SKANDRA is finally blessing the world with her own original music. The electronic pop indie recording artist from Topanga Canyon, just outside of Los Angeles, prides herself in being a musician, even performing her first show at the young age of 12. Three years later at 15, she began touring the world and working on multiple film scores and albums for other artists.
Now based in Paris alongside her husband, the two lovebirds are feeding off the momentum of his viral success on TikTok, a video that has accumulated over 20 million views and 4.3 million likes. The content sees Ylane Duparc confessing they blew their life savings on their artistry, in turn convincing the masses to listen to to SKANDRA’s new song, “Rivers.”
Returning to unleash the official music video for “Rivers,” which sees the couple living their best life in a mansion in Paris, SKANDRA proves you can still be creative during a national pandemic. Additionally, she has a huge passion for philanthropy, creating and expanding her own non-profit called Treehouse, a monthly music and writing event taking place at pop-up locations throughout Los Angeles.
Flaunt caught up with SKANDRA via Zoom, who currently splits her time between Paris and Los Angeles. Read below as we discuss her biggest influences, her viral moment, shooting “Rivers,” the independent grind, touring the world, scoring films, studio essentials, goals, and more!
How would you describe your sound exactly?
I always start really simple. I’ll take an acoustic guitar or piano, take a poem, and sing it improvised over chords. It starts off as lo-fi bedroom pop, then gets produced into more of an eclectic, electric sound.
What was it like growing up in Los Angeles?
I love it. I lucked out because I grew up in Topanga Canyon in the Santa Monica Mountains. I had more of a nature upbringing, climbing trees, and going to the park. It wasn’t a typical Los Angeles upbringing. I had a lot of typical LA experiences growing up there, but it teaches you a lot really young. It also toughens you up a little bit when it comes to pursuing your dreams, because everyone’s trying to.
Who were your biggest influences coming up?
As a kid, I loved old indie folk singers like Carol King and Bob Dylan. Moving around a little bit, I think every musician goes through 30 different music phases. I had my Bjork and Radiohead phase, and my Rilo Kiley, Death Cab for Cutie, and Bright Eyes phase. All these different phases of music influenced me. More than anything, anyone who’s a really good lyricist was always the most influential. I really love words, I loved words before I even loved music.
What’s the inspiration behind your name?
Well, I’m Russian. I’m very Russian, my mom’s 100% Russian. My Russian name is Sasha, which I really wanted that to be the name of the project but it’s too common of a name. Obviously Beyoncé took that as a signature name. It felt overused, so Skandra is a Scandinavian version of Sasha.
At what point did you realize that the music thing was for real, that you could do it for a living?
My first show when I was 12, because I didn’t expect anything. I had this little GarageBand, we rehearsed a few times and wrote some songs, and so did the other singer. We threw together this set and played a show at the Knitting Factory in LA when it was open. We had 50 or 60 people there and we were 12. It felt like this really surreal experience that made me realize “oh, if I can do this now, I can get much better and do this for the rest of my life.” I always loved the experience.
This could change her life… Help me help her 🥺🔥
How was that moment having your husband go viral on TikTok?
Pretty surreal, because he told me what he was doing and he had no idea if it’d work. He edited this video together, I thought it was ridiculous, because it felt like this video game. You’re asking people to do something, like hacking the system instead of enjoying art. Waking up the next morning, it was at 60K streams, then it went up to a million within a few days. What’s so surreal about that wasn’t that it worked, but the fact that there was a full-on fan base for SKANDRA created within 48 hours. People really liked the music. I’ve had fans before, but I don’t think I’ve ever experienced that fan base growth so quickly. Very cool, it’s really amazing what he did.
What were you going through while recording “Rivers”?
I started on acoustic guitar, it was this really short, pretty waltz of a song. I showed it to a friend who worked on it, added some parts, then showed it to another friend who added more parts. I then took it to the studio and it turned into this obviously sad banger—it was surprising to me because it’d gone through so many evolutions. The song really was this personal journal entry to myself admitting the toxicity of a relationship I was in. It was really personal, and then it turned into this pop song. Sometimes there’s this gap between real intimacy and pop music. When you merge the two, it sounds really exciting. It was my first attempt of merging that intimate bedroom vibe but with the produced electronic pop song. It’s been through a lot, but I really like the way it turned out.
Best memory from shooting the video in a mansion in Paris?
It was so cool, my friends who run the creative agency did it. They’re two brothers, and they’re optimistic, really capable people. They’re telling us “we got this whole crew together. We’re going to this house we rented and we’re going to shoot this video.” I had this general idea for it, and Rob and the director expanded on it. I got there and it felt like a $100K video. The most amazing crew, the most amazing equipment, set designer, etc., and it wasn’t a $100K dollar video. [laughs] It felt like this crazy, huge production. Everyone’s so professional. We got the whole thing done in 10 hours, which was crazy. My favorite memory was walking in like “whoa! This is so much more than I ever expected.”
What’s the reality of the independent grind?
