Nashville danced all weekend long during the Deep Tropics music, art, and style festival, paying no mind to the sweltering heat. It was a collective agreement that we were all grateful to be together, sharing love and sweating it out on the dance floor after a year where we were all so far apart.
One of the coolest parts about Deep Tropics was that it was set to be the greenest festival in the world. If you were there you noticed there were zero trash cans. That’s right! Everything was compostable or recyclable, including all the cutlery and even free ash try pouches. The commitment to being sustainable was refreshing to see, and it was incredible to see so many attendees who were passionate about the environment as well.
The Friday lineup included Clozee and Whethan on the Meru main stage, and the amphitheater was packed for both of their sets.
Hourglass kicked us off on Saturday. The crowd was slowly trickling in, but she had everyone up and dancing and ready for Day 2 in no time. Cassian and Young Bae followed on the main stage while people flaunted their outfits and much-needed fans.
And let’s not forget about the Congo Soundsystem stage! This stage was close to the heart of Tennessee. Memphis-native Qemist performed, as well as several hip-hop artists from Nashville such as A.B. Eastwood, $avvy, Brian Brown, and Tim Gent. The energy around this stage was always a vibe no matter who was playing!
As the night rolled around, more and more people streamed in. Bubbles filled the air, the VIP section was bouncing, and folks were captivated by the poi spinners around the park. Unfortunately, Moon Boots had to cancel on Saturday, whom I know many fans were looking forward to. But CharlestheFirst and Claude VonStroke kept the spirits alive, so any momentary sadness at that news was soon forgotten.
Deep Tropics was an incredible way to close out summer and celebrate the return of music festivals. Hopefully this helped pave the way to making all festivals sustainable, showing that we can do all of our favorite things while saving the planet, too. See you all next year!
We were very excited to cover the Fitz and the Tantrums show last night. They performed at House of Blues Dallas, with Livingston opening for them. Check out the images below from the concert. Photos taken by Natalie Perez of NCP Creative for Crowdsurfer Magazine.
As a longtime listener of The Vamps, I was very eager to get an advance of their 5th studio album Cherry Blossom. I’ve been listening nonstop for a few weeks now, and I can confirm that it’s an all-out bop, with catchy hooks, solid vocals, and an all-around feel good album. Here’s some of our favorite songs on The Vamps new album Cherry Blossom.
The opening song on Cherry Blossom is Glory Days, and the first time I heard it, I was definitely in my feels. It has a super catchy hook: “I just wanna lie back in your room / While I’m getting high off of your fumes / And I’m thinking these are our glory days.” It’s a perfect song to start the album, because it’s a mix of a classic The Vamps sound, but with a more mature tone. They’ve gotten even better since Night & Day.
Next is Better, which has a throwback vibe to it, and you can’t really listen to it without moving along to the beat. It’s about getting complacent in a relationship and realizing that you can do better. “We should be lovers if there’s a spark / We should recover all that we lost”
Married in Vegas is one of the singles from the album, and for good reason. The piano dances around the song and adds a playful melody to the storyline of surrendering to your whims and getting married in Vegas.
Chemicals is sexy from the moment it starts. It’s about that dreamy feeling when you’re so into someone else. This song is catchy to the max, and there’s a rock sound mixed with growling vocals. “Sweet like caramel / The way that you get me high / Is something like chemicals”
Would You focuses on a lover second guessing their partner. “If I walked out the door would you even notice I’m gone / Would you even miss me at all?”
Bitter is one of those songs that has a super fun beat and tells the tale of a love that you just can’t get away from. The line, “You turn cold, and I turn bitter” will be stuck in your head all week.
The album rounds out with Part of Me, Protocol, and Nothing But You, which balance the album with some more serious themes about love lost and broken hearts.
Nothing But You is one of my personal favorites and picks up the tempo. I love the line, “Over and over doing over emotions / I know it’s hopeless so can we skip to the moment / Nothing I would lose if I know I’d / Wake up wearing nothing but you”
The last track on the album, Treading Water, starts with an acoustic guitar and solemn vocals. “This lonely heart of mine / Grows colder every night.” It ends, “I just wanna feel understood / Patiently I waited patiently to share all of my insecurities / First I really gotta work on me”
You can feel the growth in this album for The Vamps, who have continued to build their songwriting and musicianship in maturity and style. Cherry Blossom is a quality album that’s catchy in sound and relatable in lyrics. We can guarantee that you’ll be streaming this album for the rest of the year.
If you’re in the mood for some vibey electro-pop beats that have been dubbed “music to cry to while you smile,” then you’re going to need to stop everything and listen to jazz-musician-turned-solo-artist Sloane.
