Born in London and based in New York, multidisciplinary artist and DJ BEARCAT has been electrifying dance floors since 2008. With a unique talent for blending diverse genres and layering dynamic vocals, her sets are both technical and emotive. This sense of power and drama carries throughout all of BEARCAT’s work, from live mixes to editorial makeup designs. A hardworking and dedicated DJ, this past year has seen her play Boiler Room and MoMA PS1, host a show on Radar Radio, debut a documentary score at Tribeca Film Festival, create a runway mix for Chromat FW16, and most recently tour Europe with her Discwoman cohorts. BEARCAT has never shied away from voicing her opinions on the music industry, and as a member of NYC-based Discwoman has helped to create a better environment for the women in her scene. We are incredibly excited to share her mix as the 164th Truancy Volume in our series, which she dubs her “variation of a trance mix.” Hard-hitting and genre-hopping, the mix is an emotional display of BEARCAT’s skill for selection and gift as a DJ.
Hey, BEARCAT! How are you? What have you been up to lately? “Hiiiiiiiiiiiiiii—I am good, currently traveling home from San Francisco after playing a queer party called SWAGGER LIKE US and catching up with some babes from the west coast.”
Any upcoming shows you’re looking forward to playing or attending? New Year’s Eve plans? “I will be in Montreal this NYE (!!), at a party called Lip which I’m very excited to play as I missed an opportunity last year due to an injury.”
You recently toured Europe with DJ Haram. How did your relationship with the Discwoman crew get started? How was your experience touring Europe? “My last name is Murphy, and like the law, everything that could have gone wrong did, but I got through it all, only further proving my own resilience to myself so that was cute—once it was over. Shout out to DJ Haram, I wouldn’t have got through it without her!
“Umfang and I have a mutual friend who made our initial connection. Being on the radar, I was later invited to a Discwoman event at STREAM gallery where they held an 8-hour live DJ stream. I went in for an hour and the rest is history. Being back in Europe felt very familiar as I am from London and lived in Berlin for a few years before my move to NY. I was very quickly reminded of my frustrations with Europeans and why I wanted to leave in the first place. However, being back as a booked artist was very empowering and helped balance out the thousands of micro aggressions you received as a person of color. Racism is alive and strong in the US obviously but I’m fortunate enough to live in the bubble of NYC where there are thousands of people that look like me as opposed to being the only one or one of few.”
Could you talk a little about your transition from vocalist to DJ? When did you start DJing as BEARCAT? “I was a part of other projects and never my own. At some point I became tired of this and decided to give all that energy to myself. I have a very specific sound and vision and soon realized I would have to educate myself from the ground up in order to execute. It wasn’t enough getting a beat from some dude out of their home studio—I had to become that dude. During this period of learning I wasn’t performing at all and missed having an outlet as it’s immensely therapeutic for me. I took up DJing to replace that outlet, and it’s doing a good job so far.”
Do you find that your work as a vocalist and makeup artist satisfy different creative or emotional outlets for you than DJing? “DJing is more of an immediate outlet. You show up and get it out, the connection with the audience is happening right there as I am mixing in the moment. If I am in a studio recording or on set working, its a whole process of building and it goes out when its ready. Its way more calculated.”
What is the process like creating a mix for a fashion show? Does it involve a lot of back-and-forth with the designer or are you given free reign? “Initially you’re selected because you represent the brand or the designer is into you. From there it can get very specific, but I am into that.”
You’ve mentioned your Jamaican heritage as an inspiration behind your music selections. I feel that your sets assert the same type of vibrant energy and powerful vocals found in Jamaican music, but would love to know your thoughts on how your ancestry influences you. “I was raised by my white side of the family (my mother is Irish) and never knew my other side until much later in life. Being raised by a white family with a racist/abusive stepfather was pretty dangerous and chaotic but I survived it. I always felt strangely protected and the fact that I am here writing this even right now proves that.”
You’ve been admirably vocal about politics on social media. Do you think more producers and DJs should voice their opinion or leave it to those who have the desire? “I honestly never set out or had an intention to come off as political, but with my own personal life events and experiences it’s really hard for me to keep quiet when I see injustice. To my detriment in some cases where a potential client may read my tweets or whatever and then not book me for being too outspoken or risky, but do I even want to work for those types of people—probably not.”
Do you feel the music scene in New York has progressed in the recent past as far as offering opportunities for women is concerned? “DW is a good example of that. There are people doing the work—BUT NOT ENOUGH PEOPLE DOING THE WORK.”
Do you have any advice for young women looking to get into DJing or producing? “Men are not the only gatekeepers. You can get there, you’ll just have to work 10x harder. Believe in yourself. Ask for help when you need it and even if you don’t find it, don’t give up. Corny but true.”
Any goals for your music in the near future? Plans to release your own productions? “Yes, absolutely. I finally feel ready to birth some of these tracks I’ve been harboring for years. After learning how to produce, it has always been a question of confidence and I am finally getting there. Expect some creepy ambient very soon.”