Cate Hamilton is a young musician based out in Brooklyn, New York. She uses dreamy vocal hues accompanied by wide melodies that reverberate to create a cinematic pop atmosphere. Hamilton uses her past experiences to project a powerful yet soft image of her personality which, I must say is really well done.
Traces, her latest release, showcases all these features perfectly.Cate Hamilton creates a dreamy soundscape with light pads and synths, that meet these deep and heavy beats. The bass line is pushed to the back but still has this strong groove to it, that it’s able to function independently of its usual role. Instead, Cate Hamilton uses her vocals to occupy a vast section of the mix. This is something that is typical of synth-pop composers like Tame Impala or Pond. There is a large influence of cinema in Traces. The instrumental includes a lot of Foley that gives the track this texture that makes it seem like it belongs in the background of some really intense scenes.
I’m a huge fan of Traces. It has so much going on for it, and the cherry on top of this melodiously beautiful sundae is the harmonies. The harmonies in the chorus add to this divine feeling that the track effortlessly creates. There are plenty of artists who use harmonies, but not that many that get it done right.
We were fortunate enough to have a quick chat with Cate. Read on down below for more!
Can you tell us a little more about your music-making process?
My music-making process is somewhat erratic and usually spontaneous. I’m all about the vibes so when I feel inspiration calling, I get the ambience going by lighting some candles and making tea before I sit down at my desk. I start by either producing or buying a track that pulls my attention and feels good to freestyle vocals over. Next, I pull out my handy lil notebook and try to identify what made me gravitate towards the chosen track. There’s usually a certain mood or emotion that bubbles up as I begin to pin-point how the track makes me feel which allows me to focus that feeling into a couple of lines for lyrics. I usually mess around with these lines to see how they fit into the track while also expanding on these initial ideas by freestyling and experimenting with them vocally. I continue doing this until I have at least a first verse and hook so I can add harmonies and see if the song is worth working on any longer. If it is, I go back to tweak the lyrics, write a second verse, and maybe add a bridge or any other final elements. I have a lot of songs that never get a second verse and should never see the light of day. I also have a lot of songs that I perceive as gold and then decide it’s trash soon after, but not every song can be a gem.
When did your fascination with cinematic pop come to fruition?
I think my fascination with cinematic pop began back in 2017 when I discovered my icon and queen, Snoh Aalegra. I feel like her voice encapsulates nostalgia which makes her the personification of cinematic. She has that timeless sound like Amy Winehouse or Joy Crookes that feeds my soul. I blame my Scorpio moon, but I’m a very dramatic and passionate person who likes to pretend that they’re living in a 1950’s film. This may be delusional, but I enjoy it and I think it’s the reason why I’m so drawn to cinematic pop. It allows me to escape into that fantasy and connect with a romanticized version of reality.
How do you incorporate the concepts of time, space, and energy in your music?
I do this primarily through my writing. I write in an attempt to solve my own existential burdens which centres my songs around broad topics like time, space, and energy. Another way I do this is by using “ethereal” or “spacey” sounds in my music. I tend to create these effects by adding synth pads and densely layered harmonies. I want my music to feel like an otherworldly, futuristic space romance movie.
Traces is a brilliant track no doubt. What inspired you to write and compose it?
So during the lockdown, I had an experience with LSD which inspired this song. The drug enhanced my senses an ungodly amount and I felt like I had stumbled into a perfect dream world. The magic of that experience was surreal, and it forced me to confront many of my unconscious fears and desires. I realized I had been spending way too much time picking myself apart and fueling my fear of failure instead of trusting that I have something valuable to offer. While having these realizations, I got the idea for the melody of “Traces” which just kept playing on a loop in my brain for the duration of the trip. I wrote the song about that experience as soon as I came down.
What is your motivation behind your music?
I know it sounds angsty, but honestly, the motivation behind my music is to cope. Music has always been a constant in my life, and I truly feel that life would be unbearably dull without it. Being able to use the highs and lows of this human experience to make something tangible and beautiful is obviously cathartic, but it makes experiencing emotional pain and transformation so much more purposeful. I feel euphoric when I listen to my favorite songs or when I make something I’m proud of, so it’s only natural that I’d want to surround myself with things that ignite that sensation.
What kind of music do you generally listen to?
I’m always open to all genres (besides commercial country), but I usually listen to modern psychedelia, neo-soul, and indie-pop. Call me basic, but I love Tame Impala, Still Woozy, Glass Animals, SG Lewis, etc. Really anything that has a vibey beat and reminds me of the beach!
Have you drawn any influences from popular film score composers? Can you tell us a little bit about them?
The film score composer who has been the most influential has to be Craig Armstrong! He did the soundtrack for Romeo + Juliet (1996) and Moulin Rouge which are two of my favorite films. Both compositions combine modern orchestral sounds and electronica which is very up my alley. I grew up jamming to those soundtracks so I think Craig Armstrong is the reason why I’m so drawn to orchestra and choir sounds.