The moniker Sloane was created by LA-bred Nick Rosen. He discovered jazz as a teen and spent all his time practicing bass. Rosen then joined the TV and film side of music, helping record and produce scores for Super 8, Star Trek, LOST and more.
He then served as music director at LA nightclubs and hotspots Bardot and The Sayers Club, where he ended up performing with the likes of Prince, Will.i.am, Jamie Foxx, Bruno Mars, and more.
As if all that wasn’t enough, he’s become an accomplished producer and engineer along the way, including working with Phantogram, Tinashe, and others. We had a chance to spend some time talking to Sloane about his new music, songwriting, and what’s coming up for him in the next few months. Check out the interview below.
Crowdsurfer: Where’d you come up with the name Sloane?
Sloane: Originally I wanted to call myself Sloane Peterson based off the girl I had a crush on in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. That didn’t work so I decided to call myself Sloane.
CS: Talk a little bit about the idea for wearing the mask and how that originated.
Sloane: I was thinking about ‘How can I give someone an experience? How can they experience the music as an entity not me as a person?’ I thought it would be interesting and I’ve never seen someone wear their own pixelated face as a mask.
All of my songs are like breakup emo love songs and I like the idea that when you breakup with someone your whole world is almost pixelated because you’re seeing it fragmented and you’re seeing yourself less clearly. With that being said, whatever people think it is, that’s it too. As soon as you make something, it’s out into the world and it doesn’t belong to you anymore.
CS: What made you want to break out and create some songs as a solo artist?
Sloane: The last decade I’ve been working with other artists and I really like supporting other songs. I went through a classic really bad breakup in 2018 and I started writing some new songs. I wrote Old Hands New Face which was the first song I released as Sloane. My buddy Thomas was working at this label called SideOneDummy with Bill (Armstrong). He said, “We know that you’re working with a bunch of bands, can you send us who you dig in LA?” So I sent him around 30 songs, and I put Old Hands New Face in there, and they were like, “Well that’s great, would love to sign that!”
And I was like, “Shit.” I didn’t have any more songs yet. So that’s why the EP I released last year have mostly other people singing. A lot of them were songs that I took from sessions and I produced them and made them work, but it wasn’t fully me yet. So it was almost having to make up a project by accident.
CS: How has it been transitioning from writing and producing with other people to writing for yourself?
Sloane: The song that I just released a few weeks ago called Down From Here was just me and it was super personal just writing for me and that’s why it feels spiritually better. But I also feel like I still have a lot more to go. I’m writing and finding a sound and I’m in a crazy inspired period right now where I’m just writing constantly. I’ve already turned in like eight new songs to my label and I just want to keep going.
CS: What are some of the things that inspire you?
Sloane: Non-musically, I practice Buddhism which is a huge part of my life. I love the idea of simultaneous cause and effect and the lotus blooms and seeds at the same time. So I love the idea that as soon as I’m making a cause, it creates an effect. With music, as soon as I do something it’s created something else. And I like the idea of a moment. To me, music is a perpetual quest to create clearer and hopefully be open enough to capture moments. So that’s exciting to me on a life level of what inspires me to create.
I have a tattoo of this guy named Albert Ayler who I’d be surprised if anyone listening to this knew who he was. He was a really Avant Garde sax player. While my music doesn’t sound anything like that, I think I took the freedom of expression in that. So that inspires me a lot, just being free to be whatever. Those are two big aspects for me.
As far as music, I’m super inspired by anything these days. Anything that I think is real I love. I love The 1975 right now, I’ve been loving the new Taylor Swift album. Bon Iver and The National are like my two all-time favorite bands, so I love that Aaron Dessner did that album. I try to study Max Martin because he’s a genius and I want to know how you make all these hits.
CS: Talk a little bit about the dichotomy between the upbeat nature of your songs and the lyrical content which has a heavier theme.
Sloane: I like the idea that you can be having a fucked up day but yet you push yourself to dance. So the pre-chorus for Down From Here goes, “Everybody else seems happy waking up with someone else / Good for them I wish them well, maybe I just hate myself / The south of France could be Mojave, looks the same in Abu Dhabi / Feeling that’s inside my body wouldn’t wish on anybody.”
So it’s a pretty dark statement, but in a fun way and to me I just like the idea that it is really dark but hopefully people can hear a hopefulness in the fact that they can connect with it, but then maybe relate and move forward.
CS: We’re excited to hear some new music soon from you. What’s next for you in the upcoming year?
