Backstage with: Samurai Velvet
BACKSTAGE WITH: SAMURAI VELVET | SAMURAI VELVET MUSIC on SPOTIFY | PITTSBURG, PA
Main influences on making music?
We honestly feel as though we’ve been influenced by everything we’ve ever listened to since we were kids, but we know that’s a cop-out answer so we’ll also say that some of our specific influences that we feel somewhat fit our own vibe are The Internet, Alina Baraz with Galimatias, James Blake, SZA, James Fauntleroy, and Ravyn Lenae.
More & more artists are coming out of Pittsburgh, would you be able to describe the music scene in the city? Does the city landscape have an influence on the music coming out of it?
We would say that Pittsburgh has a small and fairly tight-knit music community. As an artist in the city, even if you don’t know another artist personally, chances are you at least have mutual friends or have collaborated with some of the same people.
Pittsburgh has an influential history with jazz, which we believe has a strong hand in the genre blending that’s so common in the scene today.
What does the work & recording process look like for Samurai Velvet? What drives you in making your music?
The process is basically just us venting to one another about our lives, and then putting that energy into the music right after. The song may not necessarily be directly related to a situation in our personal lives, but the vibe of it comes from the safe space we create together as friends and creative partners.
Your album Suede was just released, what did the creative process of writing the album, through producing & recording look & feel like?
Well Joe has a ton of LED lights in his studio, so we’d like to think the process looked super cool – even if we were eating snacks for most of it. The full process took 3 years between that first recording session and getting back the final masters of the EP, mostly because we both have other jobs and passions that took precedence at the time.
That much time felt excessive, but actually turned into the happiest accident because the songs correspond with different times in our lives over those three years – our first time capsule.
While listening to the album it seems that your songs reflect a wide variation of feelings. What feeling or emotion would you like your listeners to take away from the album?
We want them to feel empowered, whether that be sexually, socially, or emotionally. It takes a ton of audacity to record something about your life, so we just hope that our listeners leave with the confidence we had to have to make the project.
The name Samurai Velvet is unique. Can you describe the origination of the name & how you guys decided on working together as a duo?
We have a mutual friend, Zende, another artist who wanted Saige to record a hook on one of his songs. We linked up in Joe’s home studio to record it, and it went well. But then we just couldn’t stop thinking up new ideas. We kept remixing what we’d done into better and better songs, until the end result was a completely new track which eventually became Siren – the first song on our new EP: SUEDE
So from there we decided to create an entire EP together centered around that sound. As we were working on that EP we’d often be working pretty late into the night, so sometimes we’d stop to take a break and watch the cartoon show Samurai Jack. We also had this kind of inside joke between us where we would say Saige’s voice sounded like soft velvet. So when we were trying to come up with a name we decided to combine those two things because we liked the personal connection, and honestly we just thought it sounded kind of cool.
How are Pittsburgh venues adapting to COVID-19, what have been your challenges as artists during these times?
Unfortunately we’re already seeing some venues permanently shutting down due to challenges with the pandemic. Brillobox was a real staple of the city’s music scene and they just announced that they were closing down for good earlier this week. That venue really encapsulated the Pittsburgh scene because it was a small venue that threw shows for pretty much any style of music you could think of – from hip hop to indie-rock to modern folk dance music nights. As an artist it was a great place to go meet up with all of your other friends from the music scene, and just to hear some great new music. Other venues and promoters are attempting to adapt by converting to virtual events and drive-in shows to comply with CDC guidelines. Those obviously don’t provide the same feeling as a typical live show, but during a time like this the creativity is especially appreciated.
As artists ourselves, the biggest challenge has been the absence of live shows. We had hopes of playing all over the city and even touring the country once we released our EP, but just like the venues we’ve had to adapt our expectations. We’ve turned our focus to social media promotion, and it’s been a pretty cool process learning how to connect with folks through the internet.
What venue are you waiting to perform at?
We have a spot here in Pittsburgh called Mr. Small’s, a church that’s been converted to a music venue. It looks so cool in there, and the artists always sound so good! We were invited to perform there earlier this year, but Saige had a theatre related conflict, so we’re just waiting for the call to come again once the scene starts to safely pick up again. Fingers crossed.
Recommendations for up and coming artists to take and treat their art as a business?
For us the biggest motivator to really start taking things seriously was when we began our partnership with Launchpad Productions – a local artist-development label here in Pittsburgh.
We’ve found that when we were the only ones holding ourselves responsible it was far too easy to push back deadlines or cancel rehearsals anytime something else came up. Now that we’re working with a full team where everyone needs to pull their weight in order for us to succeed, that’s pushed us to take the project much more seriously and allow it to become a much more integral part of our lives.
It’s also so nice to be able to trust IndieFlow with our promotion responsibilities. That’s allowed us to focus more of our time and energy on the creative process while also motivating us to keep creating as that promotion has started bringing in new fans.
Who are your favorite collaborators & people you just love to work with?
Some of our favorite collaborators are the producers that contributed to SUEDE. Ryan Matthew Tedder, Aaron Karsh, Martin Gesheff, Charles “Scootie” Anderson, and Rob Balotsky (aka Buku) all put in their production talents on a few of the tracks you’ll hear on the record.
We also love working with Gengarcade, who shot our “Nite Out” and “Playback” music videos, and Daikonimation, who did a ton of artwork for us. And it’s always a good time collabing with fellow electronic artists, Pittsburgh Track Authority, and the NY based electronic duo, Bottler. When you get a chance, be sure to check out “If I Only Knew” on Pittsburgh Track Authority’s latest album, PA System, and “Soft Winds” pre-released on Bottler’s upcoming EP, Grow, out October 16th!