Darkwave artist Rare DM describes beginnings in music, excitement for first festival performance at SXSW

Sage Dunlap, Life & Arts Reporter

Traveling far from her Brooklyn, New York home studio, Rare DM will bring a unique darkwave and synth-pop set to Higher Ground for South by Southwest on March 18 — the soloist’s first official festival performance. 

Featuring a versatile mix of current and unreleased songs, the independent artist sat down with The Daily Texan and discussed her musical roots in swing dancing, materialism in modern relationships and her plans for SXSW. 

The Daily Texan: How did you decide on the name Rare DM?

Rare DM: I really, really love rare things. The best things in life are rare. You have your first kiss, and it’s a special one — you could call that rare. People say rare steak is the best, right? Specifically though … trinkets are close to my heart. (Rare experiences) are also ones that either have the most sentimental value or retain the most value, in the real world. The DM could mean lots of different things: dark matter, dance music, dungeon master (or) direct message.

The Daily Texan: Where did you get your start in music?

Rare DM: I took drum lessons, jazz band and drumline, which taught me the backbone of music theory. I (also) started going to the community college to swing dance, tango and all that jazz. It was my favorite thing to do, and I did it probably three times a week. I started singing along with  jazz musicians like Billie Holiday, and that’s how I gained some confidence with singing. From there, I got into GarageBand mid-to-end of high school and then came to New York City for fashion design. I dropped out to play drums in a band … and moved into synthesizers, drum machines and making music I enjoyed listening to. 

DT: Did your experience performing music in your childhood and teen years make it easier to start performing as a soloist?

Rare DM: I thrive under spotlights and pressure, but the nerves were definitely different. If you have a friend there, it can really change the world. Even to this day, if you have one friend that is there that cares about you, it makes a huge difference.

DT: What was the inspiration behind your recent single, “Rolex?”

Rare DM: The first line is “Don’t need an Audi to hang out with me and my fake Versace.” I have a fake Versace track jacket, and I’m … sentimentally attached to it. It goes from there. The song is slightly tongue in cheek, saying ‘you don’t need any of these things to woo me.’ Going to fashion design school was really interesting, because … (classmates wore) designer clothes, and I didn’t know the language for it yet. They were wearing Comme des Garcons to our class at eight in the morning, and I was showing up with my thrifted Goodwill $20 (outfit).

DT: What will your SXSW set look like?

Rare DM: (SXSW) is my first festival I’m officially on. My set is going to be seamless, so I don’t really stop between songs. I plan on (being) a little dancey and having a mix of higher BPM and some of the classics. I’m probably gonna play one song off Vanta Black, two singles and then do unreleased material for the rest of it.