Alt-Pop empress I’MMORTAL discusses her haunting new single ‘KILLED U IN A DREAM’

"Dark feminine energy is powerful, sensual, and transformational, and I wanted to infuse these elements into the track"
7 June 2024
Photo by Megan Collante

Alt-pop empress I’MMORTAL drops her third single, KILLED U IN A DREAM, via her own imprint, Immortality. Based between New York and London, I’MMORTAL is an intriguing music producer, vocalist, visual artist, and creative director who burst onto the digital music scene in August 2023 with her debut tech-house single, Versace Spaceship. ​

Following the release of her second single, the electropop anthem Supervillain, I’MMORTAL now presents KILLED U IN A DREAM.

Produced by I’MMORTAL, with additional production by Danis Zhang and drum programming by Duanna, the track was mixed and mastered by Mikaelin “Blue” Bluespruce, known for his work with Solange, Blood Orange, and Carly Rae Jepsen.

Hailing from California, I’MMORTAL’s background in orchestral music and theater has greatly influenced her music production and songwriting techniques. Her audio-visual synesthesia allows her to fuse otherworldly visuals with her imaginative beats seamlessly. Influenced by artists like Sevdaliza, Britney Spears, Lady GaGa, Lana Del Rey, Bjork, and SOPHIE, her sound is sure to appeal to fans of Alison Wonderland, Zhu, Deadmau5, Pastel Ghost, and Billie Eilish.

A departure from the playful tone of her first two singles, KILLED U IN A DREAM is a dark, haunting exploration of revenge, grief, and rebirth. What sets the tone is an ominously driving beat, cleverly paired with cinematic strings and a gut-punching hook that commands attention from the start. The sonic elements dissolve into glitchy puddles, transforming into a pulsing dreamscape with hypnotic synths and I’MMORTAL’s smouldering yet aloof vocals floating over the fray.

Meet I’MMORTAL, the mastermind behind KILLED U IN A DREAM. We dug up the details on her creative journey, music influences, and the powerful themes she explores in her songs.

I’m not going to lie, I spent a good chunk of my childhood bored and sitting in the back of an orchestra. I didn’t appreciate it at the time…

Photo by Megan Collante

Can you share the inspiration behind your upcoming single, KILLED U IN A DREAM and how it reflects your artistic evolution?

Rebirth is the inspiration behind KILLED U IN A DREAM. During the two years I spent working on this track, rebirth was a massive theme in my life both personally and artistically. I wanted the song to sound like a shape-shifter, constantly transforming into a new sound.

When I started working on this track, I was still finding my sound and learning how to produce. For two years, I would revisit the track periodically as I learned new skills and found new inspiration. I learned to be patient with the creative process, and to let the inspiration come when it wants to. I learned to let the track decide what it wants to be, and to let go of standard song structures if needed. The track really turned out to be a reflection of me finding my own sound and artistic identity. The sound design in KILLED U IN A DREAM definitely carries over into all of my upcoming tracks.

How does your experience in orchestral music and theater shape your songwriting and production techniques?

I’m not going to lie, I spent a good chunk of my childhood bored and sitting in the back of an orchestra. I didn’t appreciate it at the time, but I now know being in a sectioned musical environment allowed me to absorb composition skills that are useful to me today. It forced me to understand rhythm, harmonics, and dynamics in a big picture way, and taught me how certain textures and tones dance well together in a song. I think my orchestral music background influenced me to see vocals as not something separate from the instrumentals, but as an instrument itself that needs to be melted into the track effortlessly.  Because I played the violin, I have a good grasp on string instruments, and love incorporating them into my tracks. I love processing clean string sounds through strange electronic effects to create more supernatural feeling sounds.

In high school, the theater was my safe space, and was such a fantastic creative outlet for me to express myself. I love the storytelling and world-building element of theater, and I think these two things carry over into my songwriting and production techniques. I like to write songs from the perspective of different characters that may or may not be an extension of myself. It’s all play. Though I can’t build physical sets in my tracks, I can create the atmosphere of other worlds through sound design and lyrics. Theater has also taught me to let the track find it’s own structure, even if it’s unconventional. Just like how some plays only need one act and some need more, different songs require different structures. This was especially true for KILLED U IN A DREAM. I tried to make the track more conventionally structured, but it didn’t have the same feeling to it. I just had to accept it for being unique.

What attracted you to EDM, and how do you integrate its characteristics into your musical style?

What attracted me to electronic music is how rich, colorful, and expressive the sound design is. Electronic music, just like theater, is all about world-building, and can sometimes feel like it’s elevating you into another dimension. I was at a Electric Zoo one year, and ended up at a dubstep set. The bass was so bendy and slimey, that it felt like it was coming alive. I really wanted to add this same feeling to my tracks when it is appropriate to. I like to sprinkle a little phonk and dubstep bass elements into my tracks as little ear candy elements to add more texture and personality. In KILLED U IN A DREAM for example, after the glock sound, I felt it was necessary to add a dubstep texture to the gliding bassline to give the song the depth and intensity it needs.