Sloane: I’m trying to really focus on what I want my next year to be. So the artists I want to work with next year, focusing on sessions. My label and I want to do another EP. I want to do another album too called “Will You Be My Friend?” and just do Sloane plus friends on every song. And I want to do half of it as children’s songs.
I also work with Phantogram a lot so we have a few things that are about to come out that are Sloane and Phantogram. I’ll probably do some touring with them next year and maybe try to book some of my own shows as well.
Concert photographers Beth Saravo and Maggie Friedman have been spending their quarantine doing a lot more than binge watching Netflix like the rest of us. When all concerts were cancelled for the foreseeable future, they decided to take their industry knowledge and music network and with their combined expertise, they created an online interview-style show for creatives and artists alike.
The new project, titled Real[m] (we’ll tell you why in the interview) is an informal conversation and Q&A with photographers, musicians, creatives and industry professionals, hosted of course by Maggie and Beth. We had a chance to chat with them about their exciting new endeavor and their upcoming guests this week. Check out the interview below.
Crowdsurfer: When did you guys conceptualize the idea to do an interview-style show?
Maggie: When the whole quarantine thing happened, I’m the type of person that needs a project to work on. I just keep myself busy or I go crazy. Beth and I really both agree on the fact that we both love working. So I was thinking, “Oh, what can I do?” So I decided to do an Instagram live every single day with some friends and we’ll just chat about photography. I didn’t really expect to be a project. It just was something that I could do every day to keep me busy.
So I did it for a few episodes. And then I messaged Beth and I was like, “Hey, it would be really cool if you did this with me. And she was like, “Cool, let’s do it next week.” And then I got really sick and I kind of stopped doing it. And then a couple weeks later, when I was feeling better, I texted her and I said, “OK, look, I really want to start this up again.” And she said, “Well, what if we did an interview series together?”
Beth: For me, I didn’t want it to be questions that you always hear. I wanted the questions to be a little bit deeper than, “When was your first show? Who’s your favorite band?” I want someone who’s not even a music photographer to come in and sit down and say, “Hey, this is interesting because her story is so cool or his process is so different or it gives me the tools to be creative.”
And the community base, just because we are reaching out to people in our community, people who literally inspire us and inspire others, and that’s what makes this thing grow. Even last week we had two guests with really large communities come and they’d stay and overflow and maybe they listen to someone that they’ve never even heard about. And that’s kind of the goal in my head.
Crowdsurfer: How’d you come up with the name Real[m]?
Maggie: Anyone who’s ever started any kind of brand or business or anything can relate that naming is probably the hardest thing ever. It has to be catchy enough that people remember it, but it also makes sense to what you’re doing. And it just has to be perfect, essentially. And we were listing our words on a Google doc and Beth said the word “realm.”
And I said, “What if the the ‘M’ is like the manual sign on a camera because we’re both photographers?” And the synonym for realm was human connection. So it has a double meaning of like it’s a realm of creatives, but it’s also about human connection. So somehow we managed to find a word that encompassed everything that we were trying to promote. And I don’t know how we did it, but I’m really proud of it.
Crowdsurfer: The logo is really cool, too. Are there any hidden things or meanings you have in the logo?
Beth: There is one of my photo laminates in there. Also there is a Photoshop screen open which we liked.
Maggie: Beth also uploaded a festival wristband. So if you look on the top right corner, there’s a festival wristband right in the corner and that was kind of a fun Easter egg.
Crowdsurfer: After almost your first month of shows, what’s it been like to hear all the initial feedback and excitement for the show so far?
Maggie: We’ve had such amazing, informative and supportive chats with people and it’s been such an amazing opportunity to connect people with each other and show people that we’re all in this together. The first week we talked to Jake Chams and he was like, “I’m not immune to this either. I had tours get canceled. I’m sitting at home, too, like we’re all experiencing the same thing right now,” which in my opinion showed we are all on the same level right now; we’re all on the same page. It helped to further foster that community and trust.
Crowdsurfer: What is the concept for the show and where do you see Realm going in the future?
Maggie: Our whole concept is we want people to learn in an approachable way. We also want people who aren’t concert photographers to be on it. We want it to be all different types of creatives, all different types of people in the music industry. Honestly, there hasn’t been a week where I haven’t walked away feeling like I learned something, too. And I think the biggest thing we really wanted was for it to feel accessible and interactive, like we wanted the people who were watching to feel like what they were saying and their input and what they had to ask was equally as important as what we were asking. We wanted it to be that if you had a question for that person, here is your opportunity to get that question answered. So we’re thinking about how can we be interviewers that think outside of the box and involve people in a way that not only photographers are going to care about this, but anyone who’s watching this can.
