Tammy Lakkis Puts Listeners on ‘Notice’ With House Beats and Poetic Lyrics

Photo Credit: Chloe Sells

Places can have a way of rubbing off on people. The longer you’re in an environment, the more likely you are to soak in its sounds, energy and rhythms. At least that’s what happened to Tammy Lakkis. On her debut EP, Notice (out Friday, March 26 via Portage Garage Sounds), Lakkis meshes her background in more traditional songwriting with her last four years as a DJ, where she spent most of her time expanding her knowledge of Detroit’s deep electronic music history and dancing or spinning at Detroit’s hotbed for underground electronic, Motor City Wine (MCW). The result is a richly diverse set of songs, ranging from a gentle conversation with the void in “Hello?” to a forlorn Arabic love song, “Wen Rayeh,” all set to pulsing synths and complex rhythms. 

“I feel like I’ve been living in different worlds genre wise for a while,” says Lakkis, “and instead of choosing one or the other, I just thought, ‘why not do it all?’”

Though the songwriter, producer and DJ has always been interested in expanding her musical skills and influences, her in-depth study of DJing and producing began about four years ago. Lakkis says her main method of learning was just listening to a song – or part of a song – over and over again until she could crack the code on why it made her want to dance. But the best way to learn is by doing, and Lakkis spent many nights at MCW’s “Monday is the New Monday” DJ night, hosted by DJ and producer, Shigeto. Before the lockdown, Monday nights at MCW were a house music lover’s oasis. Untouched by the stain of over-attendance, listeners could go there, bring a glass of wine onto the dancefloor without spilling it, and listen to some of the best DJ sets in the world. This essence of freedom and anonymity bleeds into Lakkis’s music, who both danced and DJed at MCW.

She spent the last two or so years refining her live set, where all of the songs on Notice originated. “I guess this EP is like a snapshot of the best parts of my live set that I was doing,” she says. She also cites DJing as an integral tool in her learning process as a producer. “I think they go hand in hand,” says Lakkis. “A lot of learning to be a producer was just through listening and taking a little bit from different tracks that I was finding when I was DJing and learning from them.” 

It makes sense, then, that Notice immediately transports the listener to a dimly lit dance floor, filled with bodies engrossed in their own escapism. The EP’s title track starts with a vibrating, four-on-the-floor beat that introduces the setting and immediately invites movement. Lakkis’s voice cascades over the synths and polyrhythms beckoning the listener into the here and now: “Oh when you walked this way before/I didn’t notice but now I notice/And when the wind howled its song/I didn’t notice/but the destruction I notice.” The simple but poetic lyricism focuses on the importance in being present and the positivity that a mindful existence can bring. Whether it’s really seeing a person who’s been in your orbit for a while or taking the time to appreciate nature, being present can bring about peace or unexpected connection. 

Poetry lies at the heart of Lakkis’s lyricism in “Wen Rayeh” as well. The english translation of the first few lyrics reads, “My heart has dried/Under a strong sun/Like the dried mint on the towel,” a strong opener to a sprawling song meditating on the uncertainty of falling in love. Lakkis says writing this song in Arabic was a refreshing experience for her, as her conversations in Arabic with family generally don’t contain poetic vocabulary. “I speak [Arabic] very brokenly but it was my first language I knew before I knew English,” she says. “I thought it would be a cool opportunity to connect with that part of myself that I feel I’m disconnected with here, just speaking in English all the time and not being around my community.”

Lakkis, whose parents emigrated from Lebanon, explains that the pressure to assimilate to “American” culture robs many first-generation folks of a connection to their own. “There’s definitely a disconnect you feel when you’re first gen,” she explains, “and a sense of not really belonging anywhere.” But Lakkis sounds at home on “Wen Rayeh,” her celestial vocals floating over singular, Detroit house-infused production. It’s a pairing you won’t hear anywhere else, and part of what makes Lakkis’s music so enticing and pleasing to the ear. 

All of the songs on Notice show the artist at her core – a storyteller, producer and student of Detroit house, weaving the best of her influences together to create something entirely her own.

Follow Tammy Lakkis on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for ongoing updates.


