As far as the music video is concerned, I knew I wanted a space theme based on the sounds in the track. Initially, I thought it was a grandiose idea that was never going to work unless I came upon a million dollars somehow, but Rob [Harkness, my producer] helped hash out a story and design a concept that could actually be achieved within our extremely small budget and we just built around that. Rob’s been absolutely vital in this project and I attribute a lot of the EP and video to him. Since we’re completely DIY, our budget was only for physical materials and props. Everything else was done through friends and good people helping us out of the awesomeness of their beings. Rob built the spaceship set and we had production assistants, designers, actors, dancers – they were all pro bono. That experience was wonderful because it felt like a taste of Hollywood at times, with some of the cinematography. It was a success based completely off passion and not off money at all. That’s the kind of experience you don’t get to have very often – working with people you’ve never met, having everything clicking and everyone working together toward a common goal; it was very fulfilling.
: We are so excited for your EP release. What can everyone expect to hear?
: Thank you! You can expect to hear emotional and introspective lyrics, catchy hooks, anthems, danceable grooves, dreamy soundscapes, and stellar production. We tried to make this a complete package so the EP definitely has a specific musical style that won’t suit everyone’s tastes. For those who can dig the style, however, there is something for every kind of music listener. Whether you’re the kind to focus on lyrics, melody, groove/feel, instrumental parts, aesthetic, or production, we delved deep into every aspect. We really wanted to make a record that is enjoyable upon initial listen but also pulls you to listen again and again. We made the kind of songs that you can hear a hundred times and still hear something you never noticed before.
: Tell us a little bit about the process of creating your EP. Challenges? Fun parts?
: The process of creating this record was quite the journey. I met Rob [Harkness, the producer] when I was at MI for a short stint, and he was one of my instructors. After I left the school, I hit up Rob because I was writing new music and wanted to work with a professional producer. He ended up referring me to another previous student of his, Jon Gerundo, who he thought could help me develop the production of my songs. Jon and I end up blasting out Visions
and Damsel In Distress,
but after those few tracks, we kind of got stuck creatively. I’d also been writing on top of instrumentals I had been getting from some other friends and producers (Sean Farrell, T. Pratt),
so I showed Rob those tracks and he agreed they were solid and shouldn’t be shelved. I wanted another track on the EP, however, so I got a beat from a dude off Twitter and that’s how Crystal Cove
came to be. So with Rob as the main producer, it was his job to help mold these tracks of mine into a single, cohesive style, which entailed doing a serious reworking of all the tracks. This is when we decided to put an emphasis on live instrumentation arrangements, which really helped center the style of the entire EP.
As far as challenges are concerned, this was what I consider to be my first truly professional project, so I had a lot to learn. Having someone nitpick your work can be really trying and frustrating. You don’t want someone to change your vision, but you also have to realize, sometimes you don’t actually know best and ultimately you need to do whatever it takes to make the concept and music most understandable to your audience. Rob is pretty particular about quality and I’m more of the in-the- moment type, so he was constantly forcing me to self-evaluate both my writing and performing which got on my nerves at times, but ended up helping me in the long run.
The business aspects of making music are definitely among the most challenging as well. There are a lot of moving parts that go into releasing a record out to the world and understand and executing them can be tedious, difficult, and costly. I’m not sure how many people really understand just how much work goes into making music and that’s probably a huge contributing factor into why so much great music goes overlooked. I’m sure a lot of people think you write a song, get recording software, slap it on iTunes and that’s it. Wrong (Charlie Murphy style). First, the recording has so many parts – songwriting, arrangement, working with the musicians, recording, layering, mixing, mastering. Then you have to make all the marketing materials – logos, album art, press photos, music video, website, social media sites. Once all that is in place, you have to set up distribution, book a release party, promote the record. A photo shoot alone entails a set, wardrobe, hair and makeup, lighting, props, and of course, a photographer. The website entails registering domains, making graphics, writing copy, choosing fonts and colors, and again, personnel – web designers, graphic designers, writers. In the end, the whole thing is a huge undertaking. It definitely takes a village, as they say. Thankfully, I was able to rally a great team around me through friends and friends-of-friends, who worked for cheap or damn-near free. We definitely boot-strapped this whole project and I can’t express enough gratitude to all those who contributed.
