Q&A: In Conversation with Zephyranthes

I caught up with Zephyranthes on their recording process, their birth in the Raleigh underground, and their favorite conspiracy theories.

Nomenclature and musical genre fusion share a similar problem. You can shove a handful of syllables together, but that won’t make your new word pronounceable. Likewise, you can blend influences from a wide variety of genres into a band’s oeuvre, but that won’t make for a coherent sound.

Raleigh band Zephyranthes, who pull from jazz, psychedelia, math rock, and prog rock, could’ve easily gone one of two ways. By stitching together disparate elements, the listening experience could’ve become a scavenger hunt of name-that-influence, without ever coalescing into a distinct whole. They also could’ve tipped too far the other way, melting elements together into a wall of reverb, full of sound and fury, signaling nothing.

The great joy, then, of Zephyranthes, is the seemingly effortless synthesis of favorite genres into something that sounds utterly fresh. Michael Lamardo’s jazz-driven drumming creates the strong spine of a two-handed, tightly-coiled beast: namely, Elijah Melanson on guitar, and Logan Maxwell’s bass, vocals, and saxophone. Every genre component- the complex rhythms, the distorted vocals, the psychedelic guitar- remain distinct and recognizable, even as they serve the group’s greater sound. And each member of the trio gets a chance to display their (prodigious) chops without sacrificing a moment of musical synchronicity.

Over beer at Foundation, Melanson, Maxwell, and Lomardo play off one another in conversation just as well as they do in their music, scooping in and out of stories, laughter, and explanation just as they dip in and out of musical genres.

I caught up with Zephyranthes on the recording process of their latest EP, their birth in the Raleigh underground, and their favorite conspiracy theories.

TTG: For Zephyranthes III, you guys recorded at Fidelitorium out in Kernersville, and Missy Thangs produced. What made that studio the right choice for the new EP?

Elijah: It was the right choice. I think we’ve heard her work, as well as just bands around who’ve recorded at Fidelitorium. Everybody’s tracking out there and getting awesome results, so we asked around .

Logan: I had previously recorded with another group I was in.

Michael: I keep forgetting you recorded there before!

TTG: With Vacant Company, right?

Logan: Yes! I really enjoyed that experience. That whole place is like- there’s no- well, there’s a computer for the monitor, but there’s no computers or screens, and it’s all, like, old ‘70s furniture.

Elijah: They have a blue naugahyde couch, which is beautiful.

Logan: And you spend the night there. It’s usually like, you come in, you shoot it out, you go. And then you come back the next day, or whatever. But with this, there’s a guesthouse and you stay, and you cook dinner together, and you’re a team, and so it’s more immersive. And I was like…if we could repeat that with this group, we’re going to come out with something good.

TTG: I want to talk to you guys about your experiences with math rock as a genre. What led to you embracing math rock right out of the gate?

Elijah: That’s a really tricky question because I think it’s such a wide label, and I think we’re trying to embrace that aspect of it. Because it’s just outsider music, in a way.

It’s interesting that the psychedelic scene has so much to do with progressive rock, which as a lot to do with math rock…they’re all sort of intertwined, and I think we’re somewhere in the confluence of all three of those things.

TTG: Michael, tell me about your training. Did you study classic jazz, or was it more jazz-infused rock from the beginning?

Michael: So, the thing is, I didn’t go to school for music. I went to school at a very unrefined music business program at a small school in upstate New York.

I played through high school and college, but I didn’t really- I took lessons through a guy in Syracuse in New York, where I’m from, but like, mostly, I’m pretty much self-taught in a lot of ways. But yeah, I admit I was kind of an insufferable jazz purist for like, about five, six years.

Logan: He knows all the standards.

Michael: Mostly in high school. And then I guess I went to college, and I guess it’s the typical freshman in college, who like, smokes pot once and gets introduced to crazy stuff.

But then, I don’t know, my palette started to expand and I still love jazz, I still take it very seriously. If you talked to me ten years ago, I would’ve never imagined playing in a project like this. Ever. Not for any bad reason. My drumsticks back then were essentially toothpicks, but I never played with 5A rock sticks until now. It’s kind of funny how it evolved.

I think it’s interesting to approach what we’re doing with jazz…I don’t want to say chops, that’s a very tense word. I don’t know, I’ve kind of always wanted to experiment with those elements. Drummers like Jack DeJohnette and Brian Blade and people like that. And if I can mix that into a prog and math rock environment…and it has its ups and downs, sometimes it doesn’t always fit, but that’s the point of it.

Elijah: Yeah, Logan and I were both saxophone players. He plays saxophone- I’m not nearly the saxophone player he is. So we both did the jazz thing too. I was actually a jazz fusion performance major at school. Which I never say that anymore ‘cause I don’t want to get roped into playing jazz.

Logan: When I grew up, I was listening to Stan Getz. Because I was playing saxophone, so I’d be listening to that type of music. So it formulated early for all of us.

Elijah: Where I think it comes together is where we improvise so much together. Where every time we get together we’re improvising.

Logan: That’s usually how we start rehearsal.

Elijah: We always jam. And I think that’s fundamental to, like, the jazz experience. It’s just…wanting to improvise with structure.

Logan: Make something new!

Elijah: Continually. We have a track that we play live, too, “Nigredo,” which is like our weird, misshapen jazz ballad. It’s guitar and saxophone and then we just get really crazy every time. It’s like a little performance art piece.

TTG: Tell me more about jamming at the beginning of rehearsal. Does that loosen…the…I’m trying to think of a good phrase. I was going to say “loosen the juice” but that’s maybe the worst thing that’s ever come out of anybody’s mouth.

Elijah: Loosen the juice!

Logan: That’s actually the first track of our next EP! No, that just kind of happened naturally, like, none of us were like, “Hey! Every time we step in we should definitely improvise together.” We all love to make stuff up and like…it’s honestly hard to reign us in sometimes during rehearsals.

Elijah: It’s a big tension releaser, and it really helps reset the tone. It’s fundamental to our process of developing new material.

Logan: It’s communicative. In a good week, we’ll practice once a week. And we haven’t seen each other in a while, and we just like, walk in, and somebody will be noodling and then we’ll all be like-

Michael: Cool!

Logan: Yeah, let’s just noodle. Y’know what I mean? I really like it.

Michael: Fifty percent of it, let’s be real, is just procrastination. When we actually have to do some work.

TTG: In terms of your songwriting process, you guys have mentioned in previous interviews that it’s pretty democratic. How do you keep that process democratic?

Logan: The democratic process is tough. And I don’t even know that it’s democratic, because we’re not voting. It’s just like, “Yo, play that. Oh, that sounds pretty good. Eh, let’s try something else. ” And it’s almost like- I think what helps is that we all have similar and dissimilar influences, but are trying to create something that sounds really good and is cohesive. And if you as a unit have a similar end goal in mind, the nuances work themselves out

Elijah: We all have dissimilar influences but we all agree that it can’t be certain things.

Logan: It has to be new. At the end, we’ll play sections and we’ll be like, “That would be good if we were a funk band. But we’re not.” So we’ve got to figure out a way to make it us.

