Life as a parent can prove very challenging at the best of times. Sleep deprivation, endless worrying and the constant potty training war are all aspects of parenthood which we aren’t too fond of, yet we have to adjust to. Well, how about combining all of this and touring the world as a full-time DJ? This is something La Fleur has to accommodate every single week.
Sanna La Fleur Engdahl never took the easy route when pursuing her dream as a DJ. From the 8am Monday starts as a pharmacist and playing backroom bars in her native Sweden, Sanna slaved away for many years.
Fast forward things to the summer of 2018 and the Swede has since been rewarded in kind. She now holds down residencies at the iconic Watergate and for Labyrinth at Pacha. However, this is something she doesn’t take for granted as she continues to build her musical profile whilst remaining dedicated to her role as a full-time mother.
In addition to these privileges, La Fleur has been religiously locked in her studio in a constant strive to develop her sound. Being based in the epicentre of techno, Berlin, such surroundings have proven inspirational to her present output and her 2018 production work is arguably her strongest to date.
We caught up with La Fleur earlier this summer to discuss practical parenting in electronic music, her Labyrinth and Watergate residencies and her latest EP titled ‘Outbreaker’.
Earlier this summer, you participated in a discussion about practical parenting. What is your current schedule like in terms of balancing touring and parenting?
I think it is always an ongoing battle trying to find balance between touring and parenting, being at home with your family… I feel like that is a never-ending task. It is something you need to prepare for and plan for in advance, but as of now, it is going really well.
Give us an insight into your average week when juggling the two roles…
I usually come home on a Sunday evening, and from the very moment I walk through the door, I am 100% mum. Also, depending on how my weekend shapes up, I could be looking after my daughter on Thursday and Monday or I will have her on a Wednesday, so I will try to have my weekend with her during the week. This is so she doesn’t have to spend so much time at the daycare. She is usually there between 9:30am and 3:30pm, so I try to spend as much time as I can with her.
Where is she when you are touring?
When I am touring, she stays at home with my partner, her dad. I am very, very lucky to have such support and I don’t think I would be able to do my job without him so I am super thankful for that. I know she is in the best place with her dad when I am away too.
Then during the rest of the week, there are so many other scenarios you have to make arrangements for. This includes catering to things like monitoring your social media channels, sitting down for interviews, finding new music, record shopping, being in the studio… there are so many aspects to being a DJ, it gets very time consuming.
The general perception of being a parent whilst being a globally-touring DJ/Producer is considered a hindrance to an artist’s progression within the music industry. What do you find are the biggest challenges you face when juggling both roles?
From a personal perspective, I want to be there for my daughter and she needs to be my first priority. But its the general task of finding the right balance of being a mum and finding the time to tour the world as a DJ full-time, and ensuring that I do both roles really well. I also need to keep my partner happy and of course, keeping myself healthy too.
The health of a touring DJ is a hot topic in the industry right now…
Yes of course, you experience sleep deprivation on the weekends and you don’t get much sleep during the week days either. It’s all about finding that right balance between your family and your other work.
What do you think are the necessary steps the industry needs to take in order to remove the taboo about parenting in electronic music?
I think its just a case of doing more of these discussions at big music conferences like IMS. We need to talk about it, remove the taboo… whilst it’s a younger-generation industry in one light, everyone is getting older and more of us are having kids so I also think it is a natural occurrence as we grow older. All of these things will eventually come to the surface because of these reasons and I think this is very good in terms of raising awareness. Knowing yourself is very important and people need to understand that every parent is going to try and do the best for their kids and we need to support each other.
Back to Ibiza now, this summer has seen you return to resident duties for Labyrinth at Pacha with Hot Since 82. Tell us more about your relationship with him and how the opportunity to become a resident originally came about…
Daley and I have played together quite a few times at Watergate, a club of which I’m a resident at. We also played together at Output in London and we got talking, he’s a really nice guy and then when the summer of 2017 came around, he asked me if I wanted to play as a resident. I was happy to say yes.
Your debut residency with Labyrinth last summer would’ve been a huge learning curve for you in many ways. How do you feel those experiences have helped you prepare for this summer?
Even though Pacha is now refurbished, I managed to get familiar with the club, the people that work there, I hung out more on the island and chill more with Daley and the team so I’m really enjoying this year and can’t wait for the rest of the season.
Watergate is a club you have a very close bond with. What is your favourite aspect of performing here and why?
I try to play there quite regularly, once a month at least, you get to know the club, the floors, the sound system and the crowd to a certain extent, even its changing through the month, dependent upon who is on the line-up, but it gives you a lot of freedom when you play. This is a very nice aspect.