With this absolute dumpster fire of a year coming to a close, the next few weeks are a time for reflection, rest and recuperation. That means a lot of things for a lot of people, but in the music world, it means year-end lists. I usually tend to stay away from this sort of thing because I don’t love the hierarchical nature of the practice. However, it has truly amazed me to see the amount of stellar music come out of Detroit in the midst of such a gut-wrenching year, and it feels important and cathartic to look back on some of the beauty that surfaced in the sea of chaos. I don’t pretend to be a curatorial genius or an authority of any sort, but here are some of my favorite releases from Detroit artists in 2020, in no particular order.

Jay Daniel – SSD (EP)

Detroit house mainstay Jay Daniels gives us fifteen minutes of percussion-driven, layered dance music. While his roots as a drummer remain evident on the EP, Daniels guides the listener through a vibrant forest of sound and space with ease. Shiny synths and deep bass embellishments wrap his complex rhythmic patterns into a pleasurable and meditative listening experience.


Lead singer and songwriter of Zilched, Chloe Drallos, has the innate ability to immortalize potent emotions. Delivered with thrashing drums, distorted guitar and apathetic vocals, Drallos recounts moments of heartbreak, angst and boredom that are crushingly relatable. The record is reminiscent of the ’90s riot grrrl without being derivative and satiates the screaming late-teen, early twenty-year old in all of us.

Tammy Lakkis – “Get Up”/”Moon Rock” (single)

Tammy Lakkis makes irresistible electronic music with attention-grabbing percussion and melodic sensibility. “Get Up” feels like spinning out of control without worry or regard for where you’ll land, while “Moon Rock” captivates the listener with the pairing of Lakkis’ mesmerizing vocals and trippy synth layers.

Boldy James, Sterling TolesManger on McNichols (LP)

It’s hard to find the words to describe the gravity of this record. Detroit rapper Boldy James teams up with masterful producer Sterling Toles to blur the lines between hip-hop and jazz in a record that took nearly a decade to complete. Boldy’s often gutting depictions of the city and his experience therein are his most personal and potent verses to date, which he credits to Toles in “Mommy Dearest (A Eulogy).” Toles’ diverse sampling, intricate rhythmic patterns and orchestral arrangements are the perfect pair to Boldy’s visceral anecdotes, making for an undeniably timeless and legendary record.

Omar SSimply (EP)

A true staple in the Detroit house realm, Omar S unsurprisingly delivers a trance-inducing, escapist EP. The perfect amount of dissonance mixed with bouncy up-tempo tracks gives the listener what they want without being over indulgent.

Milfie (feat. Supercoolwicked) – “From Milfie, With Love” (single)

In a year filled with so much uncertainty, there’s something ultra comforting in listening to an artist who knows exactly who she is, and that’s Milfie in a nutshell. In this two-part single, Milfie reminds us of her unshakable self worth, demanding flow and refreshing realness. Joined by ethereal R&B singer-songwriter, SUPERCOOLWICKED, on “Ain’t Got Time,” the two powerhouse artists reflect on the importance of loving yourself and blocking out the bullshit.

Jake KmiecikHorizons (EP)

Kmiecik – drummer of psychedelic-folk outfit Bonny Doon – shows his range in his solo ambient project, Horizons. Glimmering synths are the guiding force in this minimal and cerebral record. Soft and spacey moments intertwined with lush, cascading layers call to mind the ebbs and flows of nature. As a whole, the project feels like a much needed deep breath.

Maya MereauxSeauxl (LP)

Songstress Maya Mereaux makes the stream of consciousness melodic on her first full-length record, Seauxl – a ten-track journey to self-awareness. The album weaves a strong narrative via incredible vocals about losing oneself in a romance, only to come out the other end knowing yourself better than ever before.

White BeePsychedelic Flight Attendant (LP)

White Bee’s Shannon Barnes shares a soulful and transparent foray into her innermost thoughts on Psychedelic Flight Attendant. Barnes has spent the better part of the last decade not only teaching herself guitar, but creating her own unique sound along the way. Filled with syncopated rhythms, unexpected melodies and universal truths, this record is a shining time capsule for Barnes’ growth as an artist.

ZelooperzValley of Life (LP)

Part of Zelooperz’ allure is his ability to jump from character to character within a single project. Just as the title Valley of Life suggests, this body of work feels like a sample platter of all the people Zelooperz is, has been, or could be. That range extends into his seemingly effortless flow, which can fluctuate between sincere and satirical in eight bars.