Michael: Lots of tweaking!

Logan: I have to say, yeah, there totally is. Elijah is very good in particular at being able to take a section, and even though it’s a verse, we’re trying not to stray too far- there are like, verses and choruses at least. But if you tweak the verse, you can make it interesting every rotation, by slightly adding something as you go. It’s really nice to be in a group where everybody is contributing as much as they can.

Elijah: Definitely, yeah. I think there are a lot of like, compositional things that we try and incorporate to set us apart a little bit. And thinking about, like, influences from different brands of composition, y’know?

Logan: We’re all really big fans of the Romantic period of classical music.

Elijah: Like Chopin and stuff.

Logan: Which you might be able to hear.

Elijah: We’re just trying to be punk rock Phillip Glass. I don’t know.

Logan: That’s the next sticker, dude.

TTG: I wanted to ask you guys about your origins. You formed in late 2015.

Logan: Oh my god, it’s been that long?

Michael: That’s right. If I remember right, I met you [Elijah] at the end of 2014 on Craigslist and I was kinda new to Raleigh at the time, and I didn’t really know any musicians, and I put out this desperate Craigslist ad, like “Hi, I’m a drummer, I want to play with people, I just want to play drums.” Pretty much.

I went and joined another project for about six to seven months, I can’t totally remember. It didn’t really work out. But then I was like, Elijah…what were you doing again? Let’s start that up.

Elijah: We finalized arrangements.

Michael: And that’s what’s important about the first EP, actually. Most of that music was already written by you [Elijah]. It was already done. And you didn’t have the musicians to do it.

Logan: Except for “Suck It.”

Elijah: Yeah, “Suck It,” was really, like, Logan’s. And “China.” And I was also on Craigslist furiously looking for people. And a mutual friend from college…

Logan: …knew the guitarist from Vacant Company. And I knew him through Tommy as well, from Vacant Company. And he was like, yeah, my friend just moved to North Carolina and he’s looking for people to jam with. And we were like, alright we’ll go jam with him. It’s me, Tommy, the guitarist from Vacant Company, and Elijah. We did a really crazy-ass storage unit jam.

Elijah: It was in the middle of one of the big snows of late 2015.

Logan: It was cold as all- and we were in the storage unit playing crazy stuff and at the end of that, Elijah’s like, hey man, I’m making a new band. It’s gonna be- and then listed, I kid you not- like twelve genres in a row. That none of them made sense together. And I was like, that’s gonna be a hard no. Like, I’m not gonna be in your band, that’s like, funk-metal-prog-jazz-soul-indie-orchestra.

And three months later, we bumped into each other, same mutual friends, and…you either gave me a flash drive or you gave me your computer. And you were like, “Listen to the demos, please, I need a bassist.” Because they had been trying out bassists at this time. And I listened to the first minute and I was like, “Oh, shit.”

And of course, I was in totally trash indie and prog bands and so I showed up to the first rehearsal, and I hadn’t practiced at all. And they were like, “Oh, you definitely should’ve learned all the charts before we got here.” And I was like, oh man, these dudes are pro. I’m digging this!

Michael: Even before that…I didn’t know who you were at the time. You came up to me at Slim’s and you were like, “You and I are going to be in a band together.” And I was like, who are you? I had no idea who this cat was at the time. No idea.

Logan: He thought I was like some stalker. This weird mustachioed man is like, “Yeah, we’re gonna be in a band together.”

Michael: Is like, another alternative life colliding with my current one right now?

TTG: It’s closed now, but you refined your sound at The Kosher Hut. What about The Kosher Hut and that environment allowed you to distill who Zephyranthes was going to become?

Elijah: Naked painting during rehearsals.

Logan: That was wild, dude.

Elijah: That was one of the crucial things.

Logan: It was a great spot. I was living there, at the time. And, y’know, it made for an incredibly convenient rehearsal space, but the vibe in general was just creativity. It was me, with, like, five other people there, I think one of us was living in a blanket fort at the time, one of us was in the living room. It was a wild place.

We would rehearse and we hadn’t written anything. It was brand new, and we were just learning some of the tunes Elijah had come in with, which I believe was “Edelweiss,” the beginning part of “China King”, and “Nigredo.” So we were learning those songs, and Joe Wright lived there and painted my bass.

Elijah: Naked painting.

Michael: It was naked painting.

Logan: He would come in and he’d set up sheets and he’d strip down and he’d paint naked. Huge canvases, eight foot canvases while we were playing. And I felt empowered in a way, like, wow, we can inspire someone to create. We started to write and hone that. And we didn’t want to play there too often. I think we only ended up playing there twice.

Michael: Once. It was only once.

Elijah: So, The Kosher Hut, to put it in perspective, was a house and a ballet studio in the back. So the ballet studio, they would host house shows in. It was a two hundred cap room. It was a really big spot, and it sounded wonderful.

Logan: We started to get some good touring acts in there too, at the end of it. In the last years, before they bulldozed it. Now, it’s literally just a grassy knoll. Totally done. Which is kinda cool. It ended!

Elijah: We can reveal the location, now.

Logan: Yeah, 620 Price Street. It ended. It was like, the house is getting bulldozed guys, you’re out.

Michael: The mailbox is still there.

Logan: We had some really good times there.

Michael: I feel like I didn’t appreciate it at the time.

Elijah: It was kind of like a combinator of bands. ‘Cause Vacant Company came up in there, y’know, we came up in there.

Logan: Yeah, Lonnie Walker practiced in there a little bit. When they reformed. Drag Sounds had a few practices in there. Every band practiced there. It was like eighteen, twenty local bands practiced there. And everybody scattered like roaches.

Elijah: And for a lot of scene mainstays, it was one of their first places that they played in Raleigh. Like Zack Mexico, from the Outer Banks where I grew up, that was one of their big breaks, was playing The Kosher Hut.

Logan: You got in front of over one hundred local people right away. Sure, we weren’t pulling in a ton of cash, it was donation-based. But that wasn’t the point. You got to play for people who enthusiastically enjoyed your stuff. I’m glad we got Blanko Basnet in there, Canine Heart Sounds got in there. It was good.

Elijah: The Bronzed Chorus, Night Idea, Arc Iris.

Logan: Yeah, we pulled Arc Iris somehow. But we locked down those invites hard. We never shared the address. You have to park in the right places, you turn your lights off, you come in, you keep it chill. We kept all the lights off on the outside of the house. We had police drive by, and they didn’t know what was going on.

Michael: It was systematic.

Logan: You couldn’t hear anything from the street.

Michael: You really couldn’t.

Logan: And so they’d just see a ton of cars, but there’s nobody out boozing it up on the lawn or the street. And they couldn’t hear anyone. So we kept it locked down, man.

Michael: I do remember the first time I went, it was like, look for the house that looks like McDonald’s. ‘Cause it was red and yellow.

Elijah: It was pretty unsightly. It’s definitely a contrast to some venues that you see nowadays which have social media presences in the Raleigh area.

Michael: They’re branding themselves now.

