SOUNDR is the project of Katherine Thomas, which she originally started working on after moving back to Salt Lake City. At that time, Kate had very few friends in the area, she was in a new living environment, and was working with a new producer on songs – up until the point of this debut EP release in October 2021, she has written and featured on other artists' singles – and was juggling severe depression and anxiety, as well as manic phases and wanted an outlet to express herself through theraputic measures.
Composed of five intimate tracks, SOUNDR's debut EP, Monsters In My Head, delivers a message of self-acceptance and authenticity, with every track, focussing on an intimate side of her headspace. Her slick grasp of both retro and progressive elements of synthpop, rock, and punk highlights her craft, and melodic flair in the trove of alternative pop.
The name SOUNDR is influenced by the term ‘Sonder’ which essentially is the realization that each person on this planet is living a life as intricate and vivid as your own. With their own worries, ambitions, fears, friends, and stories that you might never know exist.
"I think having a ‘stage name’ sometimes helps me let go of pressure on what people will think," SOUNDR tells EARMILK at the top of our chat about her debut EP. "For some reason not using my real name seems to have helped me release music with subject matter that is hard for me to talk about in my day-to-day life."
So far this year, it has been full of introspection and growth for SOUNDR, including a new environment and finally getting to release her debut EP, which explores her own mental wounds and additional healing and growing process through five tracks, which come to a total listening time of 15 minutes and 13 seconds. "I think one of the most interesting parts of my career to me so far is how much I learn about myself through this project. Both through the process of actually creating the art and the business side."
Monsters In My Head is SOUNDR's ode to herself. With this EP, she wanted to paint a picture of hearing voices in your head – but really it is your own anxiety/depression or trauma/struggles that are taking up space in your mind. "I was a different me at each point that the songs are about, and they were kind of heavy," SOUNDR says. "But all still ‘me.’"
Creating is how SOUNDR processes and heals in her own way, and this 5-track EP was an avenue to release all of those notions stuck in her head that she was itching to get out and express. For this project, SOUNDR set out to accomplish a specific goal: to write in a vulnerable and authentic way; and when picking songs to go on the EP, SOUNDR wanted the overall piece to move through different emotions in each song – in fact, she wanted it to be an example of feeling different emotions.
All of the songs on this EP carry unfiltered pieces of SOUNDR in some way or another. The EP, as a whole, emphasises the statement that the monsters in her head are actually SOUNDR's. "I know who I am," SOUNDR continues in our chat. "I own who I am – both the not-so-pretty parts and the pieces that I love – I take responsibility to keep healing and growing. I am okay with being everything at once."
The creative process for SOUNDR's debut EP was rather interesting, and whilst she originally started working with Stetson Whitworth on the project in the spring of 2020, she had a solid idea of where she wanted to go and had loads of poetry to draw inspiration from.
"In our first few sessions he really took where I wanted to go and ran with it instrumentally," SOUNDR says on the creative process. "They were the sounds I had always wanted to be part of my music since I started playing guitar and writing music at 13. Writing for this project has been such an interesting experience. I started off kind of intimidated by it."
Furthermore, SOUNDR had put a lot of pressure on herself to make this something she could be proud of. After a few sessions, she relaxed into feeling like this project is her own – no one can take it from her. And to say the whole process for this EP was completely different to anything SOUNDR had done previously, would be an understatement. She was very used to the process of writing EDM toplines – i.e.: producer sends instrumental, she writes vocals — it usually felt very separated.
"I felt free to say what I wanted and needed to, and the back and forth co-writing was really organic."
But with this EP, SOUNDR got to go into the recording studio and express herself vocally. Which also meant she had to be extremely vulnerable with someone else while they were writing the songs, which she was not used to. "Each track we wrote was reassuring," SOUNDR expresses to EARMILK. "And having control over where we went energy-wise and with the subject matter was empowering but also kind of a lot at the beginning."
This new process took SOUNDR a while to get used to — where she could build confidence in what she and her team were creating — she wanted to come out the gate showing who she is, which is evident across the slate of songs.
This is a big EP, albeit with only 5 songs, to discover, so trying to narrow down which songs to listen to for distinctive reasons is a bit difficult, as you have songs about her very own personal struggles with mental health ("Mania"), songs about feeling angry and annoyed ("It Me"), songs about choosing yourself over people and situations ("Dumb Dumb"), songs about escaping from the real world ("Synthetic Emotion"), and songs about toxic and unhealthy relationships ("Control").
This is an EP that says it is okay to feel everything – all of the emotions and struggles and beautiful things there are to experience in life are valid and important. "I just hope if people find parts of their stories or pieces of themselves in these songs, they hear that they’re not alone," SOUNDR adds. "We’re not alone in going through really difficult things, mentally and in life."
However, in saying that, and taking the aforementioned notions above into consideration, "Mania" is the closest song to SOUNDR's heart because it’s the most vulnerable. It is a subject matter she has never expressed and is very proud of that fact. It’s also just a kickass song. The grit digs in deep. But I would say "Dumb Dumb" is the most fun song on the EP. It’s an old-school pop-punk anthem kind of vibe that is perfect for those drive around singing at the top of your lungs moments.
Whilst the overall story SOUNDR wanted to tell fits nicely within these 5 tracks, there are several other songs she did write, but they just didn’t feel right for this collection. "I sometimes get an image in my mind’s eye of what a song will look like when it’s released, and the additional songs are meant for something else," SOUNDR explains. "But when the right time comes, we’ll put those ones out too."
Monsters In My Head is just the starting point for listeners to get to know SOUNDR, and people will be able to get to know her better through the behind-the-scenes content of MIMH yet to be released. "I want to connect and hear your stories," SOUNDR continues. "Otherwise, I’ll be experimenting with new artists and producers to keep developing my sound and bring you new music!"