There were also a lot of fun experiences and happy memories in the making of this EP. It’s always exciting hearing your songs come to life and we experimented quite a bit with making sounds and grooves. We did weird stuff like pitch out beer bottles to make harmonized whistles. Unfortunately, that stuff didn’t actually make the record, but it was fun to do and drink. Making the video was also a blast. We built that spaceship in my living room and everyone in the crew was really nice and we continuously laughed throughout the shoot. Overall, the video was a ton of work and super exhausting, but the party at the end was an actual party that we threw the end of the shoot, so we went out with a bang.
There was a lot of bonding and I made some good friends through this record, so I’d have to say that may be the pinnacle of the experience.
: We think it’s awesome that you use live instruments and still get that electro-pop sound. How do you think using instruments affects your sound?
: Live instruments bring an element of humanness that I think pop music can sometimes be missing otherwise. A lot of music today is really repetitive, perfectly quantized, with all pre-fabricated sounds and structures; it becomes sterile. For me, there needs to be spontaneity in the performances and sounds. A lot of times these moments become “happy accidents” which turn into some of the most memorable parts in a recording. I really love collaborating and there’s a natural kinesthetic connection between a groove coming from someone else’s body to yours. Even in dance music, there are so many great records – Rufus and Chaka Khan, Blondie, Michael Jackson, etc, – those all had live instruments and they fill the dance floor with an energy that many electronic records can’t. I do like electronic music so I’m not hating on it, it’s just not enough for me. That’s why you’ll come to my shows and it won’t just be me. I have a solid band who’ve become my friends and we build off each other and bounce ideas off each other. It’s an incredible accomplishment what a good musician can do with their instruments and I believe that deserves to be celebrated. Musicians put love and passion into their music. Computers can’t do that.
: What other artists are you listening to right now? Any songs in particular you can’t get enough of?
: Right now, I’m trying to go back into time and reconnect myself with what music is truly about. I’m listening to Stevie Wonder, Janet Jackson, Sia, Nirvana, Kanye West, Chambao…
There are two songs I currently can’t get enough of but neither are in English. One is O Reloógio by Os Mutantes, a Brazilian-Portuguese track by a psychedelic rock band from the 60’s. The singer, Rita Lee, has a sweet voice that hypnotizes the hell out of me. I’m a huge fan of Brazilian culture so it’s got a hold on me for sure.
Sara Tavares, who is a Portuguese musician, has a track, Balance, that I very much cherish as well. J. Cole sampled the song in his track Losing My Balance and I did a remix version back in college of the sample as well. Ever since that first time I heard the track, I was hooked.
: Where do you hope to see your music career go in the future and what can we expect next from you?
: For the immediate future, I just want this record to get out to as many ears as possible, which is why I greatly appreciate opportunities like this interview which will help achieve that. I also want to hone my live show with my band and start playing in more places nationally and internationally, if possible. Somewhere in the near future, I’d like to begin working on my next release, which will likely be a full length album. I also love to collaborate with other musicians in any genre, so don’t be surprised if you see me pop up on a mixtape or something completely unrelated stylistically to my own stuff. Ultimately, I’d like to amass a collection like Tupac, so if I die in five years there will plenty of stuff to discover for awhile [laughs].
Any advice for those looking to break into the music industry?
: I’m probably not the person to ask [laughs]. I would just encourage those who want to make music to be yourself and don’t try to follow trends or conform to the music that is most popular in the moment. Create your own sound, whatever that is. I would also say that it’s nearly impossible to do all on your own, so realize that you need to build a team around you. You also have to be patient; it can take -literally- years to find one strong team member. Dedicating your life to your art is difficult, there are times that I’ve been sick with worry and it feels impossible to make ends meet and survive. But if it’s your calling, you don’t have any other option anyway, so go all-in.