Elijah: Yeah. Which I think is cool, I mean, we love those venues. Oh, and I would have to say that Kosher Fest was, like, a seminal Raleigh show.

Logan: I don’t know how we threw that together, man. Mad credit to Jason Warnoff of Vacant Company for booking a lot of that. He booked probably sixty percent of those acts, Tommy Quinn booked another twenty, I probably booked another twenty percent. And we had two stages, simultaneous, for the whole day. Marc Russell- who finally has a brick and mortar store for his food truck, Longleaf Swine- had his food truck there. He sold out.

Elijah: He had an eighteen foot trailer.

Logan: Yeah, he brought an eighteen foot trailer there into the yard. And we had to park it the day before. He sold out of plates by like, 5:30.

Michael: I bought two plates.

Elijah: It was amazing. All the bands. So many bands!

Logan: Everybody played. That was crazy. The only person that didn’t get to play was Oak City Slums, because when somebody said that the police drove by, he split.

Elijah: Understandable.

Logan: Understandable. But everybody else played. It was great.

TTG: No question the Raleigh underground scene has changed a lot. Where do you hope it goes in the future?

Logan: It is tough for a house, even if you garner the attention and the crowds and the vibe, to have the right architecture. It sounds stupid, but you have to have a big enough space in your place to host the show. And if it’s an old home, split into these smaller rooms, back when they were building wood supports, like- you can’t have it.

And what I hope to see- and I think Nick Neptune is onto it- there’s areas where people bought up warehouses, expecting to sell it to the soccer stadium that’s not going to get built. And they are doing nothing with those spaces. So eventually, somebody with money who loves the scene enough is going to start doing it. ‘Cause it’s gotta be private property. But the prices are so expensive that somebody in our income bracket isn’t going to be able to buy a warehouse and just start throwing shows. It’s tough.

Michael: Also, I think, Raleigh, since I’ve been here- I think Raleigh is still developing its identity in a lot of ways, if you go to New York City, or Memphis, or Nashville, their identity coincides with the music scene. And I think Raleigh is still working on that. There’s really no centralized point of like, this is what Raleigh’s about. But I think it’s coming up. You know, the city’s still growing. Diversity is good. There’s so many different scenes. But there’s really no centralized Raleigh sound. And that’s fine. It takes a long time.

TTG: What’s your favorite conspiracy theory?

Michael: Oh man, I’m not starting this one off.

Logan: Are we talking like, government-based, music-based?

Elijah: Yeah, if we get into music-based, there’s some really good ones. Like, the whole Canyon Valley conspiracy? So y’know the Laurel Canyon conspiracy, where all the Laurel Canyon folk rockers- all of their parents are like, CIA and government intelligence.

Which, like, Jim Morrison’s dad, I think- I don’t know, Crosby, from Crosby, Stills, and Nash, and Zappa, guys like that- they’re all in this little zone. It’s like, an MKUltra Project, to get super musicians to influence American public opinion. It’s great. Read that one! That’s cool!

Logan: Y’know, flat earth obviously, is a go-to. I mean, they had the convention in Raleigh, and the new documentary came out, I’m big into that, that’s a good one. Behind the Curve, you should check it out.

Beyond that, Alex Jones slowly unraveling. I don’t know if you’ve heard any of his recent exclamations that the upper elites of society are draining themselves of blood and taking a large amount of DNT to commune with the machine elves. That are telling them how to shape society to move in a progressive fashion.

Elijah: You also have the quote, recently, where he’s like, “Yeah, they’re wizards with palantirs, and they’re smoking marijuana, and looking into crystal palantirs with psychedelics…”

Logan: And it’s like, I hate him as a person, he’s a scumbag, terrible person-

Elijah: Trash.

Logan: But the fact that- draining themselves of blood, taking large amounts of DNT to commune with the machine elves- I was like- whoa. That is a- even just machine elves! What is it? It opens so many doors in terms of just, me being able to, like- whoa, what am I even imagining right now? Like…I’m communing with the machine elves.

Elijah: That’s a whole theory unto itself.

Logan: That is a whole theory unto itself. Like. What is that? Now obviously, flat earth is the go-to, but the machine elves…that tripped me recently. Last week’s favorite conspiracy theory.

Michael: My favorite was from an Uber driver I had last month. When I was coming back from Salt Lake City. He said that he was working on his latest book. And he was transposing it for YouTube. And it was all about how there was an intergalactic cooperation at the middle star of Orion’s belt where they’re protecting the galaxy. It involves NASA. He sounded so convinced, he was like, “Yeah, man, you’ve got to look it up. There’s an intergalactic meeting happening at Orion’s belt. The meeting is happening right now.” That was the longest Uber ride of my life.

Logan: That’s a good question. It probably, secretly, tells you a lot about somebody’s personality, their favorite conspiracy theory. I think that’s every conspiracy theorist’s worst fear, is that they will actually be proven right. They get to the two hundred foot ice wall, and they’re just like…it’s here!

Elijah: It’s here! I’m at the edge of Earth! It’s a flat disc!

Logan: Think about flat earth. What’s on the other side?

Elijah: Is it just endless space? It’s a Cartesian plane.

Logan: It just opens up so many doors. What’s on the other side of the ice wall? Is it another Earth with just a different…it’s all the same experimental conditions and we’re just a petri dish? And then it’s the same exact Earth with the same exact…

Michael: If you don’t stop him now…

Elijah: We’re going down a hole.

TTG: I wanted to ask about sonic distortion in your records, because you guys have really leaned into that kind of production since the beginning of your recording career. In terms of how it affects vocals, the lyrics are not necessarily intelligible-it’s more about emotion, it’s about the stretching of sound. Talk me through that.

Logan: So…it all began when I was a child. [Laughs.] No, for real though, this does start with that. So when I was fifteen, I heard a record by Sigor Ros- and he wrote everything in a fake language. It was just syllable singing. It was called Hopelandic. Totally unintelligible. It meant nothing. But it meant everything. Because you interpreted it how you needed to interpret it. It blew me away as a fifteen year old.

And so as we moved into the lyrical phase for this group in particular, it became more about the space we’re filling, and less about the lyrics.

What we started to do was experiment with pedals. So we started to do delay pedals, I started running my vocals through delay pedals, and then I started running my vocals through a chorus pedal, and in particular a really cheap, crappy chorus pedal.

Elijah: Yeah, it’s like a twenty dollar chorus pedal.

Logan: It’s like, at best, a twenty dollar chorus pedal. It really compresses and kind of treble-izes the vocals in a weird way. And so when we brought that same pedal in to Missy, in Fidelitorium, I said, well, I sing through this live, it’s a big part of our live sound, me singing through this chorus pedal. When we put it through and like, gained out, it had this really sparkly, kind of beautiful quality to it, in a weird way. And so we were like, we’ve got to keep that.

TTG: A lot of the guitar sounds coming out of pure math rock are very clean. And you guys definitely diverge from that. Elijah, tell me more about how that affects your guitar playing and how you incorporate technology into that.

Elijah: Totally! I came from this perspective of being this really huge gearhead for many years. And then got to this point where I didn’t really care about it so much, and just cared about what the end result was. So, you know, if you have to smack your guitar, you have to hit it against the ceiling, whatever. It’s all valid.