Tiny JagMorph (EP)

Deviating from her former trap-hop style of writing, Tiny Jag “morphs” her sound into alternative power pop on this 2020 EP. Her cunning wordplay is still there, this time delivered with more blasé, controlled vocals and accompanied by booming 808s and shimmering synths. Though this music has all the elements of top-charting success, don’t be mistaken – this isn’t like anything you’ve heard before. 

whiterosemoxie – white ceilings (LP)

People love a prodigy. And while many blogs focus on Moxie’s age –  just 17 years old – it’s important not to gloss over the fact that no matter what age, the rapper is a talent that only comes around once in a while. His poetic flow is reminiscent of Long Beach’s Vince Staples, and though the two are an entire country apart, they share a penchant for repping their city and distilling their experience in a way that makes them charmingly relatable.

MoodymannTaken Away (LP)

Detroit’s Godfather of house music – Kenny Dixon Jr. – is back with his legendary funk grooves and repetitions, but this time they’re paired with an undercurrent of pain and longing. After a tumultuous year which included being harassed by police in front of his own building, it would be impossible not to inject some of that frustration into the music. Taken Away isn’t a record that encourages you to forget the tears, but rather to dance through them.

Fred ThomasDream Erosion (Synthesizer Songs) (LP)

Thomas is known for his devastatingly honest, stream of consciousness style of writing. And although Dream Erosion is devoid of lyrics, the writing still feels like a magically unfiltered outpouring of emotion. This is especially true of “Kitchen,” a collaborative improvisation that was recorded entirely in Chuck Sipperly’s ‘synth kitchen.’ The record is as beautiful as it is somber and sounds like the amalgamation of collective despair, surrender and inevitable hope.

Anna Burch – If You’re Dreaming (LP)

Burch’s second full length release is soaked with a nostalgia we didn’t know we’d have in 2020. “Party’s Over” reminds us of the times there were parties that we didn’t want to go to, where instrumentals like “Keep it Warm” and “Picture Show” emit a longing for something we can’t get back. Burch’s sweet voice glides over melancholy guitar strums and lackadaisical drums, leaving the listener with the feeling of waking up from a fever dream.

Cousin Mouth – “New Memories” (single)

Cousin Mouth’s songwriter and lead singer/guitarist Alex Burns gives us a glimpse into his forthcoming record MayflowerPeacemakerHolyredeemer with its premiere single, “New Memories.” Burns’ soulful falsetto and intricate guitar riffs are accompanied by the gorgeous voices of Detroit vocalists Supercoolwicked and Salakastar to create a sort of psychedelic R&B. Burns’ lyrics teeter between the ephemeral and the literal, weaving a story of self-doubt and redemption.

Jacob SigmanColor Coded Heart (LP)

Prolific songwriter/artist Jacob Sigman gives us forty-five minutes of uplifting and earnest pop music. Sigman’s knack for earworm-type melodies paired with uncontrived optimism make his music inherently loveable – even “Get Your Love,” a song about losing a lover, is sprinkled with a carefree hope that has the power to momentarily release you from the gravity of heartbreak.

Black Noi$eOblivion (LP)

DJ and producer Rob Mansel, a.k.a Black Noi$e, enlists a star-studded roster of friends to complete his first full-length Oblivion. With appearances from Danny Brown to bbymutha, Mansel demonstrates that he has a well of talented peers to pull from. Despite the high-profile collabs, his dark, layered production style stands on its own throughout the record. He doesn’t bend his arrangements for any of the featured artists, but rather creates his own world of mangled percussion and ominous synths in which his collaborators can dwell with ease.

Madelyn Grant – “Purpose” (single)

Neo-soul singer-songwriter Madelyn Grant ponders life’s meaning on her debut solo single, “Purpose” – a song about blocking out the noise and expectations of society to find what truly moves you. Grant’s pristine vocals sit comfortably on a bed of horns, electric piano and steadfast drums.  She pays homage to some of her Motown idols, like The Supremes and Marvin Gaye, with airtight harmonies and infectious melodies.

