Q&A: That Girl DJ
Updated: May 24, 2019
“I didn’t play with Barbie dolls, I played with action figures,” said 29-year-old DJ Juliann Stralow. For as long as she can remember she’s deviated from the norm and that’s something she’s still learning to love about herself.
Sitting at a coffee shop in downtown Shreveport, LA, Queerport was fortunate to meet with Juliann to discuss her life and the current music she’s making. While her closest friends and family may know her by her real name, you probably know her by this — That Girl DJ.
“I’m 'That Girl'."
Originally born in Spain, Juliann moved to Shreveport at age 3 by way of the military. She’s been DJing since 2012 and her new EP, Captivate, is the first project she’s released as writer/producer.
“I have no managers, no nothing, it’s just me and my cat, Bruce Wayne,” she said. “I had to put him on my album cover. I told the artist ‘I want me and my cat going to space.' I just feel like sometimes I’m not from here. I’m so out of place.”
The 6-track EP landed May 13 on SoundCloud, ApplePlay, iTunes and Spotify, and while Juliann is proud of her music, she does have this to say: "If you don’t like me, it’s cool.”
Read on for our full interview.
QP: How do you identify?
JS: As a badass woman.
QP: Do you have any queer musical influences?
JS: In the electronic community, there’s not a lot. It’s silly to say, but I want to be big because I want to be a role model. I’m sure there are some, but that I know that influence me? It’s just not there.
QP: How do you find working in a male dominated field, especially as a queer woman?
JS: It would probably work a lot of better if I was real sexual about everything. That’s what I’ve noticed. I wear jeans, a backwards hat – people look at me sometimes like I’m gross, it’s wild.
QP: Do you think they feel more comfortable with you?
JS: Some of the dudes do. It’s almost like a game though – "can we turn her out [make her straight]?" It’s kind of gross. That sucks. You’d be surprised at how many people that on the internet are one way, they’re all for it, and then they find out and they’re like “that’s fine.”
At music festivals – you know, they’re huge – there’s gotta be tons of people like me. I’m not represented. There’s no one like me. Go to Vegas and [look at] their line ups – it’s very rare to find someone like me. You might find your "Paris Hilton" DJs that are plasticky, and you know, power to her, she’s making money, but people like me. There’s no one like me. I don’t brush my hair that often; I put a hat on and I’m just me. I’m hoping that I can jump into a lane – that’s not even taking anyone else's lane, it's mine. [I just hope] that people, maybe later, see me and say "hey, she’s like me."
QP: How long have you been DJing?
JS: I started in 2012 – however long that is. Seven years? I was always the one making the mixtapes at home. Ernie’s Techno Tuesday is where it all started. I went and it was open decks. I went up to a guy who was DJing and said, “what you’re doing is so awesome," he said, “you could never do this,” and I was like, "excuse me?" I had no interest in DJing up until that point. That’s literally how I started. I bought a cheap, cheap DJ controller and taught myself. Didn’t tell anybody. Starting doing open decks. Ended up playing at Phoenix [Underground]. Here we are.
QP: So you’re “That Girl DJ,” but what really gives you that IT factor?
JS: A lot of people play what they think you want to hear. I like to play what you didn’t know you wanted to hear. I’ll be playing a hardcore electronic set and I’ll slip in Spice Girls. If you don’t like me, that’s OK. Most DJs sound the same. They’re a carbon copy of someone else. If I want to play a weird song, that’s what I’m going to do.
QP: What was it like growing up queer in the south?
JS: I had a bad home situation. Mom was really into drugs. Church was really good for me. It helped because I had nowhere to go. It was so bad. But they told me these things and I had certain feelings about girls and that they weren’t right, so I heard. This will send you to hell. I was always really quiet about it. From the time I was a kid, I felt this way. The church I went to did things to help you get past it – therapies.
"It’s just a phase" – the funny thing is meeting my girlfriend in church and we’re still together 10 years later. I can remember in high school when you’re younger and you sit in people's laps, and the youth pastor thought “she has some tendencies” and one time I hugged this girl and put her on my lap. He pulled me to the side and said, “you’re not allowed to be that close to girls. You can’t do that.” I thought, did they know my secret? I was 15 years old.
