Denver electronic artist and producer Maddy O'Neal and Minneapolis-based Megan Hamilton not only laugh and have fun together, but they make empowering electronic music sure to get people on the dance-floor.
From slick remixes to dynamic and original beats, they weave feminist messages throughout their songs, establishing their places in their respective music scenes.
Ahead of their co-headlining tour kick-off at Cervantes' Masterpiece Ballroom, O'Neal and Hamilton spoke to Westword about their new single, "Hit It," why they make a good team, the difficulties of collaboration, and loving Nelly Furtado.
Westword: What about each other’s style makes for a good collaboration?
Megan Hamilton: I’ve always been heavy into the hip-hop scene and into the hip-hop styling samples. When I first started doing solo stuff, it was emceeing, and that’s how I got into beats and producing for myself.
When I started getting into electronic music, I discovered there was this whole other — I guess it was niche at the time — this whole wheelhouse of hip-hop-inspired production that was existing in the electronic realm that I wasn’t aware of. I was listening to trance and house music and stuff like that.
Hip-hop and electronica was a really exciting merging of two things for me, and I think I recognized those qualities in what Maddy was producing. It was definitely an attractive, magnetic thing for us to work together, as far as our stylings go.
Maddy O'Neal: Megan Hamilton does it all. She plays guitar, sings — everything. So it’s fun for me to work with her.
I’ve been working less with samples and more with live instruments and creating my own samples, so it’s really fun to play with her, because then I can manipulate a lot of what she does and add my own flavor to it as well.
It’s like you two open up new creative avenues for one another.
O'Neal: Yeah, it’s that — and because we get along so well. It just makes it that much more fun.
Hamilton: That’s a huge thing. I’ve collaborated with lots of people, and sometimes it’s just hard to find common ground in terms of your personality. You can make the same exact kind of music and literally just have no actual chemistry.
O'Neal: And we can just call each other and talk about what’s happening rather than it being like a pain in the ass — trying to get someone to work on the music and you don’t know how to tell them that you did or didn’t like what they did. We have clear communication.
What's the story behind “Hit It”? I've been told it has to do with your shared disdain for the idea of the "friend zone."
Hamilton: I think for me and Maddy, in past songs, we’ve talked a lot about — I mean, “Nunya” is sort of about the same thing. Men or women, but specifically in our case, women — we can do whatever the fuck we want, and we should know that and have that power.
We kind of just played off that theme when we did "Hit It," and I was in that mindset when we were talking about collaborating again. When I randomly heard "Promiscuous Girl" playing at, like, a Walmart pretty recently, I heard that sample — “You expect me to let you hit it" — and I just laughed at that.
The whole song is about this guy being like, “Hey, let me hit it” and her being like, “No, I’m not down” and him saying, “Seriously, though, let me hit it,” her saying “No,” him being like, “Seriously, are you serious? Let me hit it." When I heard it, I thought, this is insane! [Both laugh.]
It’s been happening since the ’80s, too: “I Got a Man,” from Positive K. It’s been going on forever. I was just really struck by that idea — that it’s such a popular concept in pop culture, especially in this ‘cancel culture’ that we’re supposed to be having right now.
It’s kind of weird to hear music from previous eras and be like, holy shit, we were down with that?
O'Neal: It really is kind of wild.
So that's how you stumbled upon that “Promiscuous Girl” sample. I can’t imagine that song still gets that much airtime anymore.
Hamilton: You’d be shocked where I get my samples. Almost every song I’ve ever remixed is because I’m watching Netflix or something. I was watching Heavyweights and immediately got out of my seat to go remix Hot Chocolate's “You Sexy Thing,” and I was thinking, "How has nobody done this?"
What are your expectations for your co-headlining tour?
O'Neal: Once we found out our agents were working on a spring run for us, we started to work on a couple of songs that we could perform live together. We love working together anyway. It was a good excuse to do that. I think it’s going to be awesome. I don’t think either Megan or I have done our own headline tour.
Hamilton: That’s right. We’ve never played a co-headlining thing before.
O'Neal: It ought to be fun.
Going back to the idea of expressing specific feelings and ideas through your music: When you’re struck by the feeling that you have something to say, what’s that process like?
Hamilton: For me, I saw some viral tweet a few months ago, and they used the term “fuck-zone” in it, and the description is the female version of being friend-zoned. Guys get friend-zoned: At a certain point, they can only be considered as a friend, and how rude is that? But at the same time, women are being fuck-zoned in that they’re only worth fucking and not being friends with.
I thought that parallel was hilarious and ironic, and I was taken aback after reading that stupid tweet. Like, wow, that’s a really intense juxtaposition, and no one addresses an entire side of it.
Then I heard that sample and was already thinking those thoughts from the tweet. I just felt like, 'Oh, my God, this is the sample that exactly describes what they’re talking about! And I love Nelly Furtado; who doesn’t? [Both laugh.]
Hamilton: I think the best ideas come off like that sometimes: You're bouncing things off each other, or just one thing sparks another thing. I don’t think the best ideas ever pop into someone’s head the first try.
O'Neal: I think that was probably the time we were already talking about work together, too, and then you were like, "This is the idea." You can’t really plan out the best ideas.
Hamilton: It was perfect timing.
Last question: What have you two learned about each other [and yourselves] since you started collaborating?
O'Neal: I think every time you work with someone, especially on that kind of level, you automatically learn so much from each other — communication-wise, but also production-wise.
It’s always fun to get the song back from someone else and deconstruct what they did. It's like reverse engineering: How did they do this part? What did they do here? It’s always a surprise getting back from someone and trying to figure out how and why they did what they did.
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Hamilton: And we’re constantly all learning new production techniques, getting new plug-ins, new things. So when you start working on someone with a new track again, there’s a giant likelihood that they’ve progressed since the last time.
I think in itself, it's a learning process every time you collaborate with them. You’re sharing knowledge that you’ve gained since the last time you worked together.
O'Neal: That’s what’s cool with repeatedly working with someone: You get to see them grow and help each other grow as well.