Logan: It’s not like math rock is easy listening, but the harmonic content of math rock seems to be relatively- it doesn’t change a lot. It’s very technical and angular, but a lot of times it’s like they’re sticking either with a very dissonant tone, or it’s easy listening, almost.

Elijah: Yeah, like you’re saying, it all pulls from very simple harmonic material or very complex material.

Logan: Too dissonant.

Elijah: So trying to work in some of that jazz influence. And really loving harmonies. That’s one of my big things. I just love chords and stuff.

Logan: But you get to fuzz out- he uses a really gated fuzz a lot of times. A very in-your-face, aggressive…and again, it’s the space you fill, as a trio, you have to fill space and be interesting. You don’t have the luxury of having a rhythm guitarist, so I have a thick pedal on my bass a lot of times.

Like, I either have an octave pedal, or I have a harmonizer on, like in some other form, or I’m picking really hard to get a thick tone, and then he’s got like- the sonic palette to fill as much of that treble area as he wants, right? Because my singing range is really high already, and it’s kind of thinned out and distorted. So it’s filling its space, but like he gets to like- and the distortion helps you be more in-your-face about it.

Elijah: Definitely. That style came from listening to Annie Clark and St. Vincent. And John Frusciante, Cedric and Omar. People like that. It’s almost more about the timbre impact of the part-writing rather than necessarily the number of notes you’re playing or how it’s going. So stepping back and viewing guitar in more of a soundscape-type area.

TTG: Before we wrap up here, is there anything you’d like to say to the kids at home? I don’t know what kids would be reading this blog.

Logan: Yeah, the kids at home. Um…think about what’s on the other side of the ice wall.

Elijah: On the flat earth. That’s important. Maybe we’re there. That’s where our next show is.

Michael: Live at the ice wall.

TTG: If you played at the ice wall, you’d have to do a live album.

Elijah: I mean, people have been trying to recreate Woodstock for years.

Michael: Next show is live at the ice wall.


All photos by Olivia Huntley. Photos courtesy of Zephyranthes.

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Q&A: Rapper and Producer Steezie on Effortless Artistry

The Raleigh artist sounds off on the genesis of his flow and how he operates in the studio.

Whether he’s buoying a crowd behind the mic, or orchestrating chest-rattling bass in the studio, rapper, producer, and engineer Steezie maintains his tranquility.

The name “Steezie” is an amalgamation of the words “style” and “ease;” words that the Raleigh-based artist has built his persona around.

For a look at that internal placidity in action, check out the music video for his 2017 single, “MI AMOR.” Steezie jumps, spins, and grooves around The Raleigh Rose Garden. His dancing could easily motivate a crowd and anchor a party, but his easygoing smile and economy of movement all feel utterly effortless.

Steezie rarely strays from an unblemished vocal delivery and low-pitched placement. His flow is the star; he’ll spit rapid-fire for several bars before stretching out syllables like taffy.

Steezie’s lyrics compliment the image of effortless mastery he’s cultivated. Generally featuring his skills as a lover and his ability to foresee snakes in the grass, he positions himself as a man in command, always a little slyer than his enemies.

Originally from Harare, Zimbabwe, Steezie’s move to the States coincided with his decision to make music. He spent the following ten years learning his craft, and cut his teeth performing in Raleigh.

When I met Steezie over Hangouts, I found that his particular brand of passionate equilibrium carried over from his public persona to his personal life. He’s happy to share, enthusiastic about his projects and the development of the Raleigh rap scene, but he sustains an unruffled air at all times.

I spoke with Steezie about the sounds coming out of the Raleigh rap scene, how he navigates his time in the studio, and how his roots have shaped his style.

What are your favorite places in Raleigh?

Oh, I love Kings Barcade. I definitely love…The Pour House is a nice spot. Except that they don’t accept people under twenty-one, which is a killer because people in that age range listen to our music a lot. I like The Ritz. That was definitely the best place I’ve performed at. The Wicked Witch is another spot that I’ve been to. That’s really good. Those are some of my favorite spots, definitely, in downtown Raleigh.

What are a few of your favorite shows you’ve performed in, and what made them your favorite?

I performed one time in Boone at a college event. It was a frat party and that was one of my favorites. The energy inside this frat house was really crazy. They rooted for us from the start to the end, and they were just on point the whole time. The energy didn’t stop from start to finish. It was not a big venue or anything crazy. When you’re in something that everyone is participating in, and involved, and everyone is cheering for you, it’s something special.

Is crowd energy what makes a show for you?

Generally, yes, crowd energy is definitely the biggest factor. I would also say this; the Ritz was a great place that I performed at, even though it was a different crowd from…basically from young to old. It wasn’t a targeted group of people. So it was hard to capture the crowd with that different sound. It was a weird experience, but it was great. It was the biggest stage I’ve performed at.

In addition to being a rapper and an artist, you’re also a producer and an engineer.

Yes, I do engineer for myself. When I started out as an artist, and I had friends that I saw were creating and making beats and engineering, I used to sit back and I felt left out, so I was like, “Yo, I’m going to see what that’s about.”

So I got into the studio and started making beats and producing, and while I was producing I got connected with different artists from around the city. And they were trying to hop on my beats, and sometimes I didn’t get to record them because I didn’t know anybody that recorded people. So I started learning how to engineer. It’s all connected together: producing, engineering, and artistry. It’s all connected together, it all helped out.

And it’s created something special, not only for myself but for the upcoming scene here in North Carolina. I get to see so much talent come through and being able to get on a verse, or make the beat, or engineer the song is…I want to be involved in any type of way, you know? So that’s why I love it.

If you had to typify the sound coming out of the Raleigh rap scene right now, how would you describe it in a few words?

Well, right now it’s evolving because we have so many different sides and parts of Raleigh. I don’t even know if you can even give us a stamp on a sound, because we have an old school sound from Rapsody, she’s got that boom bap. So we’ve got that type of sound, we have artists that make trap music, we have R&B…we got so much to offer. Like I can’t even put it all in one box. So it’s really everywhere, that’s the interesting part. It’s just gonna take the right years to come and listen and find this area and hear what we have going on. It’s something special.

It’s terrific. What would you say are the greatest challenges facing the scene as it develops?

The greatest challenges right now…I just feel like people…I feel like people should connect more and not so much have an expectation towards situations that have other people involved. Like shows, or going into a studio, or collaborating with an artist. I think people’s first impressions towards artists are not really good. I think people should go out there and really get to understand the artist and get to creating. It doesn’t matter if you’re a musical artist, or photographer, or a video person. I think we should open up to each other a lot more, because we have so much to offer for each other.

Everybody wants to get that coastline, from Atlanta and New York and L.A. and stuff…but the people are here, within us, like the producers are here around us, the video people are here around us, so everybody should just reach out more. Go to events. Go to the studio. Go link up with a video person, talk to them, you know, be friends with them. Besides just music, just connect with them so things can move forward.

