This month, we spoke with NYC-based producer Space.Wolf (Devon Balicki) on overcoming creative blocks, rituals to enhance productivity, and the meaning behind her debut EP, The Wolf, The Moon, & The Orchid. Read the full conversation below!
What inspired you to start making music?
It started with a love of djing and making edits to add personal touches to the set. There were lots of songs and samples that I wanted to hear translated into electronic genres and eventually it became clear the only way it was going to happen was if I started making the tracks myself.
Tell us about the meaning behind your newest EP, 'The Wolf, The Moon, and The Orchid.'
The EP is centered around self love. I’m diagnosed with ADD and anxiety, and the past couple years I have had tremendous growth in how I cope. A lot of the ideas of this EP started as me wanting to translate key moments of progress in my relationship with myself. I wanted dance tracks that reflected my values and my journey, because I was struggling to find them.
The title is made up of three symbols I feel represent some part of myself that I was elevating while making the music. I think of the wolf as being associated with instincts and intuition. The moon has lots of associations but I intended it as a symbol of femininity, cycles of life, especially the cycle of changing needs and desires. The orchid is vulnerable and yet, when tended to appropriately, blooms gloriously. I was pretty profoundly influenced by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ book Women Who Run with the Wolves while working on this EP, and I wanted to let that come through in the title.
Do you have any favorite self-care rituals that you use to support your creativity?
Taking a solid few minutes before doing anything work to breathe and meditate on whatever idea I want to execute has been very beneficial. I used to be frantic in trying to write down to whatever I was hearing in my head which really just brought a lot of anxiety into my process. If I take some time to just breathe deeply and let the melody/sound/idea marinate in my mind, it just sets a much more positive and fruitful headspace for when I do start the actual work.
I'm also really big on setting a pomodoro timer while I work, not necessarily for breaks but for mental and physical check-ins. Asking myself how my body/posture is feeling, have I been drinking water (the answer is always not enough), how am I feeling about the track, how am I feeling about the specific part of the track I've just been working on. If it feels like I really need to reset I take a break but if things are flowing I don't stop. But just checking in on my body, my energy, regularly means I'm much less likely to burn out or get stuck.
What is your favorite piece of gear or plugin currently in your arsenal?
Ha if I'm being honest my violin. For production gear, I'd probably say Izotope Nectar. It really elevates vocals, and I also use it on violin recording and even drum samples. The crazy thing about it is that I find it's been the most educational tool I've used while producing. It's structured in such a way that it teaches me more about vocal processing the more I dig into it.
Do you have any strategies that you use for overcoming fear or doubt when creating and sharing your music?
This one's hard. I’m so predisposed to looking for outside validation for my work, but eventually it became apparent that that was hurting more than helping my creative growth. I think the most helpful thing I do is check in with what I found so exciting about the idea in the first place. The other thing that I think is helpful to ask myself if I'm proud of my work, if I'm excited about it, even if it may not live up to some external standard I might be trying to meet. If that's true then it's okay if the work is representative of where I'm at musically or technically right now. That just means I'm being authentic and honest with myself, and ultimately I'm so much happier and more satisfied if I'm creating, finishing, and sharing the work instead of holding it back because of an arbitrary standard.
If you could cowrite a song with any artist (living or dead), who would it be?
Whoaaaa there are so many, but if I have to pick one probably Imogen Heap. Her lyricism and musicality are just so emotive and powerful. Though I can’t answer this question without also mentioning Angel Haze and Alison Wonderland because I deeply admire their writing.
What are some of your favorite hangout spots in NYC?
Back in the day it was the Webster Hall basement (RIP), and the weird thing about making music is that it means I go out to shows so much less now, so I haven’t quite settled on my next go to spot to hear music. My favorite place to grab a drink is probably DBA in East Village.
If you were a style of eggs, what would you be and why?
Is it weird that questions like these give me anxiety flashbacks to being a high school senior applying to college? Let’s go with scrambled, because I’m an egg for the people and who can even get their shit together in this world.
What have you been listening to recently?
Janelle Monae’s Dirty Computer has been completely blowing my mind. At the time of writing this it came out a month ago, and I’m still just floored by it. Anyone who hasn’t heard it should 100% go watch the “emotion picture” she released to accompany the album.
As a woman living in the United States, how do you cope with and/or address a lot of the issues our country is facing today?
Self care, reaching out into a community of women for support, and just being the best version of myself in the hope that it channels more positivity into the world. The world can drive even the strongest souls to feel helpless or insignificant, but I figure if I cultivate my most positive self then I can enact change in whatever way I’m meant to.