Crowdsurfer: Who do you have on the show this week?
Beth: This week is really good. I’m super stoked. We’re starting with Steve Sweatpants. He is an iconic photographer in New York City. He began back with street photography when going underground and then roof topping was a really big thing. And he he started Street Dreams Magazine, which was a really iconic magazine within that culture. And he’s a Sony partner, and Emmy nominated videographer. So I want to have a professional conversation with him, like I know you’re just a kid with the camera going around, literally shooting the street. tell us about how you made that marketable.
And then second, we have Sam Miller, who was the lead singer for Paradise Fears, and now he has released his second novel, and it is a New York Times best seller. We’re going to talk to him about how he uses music in his writing and all that fun stuff.
Then lastly, we’re talking to Miranda McDonald, who is an amazing female in the industry in Los Angeles, shooting a lot for Shawn Mendes and Julia Michaels.
Crowdsurfer: How can people check it out and get involved?
Maggie: Go to twitch.tv/realmchat for the live shows, and our socials are a really good way to find out who’s gonna be on it. People can also get involved by telling us what you want to hear from us. And give us suggestions of people you want to see on the show. And also just watching it. I think the best way to understand what we’re about and what we’re doing is to tune in when we’re live.
Make sure to follow Maggie and Beth on Instagram and head on over to Twitch on Thursday afternoon to catch their next live episode of Real[m]!
British artist Arthur Walwin can do it all. With a LANY-meets-Paramore vibe and a string of hits under his belt, he’s finally ready to release new music after a three-year hiatus of his own work.
Self writing, producing, recording, and filming, he’s released another bop this week, and we caught up with him to get the behind the scenes scoop on his new project, Calgary.
Crowdsurfer: Where do you think switching up your style came from? Was it experimenting more? Tell us about the evolution you’ve had.
AW: I’ve kind of done a full 180 musically. I grew up on so many cool bands, like all the way back to Evanescence, Limp Bizkit, and that kind of stuff. That’s where I started, and then at some point I started discovering girls, and that led me to All Time Low, Mayday Parade, and that kind of stuff. I feel like some of those bands went more commercial and softened their sound in a way, and I sort of did the same. And my heart just wasn’t in it. For me, first and foremost is making great art, great music. I didn’t hate the music I was making, I still really love it, I just think for me as a music maker, I need guitars and a good vibe. So I feel like this project is me returning to that. There are a lot of bands right now like LANY, The Band Camino, that are making guitar music cool again and that really pushed me into being like, “Okay, let’s pick up the guitar again.”
CS: Where else do you get your inspiration, where does that kind of creative energy come from for you?
AW: It’s very sporadic. I feel like that’s why it’s taken me so long to make this. It’s my first original song that I’ve self produced, self written, in almost three years. The past few songs I’ve done have with with other producers and DJ’s. So start to finish, this is the first one that’s just me. This song Calgary is a real life situation, and a lot of my songs are autobiographical in that way, or stuff I’ve gone through or something that’s relatable. I’ve actually been sitting on it for awhile, and now just felt like the right time.
CS: Is there a part of the process you enjoy the most?
AW: In terms of actually making it, I enjoy everything. Guitar is what I started with, so if you put a guitar in my hands, I’m super comfortable and know exactly what I’m doing. Trying to program drums or like a synth on like keys or something is different. I am semi-comfortable with those things, but it’s not like it’s as natural. It’s almost like another language. If you’re fluent in Spanish, in English you can talk, but you might have to think about it a little more. There was probably a whole entire year where I’d sit down, I’d hear a song like a LANY song or something, and think, “These drums are really cool, that key parts are really cool.” And I’d sit down, get inspired and try and do something along those lines.
CS: Do you feel like now like with the accessibility of how anyone can record anything in their house that makes it like in some ways easier to make music?
AW: You know, it’s a bit of both. My setup is like a static iMac that just sits there, with the interface and everything and I don’t know, I feel like I may be mentally kind of restricted me being in just that room. So I’ve got a new laptop I just saved up for, and it’s purely so I can be mobile. I love the idea of just like sitting in a Starbucks and working on the tune rather than like everything I do has to be in that one room. I want to be able to do stuff on the go and just be in different environments having that kind of freedom, because that’s what I used to do.
So now I have this weird thing where like I rearrange the studio completely, like every six weeks. The computer, the TV, everything. When you walk in, it feels like a brand new room. So many bands have come around to record and said, “This literally feels like a different studio to when we were last here.” And I feel like for me as someone that’s there all the time, it just makes it fresh and sparks different ideas.
