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INTERVIEW: Smoke From All the Friction

Pic by Third Degree Photography

Tell us about “Transience,” your first album. What’s the underlying theme?

Transience is about a ‘second puberty.’ It’s an exploration into what it means to explore adulthood and maturity in the current culture. In previous generations there was a far more defined and expected way to live your life, i.e. go to school, get a job, get married, kids and die. As we have progressed as a Western society we’ve been able to undefine some of these expectations and enable young people with freedom to pursue many more opportunities. However, in this new freedom, many young people miss the confidence of having a more standardized and accepted path to follow in their life. So this album is an exploration of several sub-ideas of that theme, including pursuing self-realization and humility, indulgence and hedonism, and acceptance of the privilege provided by generations past.

There are a few songs on there that you haven’t released yet. Tell us about those?

I’m pretty excited, but also pretty nervous. Each song on this album, especially the newer, unreleased ones, I really tried to place myself in a position where I’d have to grow and be challenged, both musically and personally to create them. For instance, there’s a track called ‘One of You’ which we fused some modern trap influence with some more prodigy style industrial, but placing a pop sheen on top. And lyrically the songs dig into a young person’s often fervent attempts to prove to those around themselves and moreso themselves that they are confident and competent, but often this pursuit lands us into a mindset of functional delusion.

What are the interludes on the album about? Why did you choose to add them?

This will be the 4th album I’ve written and made myself and honestly I feel like at this point, I could never begin to write a better standard album than the many great artists that have come before me. So, I wanted to create something familiar but a bit different. With these interludes, I removed a lot of the restrictions that songwriting often has, like having a catchy chorus or a trendy genre. But I added several additional restrictions that heavily affected the end product. These interludes had to be extremely emotive, almost like a sound painting first, and I limited myself to far few layers and simpler orchestration then I normally would, to ensure I stayed focused on creating the feeling that it needed to evoke.

You recently became a three piece. What’s that transition been like?

Well, like the title of this album, I think one of the biggest things you learn as you mature, is that life is transient, ever changing. The factors that exist today, will be a bit different tomorrow, so it’s essential to also endeavor to evolve with the world around and develop yourself to enable you to do the same in the future.

But these guys I’ve been working with have been nothing short of fantastic. I’ve had very few pleasant songwriting experiences with other people, but Nick in particular has really been able to fill the holes in my abilities. Having someone that is honest in their own abilities and willing to take criticism as well as give it, along with having great musical skills and taste and worth ethic, is a rare and beautiful combination and I’m really thankful to be able to work with him. Nicole recently started with us, but things have been going really well with her so far as well. Similarly, the effort she has put into her developing herself on a personal level makes her a great person to work alongside.

What’s the hardest part about songwriting?

I call it the ‘morning after,’ when you stay up late working hard on a song and its really evolving and feels and sounds good and you’re really excited about it. And then you wake up the next morning and it does not sound half as good as you remember.

But on this album in particular I decided to do something pretty scary for me. Like many people, I struggle with the avoidance of putting myself in positions where I can fail, and because of that I often shy away from really challenging my self-perception with reality. So in the album, early on, I decided to internally correlate the two. I believe I’m a good songwriter and producer and musician, but I wanted to know for sure, even it means I learn things I don’t want to know. So choosing to correlate your internal competence and ability with what you actually able to create and create the possibility that if your creation is inadequate, thus you are inadequate, was and is a scary thing.

Do you have any pre-show rituals?

A big part of the SFATF show for me is trying to create an environment of inward reflection, giving yourself and everyone present permission to be flawed, to accept and see the darkness and inadequacy we all try to hide from ourselves. But getting in a mindset to do that every show is not really a natural thing, and I often try to spend about 5 to 10 minutes in my car before we go to really focus and establish the vulnerability in myself first.

Oh, and we usually get sushi before most shows.

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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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