You have to cherish every little bit of the successes you do have and really work harder every single time because you can’t rest on your laurels and expect things to happen. As much as someone’s paying attention to you today, you can literally be no one tomorrow if you don’t keep making art. The first and foremost important thing to me is I keep making art as much as I can. I write as many songs as I can because that’s really all that matters when it comes to an independent career. It’s staying inspired, especially during a pandemic. You’re sitting at home all the time and not really around people that often, that’s the hardest part when it comes to creating. Things are really expensive. Recording is expensive, making good videos is expensive, promoting things isn’t always as easy as creating a viral video, because that’s not something you plan. The hardest thing is spending money correctly and where it counts, and making sure you make the best art you can.
What was your biggest highlight from touring the world?
Whew, there’s two and they’re very different from each other. When I was a teenager, I went to play this festival in the UK called ‘All Tomorrow’s Parties’. So many artists I loved had performed that day like ‘The Zombies’, ‘Autolux’, John Frusciante, PJ Harvey, all these artists. I felt overwhelmed by how much talent there was in the room. On top of that, I’m walking out on stage and there’s 4,000 people sitting there about to watch us. I was so young, it was such an impression made on my mind. “Oh wow, I got here. I got to this moment, I can’t even believe this is happening.”
One of my favorite shows was in San Pedro, California with my old band. There’s this song, I said “okay guys, I’m going to test out this new song.” Sort of a quiet song, it started with a poem. I started reciting this poem while my guitar was playing, and everyone in the room one-by-one, sat on the floor. There were a hundred people in the room, and everyone decided to quietly sit on the floor. It was almost a sign of respect and admiration for it. I remember swelling up in tears, really adorable of everyone there to do that.
Talk about scoring over 30 films alongside Budd Carr.
Budd Carr acted as a mentor through my time composing for a few years. I’d created this set of demos and they got into the hands of Budd Carr, he wouldn’t listen to them cause he doesn’t like unsolicited demos. Some friend of a friend gave it to him and he threw it in his glove compartment. A few months later he cleaned out his entire car, and he forgot his iPod and his CD case. He was stuck with only my CD, so he had to listen to it, and he fell in love with it. He found out that I was not only a girl, but also really young. He couldn’t believe it, so he reached out to me. He ended up mentoring me throughout this entire composer career I had for a while. I did an Axe commercial and a Girl Scout Cookie commercial, all these weird, random commercials. We did a few Netflix movies in the first years of Netflix, and I did a lot of short films, and festival films. It was fun. I’m a very visual person so to sit there, watch visuals, and compose to them is what I do as a musician anyway. I’ll think about what the visuals are for a sound, so it came naturally to me.
3 things you need in the studio?
Lots of water. I love snacks. I have to have my keyboard. It’s this little vintage synth called Alesis Micron and we always lose the power chord for it. I have to always buy one off of Ebay every few months, it’s this curse we all have. [laughs] I always have to have that keyboard.
What snacks do you like in the studio?
I like popcorn. I like sesame sticks. I love lots of fruit. It’s always different. I’m not a super sweets person, I like salty foods. I’m really obsessed with sesame seasoning so I’ll have anything with sesame on it.
What made you start your own nonprofit Treehouse and what does it mean to you?
Born and raised in Los Angeles, I’m surrounded by so many different artists. whether that be fellow musicians, writers, actors, or filmmakers. Every artist in LA is trying to build their own artistic empires and have little time to pay attention to anyone else unless they happen to catch it on social media. It was a shower thought, I was in the shower and wondered if anyone else felt this way. I decided to post about it. “Would anyone be interested in a small event at my house where we could showcase our art to each other?” The response was immediately and explosively a yes.
The first Treehouse happened in my living room, around 15 talented artists performed. Some were friends, some were people I’d never met before. It was magic watching the audience watch the artist. They’re so attentive and so there, listening, taking it in. I felt like I’d tapped into some alternate dimension where everyone, even the not so seeming, had something magical to offer. That night was such a success, it made me realize artists don’t have enough avenues to showcase their art, the ability to network with other artists in person or a safe space to be listened to.
I decided to do it monthly. As the months went on, through word of mouth it became too crowded. Too many strangers to have in my own house, we had to move it. I decided to make Treehouse a pop-up event. We’re offered venues: Hollywood Tower, Think Tank Gallery, Vocal Warehouse. We even threw a crowd funded festival with 25 bands and 25 films at the Ambassador Auditorium. Anywhere from 150 to 800 people show up depending on promotion and venue size. Treehouse is completely free. We don’t get charged for the spaces we use and we don’t charge for admission or to perform. The most we spend is on Christmas lights to decorate the mic stand with, wine, and chips. People donate here and there. It’s been going strong for 6 years.
When the pandemic hit, we canceled all our live events planned for the year. We launched the #QuarantineConcert on Instagram. We had over 50K musicians partake including Walk The Moon, The Griswolds, and Meg Meyers. I have such a place in my heart to help artists. Treehouse has exposed hundreds of artists to thousands of people, so imagine how wonderful it was to have my husband expose Skandra to millions. Apparently, no good deed goes unnoticed.
What can we expect from your forthcoming album?
A whole new set of songs, better songs. That’s something I’ve been really working on, trying to keep developing the sound, and making better music.
Do you have any goals for yourself?
I’d love to tour in 2021, ideally at the end of the year. That, and finding innovative ways to interact with fans. I had this idea of doing this U.S. treasure hunt, getting friends in cities to hide things throughout the country, and fans have to go find it. It would be exclusive merch or…I have all these random, interactive, experience ideas I’d really like to try out this year.