INTERVIEW: Smoke From All The Friction

Can you talk to us more about your latest single Cross & Tattoo? What inspired it?

Cam: Cross & Tattoo is an exploration of the intense connection that can be achieved when two strangers choose to break down the barriers between them and embrace their honest, vulnerable selves despite the conflicts that may arise. It was inspired by – you guessed it – a girl I met after a show, but this is not a love song. It’s about taking a leap, about relating on a deeper level to someone you may have just met – and may very well never see again. We live in a culture where it’s become the norm to sell a highly marketed version of yourself to not only others, but your own perception as well. But this song tells of an experience that only happened because of stripping away that artificial perfection and being honest with one’s own shortcomings and inadequacies.

Any plans to release a video for the single?

Cam: Not as of yet. I do some video work and post production but it’s a pretty time heavy endeavor. However, if we can come up with a cool and consistent way to present the themes of the song, we’ll definitely be developing that.

What’s the story behind the name of your band?

Ina: What would it be like if people brushed up against each other more, and what kind of reaction—what kind of smoke—would result from that friction? People are usually unwilling to step out of their own bubbles, whether publicly or even intimately, and they follow social cues and norms to stay aloof and keep each other at arm’s length. What happens when we tear down these walls and barriers? What kinds of things can two people create when they come together?

Cam: The word that has epitomized this project so far is tension, where two different forces pull to create an effect that would be unattainable otherwise. Ina and I are so different in so many ways. I’m loud and flamboyant, she more gentle and subtle, I come from a hard-rock/electronica background, she from a classical one. Even on a personal level, be it communication style, or politics or cultural upbringing, we are are very different people. But because of the mutual respect we have for each other, we’re able to use these differences to question so many things that are just normal in our lives and we’ve never examined. This allows us to grow personally, but also create art that is vulnerable in a way we couldn’t do without each other. SFATF represents that tension between the two forces that births something through its interaction.

Walk us through a little bit about your recording and writing process? How does the magic happen?

Ina: We both have stashes—piles, really—of lyrics that we’ve written individually. Cam has a lot of songs he’s produced as well. Often we’ll pick something he’s already made, and I’ll try to match the vibe with some lyrics. Then I’ll start feeling my way through a melody on top of the instrumentation. A lot of the time I just wing it by singing the lyrics on top of the song. It’s a very organic process, filled with growth and room for error, and fueled by strong mutual connection with the music.

Cam: There’s a term we use called ‘reproducing.’ So when we create the music and join together our ideas, we let it flow in a pretty heavy way and almost always end up creating far more than we need for an individual song. After we’ve gotten out most of what we wanted or are capable of, we approach the song much like a music producer would. We go through and remove as much as possible while keeping the fundamental idea of the song. A phrase I like is that the art should ‘know who it is.’ And we remove everything that would in any way distract from that.

What’s it like being a new indie band in North Carolina, specifically?

Ina: It’s very exciting being new on the scene! Personally, I’ve never done this before. I come from a very different background as a classically trained violinist. I’m used to formal performances, such as playing with an orchestra or in a small, intimate chamber setting. It’s a very different experience. Playing a live show as a band is so much more relaxed, so much freer. Not that I didn’t enjoy being a classical musician. But in a band, it’s so much more laid back, and there isn’t that high expectation for extreme perfection. There’s just a lot of room to have fun and make some great music.

Cam: NC is not really famous for being an artsy state, so in some ways we have a lot of extra work to get things moving, but at the same time, we’re able to create our own little culture because there are fewer preconceived ideas.

Performing is an art. What does it mean to “put on a show” vs. just play?

Ina: Performing in a string quartet has its own movements and rhythms and cues. It’s fun, in its own way. But in both more formal and less formal settings, there’s definitely this aura or persona you put on while on stage. You have to carry this heightened energy with you, and really push your emotions forward while playing the music. For example, the piano is such a hard instrument to emote on. You have to really believe in the sound that comes out; you have to help push out the emotions that you want to be heard. It’s all part of the experience.

Cam: As it is, we live in a culture that needs constant stimuli to remain focused. So the challenge as a performer is to keep your audience engaged or entertained while not losing whatever message you were trying to convey. For me, I try to get in a character when I’m on stage because it gives me freedom to do things I normally wouldn’t be confident in doing, but since my ‘character’ is doing it, it’s ok. Most of us have probably seen thousands of people playing music, so I try to think of the music almost as a soundtrack to the show, and each song as a scene. Seeing things in that light helps me create the show to be more than just two people playing songs on stage.

What are some of the ideas you have for creative, unique shows in the future? Anything outside the box?

Cam: Absolutely. We have a lot of ideas for extra entertainment and additional artistic elements within our shows, such as dancers, an on-stage artist, a laser show, and more. Each show I try to add or tweak things and iterate upon the last. I want it to be far more than just a music performance, I want it to be a full entertainment experience and a little different every time. As much as possible I want to get the crowd involved to be part of the experience instead of just watching one – for instance, at one of our first shows, we had a drum circle break out in the first row. 

Any plans to hit the road? 

Yes! We plan to do a tour in 2018, but we have a few shows booked in the East Coast area already.

Where can fans hear your music?

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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