That makes sense to me. Let’s talk genre for a sec. You have a really interesting old school hip hop approach to genre, in that you pull from a wide palette of sounds. There’s a real R&B feel in “Sublime,” and you’ve got an alt-rock feel with “Evaporate.”

Yeah.

You also definitely use sounds that are associated with hip hop. What inspires you to use that old school approach and pull from a variety of genres?

I’m so eager to make different types of sounds, and show people what I’m capable of making. Because I don’t want to be boxed into one type of genre.

I want to break that boundary, because right now, what being an artist is about…people have a certain sound. Like when you hear a certain sound, you’re automatically associated with one artist. Oh, that’s- that’s him. My whole like thing is like, I want to do songs that people don’t realize it’s me. They’ll be, like, “Yo, who is this?” And then they’re like, “Oh, he doesn’t even make that type of stuff,” you know? I feel like being a producer too helps out a lot, because I have so much to pick from, sounds to pick from, that I can just go to. I have old school sounds, and I can’t take out that old school root for me. I love it. I feel like it will always stay alive.

Absolutely. One of the hallmarks of your flow that I wanted to draw attention to is how effortless it seems. Even if you’re doing something that’s technically difficult, it always feels natural, like you’re not breaking a sweat. You pair that with a really organic sampling style. How did that approach evolve?

That approach is just…it’s just me. It’s Steez! My whole name is “style and ease,” that’s how the root came together. That just who I am. And I’m very introverted. I’m quiet. You know, I have…most of the time I’m just quiet. And I take things with a lighter approach. So that’s how I approach my music. Like I don’t need to prove anything. I’m making the art from from my heart, not to prove the point that I’m the hottest out or anything like that.

That makes sense.

Yeah. But I definitely have songs where I am not quiet. Like, it’s that party vibe, I still have that party side in me a lot. So it’s going to come. Right now I’m in a slow type of music, my music is slow-tempoed, but I’m bringing that fast energy very soon, so I’m excited for that.

Because you have these aspects of you as a producer, as an engineer, and then you frequently generate your own beats to rap over, what in your mind makes for an iconic beat- a great beat to rap to?

Right now, what makes a great beat is something really raw and organic. Something that just flows within you. Like, if you were to sit there and make a beat for ten, fifteen minutes, twenty minutes. I know that sounds like a rush, but if you’re just trusting your gut, you just trust your gut will place things where they are supposed to be. It’s about trusting yourself. The producer that trusts themselves, and believes they can make something in a small amount of time just by going with the flow and the energy in that time, are the greatest producers right now. Because it’s simple, it has to be open for the artist to throw different different types of cadences to it. So that’s what makes a great beat. Something open and vibey for the artist to get on and do that thing.

So it’s all about instinct.

Yes. This is really about instinct. You got to be raw at it. Because when you’re in the studio, the process is you have an artist behind you. And they don’t want to sit and wait for you to make a beat in like, a whole hour. By that time, most of the time artists are already like…the ideas have really flown out their head. So if you’re making it right on the spot, you’re done with it in ten minutes, and you know the artist gets on it and that way the energy is captured right there. Everybody’s just passing around this energy. It’s crazy. It’s magic.

It’s like catching lightning in a bottle.

Seriously. So that’s how you create something great right there.

Very cool. I wanted to touch on that you’re originally from Harare, Zimbabwe.

Yes.

And you moved here in 2008. What was that transition like?

It was really different. Because it wasn’t like I was not aware of the culture here. I knew the culture here. Like, you know, I was watching music videos. I was listening to Lil Wayne, I was listening to a lot of artists from here. And I knew a lot- I thought I knew a lot, but when I got here it was way different. I got to know what’s going on. It took me some time to get to understand how people are. You know, everybody’s different. So it took me some time to kind of adjust to the people here. And I got used to it, and I just grew into it. So it was great. It was awesome.

How do you integrate American influences with Zimbabwean influences? You’ve mentioned in the past that it affects your cadence. Tell me more about that.

“In Atlanta, their accent and flow and cadence is there and like- it’s just straightforward. Like for me, I had my accent. I can kind of blend in, so people could understand me. You know what I’m sayin’? I feel like that was one thing that I had to spend some time working. I had to find a certain place where I can fit my voice. And that soft cadence, it’s something that I had started out with and it was great. But I know I have so much more inside. So it’s been really great finding that.”


Photo courtesy of Steezie.

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More Q&As

Q&A: Playwright Natalie Sherwood on the Premiere of A Good Little Rain

Q&A: Raleigh Rapper Sean Kyd on Ambition

Q&A: Dave Hedeman of the Gone Ghosts Talks New Band’s EP


NC New Releases 🎵

In February and early March of 2019, NC artists greeted the end of winter with a spate of phenomenal new tunes from many genres.

This edition of NC New Releases is brought to you by February and early March of 2019. NC artists greeted the end of winter with a spate of phenomenal new tunes from many genres.

North Carolina did not come to play this month; from math rock fresh off the DIY scene in Greensboro, to old-time music with modern sensibilities out of Durham, to innovative beats from Greenville.

Whoever you are, whatever tunes you like to groove to, NC has a new release for everyone. Let’s go.

Allison de Groot & Tatiana Hargreaves

Powerhouses Allison de Groot and Tatiana Hargreaves debut their musical partnership with a fresh take on an old favorite, “Eighth of January.”

Considered among the finest of a new generation of old-time and bluegrass musicians, banjoist de Groot and fiddler Hargreaves are in top form on this much-recorded, much-beloved classic.

While Hargreaves and de Groot pay homage to the song’s long recording history, their interpretation of “Eighth of January” has a modern verve. Crisp production and sparkling technique honor the storied Southern traditional without getting bogged down in sentimentality. This recording is a tantalizing taste of the album to come.

You can follow Allison de Groot on her website, Facebook, and Instagram, and Tatiana Hargreaves on her website, Instagram andFacebook. You can stream “Eighth of January” and preorder the album on Bandcamp here.

Mo. Three

In one minute and twenty-five seconds, Mo. Three makes beat magic. The Greenville artist’s most recent release, Short ‘n Fancy, is, well- just that.

The playful mix of genre and orchestration paired with distinctive beats make for eight witty, memorable tracks to bump. “Fancy a Dance, m’lady?” is a great display of Mo. Three’s musical humor, while ROSES is as smooth as grooves get.

You can follow Mo. Three on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, and hear his appearance on episode four of Treee City’s Rainforest Café here. You can listen on Bandcamp here.

Terms x Conditions

On their thrashing first release, Excuse My Colours, products of the Greensboro DIY scene Terms x Conditions romp through jazz-infused math rock.

Everything beloved about math rock as a genre is present in Excuse My Colours. The classic atypical time signatures and technical precision are all brought to a fever pitch of scientific raucousness. Plus, every musician is excellent; though the wailing euphonium, saxophone, and trumpet are especially impressive.

Terms x Conditions are a commanding addition to the Greensboro DIY scene- and this release cements them as a band to watch.

You can follow Terms x Conditions on Facebook and Instagram, and stream the album on Bandcamp here.

