By the time you read this, the 2023 Scottish Alternative Music Awards (SAMAs) will have taken place. So what better time to catch up with one of the winners from 2022, whose work we have really enjoyed in the past 12 months? Kintra claimed the award for Best Electronic Act at last year’s SAMAs, and they are far from a traditional act. SNACK caught up with twin sisters Frankie and Jozette to chat techno, melodies, drinks, and violins, with much more in our online interview.
I won’t embarrass myself by asking where you first met, but where and when did you decide to make music together?
Frankie: I actually saw a band get asked that question recently: where did you meet? Well, in the house!
Jozette: For years we were trying to make music. I think especially after graduating from university, we had this desire to create something musical. We spent a wee bit of time writing music, but then, when Frankie got into DJing, that’s what really kicked it all off.
Frankie: I started DJing just through a different avenue, student radio, and then we thought, why not incorporate the violin? Jozette’s always been a better violinist than me, I’m pretty terrible so it made sense that she took on that role.
I think the difficulty with something being unique is that we didn’t really have a reference point. So, when we first started, I’d been DJing a lot with house music, and a lot more disco breakbeat. So we tried the violin, but realised that it wasn’t quite right. It was almost a bit cheesy, it wasn’t really working and there’s maybe too much going on.
So we thought let’s like strip it back and go to the more haunting melodic sounds of techno, then from there it progressed. And I think that’s when we really found our way. We’re like this is it when we discovered Kintra and techno. The techno worked best with Kintra and we had one of those moments like, yeah, I think this could work.
When you think about the algorithms, it’s really hard for people to go and do something new that’s not been done, because people don’t know where to put them?
Frankie: Oh God, yeah. So when we first started, we found promoters didn’t understand what we did and it took us a wee while to actually get booked.
Jozette: It took a while for us to get booked for the right gig. The gigs we were playing, I don’t know, iIt just wasn’t our sound. It was an eclectic mix of sounds on the night, whereas we really did want to break into the techno scene.
Frankie: We wanted to hold on to our sound and be known for that, and it did work out eventually, which is great, but yeah, you’re right, people don’t really know exactly where to put you when it is something quite new.
Now I appreciate there’s no one way or single way of doing things, but what’s your general songwriting process?
Jozette: It’s usually myself that comes up with either main violin melodies or I’ll create a violin arrangement. For our last track, we did an edit of ‘L’Amour Toujours’, I created a violin, four to six part arrangement and then we thought, how can we turn this into a more techno sound? But there are times where we have created a more techno bass track and then put the violin on top. So it depends on how violin heavy the track is going to be.
Frankie: With ‘L’Amour Toujours’, it sounds like an orchestral arrangement, it was complicated. I think you need to start off with the violin, but it does change quite a lot. And when you’re collaborating with other artists, there’s a different way to do it too. But that’s the general idea of what we do. It’s good fun.
So similar question, but slightly different how do you go about creating a set list?
Frankie: So, this is quite a difficult one because we don’t really plan our sets, but of course Jozette needs to know – she creates all the violin parts. When we find a tune and think that’s amazing, that would really work well if we created a violin part on top, Jozette takes over.
Jozette: Once I’ve got a track in mind, I’ll play along to it a couple of times, see how much I can improvise over it and whether it’s worthy of a violin, and if it works, then I’ll get something down. I do like to go into gigs prepared, to be honest. So whilst I have done improvisation during the live set a few times, especially more recently, I don’t like to do that. I like to make sure the performance will be on point, because there’s so many other things for me to think about rather than messing up what I’m actually playing.
Frankie: There’s so many things that can go wrong and of course there are loads of different elements coming through and there is this usually very heavy kick and a bass as well, you don’t want to mess that up with the violin too.
Jozette’s got this massive bank of tunes that she can play, like a wedding band! They’ve got all these tunes that they’ve got planned but might not play them all. So it’s like that and I’ll say to Jozette, I’m going to play this tune next and are you good with that, and she’s like, yeah, so that’s how it works.
It’s organic the way our sets workout, because sometimes you get booked and you think the crowd’s going to be different than it is, so you have to adapt. So Jozette has some tunes that are more heavy, that are lighter, definitely more calm, especially when it’s an opening set, just so we’re not playing slamming 155 BPM techno and it’s an empty room. We mould it to whatever gig we’re playing on literally in the moment.
It’s a conversation. A lot of people sometimes mention that we seem to talk a lot during sets, and we do, we’re discussing what tune to play next! I guess you don’t really see the DJs talk much when they’re DJing, but we’ve really got to have that conversation like, hmm, do you remember this?
Any spectacular missteps, with what song you played that you can now laugh about?
Frankie: Nothing comes to the top of my head. To be honest, I don’t think there’s been any real massive disasters. I mean there’s been times you’ve walked off stage and you’ve been like, oh I don’t know if my violin was good there, but usually it always is good. Even if there was a tiny mistake, nobody noticed it.