I remember praying in high school, crying for god to change me. Please make me different. Please. I don’t want to feel this way. It never changed though. I was supposed to be different. If you believe in god or whatever you believe in, I’m exactly how I was supposed to be. There was no error. I have faults, but there was no error. It’s always been something I battled with.
QP: Tell us about how you came out.
JS: I mean, it was like "This girl is wearing ties and snapbacks, we know." The first time I ever wore one, it was 2012, 2013 at Phoenix. I thought, "I’m gonna stop wearing these girly outfits and wear what I want to wear."
It’s weird how I can go in a nightclub and they don’t think anything of it, but I feel very accepted. Then I go out during the day and it’s so different how they treat me. Those were probably some of the same people in the club and you go out in the daylight, the looks you get, the whispers.
QP: Where are you with religion now? Do you find you still identify as a Christian?
JS: That’s a tough question for me. I do and I don’t. I think there’s a higher power, but I don’t think it’s how the church I went to portrayed it. I’m so thankful for church. My mother was bad off. If it wasn’t for our church, she’d probably be dead. Some people just have to have that thing, that something to be addicted to if you will. But I felt brainwashed. “Oh you can’t sit next to this girl, you can’t do this."
QP: When it comes to your sexuality, when did you know?
JS: I’ve just known as long as I can remember that I’ve been more interested in girls. I was a tomboy. My mom loved it. She never wanted to change me. She’d let me wear whatever I wanted. I didn’t feel pressure from her, I felt it from school. There was no love for me there, just love for the person they think I am. “Oh, are you talking to any guys?"
"Oh no. Hopefully, I find one." I don’t want to find one.
QP: Do you find with your music, specifically, that your sexuality is tied to the creation process?
JS: Right now I’m pretty new to production, so I’m just kind of feeling out the waters. I’m just trying to see what lane I get traction in. If I get traction somewhere and I build a fanbase, I can be more of myself. My music is me, but it could be more me. I’m trying to get as much traction as possible first.
QP: What is your preferred genre to play? JS: I just underline it as bass music, dubstep, trap, wompy base stuff.
QP: When you tell someone you’re a DJ, what do most people think you do? JS: Press buttons. "Oh, you just need to get your iPad out?” Like, when I show up with turntables and they go, “Oh," and they have a 4’x4’ table? That's not gonna fit my set up. I’m a professional.
It’s not just something overnight. People used to talk mad crap about my equipment. "She’s got this little plastic controller." If that’s all you can afford, that’s OK. I still kicked ass and made money on that $200 controller. I’m making more money on this than you made all year. You have to get that cockiness in a way — I don’t like that word — confidence, not cockiness.
It’s OK to start off like this. DJs hit me up all the time, “Can we work together? Can you teach me? I don’t have the equipment, can I use yours?” It took me a long time to buy this; build up like I had to do. I’ll teach you, but you’re gonna learn on your equipment. Everyone just wants it easy. I will help anybody, but you got to do that stuff at home and practice. You can't work with me for one hour for one month and expect to be famous. I’ve been doing this for seven years, and this past year has been the best.
QP: You recently posted on Facebook that your new EP, Captivate was “the start of a new journey” —JS: It really is. Once you start writing music, it’s just different. Now you’re an artist. I’m not just a DJ, I’m a producer and a DJ.
QP: How long have you been putting together this project?
JS: I’ve been working on it on and off since maybe September of last year. I am still very new to producing so there is a lot to learn. Hopefully, my full-length album will be a little easier for me and I want to have that out by the end of this year.
QP: What inspired this EP?
JS: I have been wanting to take my DJing up a level; I dream of playing music festivals and hopefully Red Rocks one day. But I know it’s going to take more than just being a good DJ. I have to create something worth listening to. The sampling process is my favorite. I take a lot of things from TV shows and movies that I enjoy. I have a little snippet from “Breaking Bad” (The One Who Knocks), and one from my all time favorite movie, Scream sampled in Drugz. I think it’s also fun for the listener to hear something and feel familiar with it. There's a movie/TV sample in almost every track I have put out.
To find out more about That Girl DJ and to hear some of her work, follow her on Facebook, SoundCloud, and Spotify. (All photos provided by That Girl DJ.)