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EMPT Exclusive: Interview with The Soundmen

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EMPT doesn’t always do interviews, but when we do, we bring you the freshest names in the game.

This week, Nicky DePaul caught up with Seattle-based production duo The Soundmen, who have blown up of late (Rolling Stone, Paste Magazine, MTV), to learn about the new Seattle sound, how their musical collaborations happen, and why surfing is the best medicine.

EMPT: First off, who are The Soundmen?

JJ/SD: The Soundmen are the production duo of Justin Jamison and Scott Durday.  We have been producing together for years, are best buds since college, and just love making music.

EMPT: You’ve just released your debut EP, “The Soundmen,” but you’ve been remixing and producing for years already (formed in ’09). Tell us a bit about the journey from one-off’s to a full EP.

JJ: We formed The Soundmen in ’09, however, we started out producing hip hop records for Seattle artists before that and then gradually started shifting our production into what it is now by getting the opportunity to work with artists outside of hip hop. Scott and I have always listened to a wide range of music, so the transition into other genres felt natural.

SD: Its been quite the journey! Justin and I started heavily in the rap world. We cut our teeth producing in the streets, making and placing production with artists like G Dep (Bad Boy), Babs Bunny, Murda Mook, Ron Browz and others. We always saw ourselves as behind the scenes until we decided to make and put out a remix EP for fun.

The EP, a remixing of Grizzly Bear and Little Wayne called Veckaflyest, spread fast and got us on the radars of Rolling Stone, Paste Magazine and other music outlets. Thats when we realized the power of using the internet to release our own music.

Since then we’ve steadily been collaborating with a wide range of artists both to produce songs for them and then create our own original records to showcase our sounds. Our debut EP, is culmination of the collaborations and sound we have cultivated during 2013.

EMPT: For right or wrong, most people don’t associate Seattle with pop or electronic music. For a long time the city had the grunge label, and more recently the mainstream output has been folk/indie rock-y (Fleet FoxesBand of Horses). But with the rapid rise of Macklemore and you guys, the perception is changing. What do you think about that, and how is the Seattle cultural scene reacting?

SD: The Seattle scene has always been incredibly diverse, and we couldn’t be prouder to be a part of that. Seeing Macklemore‘s success, an artist who we and many of our peers have worked with, blow up with an almost genreless approach to hiphop has been awesome. I think it shines the light on one of the most diverse music environments in the country, that defines it sound not in pre-concieved style but in output.

JJ: The Seattle scene is one of the most ecclectic scenes around. Of course, Seattle is known for grunge and before that, Jimi Hendrix, but the music scene is very diverse. I think that labels tend to look for a familiar “Seattle Sound” when looking at this region for talent. Also, labels like Sub Pop and Barsuk have long had their style of artists, but they are even starting to venture into different genres.

EMPT:  What are your artistic goals? Are they the same as your career goals?

SD: Our career goals are twofold. One, to continue to define The Soundmen brand/sound as a diverse and consistent production sound. And Two, to increase the amount of production that we are doing behind the scenes for artists.

Artistically though, we want to continue to be a place where music fans go for GOOD music. Not music that sits in one genre, or is enjoyed because of the synth and drum sounds of the moment. Although we enjoy throwing nods to certain trends, we like to think of our music as pure electronic music that is hopefully timeless.

EMPT Many of the songs on the EP are collaborations. How did those come about?

JJ: Most of our collaborations came from previous work that we have done for artists, whether it’s a remix or original production. We built those relationships through working together in the past and they were willing to contribute to our project.

SD: Our collaborations have resulted in many different ways. Sometimes we remix an artist, and then bridge that gap to creating something new. Sometimes its simply reaching out and having a mutual appreciation and going from there. Our collaboration with Avan Lava happened that way, as we DJed with them at SXSW in 2012, had talked about working together and when we produced that song we knew it would be for them.

EMPT: Your Facebook profile lists a bunch of influences, including DillaAphex TwinOrbital andThe Neptunes. What impact have artists like these had on your development?

SD: All of those artists create or have created timeless music and stayed true to the music they wanted to make. Whether it was completely mindblowing electronic or slap heavy hiphop, they perfected their sound and craft. This is what we want to do. Not just dabble in a genre and jump back out, but perfect our blend of electronic pop & hiphop to exist as its own brand.

JJ: These are all artists that we grew up listening to and were inspired by all of them in different ways. When I started making music I learned by paying attention to the way my favorite artists did things. When we first started producing, Scott and I were primarily using samples on most of our records. Producing trends have definitely changed a lot over the last ten years and I feel like we were able to learn from some of our favorite artists but also find our own unique sound along the way.

EMPT: What are you ordering at the bar?

SD: Margarita, heavy on the salt, and top shelf on the Tequila.

JJ: I usually order a good beer. I’m an IPA guy. My other drink of choice is a good whiskey.

EMPT: If you weren’t making music, what would you be doing?

JJ:  I went to school for audio engineering and film post production so I would still be in a studio somewhere or working in film.

SD: Surfing. Its the only activity I’ve found other than music that I never get bored doing. Shredding beats and waves!!

EMPT: Who is your dream collaborator and what venue would you most like to play with that person/group?

SD: Right now ASTR, St Lucia, FTSEMapei, and The Chain Gang of 1974 are all blowing me away with their sounds and would love to bring our sounds into their worlds. But overall, I would kill to do a song with Ed McFarlane of Friendly Fires. Hands down my favorite vocalist of the last decade.

JD: Ed Macfarlane from Friendly Fires has been a long standing favorite of Scott and myself. If I could pick any venue it would be Neumo’s in Seattle, because it is the first place that I saw FF perform live. If we were in NY, I would pick the Mercury Lounge or Bowery Ballroom.

SD: As for a venue to DJ at. Initially it was Roseland Ballroom, and then in 2012 we were lucky enough to DJ a set there to a sold out crowd. So now I think DJing a festival like Glastobury or Coachella would really be our dream. Playing those tight 1-1.5 hour sets of bodymoving music to a sophisticated crowd of music lovers is what we love to do.

EMPT: You get to plan one perfect day. What does that day look like?

SD: Finishing a massive track with Justin, followed by an evening surf session in 5-7 ft surf in 80 degree water with the boys. Light offshore winds. No one else out.

JJ: It would have to be a recording session with one of our favorite artists in an area that we could take surf breaks. Possibly even catching a good sporting event at night.

Thanks to Justin and Scott aka The Soundmen. Buy the full EP on iTunes here.

The Soundmen – With You ft. Rai Knight