The Operatives Interview SEPALCURE

Posted by: operativejp on October 12, 2013


Throwing Out The Blueprints

Whether backstage, on stage, during SOUNDCHECK or being interviewed, it’s clear to see why SEPLACURE work together as a duo. Sharing the same sense of humour and musical sensibilities, both Travis Stewart – better known by his MACHINEDRUM alias – and Praveen Sharma who produces under the name BRALLIE and the founder of PercussionLab – are laughing, dancing or miming lyrics to each other. Involved in the emerging world of electronic music both together and separately for over ten years, the two have a lot to say about the evolution of the scene, and how it has influenced their elegant take on the dance floor sound at their debut Espionage show.

Can you tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do?

Travis: We’re SEPALCURE, we make music. We both share equal responsibilities in the studio, we perform live together. I have a solo project, called MACHINEDRUM, that I’ve been doing for the past thirteen years – it’s stylistically pretty diverse at this point but it started off as an electronic hip-hop project. I have a few side projects and collaborations… like JETS with JIMMY EDGAR, DREAM CONTINUUM, which is OM UNIT and me, there’s several others too, and I work with vocalists too, like AZEALIA BANKS, THEOPHILIUS LONDON, and JESSE BOYKINS III.

Praveen: He’s a busy man. I do music under my name PRAVEEN, and it’s mostly folk and electronica based, I do some house music under the name BRALLIE. I like to keep it a little weird but it’s more aimed at the dance floor.

You guys are both musicians in your own right, how did you form the duo and what inspired you to do so?

T: We met online through mutual friends online. It was a group of people who shared a common interest – music.

P: We were both releasing our albums around the same time and it was where a lot of musicians met and shared ideas.

How did the collaborations start?

T: We lived in the same city for ages before we actually sat down and tried to work on some tracks together we would jam in the studio. Just some drunken nights of craziness.

P: Yeah, we never really took it seriously. Travis actually lived with me for a little while too; it wasn’t until years later that it just happened it was the right place and time, I had a lot more free time on my hands so we decided to actually take it seriously and put something out and try something different, take it back to the dance floor.

I’ve read that the first EP was put together in a couple of weeks…

P:  The album was written within a two-week period.

T: Well we wrote a bunch of tracks within a two-week period I think and a couple of those ended up getting picked for the first EP.

T: Right, but we’re still working out the whole collaboration thing and how we’re going to finish tracks and getting into this collaborative zone and by the time we put out our debut LP we had two EPs already out so we kind of refined our method working together. So we spent like a week writing the tracks for the album and then another week mixing it. And then it was done.

P: We did most of the writing in New York and then most of the mixing in Berlin. One of the more important things I think when we are working now is that we figured out that we need to be together in the studio, we don’t want to be passing tracks back and forth its just such a different sort of vibe when your together improvising.

T: You make decisions you wouldn’t normally make, just because that persons in the room. They don’t even need to be doing anything to the track; just their mere presence can sort of influence the song.

 It seems like a lot of music critics didn’t think you both would collaborate in the future after the first LP…

P: Well, I think they thought our geographic difference with him being in New York and me in Berlin, so I mean. Yeah we’re still working on music, maybe at a slower pace.

T: It was never meant to be our main focus, like this what we’re going to be doing day in and day out.

T: It was just for fun, and we want to keep it that way. It always going to be like that.

T: And we kind of take it in a different context than most people would like when they’re focused on an artist career or something, it’s less of a career for us.

T: It gives us a lot more freedom to do whatever the hell we want in the studio, no expectations or pressure. People are just happy when we release some stuff, so we can do whatever we want, really. 

The response to your music seemed to be that it was a fresh take on a sound that wasn’t all that popular anymore, was that what you had set out to explore?

T: I think about around the time we started the project we were really into how melody and motion were coming back into dance music. For along time in New York I think we were pretty tired with the minimal techno scene taking over.

P: It was either minimal techno or the like Ed Banger influenced, not that the Ed Banger stuff was bad but just a lot of the people that were mimicking that sound and sort of distorted house that had no emotion, it was only meant for the dance floor. We were kind of excited about the few artists and now it seems have completely blown up into its own thing and I like that we’re a little part of that beginning.

T: It was also interesting that a lot people were making dance music again that you could listen to as easily as you could at the club. I think that’s what we were really setting out to explore. And just have fun.

The term ‘love step’ has been thrown around a lot in relation to your music, how do you feel about the title – and do you take what others say about your music seriously?

T: That was kind of the point of calling it Lovestep, you know Praveen was sort of playing around with it, making mixes called Lovestep. Because we didn’t want to call it Dubstep, we didn’t want to call it whatever Futurebass or whatever the kids were calling it. It was just a funny genre name that we came up with for what we were doing since it want exactly any of those genres. It was just sort of meant as a tongue and cheek joke and people started taking it a little seriously. Which is fine. People are like ‘oh, a new genre name’, genres in general we try and shy away from, again it gives us more freedom to do whatever we want, maybe do some dub techno next, or you know, whatever. 

This years EP seems a more elegant take on the SEPALCURE sound, could you tell us a little about the ‘Make You’ release?

T: I think that’s just a natural progression of our workflow and our sound in general. Getting really used to working with each other and now its at this point where we try to really savour all the moments we get together in the studio and get as much out of the moment as we can. I think these newer songs are a reflection of that, just being a bit more polished. Also trying to play a bit more instruments, since we both come from very instrumental backgrounds.

