Concerts

Dance, Love, Feel, and Think Whenever Sohmi Takes Over the Decks

Sohmi continues to feel the changes.
Sohmi continues to feel the changes. Photo by Hannah Melchert
Sohmi (AKA Stephanie Oh) will be the first to admit that adopting the butterfly as her DJing spirit animal is a tad cliché. But as the former tutor-turned-coder-turned DJ/producer leapt into the electronic music scene about three years ago, her transformation and metamorphism could not be any more apparent.

“I guess when it came to my mind, I genuinely felt like I was going through a transformation,” Oh tells New Times from Los Angeles.

With another year coming to a close, Oh will be taking over the decks at Club Space on December 30 — warming up for the DJ trio, Meduza. “Not to sound cliché, but if people have seen me before, they can expect a signature Sohmi set. I like to play dance music on the deep spectrum, so rather than being genre focused, it’s just going to be deep, energetic, sexy, and groovy."

Oh was born in the US and raised mostly in Korea. She is a classically trained pianist who devoted her life to music. But one fateful night, Oh saw Rüfüs Du Sol at Coachella, and their rich melodies led her into the underground. (Oh admits this was not the Berghain 145+ BPM hard techno set she had once thought.)

“It felt like an answer to a large gaping hole that I wasn’t even aware of,” she recalls. “It was as if there was a hole, and someone filled it with caulk, and it just explained so many things. It was like, ‘Oh my God, this bridges so many things together.  And it had this almost classical-like quality.'”

Shortly after, the artist Sohmi was born — and in little time, went from DJing at friends’ houses to being a resident at LA’s Sound. She then began playing worldwide, including Ultra Korea and Coachella, and founded her label, Permission.

Oh avoids generic genre labeling as much as possible; instead, she flies under the “deep” banner. If it spins and makes the crowd sway, Sohmi isn’t one to question it.

“I think you limit yourself a bit by sticking to just club music, and you miss out on people hearing you from different avenues and who you are sonically and different life contexts like yoga or a dinner playlist.”
Oh is in a good place. The DJing nerves are dissipating, and she feels less shy about incorporating her voice into her music. Oh believes that as the avenues between mainstream and underground merge, the need for vocals is essential — an ethos adopted by her colleagues like Australia's HAAi.

“I think I was shy. I don’t know if I have a good explanation as to why, but I think a part of it was that, for women, gaining respect is a battle we are still fighting, so maybe I was nervous because I wasn’t going to be understood as a producer. Maybe it’s rational, and maybe it’s not, but I think it may have been that subconsciously.”

For example, her first solo track as Sohmi, “Somebody,” is luscious tropical fruit hanging from a tree. The synths charge up and explode, and a kick stomps the listener into attention. Oh’s somber but powerful vocals carry the track to deep melodica.

Sit on the floor little darling/Know what you’re worth, momma told me/The running be hard but keep fighting/Someday my love/you’ll be somebody.”

“I think part of the reason for that is that dance music is coming into the spotlight more and not the murky shadows of the underground. So, for the average listener, they need some vocals to latch onto. I don’t know if the average listener could listen to a six-minute minimal techno track — they need something like a memorable vocal because dance music is becoming more mainstream. I think, overall, it needs some of those elements.”

“Somebody” is part of a four-piece EP that will be released early in 2023 — Oh’s most extensive work to date. She also hints that later next year, there will be an album's-length amount of work composed of club and non-dance floor music.

“With this EP, you will really hear that pop sort of sound,” she says. “One track will not be a club record at all — I think it’s genreless, and I wanted to showcase that my music is beyond club music but within the realm of electronic music and pop. Later in 2023, I will have an almost album of club-focused tracks, and I think it will be a nice balance.”

2022 was the ultimate test year for Oh. She traveled the world and made a few pit stops in Miami. She also promised a more pop-adjacent brand of electric music.

All have been accomplished, but 2023 sounds even more promising.

“I think I scratched the surface. ‘Somebody’ was the first track I put out this year, so to say I accomplished an electronic/pop sound may be a little premature, so I need to put out more output, and then I can really say, ‘Now we’re talking.’”

Sohmi. With Meduza and Roujeee Tunes. 11 p.m. Friday, December 30, at Club Space, 34 NE 11th St., Miami; 786-357-6456; clubspace.com. Tickets cost $20.39 to $48.49 via dice.fm.
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Grant Albert is a writer born and raised in Miami. He likes basset hounds, techno, and rock climbing — in that order.
Contact: Grant Albert

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