What is your name?
Renée Asteria Peñaloza AKA
Renay / Razteria / Agent Double E / Renée Asteria
What is your genre of music?
Electronic dark pop crossed with world music influences
Give us a little bio about you.
I was born in New Jersey, but move to France as a kid where I did middle and high school, my mom still lives there and it is like my second home. My mom is Dutch and my dad is Bolivian. I went back to the US at 21, to the San Francisco Bay area. In SF, I launched myself in the local live music scene. I’ve been writing songs since I was 12 years old, but when I moved to SF is when I started to work with a band, other musicians. I gained more skills in terms of composition and instrumentation, with voice and melody being what seems innate to me. I produced my first album with studio musicians while I was working and going to school at Berkeley. I kept pursuing music alongside studying and working, as it is just something that I have to do. I must write songs. Over the past decade, I’ve acquired the skills to record myself and to produce. I am not a virtuoso musician, but extremely creative and have a finely tuned ear and enough skill and theory to communicate and express myself. I guess you would call me one of these extroverted highly sensitive people, and my medium is song writing. I’ve had the privilege to experience a lot of different worlds, between the US and Europe and South America both through going to school, working in projects related to public health. I also have collaborated with musicians all over South America. Seeing what people have to go through to survive and thrive, I realize how very blessed I am to have this opportunity to be an artist. I hope my music will uplift people and also hope to represent and promote other artists. And beyond music, I hope that I can help other voices, those that would otherwise be missed, to be heard, and empowered with more volume. I know that sounds perhaps vague and very idealistic. I am a dreamer and idealist at my core.
What made you go into music?
Honestly, my first memories are literally of the sound of singing. It has always been an integral part of my life. I have been singing ever since I have been conscious. Both my parents are musical, though they never did anything professionally. They met through sharing South American folk songs at a party when they were both students, and did not even speak each other’s language. When I was growing up, I never thought that it was a viable career for me. I thought I needed to be more “useful”, become a doctor, or the president. In my case, I pursued a career in public health, internationally, as I am good with people, having experienced living and working all over and I am good with data. While I’m not trying to put down anything that I’ve done till now in my life but I have come to realize I am fundamentally an artist and I have and the opportunity to spend at least this present moment as such. So I really am trying to give my best through music.
Are you a signed artist?
I am independent. I have my own label – Asteria Records – under which I released myself under various artist names as well as represent a few other artists. I hope to help more artists release their music, both financially / logistically, as well as being a producer.
You set to release your single ‘Inspire Me’, tell us more about the single.
“Inspire Me” is actually a re-versioning of another song of mine called “2 Immortal Eyz / To Immortalize” which I rerecorded, edited and re-arranged the song and working with BTWN Music to reproduce the track in its current electro-pop form.
What is the meaning behind the single?
The song itself is about the muse and how it propels you to create but at the same devours you. It symbolises the essential cycle of life. The infinite connection between birth and death, in creation.
Describe the track in two words.
What was the writing process like?
I literally was sitting outside in the sun (like the opening phrase) with my guitar and recording myself with my phone improvising. It was I was one of these songs that came like a stream of consciousness. Literally came all at once, lyrics, melody and harmony (chord progression). I recorded it with a completely different instrumentation and arrangement back in 2018. I felt that it had a lot more pop potential. After my commercial music production training at Cre-8 Music Academy , in early 2018, in West Hollywood, I decided to reversion it as a pop song and brought on-board BTWN Music, Joe Pepe and Zack Burke. It’s been a journey definitely worth the wait. In retrospect, it’s kind of interesting because this song has had multiple iterations, multiple births, so “Inspire Me’s” process of creation embodies the very theme of the track, this cycle of rebirth and death.
What was the recording process like?
As I stated before, I went from recording basic organic elements, guitars, drums, bass, vocals, and even the Kora (west African harp) for the first version of this song. I then redid everything, basically re-sang, reproduced the vocals and rearranged the song structure. I sent vocal stems to BTWN Music, and they built out the version you hear today. I guess it’s technically a remix, but it is so different from the first version I decided to retitle it and release it as a new single.
Who did you work with on the single?
I worked with BTWN Music, Joe Pepe and Zach Burke. It is mastered by Justin Weiss, TrakWorx out of San Francisco.
Will we see a music video for the track?
Yes, you will see an amazing choreography, my very first one! I got the opportunity to work with Anna and Berit Froysland, 2 twins, contemporary dancers from Norway and an amazing Spanish stylist, named Raki Fernandez. We shot the video with After Thought Media in a 14-hour day with 6 costume changes (lol) in Berlin at Havel Studios in mid August. It is in the final editing stages and is set to be released on January 17th, 2020.
Will we see an EP or album and if so what can we expect?
Yes, actually I’m releasing an album on February 21st, 2020 called “Pure Love”. It’s going to have tracks in Spanish and English in multiple styles of pop. Electronic-pop, Reggaeton, Caribbean feel and even a taste of Trap.
