-Mate begin?

Den-Mate: Den-Mate started just one year ago. I released my first album last September, but honestly, it’s not an album so much as to a collection of my first electronic projects.

Q: What kind of message do you try to communicate through your music?

Den-Mate: The message I want to send with my music is that I live in my head a lot, and I feel like I’m able to – I don’t know – kind of let people into my world.

Q: Could you describe your world?

Den-Mate: It’s very ethereal. Spacey in a good way. I constantly feel like I’m kind of in the ether, not very in reality. I live in a dream basically.

Q: So, why were you interested in playing today at Epicure Café?

Den-Mate: I love playing at Epicure. I love the people who work here, and I also loved the artists who are being presented tonight, but it’s a great place where I can play whatever I want and just kind of get lost into whatever I’m doing. It’s a very laid-back environment. I like being able to play diverse things here. You’ll see me playing a full electronic set where it’s just the sampler, and the synth, and me dancing around, but then other songs it’ll just be me and the guitar. It’s really great to have that diverse sense here because I can’t do that in a club. If everyone’s dancing around, and I stop and play just the guitar, people are going to think that’ s lame.

Q: Could you list the musical instruments you play?

Den-Mate: I have my Dan Electro guitar. I’m currently using – and don’t laugh – I’m using an iPad as my sampler, and a Micro Korg synth, and I don’t have it with me, but I have a DL-4 delay pedal, and then just a little chorus pedal. So, I’m always all over the place. That’s one thing people will know about me. I’m never doing the same thing. I’m always in a different place.

Q: Are there any additional instruments you want to delve into?

Den-Mate: Well, a lot of songs that will be on my new album, I’ve tampered with a lot of kid toys like I have a small toy accordion that I’ve been working with for the new album. I have a dulcimer that I’ve been sampling, which is kind of interesting because you don’t hear those very often. I do play bass. I just sadly have not been able to do that in live performances. But yeah, that’s about it.

Q: So, when should your new album be expected to come out?

Den-Mate: Hopefully, this next March.

Q: Is there a certain kind of message you’re doing for this new album?

Den-Mate: This album is very much evolved. I’m very much finding my sound through this one. Like, I said the first album was more of a collection of my first electronic pieces. So, you’re definitely going to be more mature in a sense, maybe a little bit more serious, more professional because they’re all made in my bedroom. They’re all bedroom recordings, and I want to kind of keep that sound, though because I think at least from what I’ve gotten people kind of enjoy the home-made sound. So, home-made, but still kind of professional. I don’t know how that’ll work. [Laughs]

Q: What are your goals for the future?

Den-Mate: Definitely playing more live performances in the Metropolitan area. It is more difficult being a female musician. I’ve actually found a lot of – I wouldn’t say discrimination – but a lot of the bigger clubs, it’s definitely not seen as serious, which is really surprising to me, but it happens, but I’m definitely not stopping. It just makes me want to push harder to find some more places to play.

Q: Could you elaborate more about the discrimination or how hard it is to be a female musician?

Den-Mate: I guess discrimination isn’t the right word, but let’s say I wanted to play in Richmond and Arlington, and I think they’re kind of worried that because I do do it all myself that – you know, it’s not a full band. I think they just don’t really know what to look for, and that makes them a little ill at ease to book me. I may not seem reliable because they’re, like, ‘What is this girl going to do?’ but hopefully, in the future, it’ll get a little bit better, but in all honesty, it happens with a lot of female musicians to where – I don’t know if you’re familiar with Grimes – but it happens to her all the time, and she’s talked a lot about how we’re not really looked at as serious. Like, this was probably the first time that I’ve done headlining. It’s always been other people, which is fine. It may be because I’m super new as well, but it’ll get there.

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About Michelle Goldchain

Michelle is a photojournalist who loves to live life by never sitting still. You can find her in art galleries in Dupont Circle, ethnic restaurants in Adams Morgan and comedy clubs in Arlington. In her spare time, when she's not typing away at a computer screen, she's probably listening to moody electronic music, watching cat videos or doodling.
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