P: There’s a lot more guitar in the songs. When we sit down we don’t ever set out to make anything, we don’t know what’s going to happen when we get in the studio. Just kind of decide, pick a BPM out of thin air and just run with it.

You’ve both been on the scene as musicians since being teenagers, what have you seen changing in the electronic music scene?

T: It’s evolved every which way. I feel around the time we were first making records and sort of getting established as solo artist, it was a big time for experimental electronic, and just electronic music in general was kind of hitting its peak but then sort of dyed away to a point where pop music started to become more electronic and –

P: the whole indie dance scene as well.

T: So underneath all that you still had a lot of good underground electronic culture, dubstep and a lot of the UK stuff. At the same time you had Footwork and Juke and like this Chicago sound that was very unknown but going strong the whole time. You start to see the fusion of all these genres and these underground worlds sort of come together along with a lot of even Pop-production techniques and now your seeing these crazy hybrids of music and nobody knows what to call it.

P: It’s great – it’s like throwing out the blue prints. Something we like to mention a lot, which is a little cheesy to mention, is that the Internet and everything. We’ve actually witnessed the collaborative sort of mixing of elements and genres speed up exponentially in the past decade. It’s very much a globalisation of this music and that’s been exciting to see.

Are you guys’ protective of electronic music, maybe that there is too many people involved now?

T: The more the merrier, it’s great. It’s easier than ever to make music and it’s easier for us to get booked even. When things are so specific and your only chance to play is at a dubstep night in your city and they’re like ‘why aren’t you playing dubstep?’ and now especially it seems like there’s this conception of this EDM kind of thing its more or less a reintroduction of electronica, like that was the 90’s when electronic music was accepted into the main stream, we’re seeing that happen again and it makes it easier for anybody as long as they’re making electronica you’re going to get some sort of booking and following.

P: I’ve witnessed it in New York too, that it seems that peoples ears are just a lot more open to sounds now. They don’t go out to a night to just see one genre particularly, which has been interesting to see.

I saw you, Praveen, in the Resident Advisor series on New York, it’s quite an in depth look at the city and it’s music scenes, it obviously, is so different to what we have here in Australia – do you find that the audiences differ around the world?

T: You do notice differences and I think a lot of those differences are new and some of them are age old and never change. For instance you’ll go to a place like Japan to play a few shows and just kind off see what its like to just how amazing it is to have a completely focused audience rather than people who are just there to party or whatever. Then flash over to like LA party or something where people are constantly instagramming and checking-in, and talking about them being there them being there and video-taping the show rather than actually being in the moment.

P: it’s also really interesting the age difference in crowds around the world, I thin in the states there’s always a barrier to the age limit most places are twenty-one and up. So with the younger crowd it’s a little harder to get them involved, all-ages shows are pretty important to us to be able to play. Because we were there once, those kids are going to be the ones who are doing the research and listening to all this different music and exploring it.

T: That’s why you see in cities that have less restriction in age limits for people coming to gigs, you usually find very healthy music scenes where as a result because the kids are very energised and ready for it. They want to get influenced and they’ll probably go straight home right away after the gig to make a tune.

You’re live sets have garnered a lot of attention for being not your usual dude-with-laptop set up, could you describe a Sepalcure live set for us and how to do translate your more ‘headphone tracks’ to a club or gig?

T: We like to think that most of the tracks can work in both environments and we use the live opportunity to make different mixes, even be able to like turn down melodic elements and boost up the drums so they sound a bit more in your face in the than they would on the recording at home.

P: I think something that we want to work on as well is being able to bring in some of those more delicate tracks and depending on the environments and not always be like ‘we have to play this set’ we can actually adapt it as we need to.

I also read somewhere about you guys out dancing Jamie XX…?

T: That was such a silly thing. There was some time out New York review where they were kind of badmouthing us saying we were having too much fun on stage –

P: And I think that’s why people do enjoy our performances. We’re not just standing behind the laptop, were up there dancing and mouthing vocals, shouting at the audience and seeing how they’re doing and getting into it because why the hell else would you be doing it if your not getting into it?

P: The fact that a comment like that would be made in a publication is very telling of this sort of shift that’s going on, there are a lot of people that take things way too seriously and then other people that like ‘we’re young, we just gotta have fun want to have fun, life is short’.

 How does it differ playing together as a duo, rather than a solo performance?

P: I personally always have more fun, there’s a lot of back and forth and we’ll both be doing some sort of build up or break down, whatever it is. We’ll look at each other and be like ‘yes, that’s awesome I love that’ it’s a lot more fun for me personally, I enjoy playing alone as well, but I think it’s an interesting dynamic when you have a multiple people on stage.

T: It would be funny sometimes when you notice one person is kind of having a bad night and the other person is totally into it, its just the funny little juxtaposition between us.

Speaking of touring, what do you guys get up to while your touring? Do you work on music together?

P: We try, we actually had a really short flight Sydney to Melbourne and ended up working on a track our time together is so short and precious so we do try to be productive as much a possible.

What can we expect from the first SEPALCURE show tonight?

P: We will be doing a live performance of our album mixed with some of the new EP tracks sort of rising BPM through all the tracks, a lot dancing on stage a lot of smiles and probably a lot of laughs.



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