Do you have any shows coming up?
I don’t because I’m focusing on production but I do want to organise a tour next summer. Instead of having a full band, have myself singing and playing instruments on and off, together with with a drummer / DJ and work with dancers. Make it an original combination of contemporary dance, performance art style and different electronic pop flavours.
What else can we expect in 2019/Early 2020?
Basically the release of the music video for “Inspire Me” and the album “Pure Love”. Then we will see :).
Do you have any collaborations coming up with any upcoming artists?
The title track of “Pure Love” features EMJE on guitar, a young upcoming Colombian singer/songwriter and badass guitar player. Other track feature established Bay area indie musicians Raleigh Neal (keys, Michael Franti / Spearhead), Kevin Glaz (guitar), and Jayme Arredondo (drummer, Don Carlos). The album features 3 tracks produced in collaboration with Swede of 808 Mafia (producer of DJ Khaled, Gucci Mane, Lil Wayne, Nas etc). Also as stated above, Joe Pepe and Zacke Burke from BTWN Music, have coproduced 2 featured tracks, “Inspire Me” and “Wanna Share”.
Would you be up for collaborations if other musicians wanted one with you? and who would they have to contact?
Definitely, I love collaborating. I feel like it takes music to completely different level, a level that is superhuman. Just email me or hit me up on any social media platform.
Do you play any instruments?
My main instrument is voice, then rhythm guitar. But I can make my way around a bass guitar and keyboard, have good sense of time for drums and percussion, all enough to help produce tracks. But I look forward to honing my musicianship skills. I am also a recording and mix engineer working in Logic Pro and ProTools.
Who are your influences?
My influencers are so vast I don’t even know where to start, all the classic you know, Mozart, Bob Marley, The Beatles, and Nirvana. Currently I just listened to everyone and everything that I possibly can to try to hear what people are listening to. In the past when I was writing songs I would write (and I still do this) without paying attention to current musical trends. While producing, I usually can’t listen to other music. But this has changed quite a bit as I want to reach as many people as I can with my music. When you’re trying to make pop music you want to make something popular right? So you want to pay attention to what people are listening to and not just listen to the “muse”. So over the past couple of years I’ve been making an effort to listen actively to pop music and I’ve gained a deeper appreciation and understanding.
How do you get inspiration to write songs?
I can source my inspiration from a lot of different things. I would say I specialise in love songs but all different types of love and songs about the human condition. I try to make songs that are simple with meaning that people can use in their own lives. Honestly my songs are often times inspired from people in my life, individuals, my muses but also from my life situations. I use the songs to express a lesson to myself. Sometimes I get very specific, if I wanted talk specifically about a topic that is important. I have a song called “Illegal” and it’s about the plight of undocumented immigrants (released under Razteria) My sources of inspiration are vast. I give myself a space everyday to write. I usually write something in the morning, about anything and often times it becomes a song. I feel like I become a channel at this moment, channelling energies perhaps other souls.
When you’re not doing music, what do you do?
I’m an athlete. I love doing all types of physical activities, but I’ve never done anything professionally. I do yoga, a couple hours a day, then some sort of cross training. Right now what I am working towards is the press handstand. So I do strength training and calisthenics. I also love just being outside in nature, going for long hikes. I love swimming, biking, running, walking so many things etc. There are so many wonderful things in the world to do! I must say though that I need to be active and if I’m not I can’t function. Also I source much of my inspiration from those moments in time where I am physically exerting myself. I’m very passionate about the environment so I try to live in a low-impact way terms of what I consume (food or any products). I eat mostly whole food plant-based meals so I do quite a bit of cooking make things from scratch. I really love cooking and inventing things.
What was the song you listened to most that influenced you to go more in to the music scene?
Honestly, I cannot pinpoint a song, but if I had too, it would be of my first memories of Carmen, the operatic musical when I was only starting to develop memories
What’s the best advice you have ever been given?
Always reach for the stars and you will never fall too far.
What advice would you give to aspiring musicians not about the industry and just as an artist?
Never give up. It’s ok to doubt and question and as long as you’re creating you are succeeding.
What quote or saying do you always stick by?
The more you do the more you can do.
Where in your hometown is a must go to visit?
Wildcat Regional Park from there we have 360 Panorama on all the SF Bay area
Your coming off tour;
1/ Where do you go first?
Definitely somewhere in nature definitely to do some type of sports and reconnect with the world.
2/ Who do you see first? My priority would be my family, my brother specifically even though we live really far apart I really love him. He’s one of my worst critiques and I really appreciate it.
3/ What do you eat first? I probably have coffee with some sort of frothy like almond milk… actual food – I’d make myself like a massive green veggie stir-fry spicy curry thing.
When you are at a gig, what are 5 things you cannot forget?
My microphone, setlist, guitar/guitar amp, water/tea, remember to breath and smile