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Premiere: Hear Wake Moody’s Debut Single, “Shivers”

Listen to Carrboro band Wake Moody’s debut single, “Shivers.” Lead singer Gabriel Reynolds shares how he brought the song’s seductive story to life.

With one sung note, Carrboro musician Gabriel Reynolds enters a new era as his band, Wake Moody, premieres their debut single, “Shivers.” That note- a sustained, Michael McDonald-esque exclamation- could be a cry of pleasure or a cry of despair.

In “Shivers,” Reynolds tells the story of a hookup with a friend who could’ve been much more, if the timing had been right.

That heartache could easily make for a maudlin track- but Wake Moody goes in the opposite direction. From beginning to end, “Shivers” feels like a visceral dive into indulgence.

Grooving to Heartbreak

“Shivers” is fun, seductive, with an appealing groove that propels the listener into temptation. The sleek production and dreamy synths all but banish the consequences of the encounter ‘til tomorrow. Reynolds really leans into his vocal performance: he slurs into that insistent rhythm, he husks, he hits a few really great belted notes. Musically, “Shivers” is all good vibes, great for dancing with a date.

But don’t be engulfed entirely by the fun- regret looms large over the lyrics.

Singing as one half of this one-night stand, Reynolds is beguiled by his failed love interest, impassioned; he’s also all too aware of the pain that lies ahead.

“Now we’re writhing at the bottom of the ocean/and when you say my name it isn’t in devotion,” croons Reynolds. The wordplay is satisfying- but it packs a poignant punch.

“Shivers” makes for a memorable calling card for Wake Moody. It also provides an exciting taste of the debut EP of the same title, due out in March.

Check out the premiere of Wake Moody’s debut single, “Shivers.”


“Shivers” is about the excitement and heartbreak of a one-night stand with an unrequited love. How did you approach making the story come to life, lyrically and sonically?

Sometimes I have to trick myself into expressing emotions. My guide in writing this song was a vivid mental picture of these two characters with a specific, messy history, and my role was just to observe them: let their story unfold and document their sexy mistakes.

It was easy to talk about these people from a distance. Then when I finished, that mental image came into greater focus and I realized – surprise – it was me.

I’d been projecting a real-life event I’d never worked through emotionally, and that fake distance I created finally allowed me to process the heartbreak, regret and disappointment from that time in my life. It was like a vivid dream, where you don’t realize the symbolism ‘til you wake up. I needed it.

I also wanted it to feel like part of a larger story, so the song starts with the word “and” then ends before you learn the consequences – to be continued. Then the next song on the EP continues the story, so that mystery lasts all of five seconds. But it’s cool to me. I like art that zooms in on a bigger picture.

As for the music, I’ve been an all-caps SAD BOY on stage before and didn’t like spreading that vibe, so the sound here is much sweeter than the story.

I definitely take notes from Frank Ocean, who knows how to make the surface feel at peace while there’s a darker story right underneath. He can write a song about a depressed rich kid throwing himself off a rooftop, and people play beer pong to it. Amazing.

If you had to characterize your writing process in three words, what would they be?

Feeling beats thinking.

All photos and album cover photo by Jillian Clark Photography. Album cover design by Ruben Rodriguez.

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9 Alternative Ways to Celebrate Valentine’s Day 2019

Alternative ways to celebrate Valentine’s Day 2019 in the Triangle.

Not to knock the candlelit dinner or staying in with your fellow single friends, but for this Valentine’s Day, wouldn’t you rather do something a little different? The Triangle has plenty to offer for Valentine’s Day 2019…it’s just a matter of choosing your own alternative adventure.

Axe Your Ex

If you’re looking to let off some post-breakup steam, the folks at Epic Axe Throwing and Social House have a solution. This V-Day bash will include drink specials and a taco bar. Don’t forget to brush up on your throwing skills… every bullseye gets a box of chocolates!

Space is limited, so nab your ticket here.

Local Band Local Beer: Heartbreakin’ Ball

Raleigh favorite The Pour House is hosting a Valentine’s Day edition of Local Band Local Beer: a Heartbreakin’ Ball. If dancing to Lonnie Walker, AUTOSPKR, and Echo Courts and imbibing Foothills Brewing Co. beer sounds like a good time, grab a ticket here.

Goth Prom at Arcana

Whether you live a goth lifestyle year-round or just want to go goth for a night, you can groove all night at Arcana. This Valentine’s Day 21+ dance party has 20th Century Boy spinning classic goth, dark dance, and industrial music and tarot-themed cocktails.

Suggested dress code: black. Maybe a touch of red. And more black.

Check it out here.

Carolina Skies: Valentine Edition

It’s always a starry night at Morehead Planetarium. Get a love-themed tour of the universe in Chapel Hill on one of four dates, including February 14th. There’s even a special heartbreak edition on February 9th, if you feel so inclined.

More info and tickets here.

Okapi at The Cave

Asheville duo Okapi will light up The Cave with the upright bass and cello. With Ciera Mackensie opening, this is a night not to be missed.

Check out the Facebook event here.

SAD Valentine’s Party at Boxcar

Celebrate the single life with your friends AND support the Hands for Hearts Foundation at the Raleigh location of Boxcar Bar + Arcade. With DJ Chaperone spinning, artisanal cotton candy from Wonderpuff Cotton Candy, and a percentage of the night’s sales going to a good cause, this is fun you can feel good about.

Learn more here.

Crazy Doberman at Nightlight

Spend Valentine’s Night in Chapel Hill with Crazy Doberman, a “midwestern psycho jazz unit.” Nightlight is one of the best spots in the area to hear experimental tunes, so hit up W. Rosemary Street for a quirky, great time.

More info here.

Dream Date 90s Dance Party at Ruby Deluxe

If you want to get in your feelings with the music of your childhood, head to Ruby Deluxe at 10 PM. DJ Luxe Posh and DJ DNLTMS will spin 90s favorites at this 21+ dance party. Sweets, drink specials, and maybe some Whitney Houston- this is what Valentine’s Day should be.

Check it out here.

PHK is for Covers at The Pinhook

The Pinhook is hosting a night of covers of apathetic/anti bands and fundraising for the NC Women’s Prison Books Project. Come donate to this worthy cause and rock out/chuckle to covers of The White Stripes and Weezer. Good time + good cause = a great Valentine’s Day.

Read up on the event here.

For More Inspiration

For more date ideas that won’t break the bank, check out The Triangle Guide’s Cheap Date series: Durham and Raleigh editions.

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NC New Releases 🎵

Banish the January blues with red-hot tunes from Alex Aff, BREV., and Pinky Verde.

We’ve packed away the Moore Square acorn and swept up the confetti, but hold up- the party’s just beginning. January 2019 saw great releases from NC artists. Alex Aff, BREV., and Pinky Verde brought it with new music in the last few weeks. You can banish the January blues with red-hot tunes.

Alex Aff, Frequencies

Frequencies is Alex Aff’s first entirely self-produced project, and in less capable hands that might’ve made for a more self-indulgent record. Aff, however, is in top form on this album, taking the creative room to be more contemplative and witty than ever.

