Every now and then you come across an artist that reinvigorates your love for a genre. I've been following PENNYWILD for several years now and have watched her make great strides in her career during that time, each of which have reminded me why I love dance music and the community it fosters.
From directing music videos for artists like Zedd and RL Grime to choreographing shows and performances at major venues across the country to her own work as a queer DJ and producer, PENNYWILD has shown time and time again that the lines between mediums can and should be crossed. Her latest single, "Sidestreets" is a housey homage to LA's underground dance music scene—or at least the ride there.
Now, in preparation of the release of her brand new EP, NIGHT PEOPLE, which will be out later this year via Popgang Records, I caught up with Penny to discuss everything from her live shows to our favorite topic here at iHeartRaves: rave fashion. Check out Penny's favorite iHeartRaves picks and what she had to say about her new music below. Stream her latest release on Spotify and Apple Music here.
Oh, and follow her Instagram for some mesmerizing dance videos and a mashup of Tiffany Pollard and Doja Cat that just somehow works. You'll see what I mean when you get there.
iHeartRaves: Tell us a bit about Night People and the inspiration behind it.
PENNYWILD: The NIGHT PEOPLE project was born out of a desire for to authentically depict some of my “glory years,” (I know, I know, “I’m still young” blah blah) and demonstrate what exactly went down on our crazy nights out. After my debut EP MIDI In Motion, I was sort of slamming my head against the wall - we were in peak COVID-19 times, and I found myself craving a true night life record to consume so I could feel like I was dancing at a nightclub again. I wasn’t finding much in my sphere, so I thought to myself “I guess I should just... make one myself!” After some brief sonic experimentation, I knew it was the direction I wanted to go in. Everything started writing itself, and now here we are!
iHeartRaves: How was the response to the release of Sidestreets?
PENNYWILD: I’ve been really overwhelmed by the positive response to the 1st single! I was a bit nervous, seeing as this type of “skit” music (or “Skit House” as I’ve joked) isn’t exactly your run of the mill dance record. Because there’s lots of vocal sampling, chatter, narrative arc, etc, I was nervous that the dance music community would reject this take, claiming it was too theatrical or something. People have been so generous with their feedback—it’s making me feel like dance music is ready for even more boundary-pushing. I’ve always been passionate about storytelling over everything, so it’s been really exciting and gratifying to watch unfold.
"I always gravitate towards an item with a cut-out - I think it really elevates a look and makes people take a double-take. I’d layer this with a fishnet boy short to get some more texture, and finish it off with a cute plain bralette!"
iHeartRaves: As a dancer, do you have a unique approach to live shows that might be different from other DJs and producers?
PENNYWILD: I think getting my start as a Dancer/Choreographer has colored every aspect of what it means to be a musician—it’s really influenced my approach to not only live shows, but also production itself. My access point to music is movement, so I definitely always jump in feet first. I strive to really make the crowd let go, release, and dance—not just stand there recording with their phones. It typically takes a few moments to warm up the crowd, but I do feel like I’ve been getting more and more successful at giving the audience real escapism.
"Over the years, I’ve evolved from a black backpack gal, to a cross-body fanny pack gal. Nothing better than traveling with solely the essentials and being completely hands-free. With all the dancing I will undoubtedly do at the function, who’s got time to hold a hand bag?"
iHeartRaves: You've choreographed some pretty exciting projects and directed a few music videos for major artists. Can you tell us about those experiences?
PENNYWILD: Direction has been this really beautiful/fruitful artistic path that accidentally fell into my life in a real “fairytale” type way. Growing up, I didn’t necessarily dream of directing. Choreographing, sure, but not necessarily zooming out for the full picture.
After years of Choreography, I started to direct my projects without even really noticing that I was doing so. I eventually built enough experience that I was approached by an EP that I deeply admire, and now I’m directing at his production company. Almost everything I’ve gotten to work on I’ve blatantly and specifically chased for years, so having this field find me has been a really rewarding experience.
"The Billie Eilish stan in me always loves a good lime green/black combo. A 5’2’’ queen, I never say no to a platform sneaker. Comfortable, functional, acceptable at the club - say less!"
iHeartRaves: Which do you prefer, choreographing or directing?
PENNYWILD: At this point, I think I can say I prefer directing - which is insane to admit given the 10+ years my Choreographic brain has on my Directorial brain. When I’m directing, I’m usually also choreographing, so perhaps it’s more that I prefer to be in a position where I can have a certain amount of creative control.
"I’m here for alllll things iridescent - it makes me feel like Lady Gaga. I would rock this underboob moment with boy shorts and a combat boot, keeping it sexy but still a bit more gender neutral, as I tend to lean fashion-wise!"
iHeartRaves: As a dancer, what are some style tips you have for events?
PENNYWILD: Comfort first, always. I’ve learned time and time again that the pasties, while sexy, aren’t realistically sustainable—and that the suspenders, while adorable, are not going to make it to the last number! I would say finding a balance between flattering, comfortable, and dynamic is the way to go. I’ll never sacrifice quality for comfort, I just make sure I find the pieces that are going to help me perform my best, while also looking chic as fuck at all times.
"Wigs are an integral part of my lifestyle, but it’s hard to find the right one. This color combo is really doing things for me - I’d have so much fun throwing this on with some glitter, a little black dress, and stepping outttt honey."