INTERVIEW BY JOE FITZPATRICK
PHOTOS PROVIDED BY HOUSTON HEARD
That’s the puzzle!
Many metalcore vocalists have made the transition to solo careers, and DEVIN CLAWSON from Leesburg, Va., is of the latest crop moving toward more soulful, harmonic tunes. Since then, Clawson released his debut EP and played shows across the region. While his solo career is just beginning, he is learning to hone his sound and musical direction to the gear just right for him.
Creativity doesn’t always come naturally. Just like a garden, it must be grown, cared for, and worked on in order to produce beautiful results, whether it be ripe fruits and vegetables or music. Based out of Charlottesville, Va., folk singer-songwriter BEN EPPARD knows very well that music takes work, and he constantly tries to sow as many seeds in the local community near and far with the strength and kindness of his voice and guitar.
Nat Brown — also known as OKLAHOMA CAR CRASH (OKCC) — is all about DIY, from self-booked tours to more than five self-released EPs. He was even doing-it-all music wise, that is until his recent announcement of a new permanent member. While not on tour or visiting his favorite coffee shop, he is writing and recording new music, most of which for OKCC’s next release sometime this summer. We recently had a chance to get an idea of exactly what Brown was up to, as well as find out about the future of OKCC.
At first glance, SKYE ZENTZ seems like a hippie-chic, crunchy, possibly vegan, definitely vegetarian, new-aged flower child. You know the type. However, once you take a second to scratch the surface, it’s immediately clear that she is far more multifaceted than that. She is neither vegan nor vegetarian, but prefers a more paleo or carnal diet. That being said, she’ll be the first to admit she won’t turn down a slice of pizza or a piece of cake. The depth of her multifaceted nature expands far beyond her dietary preferences to include her skill sets, experiences, ideals, and tastes.
Depending on what style of genre the singer-songwriter is covering, SPENCER JOYCE wears many hats. Following the less than spectacular release of his debut album Overnight Rockstar, which failed to live up to its title, this new artist gained some perspective on life, music, and even gave him an audience that he has been steadily building.
Every DJ needs a good name, especially in the EDM world. In October 2011, Sam Friedman took the name NERVE LEAK for his vocal, atmospheric project, which combined his love for electronic and indie music. Since then, his music has been featured on several music blogs, and he is on the verge of releasing his debut EP and is preparing his music for live performance. We spoke with Friedman about his connection with the Richmond Electronic Collective, how the weather inspires his music, and his affinity for a good cup of coffee while making music.
I know that you are an active member in the Richmond Electronic Collective. Is that how this project got started?
I was doing the NERVE LEAK stuff before I had even talked to Steve [Owen] about it. I think he put out the first Richmond Electronic Collective [compilation] not too long after I started making my tunes, but when I started making my tunes, I didn’t tell anyone about it. I just put them up on my Soundcloud and promoted them through electronic music blogs and websites. But I didn’t do anything Richmond-specific, and I wasn’t telling anyone just because it was something fun to do on the side. Eventually, I sent him a tune for the second compilation, and he ended up liking it.
On your Soundcloud page, you have a song featured on RageTracks.com. How did that come about?
I put out this song called “Snow / Sun”, and EDM.com picked it up and posted it to their Soundcloud. They’ve got a pretty decent following, and anyone that liked or posted my song, I sent them a private message thanking them for reposting it. One of the guys that I sent a message to, The Somnambulist, was like, “Yeah man, no problem. I really liked it. I really dig your stuff. I work for a site called Rage Tracks. Would you be interested in being a spotlight artist?” So he booked me, and I did a mix with him. I’m actually also contributing to them as a writer as well.
I saw on Facebook you posting about the past few days of overcast skies, and I was wondering how much of an influence does the weather have on your music?