MeftahInformation Travels Through (LP)

A record that truly shows the vibrant and singular spirit of its creator, Information Travels Through is a breathtaking ode to finding a sense of self in a world that is so often telling us what we should be. Meftah shared a gorgeous statement along with the record that says it better than anything I could say, partially quoted below:

“So this is me creating my own context, beyond the one painted for us on Earth. Beyond just the music, and the record. It is a spiritual war going on. Mentally. Physically….Right now, in 2020, because we STILL exist within a system founded off of land and body theft from Africa, and all colonized lands, this work is dedicated to all my fellow soldiers. It is for all children of the Diaspora. We will always move together.”

Sasha Kashperko – “Can We Not Go to War, Please?” (single)

Kashperko displays his kinship with his instrument on his plea, “Can We Not Go to War, Please?” The track is urgent and erudite, showcasing Kashperko’s deep understanding of rhythmic structure and melodic phrasing. Asking a simple enough request that has clung to the minds of so many of us in the last few years, he doesn’t give any answers, but cries out in solidarity and frustration.

Salar AnsariSayeh E Nour (LP)

Spacious synths and watery percussion create a kaleidoscopic atmosphere in this lush ambient record. Ansari’s use of experimental instruments and uncanny sounds transport the listener to a different world with every track. Perfect for both blissful dissociation or centering mindfulness.

Mario Sulaksana – “For You” (single)

Producer, composer and pianist Mario Sulaksana’s first solo release is a glimmering ode to his most concrete influences – Stevie Wonder, Quincy Jones, Marvin Gaye. A true student of the craft, Sulaksana fuses his own cascading style with the formula of the greats – a simple but strong melody, the perfect balance of space and sound, and satisfying harmonies.

don’tLightning Slow (LP)

don’t finds a way to make their apathetic garage pop cozy and charming. Baked in warm and fuzzy guitars and steady but unexpected melodies, Lightning Slow feels like a first kiss in your parents basement; surprising, a little uncomfortable, but welcome and oddly familiar. Lead singer Frances Ma delivers poetic verses with angelic apathy, merging nostalgic feelings of teenage angst with more recent feelings of existential dread.

Eddie LogixPlacebo Palace (EP)

At any given moment, Eddie Logix likely has his hands in myriad different projects around the city or even country. The diverse producer, engineer and DJ is known for his elasticity when it comes to making and engineering music, but on Placebo Palace, it’s clear that his heart lies in dance music. The EP feels like a love letter to Detroit and is a welcome ray of light in this dark year.

Tearyeyed – “ForceField V4” (single)

Tearyeyed combines beautiful textures layered together to tell a story that the listener can mold into their own on “ForceField V4.”  The song starts out like an afterthought – a simplistic tapping rhythm and guitar strums laced with tearyeyed’s pillowy vocals chase one another in circles. The song’s mantra stands out through the melodic mist: “My love is like a forcefield, I am there to protect you.” Slowly, his voice fades and the drums crescendo into an outpouring of unspoken emotion.

Double WinterIt’s About our Hearts

Beachy riffs, sentimental melodies, and charming honesty are the makings of the debut LP from psychedelic-surf rock outfit Double Winter. It’s About our Hearts has something for everyone – from goth wallflower anthem “Sad Girl at the Rave” to the ’80s drag racing soundtrack stylings of “Rodeo.” Their myriad influences range from doo-wop to Italo, and are what make their sound universally accessible and very much their own.

DonJuan – “Red Plum” (single)

DonJuan is a grossly underrated songwriter and producer based in Detroit. “Red Plum” is just an introduction to his catalogue of simplistically poignant material. This song in particular contains the type of intimacy that makes you feel like you were in the room when it was recorded. The lyrics are simple enough (“I never seem to say the things I mean, I never wanna ask for things I need”) but when repeated over and over they serve as both a reflection and a question to the listener.

2Lanes“Baby’s Born to Fish” (single)

A strikingly influential group of musicians comes together on this pulsating meditation on change and resilience. Detroit’s Kesswa, Ian Finkelstein, Shigeto and John F.M. are all contributors to this atmospheric track. The result is haunting and unyielding dance track that could only be made in Detroit. 

Billionaire SophiaOotgoat (LP)

Billionaire Sophia makes music that meets in the middle of pop, house and R&B. Her voice is as smooth as butter and floats perfectly over her self-produced, synth and percussion heavy beats. Her melodies are satisfying but not predictable, lyrics colloquial but not cliché. There’s a touch of glamour and fantasy to all of her songs, both sonically and thematically – it’s the type of music that makes you feel like anything is possible.