Can you describe how you combine audio and visual components to create your artistic vision?

I believe that visual art and music elevate eachother. Whether it’s a music video or live concert visuals, I think having a visual component significantly heightens the experience of music. I’ve been working on a couple of music videos that will be released this year. I love to work on music videos at the same time as the track because it allows me to flesh out the world of the song better. This then influences production elements of the track.

What motivated you to explore themes of revenge, grief, and rebirth in KILLED U IN A DREAM?

My intention is for KILLED U IN A DREAM to hold space for the feminine, specifically the dark feminine. Feminine energy is often seen as pure and light, but oftentimes the darker elements of feminine energy are cast aside. Dark feminine energy is powerful, sensual, and transformational, and I wanted to infuse these elements into the track. When I started making this track, I was healing from some things in my past that prevented me from feeling feminine. I felt all of the revenge and grief, but none of the rebirth. It was only when I started to embrace attributes of the dark feminine that I started to transform past feelings of revenge and grief, and into a state of gentle power. That was the rebirth I needed, and that is what I want to emulate in the sound.

I hope that KILLED U IN A DREAM can help listeners move into their own personal transformations.

How did your collaboration with Danis Zhang and Duanna contribute to the production of KILLED U IN A DREAM?

Danis Zhang and Duanna are my long time collaborators, and I am so honored to have worked with them on this track. I was having difficulty with the very ending of the track, and Danis had the brilliant idea of adding the choir chords and the 808s that come in at the end. These elements really upped the intensity of the track to a haunting ending. He’s an amazing producer, and I love sending tracks to him for his opinions and his help. He always manages to add his magic touch!

Duanna programmed the faster drum pattern at the beginning of the track before the switch up in the second chorus. She really helped me establish good tempo in the first half of the track that elevates the slowed down second half. She’s a very talented artist and producer, and I had so much fun working with her:)

Mikaelin  “Blue” Bluespruce, known for his work with Solange and Carly Rae Jepsen, mastered  KILLED U IN A DREAM. How did his expertise enhance the final sound of the track?

Blue is so kind, humble, and gentle. He is truly a mixing/mastering genius, and is telepathic when it comes to understanding what the artist is looking for. He understood that neither the vocals or instrumentals came first in the track, and he needed to create synergy between the unconventional sound design and vocal layering. I love how he mixed the vocal layers, and made them feel like they are floating through the landscape of the track. He just knows exactly which elements to let shine when, and is so precise with creating space in the rest of the song. I think he made the track the best it could possibly be, and am so grateful to have worked with him.

Can you share your main influences and how do you incorporate them into your distinctive musical style?

My main influences come from pop music and EDM. I also am influenced by more experimental artists like Sevdaliza. I love vocal-driven pop songs, but I also love the intricate sound design and catchy basslines. My goal is to find a good balance between interesting vocals and immersive sound design to create a more textured pop style.

Can you discuss the significance of your AAPI identity in your artistic expression and the themes you explore in your music?

I’ve come to the understanding that being Asian-American is engrained in my identity. It is not my entire identity, nor is it something to hide. I’d love to infuse my AAPI identity into my work in a nuanced way, so not to reduce the work to just that facet of myself.

A lot of the themes explored in KILLED U IN A DREAM pertaining to femininity come from my experiences as an Asian-American woman speficially. From a cultural standpoint, a lot of us (not all of us of course) are not raised to speak up when dealing with difficult emotions or situations. There’s a lot of quiet brewing, and suffering in solitude. Part of the rebirth I experienced while creating KILLED U IN A DREAM was a process of transcending past ancestral trauma. I was learning to process emotions such as rage and grief in a healthy way, and not to keep it all bottled up inside quietly.

What can listeners expect from KILLED U IN A DREAM in terms of its sonic landscape and emotional journey?

My goal is for the song to keep listeners on their feet with a constant evolution of new elements being added in and taken out. The song has a lot of bending and gliding sonic elements, as I wanted it to sound very fluid, transformative, and psychedelic. I added an opera vocal sample that runs throughout most of the song to resemble the sound of a haunting cry. I wanted to bring the listener on a journey of mourning their old self, so I felt this cry was necessary.  Moreover, I wanted the song itself to sound like it was dying and being reborn, so I added an eerie BPM and key change half way through to create a supernatural feeling of a snake slithering out of its own skin. Hopefully listeners will be taken on a journey of shedding layers of their old self that no longer serve them.