QRTR’s Fresh, Ethereal Dive Into Dance Music
“Representation is everything. I would have not gotten into dance music if I didn’t see other women DJing and producing dance music.”
These words come from electronic artist and soothing dance music extraordinaire, Meagan Rodriguez, otherwise known as QRTR.
Music flows through Rodriguez figuratively, and quite literally. The Brooklyn-based artist noted that her half Puerto-Rican, half-Portuguese background influences her music. Her mom was born on an island in Portugal and the surrounding water guides her sound.
“I feel like with my first album, Drenched, I talked about this a lot, but just how the ocean and waves and repetition [is] soothing. I think dance music is a perfect example of that same kind of idea, sonically,” Rodriguez explains. “I definitely am always trying to find ways to have my music be soothing, you know. I want people to dance, but I want people to have kind of an emotional connection to it, too.”
QRTR’s discography blends a softer, prominent channel of dance music, giving fans the emotional connection that Rodriguez is craving with her fans.
“So, I would say that sort of island life, that ocean life, definitely infiltrates its way into the way I even consider music as a concept, as an art form. Especially dance music,” Rodriguez says.
Her Brooklyn background pushes her progression.
“And then Brooklyn is so eclectic. There’s a little bit of everything. Any type of music you want to hear there is a way to witness it or experience it whether it’s a party or a club, or a festival,” she says. “I feel like I’m not afraid to step out of my comfort zone and experiment with different genres and I think that Brooklyn definitely encourages that for sure.”
Although her plunge into her QRTR career was cemented in 2017, Rodriguez’s musical career branched into the film industry before her DJ days. Rodriguez doubles as a composer, music supervisor, and a music editor.
“I think the best part about doing that stuff is being forced to work in different genres and under specific constraints,” she said.
Working on collective projects benefits QRTR’s sound, according to Rodriguez. For example, she mentioned a collaboration she wrote for the Special Olympics.
“I’m not a classically trained guitarist by any means,” Rodriguez divulges. “So, I basically had to go and find really great guitar plugins where I could write the music on a MIDI keyboard and it would sound like it was played on a guitar. And so it forced me to get that plugin and then I was working on some QRTR stuff and I thought, maybe some guitar would sound good here.”
The integration of the two mediums adds a fresh, fun take to producing, Rodriguez explains. Her interests in music formulated during earlier days of listening to “soothing and euphoric, but still dancy” music, but her desire to embark on a solo act emerged from watching other female DJs in the scene.
“It never even crossed my mind as an option until I saw women doing it. I think by having representation, as a queer person, if you see another queer person living out their dream, you think to yourself, oh, that could be me. I could do that too. Rather than seeing a bunch of straight, white guys doing things and it doesn’t even cross your mind that it’s a possibility.”—QRTR
“So I think just having queer people publicly facing, doing their thing is so incredibly important for younger people to see and know that it doesn’t matter your orientation, your gender. However you identify, you can do what you want to do.”
Near the end of March, QRTR released the Snowfall EP with remixes from dance music legends Justin Martin, Maude Vôs, and Slug Father. According to Rodriguez, she finished mixing Snowfall in 2020, but it didn’t fit with the album. That’s when dance music label Rules Don’t Apply swooped in.
The label reached out to Rodriguez, asking if she wanted to release any content with them. She pitched Snowfall and on March 25, the EP dropped.
“I’ve never really experienced working with another label and so it was really cool to see how another label operates and Rules Don’t Apply was amazing to work with,” Rodriguez says. “It’s been really cool to see all the different iterations of that track and the way they have found their audience. I get tagged all the time in stories of DJs playing the remixes [and] playing mine.”
Her latest album, infina ad nausea, dropped in 2022 and secured her place in the avant-garde techno world. With just shy of a dozen tracks, this release highlights QRTR’s bright, energetic beats and hypnotic approach to music writing.
Additionally, an 18-track remix album on Dome of Doom comes out in June, complete with cassette tapes of the album.
Rodriguez plans to release swaths of shorter-length projects this year and anticipates a longer release next year. She also has music in an upcoming Hulu film, a first for QRTR, called Fire Island.
“It’s all really good stuff. I’m stoked,” Rodriguez gushes. “I just want to keep working on things so that people have music to hear and enjoy and I can keep living this dream that I’m in right now.”