Jozette: As there’s so much going on, a lot of the time I struggle to actually hear the violin. So there’s been occasions where if the sound system that’s playing back to me isn’t that fantastic, I’m going in blind and I’m relying on muscle memory where I place my fingers on the fingerboard to keep it going and I have no idea what’s actually going out. So that’s been pretty awful. I’ve not enjoyed that at all.
Frankie: If that was the case and it was that bad, I’d turn Jozette off, but that’s never happened. For me, every DJ messes up at a point, we all do, but there’s been no mad moments. Nothing terrible, although there was one time I was DJing and I almost let a tune finish. Jozette helped me by looping the tune, I was too busy vibing with the crowd.
Jozette: I was, surely she’s going to notice, surely she’s going to notice, but she didn’t, and I was like, alright, here I come.
Frankie: That was the only time, I was just having too much fun.
Dundee looks to be an exciting city with a lot going on. Is this your experience and what do you really like about what’s happening creatively In the city?
Frankie: There’s good things happening. Of course we had the closure of the Reading Rooms, which is really devastating for us because it’s such an iconic venue in Dundee and it was actually one of my bucket list locations to play. Unfortunately it never transpired before the club shut, which is a shame because I really think it would have probably happened now if it had still been open. But alas, it wasn’t in the cards, that place shut down and I think a lot of people were gutted in Dundee. It was such an institution.
The King’s has opened and is a great venue for Dundee and also you see underground artists there being brought to other venues like Flat Sam’s, which has been more of a historically live music venue, or it’s just a normal nightclub. So it’s great seeing these spaces being used for that underground electronic music – and it is a great scene.
You’ve got the V&A. We played there recently actually for the V&A’s fifth birthday and it was such an amazing event. We were so impressed with how smoothly everything went and the diverse range of artists that they asked to play at that event as well. We were so honoured to be included and it’s a beautiful space. I think it’s doing great things for Dundee.
Jozette: I agree. We were speaking to somebody who recently came from Dundee to see our last gig, which was in Glasgow, and I was just asking them what’s been going on recently. I think there was a bit of a lull after lockdown with the Dundee scene, but it’s meant to be picking up a bit now. So this is really good to see because I think all cities suffered for quite some time.
Earlier in 2023, you played an excellent set in the CCA and you were joined on stage by the digital artist, Veronica Petruchov. How did that collaboration come together and how was it bringing a further element into what you do?
Frankie: Oh, she was brilliant, we loved working with her. That came about through the SAMAs, they got in touch with Cryptic (Glasgow-based art house) and the opportunity to do something came up. We had a meeting discussing what we wanted to do, because it was our showcase, and they suggested teaming up with a live artist, visual artist, and they suggested Veronica.
And, to be honest, I’d actually seen Veronica’s work before. She’s done some amazing things in the scene in Glasgow and beyond, but I’d seen her specifically at a DJ night and she was doing the visuals and I was a big fan anyway. So I was delighted to be able to work with her. So we just set up a call with her and had a chat about what things we liked.
We had our first EP, Heliopause, and that was released on Resensanzand that was inspired by outer space and we had a lot of other elements. So she created designs to suit that.
And then our new stuff is more computer games, like retro video gaming, so she created artwork or visuals to coincide with that too. As the set progressed she was doing it all live and it was all amazing. I would love to work with her again, or have the opportunity to work with a visual artist. It adds that extra element and it gives them a really great space to express themselves creatively.
Is the visual and design element important to you, and is it something you can actually do as much as you want?
Jozette: I think we would love to have a more visual element to that, having the violin on stage it really is visual. I think, as well as adding something musically, it adds musically, and it adds a visual element to the whole thing.
When we are playing at gigs, we try to have the violin on show. We were playing down in Wales and they had a little cage in the club so I was up there playing away. It was fantastic. So I think having a VA or a VJ like Veronica working with us would be fantastic.
I think on a larger scale, if we were playing at festivals then we’d definitely be looking to incorporate that a lot more. But at the moment, I think the scale of what we usually do doesn’t lend itself to that. Hopefully, if we get bigger, we’ll be able to put on that show.
You recently played at Pressure, which is a Glasgow institution, how was that?
Frankie: It’s just such an iconic club night in Glasgow and Scotland, so for us, it was just an amazing experience, we were really humbled and delighted. Of course, it was Halloween and we take Halloween very seriously, so we had these little matching outfits. To be fair, I take it a little bit more seriously than Jozette. I was keen for us to coordinate outfits.
Jozette: Not many of the DJs were dressed up, if any!
Frankie: It was really good. And I mean we’ve been to Pressure nights since we’ve been going out, I’ve got a feeling it was one of our first times, maybe only time at the Arches, was a Pressure event. If you told me back then you’ll be playing this night in a few years, we’d be really, are you sure?
