UTG INTERVIEW: Amatus

amatus

After reviewing Amatus‘ excellent debut EP late last month, the New York-based up-and-comer took some time to speak with us about Broken Compass, those involved with creating it and the other projects she’s currently working on.

Check out our full conversation after the jump and make sure to give Amatus’s new 5-track EP a spin over on Bandcamp.

You seem to have quite the storied past which tends to make for interesting material, but I’m curious as to when you first found yourself interested in music and how you came to the decision to start following the path of a musician.

My dad was a cab driver when I was growing up. He also played the trombone in his early 20s. I think he saw a lot of crazy things at that time–drug use, how women are treated in the industry–and he didn’t want me to follow that path especially how religious he is. As a kid I became mesmerized with music when I would ride in his cab and he would hum or whistle every Jazz song that came on the radio. I thought it was magic. It wasn’t until much later that I was brave enough to even experiment knowing how my father felt about the industry and all that comes with it even try from his strong warnings against it.

What influences would you say played a key role in the type of sound you wanted to create and the lyrical themes that ended up on your debut?

I really love big drums and rhythm that sounds like melody so that vocals can be a little more emotive, like a release. I always try to find a balance between tension and harmony, or solving a problem like in life.

Both Chicago and New York obviously have massive musical histories. Do you feel either (or both) cities have had any kind of effect on your desire to create or to be active musically?

I also went to high school in Philly so between the three cities I think I have a major metropolitan backdrop to draw from. If I were an emcee or rapper the album would be totally different but since I am a producer and vocalist the harder edges are definitely smoothed out by the emotion or sentiment of a particular song. Living in cities my whole life has driven me even more to create; you can really see a microcosm of the world in the city. The rhythm is different and people are forced to interact at a different pace so you see “change” right away. People act from their core being, upfront, and you can choose how you want or need to respond.

So how long has this EP been in the making and what can you tell us about who all was involved with its process?

I have been working on this EP for about two years. Not just the EP but developing as an artist, making a whole bunch of other tracks and songs–finally deciding what I want to do. I feel really happy about having a skill set that allows me to have an idea, go into the studio and communicate with other musicians to create something. I have been working on computer software for about 8 years now. Andy Baldwin did the mix on three songs. He has mixed for Bjork and he now works closely with St. Lucia. Jamie Segal has worked with Sting, Whitney Houston, Joss Stone and many others. The other musicians on this project are Nate Jones, Butter, Matt Rubano, Jared Red Jacobs, Mikaal Sulaiman, and Vince Ferguson. Collectively they have worked with artists all over the map from Trey Songz, Roy Hardgrove, Kid Cudi, Lauren Hill, Taking Back Sunday…

How would you describe the EP briefly to someone that was yet to hear it in order to spark their interest?

I hate this question [laughs]. My quirkiest folks call me awkward. I used to be really sensitive to that, but I’m at a place where I’m working on embracing my identity, and vision in terms of the music. I think it’s a sound between genres that are well articulated. “A fun way to express trauma and yearning in an urban-indie-electro-pop way”.

Did you expect such positive feedback right away when preparing to release the album? How has the experience been watching the reviews roll in for your first release?

I had NO idea what to expect. I have been a producer locked away in a room for a while now and my personality isn’t as aggressive as some of the other artists that I usually work for or with. So I am super happy with the response. It has definitely given me hope and motivation to continue and possibly dream a little bigger. I believe every artist genuinely wants their listeners to appreciate their music for what it is, without all of the other stuff involved in the industry. I think I was kinda holding my breath for a bit and now I’ve exhaled.

Now that the EP is complete and has been out for about a month, what have you been working on? Any new material already in the works or major touring plans?

I just got the okay from Jneiro Jarel (JJ Doom) to do a remix for the song “Messin.” YAY! and I would love to collab with a few other producers and or artists of different genres that would push the creativity of the songs and mix it up. Make two more videos and start to open for acts and perform at festivals.

Are there any other genres or ideas that you want to explore more on your next release or do you plan to expand further within what we experienced on Broken Compass?

I think I have finally landed at a place where I feel like I’m making songs from a natural place with enough tools to not bore myself. I would love to really work on writing and storytelling the most for the next release, to highlight moments of simplicity and complexity even more. I have been a quiet person for years and the EP has given me license to share a little bit of myself.

Can you explain the concept behind the video for “Messin”? I’m curious how that all came together and what it means to you.

If you just listen to the audio on the EP then you could think that all of the songs are about love or relationships, however, the sentiment can be applied to any part of life that someone experiences. The song “Messin” and the visuals show the relationship that people can have with the world and everyone in it. For people that grew up with a more community-based philosophy or spiritual foundation, the “material” world and competition can be very frustrating and that vibe can go against what feels natural to maximize your natural capabilities. I love humor and vivid experiences so the video kinda heightens what can happen to all of us trying tomprogress and find our way in life.

Beyond this project, you have been working on some other pretty impressive endeavors. What can you tell us about the other things that are currently keeping your plate full?

I did track and programming for a song on Meshell Ndegeocello’s new album that will be out on June 3. Right now I am working to finish the score for a documentary, Daisy and Max, that will air June 15 on Al-Jazeera America. Just finished two songs for a feature movie for next year that will hopefully make it to Sundance or one of the major festivals.

How would you compare working on your own music to scoring a documentary or a play? Less creative control I’d imagine?

Definitely less creative control but luckily the jobs I’ve had so far are with directors that have heard my sound or other collaborations. As far as style, there is never an issue–the real challenge is making the sonic moment really work for the specific dramatic effect and moment. It kind of makes it a whole different skill and makes you realize how the score is just one piece of a larger whole in comparison to making an album where the songs are the main event and hopefully stand on their own.

Do you have any major goals you hope to accomplish with your own music down the line, and what can we expect from you for the remainder of 2014?

For the rest of this year I would love to finish a full-length album and get a killer live show together. Surprisingly I think I am really enjoying building an audience and partnering with blogs, publications, and other artistic outlets, and of course any artist wants real support on the business end so that you can spend the most of your time on creating, so one day I hope to find a great team.

Brian Leak

Editor-In-Chief. King of forgetting drinks in the freezer. Pop culture pack rat. X-Phile. LOST apologist.
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