CS: Tell us about your process when you cover other songs.
AW: I have never covered the song that I don’t absolutely love, but I really have to love the song to be able to do it. It’s working out the arrangement, recording the song, filming the video, editing the video. Like the average is around maybe three days to complete, so I have to really like the song to give up three days of my time. So yeah, it’s 50/50 just wanting to make all out of something that I absolutely love. And also, you know, just building on my YouTube profile and filling a niche or gap in the market.
But I feel like you can take it too far. And that’s exactly what happened to me and just led to me taking such a long break with music. I mean, subsequently I found photography for it, which is great, but I really got caught up in that whole cycle of the brand new cover and then need to do artwork for this and you need to promote this and then book a tour because the EPA is coming out and it’s a lot.
I still count myself as a small independent artist. But I’ve done work with major artists and people on the other end of the scale and the amount of work that you personally put in compared to like when you’re an independent artist compared to when you’re with a major.
I remember working with an artist, we were in the studio for a few days. And every two seconds I was getting like an email from the manager like, “This is being sorted out and you need to do this press junket for this thing and all this.” And I was just like, “I have to do that all myself.” I have to go out and do all that whist being an artist. And for me, making the actual art work, even is fun to me. I love designing my Twitter banners and doing that kind of stuff. Like I love it. I love just putting all that together.
And that’s really what it’s about for me. So with the new single Calvary, I wrote the song, produced it, mixed it, and then we filmed the music video, edited that. And I’ve done and I shot the artwork and edited that as well. And it was basically just a chance for me to do absolutely everything. But I love putting it out to the world and be like, yeah, cool, I made that.
CS: Would you say that it’s important to you to do the photography and videography for your projects so it adds a visual element to your music?
AW: I’ve always been inspired by great music videos and just a love of cinema. So taking effectively a year off making music and purely just being a photographer/videographer, I was like, oh, I actually have the means to create something cinematic. The reason why I haven’t done a cinematic music video before is because I just couldn’t afford it and I didn’t know how to do it myself. And it just wasn’t something I had access to. But as soon as I did, it sounds cheesy, but it was a dream come true.
CS: Tell us about Calgary!
AW: It was a concept that I wrote. It’s kind of slightly based on what the song is about. It’s based on someone from the UK that falls in love with someone that’s from Canada. And they’re about to go home and essentially break up. The relationship was not even really a relationship. It’s more of just a fling, which is what happened to me. And it’s just them kind of making up for all the things they never got to do, like they never really got to progress themselves as real couple. They go through flashbacks, but they’re not flashbacks, almost like daydreams. And just imagining what would this have been if we actually had the chance to blossom this relationship?
I found these two amazing actors and we filmed in London. They’re a same sex couple in the video because I wanted that aspect of it from like a representation standpoint. We don’t really see a lot of that with commercial music videos. And I thought it’d be really cool to kind of showcase that and use my platform to be like, “Hey, this relationship looks like every other relationship. It’s no different to what I experienced. It is something that happens to all kinds of people. And yeah, I think it’s just an excuse to kind use my platform to show something that doesn’t normally get shown.
CS: That’s incredible. What’s next for you after Calgary?
AW: It’s just about pushing myself and just trying to take myself to the next level, which is great. I’ve always tried to push myself further. And yeah, this is just like the next step of that.
I have an EP’s worth of new music. The past three years has been me running away from guitar music, but I realized these are great songs and they need to be heard. So I’ve got a comfortable five songs that I absolutely love and want to bring out this year. I want to do really great visuals to go along with it.
But the great thing is that this weird time of self isolation has allowed me to have weeks to get everything done, and finally have enough creative energy to do it. So the rest of the year is just more. This is just the beginning of everything.
Calgary is out now! You can watch it on YouTube, stream it on Spotify, and anywhere else you get your music. Make sure you keep an eye out for new music from one of our favorite artists, Walwin.
Crowdsurfer: Thank you so much for being willing to do the interview. For our readers that might not know, walk us through how you got started with music.
Jackson Breit: I grew up playing trumpet in my school jazz band. And then a few months after that or a year after that, I started like a reggae rock band in high school. And then towards the end of high school, I started a rap group called Bruno Jackson and I started producing like Hip-Hop production. And then at the very end of college, I put out like a song called Sunny Side, which is like a feel good song. And it kind of blew up in a way. So I moved out to L.A. to do music full time.
CS: You produce your music as well, don’t you?