PLAYING DETROIT: Tammy Lakkis Fuses Songwriter and DJ Sensibilities on Debut Single

This week, Detroit-based producer, songwriter and DJ Tammy Lakkis released her debut single, “This is How It Goes,” a mesmerizing meditation on the cyclical nature of life. Lakkis fuses her background in more traditional songwriting and her love affair with Detroit’s electronic music scene, honing her original demo with the help of Assemble Sound resident Jonah Raduns-Silverstein (who produces his own music under the moniker Jo Rad Silver).

Lakkis’ crystal clear vocals are a welcome and surprising pair to the track’s droning bass line and punchy percussion. “This is How it Goes” has the cadence and repetition of the dance track Lakkis spins as a DJ, but her poetic lyrics provide a clear narrative that’s normally not found in most electronic music.

We spoke with Lakkis about making the track and how being in Detroit has shaped her music.

AF: Can you talk a little about your background in music? How long have you been producing? Where did you learn or did you teach yourself?

TL: I’ve been singing since I was a toddler. I picked up guitar when I was 13 and started writing songs a few years later. I was briefly in an alternative rock band called Tammy and the Enemies that formed in 2016 and that’s when my songwriting started taking most of its shape. My segue into producing was getting a drum machine and a looper pedal and making loops of my voice, guitar, and other sounds (like flicking water bottles, scratching the mic with my nails, hitting things against each other, etc.) and just exploring. That led to getting Ableton and later a sampler and that’s mainly how I make my music now. I was lucky to have friends around me I could learn from. I try to keep it fresh and use a variety of electronic and analog instruments and sounds with each new track.

AF: How does being a DJ influence your songwriting/production?

TL: I’m in the midst of a musical identity crisis because I used to primarily be a singer-songwriter but now I find myself making dance tracks on my sampler and my answer has been to fuse the two worlds together into more of a trip-hop vibe. DJing has added another dimension to music-making: now when I write songs, I consider how they speak to the body in addition to the mind and soul. Also, I’ve learned storytelling through DJing and going to DJ sets. It’s made me consider the context around individual songs and what story that context tells.

AF: Were there any artists in particular that you were listening to a lot when you wrote this track?

TL: Björk, Stereolab, and Portishead!

AF: What was your process for writing this song?

TL: One night in my garage in the spring of 2016, I laid down a basic beat on a drum machine and started making creepy loops of my guitar on a looper pedal and drank a Soft Parade and sang over the loop for hours and hours and hours. The main lyric of the song: “This is how it goes, it goes and goes and goes” kept coming back. So I spent a few weeks building around that. The final track is pretty similar in shape to what I originally came up with in my garage that summer but with less guitar, more electronic elements, and a much more refined and gritty sound. It’s mainly electronic besides the guitar, vocals, and me and Jonah’s clapping.

AF: What was the collaboration process like with Jonah?

TL: We did mostly sound design stuff and some arrangement stuff. We replaced my original recordings with analog drum machine and synth sounds and really spent time dialing in the exact sounds we were looking for. We did a complete rehab of the guitar, bass, and drums and it added so much to the complexity of the sound. We went through and honed in every sound in the track. It was a lot of work but it really paid off. I had been a little stuck before working with Jonah since I had been working on this song for so long and could no longer see it clearly and lost direction of what to do next. Jonah also mixed/engineered the track, so I learned better ways to make different sounds fit and be more accommodating of each other.

AF: How does living in Detroit influence your music / DJing?

TL: Living in Detroit is like having an endless stream of inspiration to tap into at any time. I go to shows several times a week and inevitably recycle the stuff I hear out in my music. Whether or not I’m making dance music, all the music I make is deeply inspired by dance music (primarily house music). Detroit has made me ditch my acoustic act and become an electronic artist. I am very inspired by all of the music coming out of Detroit and all the people here making sounds.

AF: What is this song about, to you?

TL: The transient nature of things. The inevitability of change and growth and moments turning into other moments turning into other moments turning into other moments, etc. I think, anyway. It may have subconsciously been a spinoff of Ruth Stone’s poem “Train Ride.”