From the outside, it would seem that Olivia Meek, the artist known to DIY dance and pop music aficionados as Regularfantasy, had a more productive pandemic-era life than most. Born and raised in Victoria, British Columbia before living in Vancouver for nine years, the producer and DJ had relocated to Montreal just months before Covid struck.
“Yeah, that was a bit brutal,” the one-time art-school student admits, but it didn’t seem to slow her down much. “I started running a studio, a music-studio loft kind of space. Once we could, we’d have our little parties there, and I would make music there, and I kind of had my own little community there.” Meek also used the downtime to enroll in an electro-acoustics program at Concordia College; she recently finished her second year. But something was missing — DJing, in front of a live audience, in a dark club. “DJing and performing is so much effort that when you take that away, there’s just so much energy that’s still there, which was weird.”
Meeks put that excess energy to use — she manifested perhaps the best work yet in the Regularfantasy discography: the ‘New Glow’ EP, just released on Specials Worldwide. Its four tracks and two remixes — made with help from good friends Priori (of the NAFF label), PC Music associate Cecile Believe and, on the sumptuous ‘Hot Gossip’, Kristian North — are sparkling, pop-infused, synth house treats. They’re as addictive as anything you’ll hear this autumn — triangulate Cerrone, Stock Aitken Waterman, and classic house, toss in Meek’s breezy vocals, and you’ll be part way there. It’s fun, bouncy stuff, but both melodically and lyrically, there’s also an undercurrent of the wistfulness of ‘Domino Dancing’–era Pet Shop Boys — “happy all the time, till I change my mind,” she sings on ‘Maybe Nevermind’ — that lends the music emotional heft.
Meek, by her own admission, was something of a handful as a kid. “I was like really hyperactive,” she says, “always singing and banging things and making noise, and my mom put me in singing lessons, like ‘You should do singing lessons, because you won’t shut the fuck up.’ Also, they had this children’s choir that was led by this folk singer, Holly Arntzen. We would sing about the environment and the ocean and the trees. We sang with her and would tour with her, playing shows around the city and singing backup. That was probably a big influence, because I was like, ‘Oh, this is really fun, like the most fun thing!’”
As a teen, she was jamming with friends in Victoria’s indie rock underground; when she was 16, she started diving into making music on GarageBand. “I would do cover songs on acoustic guitar,” Meek recalls. “I would record it and then I would put a beat behind it or whatever. I had this project called Cover Girl, where I’d play acoustic guitar and sing like Everly Brothers or something, with beats and a Boss loop pedal.”
By the early ’00s, Meek’s Regularfantasy persona had begun to take shape, but her early releases — EPs like 2013’s ‘Condobed’ and a one-off called ‘Easy Listening’ credited to the excellent pseudonym Pleather Crawlspace — are far different than the brightly-hued music of ‘New Glow’, instead something akin to downtempo electronica shaded by touches of exotica. (It’s also quite good — if you like Visit Venus or mid-period Nightmares On Wax, you’ll love ‘Pleather Crawlspace’.)
Over the years, on subsequent releases — including a number of reimagined Britney Spears tunes, like her intensely reworked version of ‘Oops! I Did It Again’ — she’s been zeroing in on her vision. “When I was making ‘Condobed’, or a lot of my early records, I was trying to make house music, but I didn’t know how,” Meek explains. “Now that I know more about producing, I realized that house music has a formula — but then again, it’s more than just a formula. That’s the thing about it. Like, if you were to use a 909 and some house beats, it’s not necessarily going to have a house feel, you know?”
With the ‘New Glow’ EP, Meek feels like she’s finally getting there. “I DJ these really epic vocal house tracks, but then I’d make the kind of melancholy house that I would never play on the dancefloor,” she says. “So it’s a big moment for me to want to play my tracks with the other tracks that I love to DJ. That’s always been the ultimate goal.”
She gives props to her collaborators for helping her to get there. “When I had stopped DJing during the pandemic, it felt like my brain for writing music was kind of turned off,” she says. “But with the help of Cecile and Priori, I got back into it.”
Back in a big way, it seems: She’s just off a series of opening slots for Peggy Gou and Roza Terenzi, and there are a slew of releases in the pipeline. Plush Managements Inc., her ongoing collaboration with D. Tiffany, has a new EP on the way; there’s another collab with Vancouver’s Big Zen called ‘Call You When I’m Done.’
“Then there’s a Priori remix, and some pop remixes with different people like Kristian North and with D. Tiffany and DJ Chrysalis,” the self-described “serial collaborator” adds. “And then I have a song on a split EP coming on NAFF called ‘Running Around’, which is a kind of melancholic pandemic song that I made.”
Toward the end of her interview with DJ Mag, Meek makes an admission. “It feels weird,” she says, “to talk about myself for so long.” She may have to get used to it — it’s a pretty safe bet that Regularfantasy will be in high demand for a while.