Discwoman has arrived with a vision: to rewrite the world of the female DJ. Launched in 2014 by Christine Tran, Emma Burgess-Olson and Frankie Decaiza Hutchinson, the all-female collective has grown from a one-off festival to a full-fledged booking agency with shows from Toronto to Mexico City and everywhere in-between.
Ready to usher in a new wave of wonder women, the Discwoman founders met us in their home base to talk about a new kind of image.
Discwoman is a platform for “female-identified” DJs and producers. How do you define that?
Frankie: “Female-identified” is the language we use. But we’re also open to criticism of whether we can use more inclusive language.
Emma: And open to changing it to make sure that it’s really inclusive.
Frankie: [Female-identified is] Anyone who identifies as trans, trans-woman, outside of the biologically female…
Christine: It’s just a consciousness. “A feminine consciousness.”
Frankie: If you identify with Discwoman and you want to be a part of it, then alright, that’s cool.
Were you always into music growing up?
Christine: Yeah. Where I went to college, there was a huge basement scene— punk shows. So my friends and I started a platform. There were no venues basically, so we would perform on the street and record it and create a website for it.
It’s about creating space where there is none for you. And that’s the energy or vibe that Brooklyn has right now. Everything’s getting shut down. It’s so much about making money and still genuinely supporting the talent coming out of here.
"It’s about creating space where there is none for you."
It can be really hard to marry an artistic vision with the business side of things.
Frankie: That’s why it’s awesome that we have the three of us because when one of us is slipping down there can be someone there to pull someone up.
Emma: I’m the artist of the group being that the logistics of contracts and negotiations and paperwork are really difficult for me. So having other people as a team that can help balance that is so essential. The fact that we’re an agency is important just because I know how it feels to be like, “I know I have talent and I’m working really hard at this but I need help with all of these other aspects.” Having someone take care of that stuff is essential for growth.
Do you feel like there is a predetermined image of a female DJ in most people’s minds?
Emma: I think initially a lot of people’s exposure is classically pretty, white, straight long hair. There’s this idea if you Google a female DJ that this is what you see at the EDM festival or something. That was kind of my mental image: very pretty, lots of makeup, really femme.
Christine: (After Google image-searching “Female DJ”) Paris Hilton is the second one.
Emma: Yeah, there she is; that’s what I was talking about. One of our big aims is to present more images of a diverse range of people. We want every type of person to be represented, every thought of what a woman could be and every definition of that to be pictured and on a website.
If you saw a billboard of someone that looked like what you expected, that’s important. That creates role models and that can kind of change people’s minds about what’s possible. Just changing the thought: “Oh, I could never be that”… It’s like, “No, you’re not ever going to be that” but you can be something else and it’s okay.
Chrstine: It’s stressing the two-way avenue with media and what they choose to represent.
Frankie: I mean, it’s not like we’re trying to shut down these women or shut down this image of the way that they want to present themselves. It’s the opposite: we want to open it. And bring in more images
"I was just going to get a sandwich and then, all of a sudden, I feel like all of my dreams are coming true."
How long have you been in New York?
Frankie: Six and a half years.
Emma: Five and a half.
I’ve been here for eight.
Frankie: And do you love it?
Well, I do love it but I guess it’s just felt, month-to-month, “What do I do now?” But you just know you want to live where you feel like there’s something for you.
Frankie: Well, where else can you find the most diverse place in the world? You’re living and paying to live in a place where people don’t look at you on the fucking street and you don’t get hollered racial remarks at. It’s really nice, ya know? Where people respect the fact that you want to be a creative and hustle, that’s what you pay for. You don’t get people criticizing what you are doing.
Emma: It’s also access. I feel like every few months I’ll have a moment where I show up somewhere for some reason and then that event becomes this life-changing networking opportunity. And you’re like, “I was just going to get a sandwich and then, all of a sudden, I feel like all of my dreams are coming true.”
Christine: Your New York moment?
Emma: That doesn’t happen anywhere. And that happens all the time when you’re here. Where you go somewhere and you run into one of your idols of forever and then they talk to you and they encourage you and you’re just like, “Everything is amazing.”
Do you feel that the city is an integral part of Discwoman?
Emma: The visibility and the cultural weight that New York has… People pay attention to whatever is cool in New York all over the world. So we have reach and people assume this credibility where they’re like, “Oh, I really admire the fact that you’re doing this and it must be so hard in New York.”
People say that to us all the time: “I can’t even imagine what it’s like to be running this by yourselves in New York City.” It is really hard but we’re so in it that we’re just going and going. I don’t even realize that my life is crazy ever.
Frankie: You just get so used to it. It’s so noisy, New York. When Cameron—our friend that lives in Puerto Rico—came to visit, he was like, “Why is it so fucking loud in New York City?” And I was like, “What are you talking about?” The subway and everything’s going on and I’m just like, “it’s just the sound.” I like those sounds personally. It’s not creepy; it doesn’t creep me out.
Christine: It’s also comforting.
Frankie: Yeah, it’s comforting. Someone’s screaming down the street and I’m like, “Ahh, that’s nice.”