Yeah, I would definitely say it’s a major influence. I mean, the last tune that I put out was called “Snow / Sun”. It’s directly about weather, in a sense. Not necessarily the lyrics, but weather is incorporated into it. When I first started producing, I was really inspired by this guy BURIAL, who is a U.K. producer from London, and his music has a lot of samples of rain. In London, you know, it’s overcast skies all the time, and in interviews, he talked about the way that influenced his music. He has inspired several producers — I know I’m not the only one — that have taken inspiration from BURIAL and put sounds of [ocean] waves, sounds of rain, or just water samples in general and put them in their music to give it some atmospheric texture. I’ve been kind of backing away from it a little bit because I don’t want to share my influences too much, but the weather definitely has an influence on my music. When you are working on a laptop, it’s a lot different than singing or playing guitar. You’re usually hunched over the screen and lost away in your headphones in your own little world. So if it’s a sunny day, or if it’s raining, or if it’s nice out, whatever is going on outside is coming through your windows is definitely effecting how deep you gotta get into that mode. For a while, overcast skies, rain, and all that was definitely my ideal climate to work in.
How much progress have you made on your first EP?
I would say, it’s done. There’s maybe one or two things that I could tweak that I may or may not tweak, depending on how I feel, how neurotic I get about it. But it’s definitely finished up. Right now, I’m in the process of figuring out what I want to do to release it. I’ve put up a ton of songs on Soundcloud; some of them have done pretty well and gotten a couple thousand plays, and some of them just sit around at a couple hundred plays. Really any plays is a success to me because the fact that anyone would go to my Soundcloud and listen is really humbling, but nonetheless, self-releases are a little bit difficult. You put it out and promote it to your friends and family, and then if you’re lucky you get a couple blogs to write about it. But then it’s just a continuation of the same thing I’ve already been doing, and I really want it to be different. What’s really holding me back from putting out these songs is a plan and a strategy to get them out, if I want to find a record label that would be interested in putting them out or if I want to come up with a creative project that would put them out. I want to draw attention to it than a different way that I have in the past, and I have two songs that have been put up by other blogs. They have a bigger audience, and when they put them up, I get a lot more plays and followers to expand my reach.
After you finish your EP, do you have plans to play any live shows?
I wouldn’t say that I’m planning to do them after I release the EP, but I do plan to start doing some live shows.
Have you booked any shows yet?
On November 8 at the Visual Arts Center, the James River Film Society is doing a forum, and my friend Jeff [Roll] asked me to be the musical guest. He asked FLOODWALL, but we haven’t really been gigging that much. I had been meaning to figure out how to play this stuff live, so I took it as an opportunity to finally decide to do it. All of my new songs have a lot of vocals, whereas my NERVE LEAK stuff in the past was very instrumental and had a lot of vocal samples, but I wasn’t doing any singing. Now that I’m using my own voice and using my own guitar a little bit, I want to take a little bit more of a band approach to it. So instead of just pressing play on a loop, I might trigger the things live with my MPD, or instead of playing a guitar sample, I will actually play the guitar line. Or if there is a vocal, I will actually sing it, and I’ve got Seth [Dalby], who plays bass in FLOODWALL, working with me to do this stuff live. So I’m not alone in doing it, which I am very grateful for because it’s a lot of layers, and it has been very tedious trying to figure out how to do it live. Seth will be on a drum pad, and he has a MTK with some synthesizers and some samples, and then he will also be on his electric bass, as well as doing some backup vocals. I will be doing vocals, guitar, synthesizer, and laptop, and then triggering samples.
Also, Steve [Owen], who runs Richmond Electronic Collective, has been trying to get me on a REC Room show for a while. So once I figure out how to do all this stuff live, and I’m getting pretty far into the process, I will probably do a show at The Camel as well with Richmond Electronic Collective.
While you are working on music, what kind of coffee do you prefer to drink, and how do you take it?
Coffee is such a natural part of my life, and I guess it has been for years. I like to drink it just as is. I like it black, and I put two or three ice cubes in it just to have it be ready to drink. I don’t like it when it’s super-hot and you have to kind of sip it. It takes you 20 minutes to finally start drinking it. Coffee is a great sidekick for any artist, whether I’m writing poetry or writing lyrics, or listening to music, coffee is a great sidekick. Recently, I’ve been trying to get out to a couple more coffee shops in Richmond. In particular, I’ve been going to Black Hand Coffee and Lamplighter with my laptop and my headphone and just diving into the sound. It’s a fun environment to work in. You see in movies poets, or artists, or whatever in cafes, and I think it rings true in real life. It’s fun to be creative in that atmosphere.