Faster Than Sound: Versatile Electronic Producer Qrion Finds Calm in Austin

I Hope It Lasts Forever arrives Friday at the Concourse Project


Photo by Jana Birchum

A number of digital connections preceded producer Qrion's (aka Momiji Tsukada) move to the United States from her hometown of Sapporo, situated on the northernmost island of Japan.

SoundCloud gems, like a remote collaboration with the Canadian artist Ryan Hemsworth, earned the then-teenage artist buzz in the Vice and Fader blogosphere. Internet friends facilitated her first stateside show in San Francisco in 2015, where a clip of Qrion hopping around to a mashup of Juicy J and a song from Legend of Zelda went viral on Vine. Her first visit to Austin for South by Southwest 2016 introduced her inviting, cloud-cushioned electronic realm to Texas, which she now calls home.

"What a crazy journey," she remarks on a video call from her new studio room. Qrion moved to Austin last month after five years in the Bay Area, bringing a résumé of releases with outlets like Diplo's Mad Decent, Moving Castle, Ultra Records, and Last Night on Earth. The versatile soundscaper totes a quarantine-recorded debut full-length, I Hope It Lasts Forever, on her current label Anjunadeep.

A perfect welcome party, her October 29 release show lands at the Concourse Project, a cavernous new dance venue near the airport from promotions team RealMusic Events.

"During the pandemic, I had really low energy and low inspirations, but people on Twitch and Twitter who gave me warm comments motivated me to finish the album," says the 27-year-old. "I'm just thankful for them."

After frequent livestreaming last year, Qrion has returned to headlining live performances with an album tour spaced August through December. While speaking earlier this month, she rested up during a week off between dates in Seattle and Orlando. Frequent travels inspired her move with a roommate to Austin, as well as other familiar factors attracting Californians.

"It's very convenient for tour," she explains. "Instead of 6 hours from San Francisco to New York or Miami, it's like three or four hours from here. Taxes are cheaper, food is cheaper, everything is cheaper than San Francisco. It's nice for a smaller artist like me."

A balanced reintroduction to Qrion's musical range, I Hope It Lasts Forever matches trademark ethereal cuts of vocal samples with Nineties-leaning dance offerings. The LP follows various solo EPs and prolific output as a remixer. Whereas previous candy-coated work provided playfully nonlinear ambience (like the 2015 Apple-tone-based "iPhone Bubbling"), Qrion oriented her new album toward a growing live audience.

"I like a danceable set now," she says. "Before, I didn't know how to mix my own music [live] because it didn't have a kick or mix part in the beginning and end. It was more listening music. But, I think this album can reach out to people who play music in a club with more options."

Take "Proud," which stands out as a sample-based house track in the bunch. In the dollar section at San Francisco's Amoeba Music, Qrion pulled Deniece Williams' version of "I'm So Proud," originally a 1964 hit by the Impressions. With a lyrical loop like an encouraging parent, the instant uplift supports the album's deep dive into Qrion's childhood memories.

"I love Mall Grab or Ross From Friends, all those lo-fi house people," explains Qrion. "So, I'm like, 'Why not?' I want to keep my productions melodic and chill, but I thought it would be a good idea to have one song that's just super house, or more aggressive than my usual stuff."

Extending reminiscence, the visual accompaniment for "11-11" contrasts adorable home videos of young Qrion playing piano with modern shots leading packed laser-lit crowds. The artist learned piano from her father, who played keys for Japanese pop "idol" acts in the Eighties and Nineties. The serene, subtly exuberant track remembers her late father, luxuriating in the comfort of the past.

"I was just talking about this to my therapist, actually," says the producer, chuckling. "My father went through a super deep depression when I was like 9 years old, and, after that, my parents split up. Those moments before are the time we spent as a family, all together. I love using it to make my music, because it makes me feel calmed down."

The artist hopes listeners will feel the same.

"I want people to feel sentimental, nostalgic, or a little bit sad, like emo," she says. "I want to make people dance and cry at the same time on the floor."


A rendering of the proposed Violet Crown Amphitheater

Crosstalk

Violet Crown Amphitheater – a proposed massive 20,000-seat amphitheatre at the center of an entertainment and residential project – aspires to match the scale of the Hollywood Bowl in Southwest Austin. The 71-acre site sits northwest of State Highway 71 and Southwest Parkway, apparently the highest point in Travis County. International Development Management Company aims to open parts of the project in 2023. With a price tag between $600 million and $750 million, the Wonka-esque plans include two luxury apartment towers, a Top Golf-style driving range, a distillery with a tasting room, as well as promises of a dance club, rooftop nightclub, rooftop pool club, and "traditional dance hall."


Paul E. Scott

Health Alliance for Austin Musicians announced a new CEO following the retirement of beloved leader Reenie Collins. Paul E. Scott will now lead the vital health care-providing organization, which experienced a 40% membership growth during Collins' eight-year tenure. Scott joins from Vivent Health (previously AIDS Services of Austin), where he served since 2010. A former competitive pianist, he is also a singer and former member of the Austin Gay Men's Chorus. "I have a deep appreciation for what music means for both the artist and for the listener, which makes the mission of HAAM so special to me," said Scott. "We help them to keep singing, playing, and creating."


Alejandro Escovedo (Cover photo by Todd V. Wolfson)

Bloodshot Records, longtime Chicago home to indie roots and alt.country, undergoes ownership changes impacting the catalogs of prominent Austin-area artists including Alejandro Escovedo, Rosie Flores, Scott H. Biram, Wayne Hancock, and Jesse Dayton. After the recent departure of co-founder Rob Miller, the label has been acquired by investment fund Exceleration Music. Bloodshot joins Alligator and Candid Records on the Exceleration roster.

The Red River Cultural District opens the final phase of COVID-19 relief effort "Banding Together ATX," launched following the cancellation of SXSW 2020. The fifth round accepts applications from Greater Austin-area musicians and live performance artists to receive $75 H-E-B gift cards. Apply by November 25 at redriverculturaldistrict.org.

Written in the Starrs: Gossip column time! Following tabloid rules, under which a red carpet appearance seals the deal, Austin-based Ringo Deathstarr bassist Alex Gehring is now officially dating Hollywood actor Martin Starr (Freaks and Geeks, Silicon Valley). The two recently appeared together at the premiere for new Marvel Studios movie Eternals.

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