With jangly earrings and an innocent smile, you would never guess Ana Sia was taking the stage to rip your mind apart.
Thankfully, your body will remain intact after a night of the DJ’s head-stretching electronic rhythms. The mission of this nimble bass sprite is to plug a subwoofer directly into the inherent human desire to move to vibration, as she reveals some of the best global-psy-funk tracks the electronic world has to offer.
“It was really just a passion for dance more than anything else,” she tells Boulder Weekly of her musical journey. “I’ve been a dancer all of my life and been very much an advocate for using your body as a tool for expression through sound and music. It came very naturally, the desire to create an experience on the dance floor the way I would want to be enjoying it.”
Ana Sia’s bouncy, unforced energy on stage has expanded her following beyond the underground circles of West Coast bass music to the masses at the nation’s biggest festivals.
“My role, I guess, is to be an ambassador for the freshest sound that you can possibly be listening to right now,” she says. “So as many tour dates as I have, I know my goal is to bring each person in each town the freshest experience of music, the hottest shit out there right now.”
Lately, Sia is making moves, from the aggressive sounds that first marked her as a no-nonsense bass head to more up-tempo resurgences of house and garage styles reinterpreted through modern technology. Her main project, though, is campaigning for an upcoming compilation “gathering tunes from this amazing pile of gold we have in North America of incredible, forward-thinking music producers” that will be released through her “family,” San Francisco-based label/collective Frite Nite.
This umbrella of multi-tempo, omni-genre dance sets has proven to be inviting. Within the past three years, Ana has become a staple performer at electronic events nationwide. After her three Colorado stops, she’ll hit up Coachella, Wakarusa and Electric Daisy Carnival, and she’ll perform alongside a stellar lineup at the Soundwave Music festival (held at a water park in Tempe, Ariz.).
It’s amazing that her heavyweight status is due to only a sparse handful of mixtapes, remixes and her debut EP, 2010’s International Profile. Over three years of performing, the buzz surrounding Sia has spread via an aggressive touring schedule that spotted around 200 performances last year.
Sia is a DJ in the traditional sense, playing sets of other artists’ music as opposed to the modern mis-usage of the term that refers to anyone who produces electronic music. She isn’t shy about her DJ role as a conduit rather than a composer of music.
“I’d say I’m 75 percent DJ and 25 percent producer,” she says, citing the scene’s mantra that not every producer should be a DJ, and not every DJ should be a producer. “I don’t try to campaign myself as anything else but that. I’m happy to be playing other people’s music and share it on the platform I have. I get a hold of some stuff that people on a regular level would never be able to hear, and for me that’s a great gift.”
Looking beyond her energetic live performances, full of cutting, re-sampling and rearranging sound via laptop, Sia’s creative engine runs like a mobile quasilabel. She’s a lens focused on electronic music, magnifying the electronic scene circa “classic dubstep” and the rise of glitch-hop.
Electronic music continues to morph into hyphenated hybrid genres and divide as nuances are incorporated from old-school forms. Stylistic traits are exchanged like molecules in a complex chemical reaction of artistic taste, but Sia’s success shows that variety is one thing that will never go out of style. The opening track may slap the audience with panic-inducing sirens over a thumping hip-hop rhythm, then suddenly drop into a funky disco track that gets everyone smiling.
You don’t have to Google “female DJ” to imagine what type of sexploitation exists in a scene where performers are the centerpiece of a club party. But for someone who routinely outpaces onstage go-go dancers with admirably stylish physicality, Sia is outspoken against the reasons why her gender is often the first thing discussed.
“It’s crazy and frustrating that I’m put in this category, like ‘Well she’s a DJ, but she’s a female DJ. … It’s frustrating that people think it’s helpful to say that I’m female and help recognize I’m a girl doing this thing, but it’s a letdown to me that that has to be the focus. I hope that everybody in their lives, not just me, but everybody in their lives, would be able to erase this duality between sexes.”
On the Bill
Ana Sia plays the Fox Theatre on Thursday, April 14. Doors at 8:30 p.m. Ben Samples and Epcot open. Tickets are $15.50 in advance, $18 day of show. Add $2 for under 21. 1135 13th St., Boulder, 303-443-3399.