You also played a Secret Raves in Glasgow recently, was that fun?
Frankie: Yeah, so Secret Raves, it was quite an eclectic line-up. It was curated well though, in terms of timings. The time we were on was about the time that you could afford to get heavier. It was a really good event because everybody that was there was so engaged. I felt a bit almost overwhelmed when we came off stage. Genuinely, the amount of people that came up to us and were like ‘we loved that’, it was really, really overwhelming, but lovely.
Jozette: The people that were there seemed to be there for the music. I think a lot of club nights these days people go for the hype, people go for the Instagrammable aesthetic, but with this, I think a lot of people came because they were purveyors and appreciators of good music.
It’s definitely a pinch me moment when people come up with statements like that. That’s when you get imposter syndrome.
How do you feel about dance music in Scotland at the moment?
Frankie: It’s become quite hard, it’s quite techno, almost similar vibes to the early 2000s, but in a way it has that happy, hardcore, hard style vibe. So that’s come back a bit, which I really enjoy. I remember being just like a wee guy listening to that sort of music, in the park.
It’s quite good for us as well, techno is really big at the minute and we play techno. So it’s, it’s amazing and it’s great because you’re meeting so many other different promoters and like-minded DJs that are into that music too. So it’s good to bounce ideas off of. You’re definitely not spoiled for choice.
I think Glasgow and Scotland as a whole has that techno reputation anyway, with amazing artists like Slam coming out of Glasgow. It’s always been synonymous with the city.
It’s gone back to its roots, it seems but also, it’s very fast at the minute, the dance is very fast. I remember a few years ago when disco was all the rage and to be honest, I love disco. I’ve still got a lot of time for that and I’ll play that when I can, but not obviously as Kintra, because it doesn’t quite work all the time.
Techno works really well for us. Obviously it is quite hard at the minute in getting the violin working with hard techno, but we’ve got some amazing collabs coming up with brilliant artists and they are of the harder style. Hopefully we can create a compilation or at least put out tracks with those artists which we’re collabing with, so you might see a little bit of a harder Kintra sound coming soon.
So you two are also behind the Polka Dot Disco Club, can you tell me about that?
Frankie: So that’s something we started before lockdown, so it’s coming up for four years, but it doesn’t seem like that because we’ve only really been putting on events since February 2022.
It started off as a workshop initiative to bring more women into the electronic music scene, specifically in Dundee, because there was a very big lack of women DJs there.
Things have certainly gotten better and I think now the challenge isn’t just women DJs, it’s also trans and non-binary people, making sure all marginalised genders are represented in the music scene.
Our main goal is to empower these people and folk of marginalised genders and make them go to a space where they see themselves represented, and also not just for those people as well, for everyone.
We want everyone to be able to go and have a good time.
I was asked that question really recently: ‘what does inclusivity mean?’ And that’s what it means is just everyone being welcomed, absolutely everyone, and no judgement, no matter what you’re wearing or doing, in a positive sense, so that’s what our nights are for. We want that welcoming space and we’re very, very lucky, it’s becoming an event, it’s not a workshop series or collective, it’s specifically just an event.
We’re very lucky to have two amazing spaces in Glasgow, in our opinion probably the two best spaces. We’ve got the Berkeley Suite and Sub Club, which are amazing venues that we have somewhat of a residency at and they’re just incredible.
They’re perfect and that’s why I say it’s probably the best space for us.
We try to have eclectic club nights and champion all these different types of people. We want them to express themselves how they want musically. So we don’t necessarily limit it to any genre. We will say go for it and see what comes out.
Obviously, within reason, we don’t want you playing slamming techno at, you know, 11pm. But it’s certainly an eclectic club night.
You won Best Electronic Act at the 2022 SAMAs. How was that experience, and have you noticed any uplift from that this year?
Frankie: Well, we weren’t actually in the room when our name got announced. That was really daft. We went through to the bar to grab a drink. I think we were talking to Hannah Laing [DJ], having a wee natter with her in the bar. and our dad came through saying ‘your names have been called, you’ve won.’ We were like, oh God! And ran through. So yeah, that was embarrassing but funny as well. I guess it’s memorable.
It was a really good night. We were so honoured to even be nominated, never mind win. After that, we have noticed more bookings and I feel like we have been taken more seriously.
Jozette: It did kind of put us on the forefront for some gigs, which was good. I feel this has been the year that we’ve been able to accelerate a bit more than others, and I believe the SAMAs helped that.
You’re playing the New World event at Platform: what can you say about that?
Frankie: We’re delighted to be included in the line-up. We’ll be melodic, with emphasis on the violin. We’re not exactly sure how hard we’re gonna go yet. It depends on the audience! It will be techno, it just might not be a hundred and sixty BPM techno.
Kintra play the New World opening party at Platform on 17th December. Tickets here.
Main Photo Credit: Michael C Hunter