What’s the creative process like being so far apart from each other?
C: It’s 50% text messages and 50% Dropbox! It was definitely an adjustment when I moved up to Connecticut to finish up grad school, but both of us were willing and into making trips to visit each other and collaborate. It definitely helps in having a long distance creative relationship with a person who is one of your best friends. Visits didn’t have to be just business or rehearsals, we just enjoy hanging out with each other, too. I think we are fortunate in many ways with that, and it has been further amplified during the COVID pandemic, because we were already pretty prepared for how to work together towards a common goal while being 250 miles apart.
The actual process isn’t that different from the normal way people make music together; we share ideas, argue for which is the best, then shape it into something resembling an enjoyable song. You just have to be a bit more patient, because the person is not immediately next to you and sometimes you are deep in the groove while the other person is at work!
M: It’s a lot of texts and emails of audio files, beats, lyrics, and voice memos. Like a LOT. We’ve written a good amount of our songs simply just by sending them back and forth, each one of us adding on our own ideas. We’ve also had some fun retreats where we visit one another and come up with a handful of beats and song ideas in the moment, as well as flesh out some ideas we’ve been sitting on. The specific beat for “In The Kitchen” was composed while Calvin was granted an Artist in Residence position at this isolated farm somewhere in PA. I came up for a couple days, and we just set up as much gear as possible and saw what we could do. It was cool to be away from everything for a little while and experiment with sound without fear of holding back. I think we found some new sounds during that retreat. Ultimately what brought the song together years later was sending it to Sug Daniels, who fleshed out the lyrics and melody in under a week. As soon as we heard her singing on it, we immediately booked a session with Grant Dawson to record the vocals. We’re so excited with how this wonderful surprise came to be.
What advice do you have to artists who are struggling with remote collaborative creation?
C: Be patient, be patient, be patient. I think that’s key to any collaboration, as people work at different speeds and it’s always changing, too. You have to be able to work when the feeling is right, but then also give the other person the space/time if they need it.
Also set up a Google Drive/Dropbox/Hightail/etc. and make sure that shit is organized.
M: My advice is that you try not to anticipate how someone else will hear your music or read your lyrics. What I mean is that everyone hears music differently, and everyone processes poetry based off their own experiences. Someone else might see something in your art that you had been missing, so we all add a new dimension to the craft. Expecting a specific reaction from someone (not just with art) is unfair and unrealistic. It is by removing these expectations that we can begin to comprehend what the other person is feeling. We can not define other’s experiences, but we can learn from one another to achieve a more complete perspective.
If Covid-19 disappeared overnight and you wanted to go visit each other to jam, and a CD got stuck in your car’s CD player for the ride, which album would you want it to be and why? (You don’t have to actually own the CD in real life.)
C: Silent Alarm – Bloc Party, nothing is more Marat and Calvin than that album.
M: I think the most current album we’re both really vibing with now has to Dreamland by Glass Animals. I’d probably pull up to Connecticut and tell Calvin to hop in because Tokyo Drifting is playing 😉
Have you picked up any new hobbies or habits since lockdown?
C: I’ve been learning Photoshop and video editing, but it’s a very passive hobby (as in, I’m not that good yet). I don’t have enough time in the day to really add too much more in terms of hobbies/habits, but I did very recently buy a house, so that’s been fun upgrading and designing my new space.
M: I started making and bottling my own hot sauce! That has been a fun way to experiment “in the kitchen” this past year. I call my hot sauce brand Karate Sauce, and I think I’ve made about a dozen different flavors now. It’s been neat to see which of my friends are interested in which flavors. I think you learn a little about someone based off the hot sauce they use.
Has your relationship with music changed since Covid? If so, how?
C: Yes and no. I’ve definitely had time to find more about what I like to do with music and sound, but I have also had a lot of opportunity in lockdown to do a lot of commercial music (which isn’t always what you like to make, but you do get paid…). But if I was being honest, that’s always been my relationship with music, I make money by creating any kind of music people pay me to make, then I use that money to fund the music I want to make.
M: I was performing four nights a week with my cover band before this, so it was a huge adjustment to just stop performing altogether like that. We’ve done some live streams, but I think it’s a lot harder to pull energy from a camera than it is from a dancing crowd (but then again that’s just something I need to work on). It’s easy to feel like a musician when people see you making music, so it’s harder to find that same gratification on your own. That’s why I stay making beats, practicing, and writing new tunes, hoping this time away from the stage will just be a chance to grow and learn new things.
What do you hope people gain from your latest release?
C: Happiness, an optimistic outlook, and just a good, joyful ‘Spring has sprung’ kinda feeling. Marat and I love switching songs back and forth between serious and fun, and our last release Distance (and the next few) are definitely in the ‘fun’ category. I think a big goal for both of us is to make people enjoy listening to our music and then share that feeling with their friends and family, especially during these difficult times!
M: I hope “In The Kitchen” gives the people that flirty “Is it love?” song that’s just so perfect for springtime. The chill beat, reminiscent of the 90s hip hop from our youth, was a blast to put together, and we hope our listeners experience that same nostalgic joy when they hear it.