He dives headfirst into hope, ego, and social injustice, and the results shine. “In My Own Lane” stands out as the most danceable track, and where Aff might be the most lyrically astute. He dances from personal struggle, determination, and success to racial oppression and back again-  and he makes it look easy.

You can check out Frequencies on Spotify and iTunes, and follow Alex Aff on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

BREV., Revive

Raleigh synth-pop artist BREV. is back with new EP Revive. Centered around the joys and perils of self-determination, this is BREV.’s most thematically cohesive EP,  and undoubtedly his most fun offering to date.

The opener, “Barrel Down,” grooves like a good time – but the lyrics pack a powerful punch for anyone who’s ever felt the need to revitalize a stale life.

You can get an earful of Revive on Spotify, SoundCloud, and Bandcamp, and follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. If you want to learn more about the man behind the synth-pop, you can check out TTG’s Q&A with BREV. here.

Pinky Verde, Infinitesimal

Lovers of grunge, listen up. You need to listen to Pinky Verde’s Infinitesimal just to get an earful of Heather Jensen’s voice. While she doesn’t scream, she has the same slouchy charisma of many of your 90s favorites.

That voice lends her intimate, observant lyrics additional heft and make listening to this Wilmington resident feel like reading the cool girl’s diary. The title track that closes the EP, “Infinitesimal (Sorry, Love),” is particularly raw and devastating, and shows Jensen at the height of her powers.

You can listen on Spotify, Bandcamp and SoundCloud, and follow Pinky Verde on Facebook and Instagram.

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Get Hype for Local Web Series

In Hype, a new web series, Holland Randolph Gallagher portrays Durham with eyes that are tender and critical in equal measure.

To say that Durham itself is a character in Hype, a new local web series, would be an understatement. In partnership with Runaway, Holland Randolph Gallagher portrays Durham as only someone who’s lived here could, with eyes that are tender and critical in equal measure.

The Durham of Hype shapes its characters, rocks them to sleep, cracks them open and gets cracked open by them in return.

The protagonist, Smiles, ends up embroiled in Durham’s rap and startup scenes. His motivation? To buy back the house his sweetheart’s family was forced out of by rising rent costs. The irrepressible Ava (Andie Morgenlander) latches onto Smiles as her partner in the startup business.

Meanwhile, a fixture in the local rap scene, Bulldoze, and his younger brother Cris (impressively played by Dartez Wright and Melvin Gray Jr.) butt heads with Rakim Wilde (Leroy Shingu).  Wilde lacks Bulldoze’s talent, but is getting radio play.

When the parallel stories collide, fireworks ensue.

Shot on site, the scenery and rhythms of the city are right in ways an outsider could never capture. The wide shots of local favorites Alley Twenty Six, The Durham and Motorco are fun anchors to Durham’s geography. Hype also captures the specific, lopsided lilt of a Durham house party to a tee. It doesn’t hurt that the rollicking soundtrack is packed with local talent.

So, is hyper-local Hype worth…you know…the hype? Yes. Easily so. Strong writing, direction, and cinematography would make this a series to watch in a market laden with good offerings. The acting doesn’t always hit the mark, and sometimes the writing could be a little tighter, but that’s okay. Hype has to be considered as the first of its kind. It makes a formidable launching pad for what will hopefully be many such series shot in the area.

When thinking of Hype as pioneering media for the area, consider Hype as a title. Referring both to excitement and to the inflated self-marketing required to succeed, the characters in this web series confront the need to hype themselves up, to the outer world and to themselves.

In Hype, as in the real Durham, the bristling creativity that makes the city so exciting may also condemn it to being ruined by gentrification.

While that conflict is rarely directly addressed in the dialogue, it is keenly felt. The characters risk their livelihoods as underdogs in an underdog city. When you fail, you fail yourself, your family, and your hometown. Hype is a living, breathing portrayal of a struggle the city hasn’t resolved yet.

Hype, at its best, is simultaneously a balm and a friendly grin to anyone who’s called Durham home, as well as a primer to the area for anyone unfamiliar with its joys and pitfalls.

Yes, watch Hype. Yes, talk it up for its hometown grit and charm. But this is a series well worth watching on its own merit. Fundraising is currently underway for the next season. Get hype.

Watch Hype

https://www.hypedurham.com/

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NC New Releases 🎵

The best new releases in North Carolina.

It’s NC New Releases, the very best in new music of the last few weeks. For December 6th, 2018, The Triangle Guide is spotlighting singles from Durhamites al Riggs and Danny Blaze, and Wilmington band Stray Local. With music this great, you’ll have your headphones on all through the holidays.

Danny Blaze, “7 and the 5”

Before up-and-coming rapper Danny Blaze’s career took off, he took the 7 and the 5 buses in Southside Durham to work each day. In his latest single, Blaze reflects on his former routine.

In a segue worthy of Frank Ocean circa Channel Orange, ambient conversation slides into gospel riff… and then the beat drops. The track grooves with a weary momentum, pulling us into Blaze’s old daily grind: getting up with the sun, writing rhymes as the bus carries him to his job.

The track is satisfying for both narrative fans and rap technicians. Blaze is a compelling storyteller, and his charisma and expert cadence drive home why he’s one of the most exciting rappers working in Durham right now. If you’re not chanting “take the 7 and the 5” by the song’s conclusion, you probably don’t have a pulse. Check it out here.

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Stray Local, “Time” (Hourglass Studio Sessions)

Wilmington folk pop band Stray Local are back with a live performance of their new song, “Time.” Hannah Lomas’s vocals swirl over shimmering harmonies like “leaves that sweep down cobblestone streets” that she describes in “Time’s” melancholy lyrics.

While Stray Local are no strangers to the use of violin in their music, here it’s especially evocative. With pathos on par with Kerrigan and Lowdermilk, and touched with an indie sensibility, songwriters Jamie Rowen and Hannah Lomas have created a lovely new addition to the Stray Local discography. Make sure to check out the music video of their performance in Hourglass Studios here, and you can stream the song here.

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al Riggs, “GODKILLER”

al Rigg’s latest track, “GODKILLER,” is electric. About a trip to a bar as a gender nonconforming person, the song positively crackles with fear, despair, and rage.

In a masterful progression of instrumental layering, an opening of tinny beats soon meets a raw, dark guitar line, and al Rigg’s voice, singing, “the downtown boys are gonna beat me down.” The track builds to an astonishing crescendo, with distorted voices singing, brass, driving percussion. It’s a beautiful and devastating outcry.

“GODKILLER” is also the title song of their upcoming album, which will be released on January 25th. You can stream “GODKILLER” the song and preorder the album here.

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Q&A: Synth-Pop Artist BREV. Explores Grief in the New Age

“I became a musician not just out of desire, but out of necessity.”

Grief to a mellow groove should be an oxymoron- but to synth-pop musician RJ Bergman, aka BREV., lush synths seemed like a natural palette with which to illustrate sorrow. On In My Own Dimension, the twenty-four-year-old’s contemplative first release, BREV. immerses himself in his grief over his grandmother’s death at an unhurried, melancholy pace.

