Natasha Adorlee Johnson of Saint Tiimbre
by Meikee Magnetic
underwater photo by Joseph Seif
As I look out my back window there’s a hill off in the distance called Bernal Hill San Francisco. I often wondered, what goes on up there and who are those little figures walking across this mysterious mound. I soon find out to my surprise that Natasha has been one of those tiny figures off in the distance on this otherworldly beacon. This artist quickly caught my eye from her illustrious voice to her modern dance skills. I just needed to find out more about her…
Go deep into your background of dance and music. Where did you study and give us details on the early stages of your songwriting:
I was born in Huntington Beach, starting my training there but I’d say the bulk of my performance arts training happened in Kansas. My family made the move and what was a spark in California became a flame because there weren’t really outlets or things to do to keep me interested, so I really latched on to performing. I trained in ballet, jazz, tap, hip hop, modern, vocal training and acting. About a year after moving there, I was working in performing troupes in Kansas City and doing professional theater that sometimes pulled me out of school. This chapter to me I was really in my straight and narrow mindset. I had blinders on unintentionally, I hadn’t seen a lot of the world nor had any idea what the hell was out there. I knew I wanted to be in a dance company but I didn’t realize that the real goal was to get out of Kansas and be exposed to more.
After moving away from Kansas and settling in New York to pursue my dance career at a conservatory, things took a turn. I had a crash course in life training and saw so much, my eyes were opened. That’s not to say I became a judgmental person. I’ve never been that as growing up in Kansas with a single mom of Taiwanese descent left us vulnerable to the judgement of others (something I literally say to myself everyday is to leave judgment at the door). I really felt my heart go out to so many people; life is incredibly tough and I was getting an unadulterated view of it for the first time. It was all a little bit too much, I was dealing with a family loss as well and once I left New York to continue training in San Francisco, things started to dissolve even more. The final straw was an injury to both feet and I gave everything up. I needed time and I took it. It was a relief to step back and finally ask myself, what do you actually want to do? I realized I could be anything I wanted. That to me was very liberating.
During this downtime, I got involved in dj-ing which led to music production and the infant stages of songwriting. I went back to school at Berkeley to get my degree in English. Then casually I started dancing again. That led to me being a part of a full time dance company that performs in San Francisco. Then a tour and then starting my own non-profit dedicated to making dancing films.
After I moved past dj-ing and more into music production, I started a music group in SF. That ended up being my launch pad to creating Saint Tiimbre with Amp Live and Julia Lewis. Working with these two collaborators has changed my approach to songwriting, producing and how I view myself as an artist. We grow together and there is a trust there. I’ll send them crazy shit sometimes that I make at 3am and I’m like “Hey guys… can u dig it?”, and they do. They get me, many people have called me crazy for all I want to take on as an artist but they never judge it. Instead they appreciate the craziness and the drive. It pushes me to keep exploring what I can write and come up with and how to view what i am making with less scrutiny and hatred. It feels right, I almost can’t put it into words but I trust these two. They let me do me without putting me down or boxing me in. We let go, we let it live and it’s the right equation.
You have a few projects that your involved in, let’s start with your music project collective Saint Tiimbre. Who are the other members and how did it begin?
Saint Tiimbre is myself, Amp Live of Zion-i and Julia Lewis. It started with Amp and I sending Ableton sessions back and forth. No pressure, just working in this format and getting to know each other as creators. Julia (Ben Falik) came along later but completed the equation which formed Saint Tiimbre. We didn’t really plan it out, it organically all fell into place.
Did you meet at Aaron Axelsen’s (Live 105.3FM) event POP SCENE? That’s a great San Francisco Indie event, have you performed there yet?
As Saint Tiimbre we have performed at BFD and done some other gigs, but not that one yet. We’d love to do that party! Amp and I met at a Pop scene party at the SF Nightclub Mezzanine. We were both just hanging out, I can’t even remember who was playing because we started to nerd out about producing and the rest is history.
Your sound is unique, an alternative underground vibe yet with global appeal. How would you describe the sounds of Saint Tiimbre as well as your role in the project?
We are all really inspired by Hip Hop, Soul and Sunk but are firmly rooted in making electronic music. We bring elements we are inspired by into our music and try to go somewhere new with it.
What’s in your ipod?
I’ve had Lone on replay for about a month, and I’m listening to Blood Orange and SZA.
I just watched the Astronauts, etc. – “Sadie” video you are featured in. I love the song and direction, great work Natasha. Can you let our readers know more about this video project:
My friend Matt, the director, hit me up with a music video concept involving dancers. I was reluctant to be apart of it initially because I had so much on my plate. Matt’s very persuasive, he had a solid concept so we rehearsed a few times and shot the video in two days. Corey and I dance in ODC together so we’re very familiar with each other which made the partnering go smoothly.
You had a past project Tigercat, what was the direction and sound?
Tigercat was a grand first experiment into creating a group. We were all over the place yet it was a really good but hard learning experience for me.
Where do you go in San Francisco to draw inspiration?
Bernal Hill, I like to run up there and bring my journal right before sunset and write or read. I like watching the clouds roll in, sometimes they don’t yet everything changes quickly up there. Although it’s right in the city, it’s this otherworldly beacon I like to perch on.
Top three favorite restaurants in San Francisco?
Yamo, Suzu and O-dang Udon…
When can we expect to see you live?
In 2015, for sure…
What’s next for you?
Releasing our next EP for Saint Tiimbre, putting some new dance films out, touring with ODC Dance company for the next month. Trying to stay in it and stay present. Always reminding myself that I chose to do these things because I love it and pursuing your passions is a choice, one that I’m happy to stand behind.
What does Dark Beauty mean to you?
There is something more beneath the surface, beneath what any light can penetrate; finding resilience in unexpected places.