AN INTERVIEW WITH ILLUMINATI HOTTIES
Producer, Berkeley grad, engineer, L.A. native, and now frontwoman of her new critically-acclaimed tenderpunk band, Sarah Tudzin has just been absolutely killing it. After working with artists like Coldplay, Macklemore, and Lady Gaga, and contributing to Hamilton, Tudzin created Illuminati Hotties initially to be a sort of resume for her production work. The debut album, Kiss Yr Frenemies, would go on to get many listens and Sarah began touring the West Coast.
WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN LISTENING TO RECENTLY?
Oh man, so many good things! I’ve been returning to a bunch of old Motown records: The Supremes, The Marvelettes, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder…they’re so comforting to me and they represent the pinnacle of record making in my mind. As far as more recent releases: GOON, Moses Sumney, Dick Stusso, SOPHIE, gobbinjr, Field Medic, Jay Som…there are so many great records on my recently played JEEZ looking at it now is kind of overwhelming!! In a good way.
CAN HAVING SUCH A GOOD BAND NAME BE A BURDEN? DO PEOPLE FOCUS ON IT TOO MUCH?
Having a band name this good has been a huge burden…but that’s just the price we have to pay for ingenuity in the field of bandnomial nomenclature and taxonomy… :) In all seriousness people either love it or hate it, but either way they almost always remember it!
YOU HAVE EXPERIENCE IN SO MANY FACETS OF MAKING MUSIC. WHAT HAS SURPRISED YOU THE MOST ABOUT THE MUSIC INDUSTRY?
In the four years since I’ve left college and joined the music industry in a professional capacity, I feel like I’ve seen a whole lot…not much surprises me at this point. That being said I think the one most refreshing part of the music industry is that everyone is just a regular old person like you or me. As a kid, I put my musical heroes on a pedestal, and it seemed like no person who could create at such an impressive level would ever be eating a drippy PB&J sandwich in the same room as me…but here we are.
WHAT PROMPTED YOUR MOVE FROM WORKING BEHIND THE SCENES TO FRONTING A BAND?
As the record started to take form, it seemed pretty natural to starting playing it out for people. I was pretty nervous at first, even though I’ve had quite a bit of experience performing as a part of other bands, being a frontwoman was very new and mostly terrifying to me. With kind encouragement from friends I started getting on stage more and more, and have now totally caught the artist bug. It’s important to bring music out of the studio, as the songs feel far more dynamic and palpable when they exist in a live setting in front of breathing humans, and it tells you so much about your work when you see an audience reacting in real time.
WHAT WAS THE PROCESS LIKE FOR RECRUITING OTHER MEMBERS OF ILLUMINATI HOTTIES?
Fortunately, I’m surrounded by so many talented and driven musician friends, so finding folks to bring the record to life was pretty painless. Inviting them to join the band has been an enormous privilege and honor. For a while we were more of a rotating cast and I called on whoever happened to be available for a rehearsal and the next gig. Since serious touring plans have been ramping up though, I’ve locked in players who are dedicated to regular rehearsal and performance. I just filmed a little promo video with our friend Olivia in which I covered the band in ketchup and mustard and In-N-Out burgers so I feel like they’ve been appropriately vetted.
I REALLY LIKE THE ALBUM ART. WHERE DID IT COME FROM? WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU IN RELATION TO THE ALBUM?
Thank you! The album art is photography from my grandparents’ wedding album! They had the album laying out at an anniversary party they had a few years ago, and I was totally floored by how beautiful their photos were. It just so happened that the vibe of those photos aligned with themes and feelings on the record. The photos set the stage for a little mystery, intrigue, and nostalgia in a way that I don’t think I could replicate with an illustration or modern photo. The text and layout on the physical copies were created by Kat Bingley who did an excellent and graceful job of enhancing the existing artwork without ever getting in the way.
WHAT GUIDED YOU TOWARDS TINY ENGINES?
They’ve got such wonderful artists on their roster, and once we started working together I learned that they’re all outstanding humans too. I really can’t sing their praises enough, as they’ve worked so hard at getting Kiss Yr Frenemies in front of people and have always approached me with sensitivity and consideration toward the art of music above all else. What first led me their way was that they seemed like they’ve made a distinct curative effort to put out not only great albums, but albums that they care about, enjoy listening to, and can sincerely plug to their rapidly growing audience.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR ILLUMINATI HOTTIES?
We’ve got a couple big Southern California shows this summer, and some plans simmering for touring through the fall. Most of all, we’re looking forward to releasing the first vinyl pressing of Kiss Yr Frenemies!!! What’s next immediately though, is the best burrito I can find for lunch.