Santigold isn't pop. She isn't electro. And she sure as hell isn't hip-hop or R&B, despite what some narrow-minded critics have implied. It's a position she continues to defend, though just listening to her music should allow her to rest her case. Rather her music is a blend of underground sounds, leaning heavily on dub and New Wave with elements of electronica and what she herself calls a "psychobilly" groove. The smartest thing would be to avoid classifying it altogether.
"I decided to just switch my focus to just making my music," she says, "with no expectations of what I needed to make or what it needed to sound like. Not try to say, 'Can this be played on radio?'" But being true to herself, and refusing to compromise her creativity, has paid off in spades. Santigold is ubiquitous -- her music is heard in commercials, she recently opened for Coldplay on a national tour -- and still has retained her underground cred.
Her influences are as diverse as one might expect -- she cites artists like Nina Simone, the Smiths, and Devo. And the liner notes of her debut album, Santogold (self-titled using her artistic name at the time, prior to the change to Santigold), feature a pretty diverse showing of producers and collaborators. However, she insists she took measures to maintain some uniformity of vibe in order to avoid putting together a mere compilation of collabos.
"It wasn't the typical 'one producer does this song, which sounds like this, another does that song that sounds like that,'" she says. "I primarily worked with John Hill consistently throughout the entire record. Then I pulled in people like Switch and Diplo to come and work on some songs with John. And I think because we did it like that it was easier to have it all flow together."
The very clued-in might have caught an early Santigold performance at tiny PS14 before the release of her album. But her performance at Ultra will mark her first large-scale appearance in Miami. "It's like the best DJs and there's so much going on, and the nice outside vibe, and so, that sounds fun!"
Day One of the Ultra Music Festival, Saturday, March 28.
Bicentennial Park, 1075 Biscayne Blvd., Miami. Gates open at 4 p.m.
Friday and 1 p.m. Saturday. Tickets cost $89.95 to $350. ultramusicfestival.com