Von is a NYC-based musician, pop artist, producer, creative director, and a founder of Vondom Labs. Von has recently released a new single and a video Voulin Rouge created in a collaboration with the director Dannah Gottlieb. This is a story about a futuristic sex community that successfully recruits a police officer, initially hunting Von, by helping her discover satisfaction.
Sex Positive Synth Pop apart from being a genre, pioneered by Von, is a statement, with an ambition to remove boundaries, and enable a more open dialogue on sexuality. Von attained a new sound by merging her orgasm wave patterns recorded with sex tech into her music. Studying recording techniques and engineering at the NYU enables her to be creative breaking the rules with a goal to produce her unique sound.
‘I think that advances in technology and sex tech specifically can make it so that more people are not only intrigued by sex-positive communities and spaces but consider being a part of them themselves.’ - Von
We speak with Von and Dannah about their work on building a storyline and filming Voulin Rouge. We discuss women in music, sex-positive space, communication, and a decision to shoot on film.
"LYRICALLY I AIM FOR ALL OF MY MUSIC TO BE SEX-POSITIVE IN MESSAGE"
How would you describe a sex-positive synth pop genre in music in terms of sound and lyrics?
FOR ME, I’VE ALWAYS BEEN DRAWN TO INTRICATE, MORE CRUNCHY PRODUCTION WITH A BUBBLEGUM CATCHY TOPLINE. I THINK THAT MERRIMENT OF CONTRAST IS SUPER INTRIGUING, SO IT’S DEFINITELY THE KIND OF SOUND I GRAVITATE TOWARDS WHEN MAKING MY OWN MUSIC. I THINK LYRICALLY I AIM FOR ALL OF MY MUSIC TO BE SEX-POSITIVE IN MESSAGE. IT’S HARD WHEN YOU’RE WRITING A SONG ABOUT SOME BOY THAT BROKE UP WITH YOU, AND THE FIRST INSTINCT IS TO TRASH HIS NEW GIRLFRIEND.
Having my message be what it is has forced me to check myself during my writing process. We’re taught to project insecurities onto each other rather than deal with them, so lyrically I try not to write anything that perpetuates that.
"NYU TAUGHT ME THE RULES SO THAT I COULD GO AHEAD AND BREAK THEM."
Being an artist responsible for every aspect in her music from writing to recording to mastering how do you think studying in the New York University's Clive Davis Institute of Record Music affects the direction of your music or sound?
I think they really just gave me the tools to go and shape my own sound. I learned all of the ins and outs of recording techniques and how to engineer and make music, but then it was really up to me to decide how I wanted to manifest all of that information. NYU taught me the rules so that I could go ahead and break them. I’m super lucky that I know how to read a contract and business jargon and the ins and outs of DPS’s, I don’t know if I would’ve gotten that if I didn’t go to college. But now it’s adapting that information to my own artistry.
Which latest releases this or last year have been a major surprise for you that you would recommend checking out?
I have a few people that I’ve had on repeat. Min.a, a self-produced Korean American artist, has some of the craziest production I’ve heard in a while. She’s definitely someone to watch. Her song Mind is literally crazy. I love Cucou Chloe, who just put out new music after like 2 years, so that was exciting. Brooke Candy’s been one of my favorite artists for a while, but she partnered with Porn Hub to direct her own porno, which I thought was super cool. I love female producers/women in music that have control over their creative. There are so many overqualified women in music that don’t get the visibility they deserve.
Tell about your latest video Violin Rouge, directed by Dannah Gottlieb in which you are an executive producer. There is a certain connection of the world of emotion to the technology that is represented by the running code in the beginning and the end of the video and of course in digitalization of vibration patterns of experiencing orgasm. Where was the idea for the plot for the video generated from?
I really wanted to create Voulin Rouge IRL. When I wrote the song, I had a clear vision of what that space looked like and who was a part of it. I feel like I live in a bit of a bubble where I’m only surrounded by people who are super supportive of what I’m doing and engage in these types of conversations really regularly. That’s such a rarity, but you forget that when it’s your day to day. The point of Vondom Labs and my music is to make something that outside of my social sphere is usually incredibly uncomfortable and overwhelming normalized. The video shows that pretty literally. Dannah and I crafted a storyline where a female police officer would start on the hunt for Von and this underground future sex community, and end up being recruited by them in the process. We didn’t cast any “extras” in the video, it was all our friends that just came to dance and hang out together. Dannah played the cop which is super funny but was also special for both of us. Making this with Dannah helped her also become more comfortable with talking about her own sexuality and gave me a creative partner I’ll have for a lifetime. In a way, it really was successful recruitment. I think that advances in technology and sex tech specifically can make it so that more people are not only intrigued by sex-positive communities and spaces but consider being a part of them themselves.
Where do you find satisfaction creating good vibes in life, what are the small things that make you happy?
Friendship!!!! I really won the friend lottery, my close circle is made up of absurdly supportive, creative people. The memories I’ve had with them, whether it be at a sex club in Berlin, on a stage together, at one of our family’s homes or just small moments will always trump any kind of success or accolade.
Even though the sexual revolution is way behind us, women versus men are treated very differently while speaking about their sexual experience. What do you think can empower women today and assist in making the conversation about acceptance and sex-positivity more influential?
I think anyone who talks about sex in a way that isn’t absurdly heteronormative is treated poorly. There are so many stigmas that exist for men as well, men are shamed for being inadequate if they can’t make a girl cum when the reality is that every body is different and every person prefers different things. Communication is key, whether it be a woman feeling like she can speak up during a sexual experience to say what she likes, whether it be people diminishing the taboo around sex by talking about it in public conversations or people feeling enough autonomy over their body to say that they don’t want to engage in something. Inviting, engaging in, and encouraging communication is a step everyone can take in promoting more sex-positive spaces.
"WHAT VON TALKS ABOUT HER MUSIC IS SOMETHING NATURAL TO HUMANS THAT WOMEN FIND THEMSELVES SCRUTINIZED OR EVEN PROSECUTED FOR".
While working on the preparation of the storyboard with Von, what were the main guidelines and concepts to integrate during shooting and building the narrative?
What Von talks about her music is something natural to humans that women find themselves scrutinized or even prosecuted for. That was an important narrative to us.
How do you balance between the vision you have for the video and the need to make sure the client is happy with the end result?
I felt as if, from initial conception, I approached this as a collaborative effort with Von rather than a clip I was directing for a client. We wanted to work with each other because we like and respect each other's vision.
Tell about the editing part as aligned to the rhythm of music and pacing.
I was attracted to the song in the first place because of what I saw when I listened to it. The rapidly undulating structure of the song lends itself to quick, jolting cuts full of color.
One of the main and dominant elements you have decided to use in this video is creating an additional medium of film texture and framing. Today there is a trend to re-evaluate and use film in videography and photography. Tell about this creative idea, is it a must-have trend for you or a specific decision with a deeper purpose?
Shooting the video on 16mm and 8mm film was important to me because film is all I know photographically. It's how I learned how to see. The undeniable, natural quality of film is impossible to reproduce digitally. It also made practical sense. You could have 3 hours or 30 minutes of footage to edit. You don't have to color or add corny grain to make it look like film. Everyone gives it their all each take because you can only have three at most. For a low budget, DIY video, it actually seemed like the most cost-effective way to achieve the best visual effect.