“Are we all taken for granted?” BREV. asks over tinny beats and a mournful motif. On his first release, BREV. seeks answers to his biggest questions through musical resolutions in synth-pop instrumentals. If In My Own Dimension doesn’t offer remedies to a first experience with grief, it does offer a beat to dance to- a way to healing.

BREV. spoke to The Triangle Guide about his evolution as a musician and his writing process.

Why did you decide to become a musician?

“I became a musician not just out of desire, but out of necessity. Music has been a coping mechanism for me for as long as I’ve been writing – over a decade. Music has always been a part of my soul. The most comforting moments in my life have come when I have gone through something and needed to reflect. Music has always been the kind friend that reached out it’s hand and captivated me. I think I owe a lot of my sanity to the fact that I was able to express myself through music in my younger years. The themes I’ve written about over my life have a lot to do with self-awareness, soul searching, and growth. I think you can hear and read in a lot of my work that there is a need to understand oneself and others around us in this perplexing life.”

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What is the significance of the name “BREV.”?

“For starters, the word “brev” has many meanings. In Latin and music, it is meant to signify something that is short or a note that lasts a short amount of time. BREV. is a concept dating back to 2015. The original intent was to abbreviate ‘rebel’ and ‘revolution’ in to a succinct word/ phrase. The initials of my given name spell out REB, which people have always codified as rebel, and I’ve often felt a need to revolt. My musical ideas have attempted to change myself and others through music. I found that music has the opportunity to open us up to each others struggles, to have mutual understanding. To change someone’s mind through ideas is difficult. I feel like the best way I know is to wear my emotions and insecurities on my sleeve. I think we too often try to hide these, because our societal culture has emblemized them as weak, but emotions are real, raw, and impure, and have lead me to some of the most interesting dialogues I’ve experienced.”

You’ve transitioned from being an acoustic singer-songwriter to a synth-pop artist. What inspired that change?

“In 2014 I took a very enlightening trip to Australia and New Zealand as part of a study abroad program that introduced me to a plethora of new artists, new ideas, and creating lifelong connections with other musicians that impacted me enormously. I learnt of amazing artists like Kllo, Hiatus Kaiyote, Chet Faker (Nick Murphy), Jane Tyrrell, and Sticky Fingers. I even got to be one of the singers in an 8-piece band (called ‘John Wilton & The New Dream’ if you ever check it out) and they helped provoke this change. All of these led me towards a more heavily produced and chill sound which is evident on In My Own Dimension. The acoustic stuff has always been close to my chest, but I understood the niche audience that it reached. Not only was this new sound more satisfying to my musical self, it also felt more aligned with our current times.”

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What skills have you brought from your acoustic background into synth-pop writing and performance?

“My foundation has always been in writing catchy melodies and deep lyrics. Those are two main characteristics I have enhanced and grown and pulled with me into this style. One thing that is strikingly different is how stage presence is handled in this setting. I feel like more people are watching the musician on stage with this style of music, wanting to see their facial expressions and movement, unlike what you might experience in an acoustic setting. I think I bring a different edge to electronic music since my lyrics tend to be heavier and poetic.”

You’ve just released your first EP, In My Own Dimension. What were your ambitions for your first EP? What skills did you want to demonstrate on your first long-form work?

“My ambitions for this work were introduce the sounds of BREV. to the world. I wanted to offer a variety of feelings and auras, allowing people to find a song that suits their mood. I’ve been dedicating myself to these songs for the past six months – and I definitely see this project as a jumping off point. This EP has sweeping stylistic changes throughout, and I think that was important for this work. I’ve had a hard time categorizing anything I’ve written these past six months, from synth-wave, electronic pop, ‘PBR&B’, and the like, so I certainly wanted this first EP to be an exploration of this sound, since I don’t think BREV. will ever be fastened to one genre or style.”

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On In My Own Dimension, you explore heavy themes- generational divides, youth, death, and grief. Why did you choose to explore those themes through a mellow groove, rather than through a more turbulent sound?

“I think there is a sound and semblance of peace in the middle of chaos and turbulence. Zoning in and finding this sound was a journey for me that took me to places where I felt vulnerable, and this vulnerability turned into songs like “Fools” and “Granted.” In my head when I create songs, they tend to sound something like Brewed or Jam. Something downbeat and also energetic.”

What’s your favorite song on In My Own Dimension? Why?

“”Granted” is most certainly my favorite song on the EP. It’s an embodiment of myself, my ancestors, and how to deal through grief. My grandmother was fairly ordinary, but our connection ran deep. Of my twenty-four years on this planet I knew her for about ten, and I can almost recall all of the times we hung out on two hands. She was my last grandparent, and the first time I’ve had to deal with grief. It’s a memorable and emotional ode to her as well as a reckoning with age and a realization of how time flies, life flies, and how these things will inevitably end.”

If you could go back in time and see any artist perform live, who would you choose and why?

“This is a really tough question. One artist I would have loved to have seen in their heyday is The Academy Is…. I was a big Fueled by Ramen head growing up (Paramore, Fall Out Boy, Cute Is What We Aim For, Cobra Starship), and I always loved William Beckett’s amazing lyrics, emotional melodies, and stage presence. There was this Halloween concert they did with Cobra Starship that a few friends went to my freshman year of High School. I was bummed to have missed this, and never got to see them or Cobra Starship! Around this time was when I saw other artists that inspired my musicianship like No Doubt, Motion City Soundtrack, and The Cab.”

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The Top Three Triangle Podcasts

The hottest voices podcasting from the Triangle right now.

The 919 Podcast

If you want to keep your finger on the pulse of the 919 area code, The 919 Podcast is your new best friend. Host John Carter interviews the movers and shakers of the Triangle- past episodes have included Patrick Woodson of Brewery Bhavana, Durham mayor Steve Schewel, and Kathryn Bertok of Carolina Tiger Rescue. Another highlight of the podcast is the “Dinner and a Movie” series of episodes, in which Megan Spell selects local restaurants and movie offerings around town for perfectly curated dates. With guests in an array of professions, Carter gets to the heart of what makes the Triangle unique.

Follow The 919 Podcast: iTunes Twitter Facebook

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Damaged Goods Radio

Whether they’re exchanging repartee or interviewing a favorite band, genial hosts Matt Dunn and Seth Beard of Damaged Goods Radio are excellent guides through the local music scene. Interviewees include local acts and bands just passing through the Triangle- Carrboro band and Hopscotch alums Fitness Womxn are interviewed alongside Straight Arrows from Sydney, Australia. Come for the interviews, stay for the A+ banter and dry humor.

Follow Damaged Goods Radio: Simplecast Twitter Facebook

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The Nice Price

Nice Price Books and Records on Hillsborough Street has been a mainstay of the music scene in Raleigh for decades. Curl up in the stacks, browse the crates of vinyl- and, since 2017, listen in on employees and friends of the store discussing new releases on The Nice Price, the shop’s podcast. Enoch, Matt Phone, and Alli B pull from their vast collective music knowledge to riff on new tunes. Great chemistry between the three hosts, genuine laughter, and hot takes on music- what more could you ask for?

Follow The Nice Price: iTunes Twitter Facebook

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