What have you taken from your experiences here and transitioned into your residency at Pacha?
One aspect of being a resident is learning to play warm-up sets. Playing as a resident at Pacha means I am not playing prime time all of the time and playing the warm-up set is a very important part of the night, you need to set the tone correctly. There is a particular art to the craft and this is something I have taken with me. Also being comfortable at the club and with the sound system makes a big difference too.
What factors do you feel define a good warm-up set?
You need to build the atmosphere. First of all, have respect for the artist who is playing after you. It’s not your role as the warm-up DJ to steal the show, that is the responsibility of the main act. A good warm-up DJ should warm up the room and have the crowd on their toes. Therefore, when the main act comes on, he can really ignite the atmosphere.
Many artists take the plunge of moving to Berlin, like yourself, in hope of one day becoming a successful DJ/Producer. However, not many are clued up on how to assert themselves over in the techno capital. How did you get your foot in the door at Watergate to begin with?
I moved to Berlin 10 years ago. I originally went to Berlin to gain some inspiration for everyday life and my productions, that was my main goal. Back then, I felt everyone is a DJ there so I’m not even going to try and go there. I thought I would go there for a few months, enjoy the city and the nightlife but then I called my boss to ask if I could stay for a few more months. At the end of that period, he called me asking if I was going back and I said no.
Then things happened very naturally, I never went to Berlin to pursue my DJ career, I went for a planned short period of time to get inspiration for my career so it varies on what your intentions are when you go there and what your expectations are. Things also change a lot in Berlin, especially over the past 10 years.
The Watergate residency came about having played at various places in Berlin, then they noticed me. Myself and my colleague, Michelle Omen, my friend… we asked if we could host a night on Wednesdays and we invited a host of likeminded names to appear and the club said yes. We then started doing that bi-monthly and they saw me play more there and asked me to appear more regularly for them.
I noticed you said there have been a few changes to Berlin over the last decade or so, what have been some of the key changes you have seen?
There has been a bus full of aspiring DJs coming over to Berlin every week. Back in the day, Berlin was cheaper, and still is depending on where in the world you are coming from, but a lot of things have changed. Rent has increased, an everyday life there is not as cheap as it used to be and it has become a much more saturated market when it comes to DJs. Everyone wants to go there and live the dream. But having said that, it is not necessarily a bad thing to go to Berlin. You just need to be aware that there is a lot of competition and a lot of people want to make it in that sense.
Switching gears now to your studio work, you are beginning to make real waves with your production, a fine example of this being your ‘Exhaust’ EP on Truesoul. How have you approached your production differently over the past 12 months?
As an artist, you evolve, and your sound will change. I always try to work on myself as a person and as an artist so I hope people can see, not necessarily improvements, but changes within my sound.
And of course, I know Adam (Beyer), he’s a fellow Swede, and I’ve known him for some time now. I thought it would be a good idea to do something for Truesoul and he was happy I asked and reached out. He was happy with what I sent him and we just went from there.
How rewarding does it feel for you personally to receive such positive feedback by such a huge name like Adam Beyer?
It makes me very happy of course. He has also been on the scene hustling, doing many hours for many years, so yes, it is very rewarding.
I recently read an interview you did with Deep House Amsterdam and you stated that you were attracted to the German capital because you appreciated the creative freedom of Berlin. How do you feel the city has influenced your sound since moving here?
I feel like originally, it was more about the minimal techno when I was moving there. I feel like you are always influenced by it to a certain degree when surrounded by it, so it did influence my sound. But at the same time, I am also Swedish, I have my influences from there so I guess it is like a combination but Berlin also gives you inspiration in many ways.
What influences have you gained from your background in Sweden?
Coming from a Swedish background saw me grow up around a lot of folk music, plenty of melodies… in Sweden, a lot of the time, it is very dark and cold outside so this influences people’s work mentality. You can’t go to the beach and hang out, so you just work harder in the studio.
Finally, this summer saw the release of your new EP, ‘Outbreaker’. What was the inspiration being it and what kind of production was involved?
‘Outbreaker’ is quite an old track for me which I had laying in my draw for quite some time. I wanted to sign it to another label but that would’ve taken a long time and I thought it wasn’t going to come around. Then I thought it would be a nice addition to this ‘Devil Sigh’ track. This is a newer track. The name is inspired from the inclusion of a sample from a horror movie called Devil’s Eye. But in the end, it is still not there so I changed it to ‘Devil Sigh’ and I kept the name. Also, the Tuff City Kids remix brings something new and different and really compliments the EP.
La Fleur has been selected to perform as a part of this year’s BBC Radio 1 Ibiza weekend at Cafe Mambo on Friday 3rd August. For more information, click here.