JB: I do. I produce a majority of my stuff, I’d say. I work with other producers too. But yeah, a lot of this stuff I produced myself. I’m pretty meticulous with that kind of stuff. It’s a double edged sword, because you could spend hours on one little snare drum noise. If I’m not producing it, then I’m just worried about the vocals and stuff like that. And maybe guitar. But when you’re producing it, you can really go deep down the rabbit hole.
CS: How do you find a balance with wanting songs to be perfect production-wise but also know when to finish the song?
JB: It’s hard sometimes, you know. Sometimes you get stuck, you get caught in limbo for so long that you lose interest in the song. So one of the things that you have to realize as a musician is when to cut it off. When the song is done, and when the squeeze is not worth the juice.
CS: What’s your favorite genre or style to create?
JB: What I really enjoy doing is kind of blues-y soul and hip hop. I feel like now I’m going closer to like my natural state, whereas a lot of the other stuff, it’s me, you know, I’m attempting to tap into some genre that I feel like people would like. And now I’m doing more of what what I really want to hear myself.
CS: What’s your songwriting process like?
JB: When I’m writing songs, I start with the music and then go to the melody and the lyrics. Usually for me, I try to reflect the music. So whatever that brings out of me, that’s going to come out on the track as like somewhat authentic because I’m I’m trying to match the vibe of the song. So it’s mostly what I’m feeling. I wouldn’t say I set out to be like, oh, I’m gonna make a super sexy swaggy track today. But if I get in that little zone and freestyle, I might come up with something that’s kind of sexy. But if it’s like a sad acoustic thing, then I’ll try to reflect that in the melody and in lyrics.
CS: Walk us through how you go about creating a song.
JB: It almost always starts with a guitar. And then it’s just trial and error. Trial and error as far as like the rhythm, tempo, all that stuff. And then maybe I’ll put down a little loop or something and see if some melodies pop and then that’s when the whole process starts. Usually I’ll give it a couple hours, I’ll go hard on that, on whatever song I’m doing for a couple hours and then take a little breather and look at it and ask, “Is it like is this worth my time to continue on or is this kind of wack?” Because for every song I put out, there is a hundred wack ass songs that don’t make it.
But on the contrary, if you get a little nugget that you like, and it’s like a baby seed that you’re like whoa like there is something serious here. And sometimes it’s very little. It’s just like the beat or something. It’s a melody. And then you’re you’re really energized. Then you can be like, let’s hunker down with this. So that’s the greatest feeling I feel you can have as a musician.
CS: What’s is like making songs with other musicians and producers?
I have a buddy who comes and plays bass, who is just an insane bass player, and he plays keys, too. He’s been invaluable because he just knows chords that my fingers are just not capable of doing. And then when you hear certain chords and progressions that I wouldn’t find naturally, it opens up a new door for me melodically. It’s really great to work with like talented musicians like that. And it opens doors. And it’s the same when people work with songwriters.
CS: Your 679 cover has 16.6 million Spotify listens at the moment. What’s it like to have that kind of success with a song?
JB: I was very hesitant to do covers and I wanted to write the music. And then somebody was like, listen, like, you need to do covers to get exposure. He was advising me at that time. And so I did 679. I sent it to him and he was like, no, it’s not ready to put out. That’s not the one. But I was like, well I just did it, I’m going to put it out anyway. And I don’t even know how it happened. It kind of took off a little bit on SoundCloud. And then we went on Spotify. I think it really hit the college scene. And then it hit the gaming scene like video gamers use it. And so I don’t know what happened, but it happened and the song is kind of well known now. It doesn’t feel as good because it is a cover, but I’m very happy and I’m thankful that it did what it did because it led a lot of people to the rest of my catalog.
CS: Talk a little bit about choosing to be an independent artist versus being signed to a label.
JB: When you’re independent, it’s great because you have full freedom and control over what you want to deal with everything. But you also don’t get the same amount of exposure and the same amount of promotion. So it’s good and bad, but I would say mainly it’s good being independent. But, you know, it would be nice to have a little bit more push on certain releases.
CS: Would you consider signing with a record label at some point in the future?
JB: Yeah, absolutely.
CS: Tell us about what projects you’re working on now. And hopefully after all the Corona craziness ends, what your year looks like.
I’m actually putting out a cover, and it’s my first cover since all those covers awhile ago. It comes out on Friday. My sister got married this last year, and she asked me to sing this song by the Pussycat Dolls Stick With You. I had never heard it, but I was like oh, this is a lowkey banger. So I recorded my own version to sing at the first dance. So I did the part for her wedding, and then I did a different version that I just fell in love with and was like, this is one of my favorite things I’ve ever done, if not my favorite thing. So I finished it and it’s finally coming out on Friday. But it’s a different vibe. It’s a very slow kind of emotional song. But I really like it.
