HYRA Dances the Night Away on 'REM (No Sleep)'

HYRA Dances the Night Away on 'REM (No Sleep)'

by Payton Dunn

HYRA is throwing it back to the early days of hyperpop with her new single, "REM (No Sleep)."

The energetic track draws upon the ever-looming impact of PC Music on today’s cultural landscape and marries elements of its production with that of more mainstream EDM, morphing it into a musical framework that’s as synthetic as it is real.

That realness comes through HYRA’s songwriting: "The track is about falling in love with somebody to the point that they’re present in your dreams," she tells PAPER. "It’s the romanticization of being with someone so adamantly that the 'person of your dreams' becomes your reality. REM paints the picture of fast nights infused with energetic and numbing love."

HYRA comes from a long lineage of pop songwriters who combine their emotive side on the lyrics with boisterous electronic production, with Charli XCX and Lady Gaga having been two of her biggest influences. She’s bounced back and forth between all of the US pop capitals — LA, NYC and Miami — and brought with her a full deconstruction of the genre.

As a filmmaker herself, HYRA has a keen eye for visuals, waking us up in a futuristic hospital-of-sorts painted in full white. It's a scenery that normally serves to sterilize — sucking the life out of anything that enters its four walls — but it can’t stop HYRA and her guests from partying the night away before we’re blasted into the real world, color and all.

We caught up with HYRA and "REM (No Sleep)" video director Elise Schatz to talk about that visual framework and how they went about building it, as well as the musical inspiration behind the track, below.

"REM (No Sleep)" is very reminiscent of some tracks from the early history of hyperpop. Whose influences were you drawing upon there?

HYRA: I love that you said that. One of the primary goals of my producer, Mads Mason, and I is to simply make our music fun and have fun making it. I think this quality is truly reflected in a lot of early hyperpop records and honestly took a long time for us to realize. The overall goal was to use nostalgic (and occasionally cheesy, EDM-centric) sounds in a modern setting, ultimately, to remind ourselves of the joy music brought us growing up.

This mindset was reflected from beat creation all the way through to our final recording session and will be a theme present in a lot of HYRA records to come. From a production perspective, we drew from two worlds — the intricate and "sound design-y" elements from A. G. Cook and Danny L Harle, married with a hugely present, catchy topline vocal akin to the likes of Calvin Harris' "black leather jacket in Vegas" era.

What was the dynamic like on set between you and Elise?

HYRA: This is the second music video Elise and I have worked on together for my project. After the first, we realized that we share a vision, even when we're not on a release cycle. I have a film background, therefore a goal of my project is to create a cinematic universe with each music video I release. It's great to continue to build that world and push the boundaries of what we did last time. We always ask ourselves, "How can we top the last one?"

We've been able to become great friends throughout this process too, which is why being on set for "REM (No Sleep)" was such a surreal experience. It was months of plotting, hour-long calls and endless caffeinated nights, all blossoming right in front of our eyes. My favorite part was locking eyes with Elise from across the room, being stunned and in awe of what we were able to put together with our team. Although the shoot days are long, you can always hear our cackling and joy bouncing off the walls, not just from us, but from our cast and crew as well. Pure magic.

The video draws upon a very futuristic visual framework and paints it over a scene depicting the various aspects of nightlife. How did that combination come into the picture?

Elise Schatz: When writing the story for this film, it was important to me to use HYRA's meaning behind her lyrics to guide me. "REM (No Sleep)" dives into a self-destructive cycle HYRA finds herself in. Using this as my framework, I was able to expand that idea to create a cinematic universe — one where our vices control us and self-destruction is a step away. I utilized my characters to proffer this idea: the poser who can’t take their eyes off of themselves, the lovers who are so obsessed with each other they see nothing else, the rager, whose hand is glued to a bottle, and HYRA, who is observing it all. I’m constantly interested in how our environments control us, especially that of nightlife. Putting this universe and these vices to the test using nightlife as the background only felt fitting. I wanted to ask the question, "Can HYRA be truly saved from this cycle?"

That choice of surreal juxtaposition made the transition into the real world with the full dance routine feel even more important. How did the choreography for that come together?

HYRA: Right when we decided we were going to create a music video for "REM (No Sleep)", I knew I wanted it to feel like the videos I grew up watching in the 2010s. I was sure it needed a strong dance performance to achieve the song's full visual potential. Dancing has always been a huge part of what I wanted for my project, and with "REM (No Sleep)" being the first track of this new self-declared "era," the search for the choreographer was important.

After doom-scrolling on TikTok for more time than I'd like to admit, I came across the profile of Jesse Fields. His dance style instantly spoke to me for this song, so I reached out despite being nervous about his response, with an inquiry to be a part of this project.

I was thrilled to receive a "yes" from Jesse and that's where our journey together began. I sent along some of my references, videos like "G.U.Y." and "Alejandro" by Lady Gaga, and we met with him late one night via Zoom, my face full of glitter after having shot the cover for "REM (No Sleep)" at Elise's house one hour before.

From there, Jesse was able to put together the routine for the song, nailing the execution and essence on the first go. I spent hours rehearsing alone, then together after work with our dancers — Elysian, Marcus and Devin — who all gave the combo a new life. The dance itself is impactful yet flirty, strong and lighthearted — a perfect reflection of "REM (No Sleep)" and what I look for in HYRA. I recommend everyone gives it a go.

What are you hoping fans will take away from "REM (No Sleep)"?

HYRA: "REM (No Sleep)" is a song to dance to, whether you're in the subway or a club. I hope it remains nostalgic for fans of the genre, but that the record gives something new to fans on every listen. I also want "REM (No Sleep)" to be that song that introduces HYRA and leaves listeners itching for more. This is only the beginning. I have so much more music to show and even crazier cinematic universes to take us into.

Photo courtesy of HYRA