I also just did a spoken word thing that’s about the current Corona crisis. It kind of just came to me. I was just thinking about, you know, the whole situation. And and I just wrote this in a few minutes. I showed it to my brother and he really likes it. I think we’re gonna try to shoot something and put it out on YouTube.
I’m going to continue to put out stuff throughout the next few weeks. More singles after that, actually. We’re gonna give them music because honestly, everybody is just sitting at home like, what do you do?
CS: Amazing! We’re excited to hear it. A fan on Twitter wants to know about your short film that you put out on YouTube. Tell us about why you made that project.
JB: That was one of those things where I had all these songs that never became full songs. But I liked them and they were like a verse or chorus, but for some reason or another, just never became full songs. I was talking with my brother, who is a film director. We thought we could maybe make a short story with these songs. So we planned out a plot for it. And I think it was nine songs and we went to Joshua Tree and we shot this whole thing. It’s weird. It’s dark. It’s definitely on the darker side. And people know me as like a happy guy, or the feel good guy, so I wanted to do a wild plot twist. So it’s nice to put that out in the world, you know, and let people see that dark side.
I feel like it’s a necessity to show those sides. Because I’d say a majority of my stuff is kind of light hearted for the most part and it’s nice to tap into the real shit. And then all these songs I’m putting out over the next few weeks in Corona’s season are they’re all kind of more on the emotional side.
CS: What kind of advice would you give to people that are maybe like making music in their bedroom right now or just just kind of starting out?
JB: You can you can sound fully professional on your own. You don’t need outside help. So go on YouTube, do whatever it takes. You can find a way to have a fully professional sound. And it is the most intoxicating thing when you get a finished project. I thought this could go anywhere. And I just did it in my living room, my closet, my garage. It got me extremely motivated. When you get the first taste to see it come out and you’re like, oh, this is sick. You can make anything sound as good as us like a studio or a label project. So that’s I think that’s very motivating.
CS: Anything else you want to add that you want to tell people about?
JB: I’m just gonna keep putting out singles and I’m also thinking about a live concert online.
Crowdsurfer: Tell us how you got into shooting shows, how long you’ve been doing it and why you started.
Dusty Kessler: I’ve been shooting music since 2010 when my best friend was starting to perform as a local DJ. I would help him book shows by sending emails to promoters then bring my cameras with me to the shows, maybe there would be 25-50 people there. I started venturing out on my own and hitting up local promoters and other friends in the music scene and was just shooting for free for a while. Eventually that developed into some good business relationships that I still have today with some artists. I guess I started just because I loved live action and music. I never knew it could be a potential career path starting out but i’m thankful to still be shooting.
CS: What are some of your favorite shots you’ve taken over the years and why?
DK: One of my first favorite shots in memory was with G-Eazy, who I still collaborate with frequently. We shot it in Kansas City, MO, while I was in college. He was crowd surfing and I had a strobe in the back of the venue for extra light that I popped off while the confetti blast happened. I’ll never forget that one.
Recently I’ve been working with Miguel and a few months ago we shot at a festival in California. The shot of him with pryro going off in the background ended up being used on his tour merch so that was an amazing moment. To know there are people on the other side of the world wearing clothes with my image on it is amazing.
CS: What do you think is the hardest part about live concert and portrait photography?
DK: The hardest part for me is also the most fun part which is conveying to the viewer what it was like to be there in person and show the human aspect of the artist. When I’m working with an artist 1 on 1 it’s always a challenge that I break down the barrier between the camera and the subject.
CS: Your aesthetic includes a lot of film photography. Do you prefer film over digital? How has your style evolved over time to your signature style that you use now?
DK: I love film and digital. Film is the best medium to be creative and challenge yourself to slow down and frame up a shot. Yes I have shot film a few times during live concerts but it’s more often that I’ll shoot digital for the performance and any backstage or BTS stuff I’ll shoot a mix of film and digital. Sometimes with such quick turn around times I have to only shoot digital to deliver fast. I think my style has always been about being honest and not staging my shots.
CS: Who are some of the people you’ve gotten to photograph, and who is your dream artist to get to photograph one day?
DK: It’s a very extensive list. Recently I’ve still been shooting with G-Eazy and Miguel. Others include Jamie XX, Hitboy, Ava Max, 5 Seconds Of Summer, 070 Shake, Dan and Shay, Maroon 5 and many more. I’ve shot a lot of artists but I think a dream artist who I’d really like to be on tour with is someone who’s not even known yet to the public. I really like working with artists who are small and develop their brand image and creative. But a Billie tour would be fire too (shout out Matty Vogel)
CS: What do you love about shooting shows and the whole touring experience?
DK: I just love tour and meeting new people all around the world who care about music and come together for that reason. There’s nothing like a live sold out show or festival or tour.
CS: What would your advice be to young photographers just starting out?
DK: Find new artists and be in A&R. Reach out to people and offer your services for free at first and build with them creatively. The rest will come with time and just keep shooting every day no matter what type of camera you have or subject you shoot.
CS: Love that. What’s next for you, and what are your plans for this year?
DK: Right now is a scary time for those in my industry. With the touring and music industry on hold we have to stay creative and get through this together. Hopefully in the next 6 months things get back to normal.
CS: Definitely. Anything else you want to add?
DK: I love hearing from new people. Send me a message on IG @dkessler.
You might have seen Detroit rapper Sam B. on the Netflix show Rhythm + Flow. He was a personal favorite of mine throughout the series, known for his talent at cultivating creative verses and for his rap battle skills. We had the opportunity to ask him a few questions about his music, being on the show, and where he’s headed in the future.
Crowdsurfer: Give us a background on how you got started with music and why it’s so important to you.
Sam Be Yourself: I started making music as a creative outlet to help me talk about what’s going on in my life. Being able to take my thoughts and feelings and put them in the music has really saved my life in many ways. It all started when I picked up the guitar at nine years old and from there I just fell in love with it.
CS: That’s awesome. How’d you come up with the name Sam Be Yourself?
SB: My last name starts with a B and I used to go by Sam B. When it came time to upload my first project on streaming services the name Sam B was already taken so I added and “E” to the end of “B”, and then put “Yourself” at the end because I thought it just rolled off the tongue. Also being yourself is something I strongly believe in, especially in a music industry were a lot of people strive to be the same.
CS: What is your songwriting process like? Where do you come up with inspiration for your lyrics?
SB: The songwriting process isn’t always the same every time. Sometimes it starts with a beat that I already made or got from someone else, or sometimes the lyrics will come first. Something that just popped in my head and I feel the need to write it down. Inspiration for my lyrics comes from anywhere and everywhere. It might be something that’s going on in my life currently or something that happened me in past or something is going on in the world currently. Sometimes there is no direct inspiration and I feel like just saying some really slick rhymes.
CS: What’s your recording process like–more writing or more freestyling?
SB: Once again, it isn’t just a specific process that I stick to, I really just like living the moment and letting the music shape itself. I do a lot more writing than freestyling but some songs come together without any written lyrics at all and I will just punch in the words bar for bar.
CS: How has being on the show changed the trajectory of your career?
SB: Being on the show helped me in many ways. It helped me gain a larger platform for more folks all over the world to hear my music and also it has opened up the door for a lot more opportunities to perform in places that I haven’t before. I still have a lot hard work to do to get to where I need and where I want to be.
CS: What has the response been like?
SB: The responses have been great. Even if someone doesn’t particularly like me, my style, or my music at the end of the day motherfuckers know that I can rap my ass off and it gets respected globally.
CS: Yes! We love it. What’s your 2020 look like–what are your plans for this year and what are you looking to work on?
SB: To be transparent with you I’m not sure if anybody knows how 2020 is looking like with this whole Corona thing going on. I’ve already had multiple shows canceled and it looks like some more will end up getting canceled as well. So from now until this blows over I’ll just continue to write, record, and shoot videos for the songs I already have done. My next project should be ready to release by the summer.
CS: Anything else you’d like to mention?
SB: My mixtape ‘No More Mr. Nice Raps’ is out and available on all platforms! Follow on all social media @SamBeYourself and subscribe to my Youtube at Youtube.com/SambeYourself
Steve Aoki is a DJ, but he’s also so much more than that. He’s one of the most eccentric performers that we’ve ever seen. It’s not just music, it’s jumping, dancing, throwing cake at fans, jumping into ball pits, running around stage, smoke and confetti, and so much more. We were thrilled to catch his latest tour The Color of Noise when it rolled into Avant Gardner in Brooklyn this month.
I have to say, the show really delivered. It started with Australian DJ Godlands, then Global Dan and Riot Ten, and culminated with a lively performance by Timmy Trumpet and finally ended with Steve Aoki. The sold out show was packed with people having the time of their lives. Check out some of our favorite shots from the exciting show below.