Interview with Shades Band Iowa City Indie Pop Duo Breaks Ground With New EP 'Can't See The Haters'

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Shades_Band_Interview

Shades_Band_Interview

This month we are featuring Iowa City band Shades, a brother and sister collabo whose debut EP ‘Can’t See The Haters’ is currently making waves across the music sphere. We wanted to get some further deets on the band’s project and gain some further insight into their ethos. Check out our interview with Shades members Casey and Mary Mattes below. 

Shades_Interview_Band

Can each of you share with us how you got started in music?

Our dad is a professional guitar player, so we’ve grown up with music as long as we can remember. I’ve played in small bands with friends since high school, and decided to pursue music on my own while studying it in college. Once I noticed my sister’s passion for the same creative arts, I knew we needed to team up to create something amazing.

What inspired you to team up to form a band?

Music is about expression. We’ve both been through so much, and we know that our fans have too. Mary puts her heart and soul into the lyrics of each song we produce, bringing forward problems that people our age are facing daily. We wanted to find an impactful way to address these issues presented throughout life and make our fans feel as though they’re not alone.

Shades has a very eclectic sound, who would you say are some of your musical influences? What types of music is in your playlists right now?

We’re huge fans of Twenty One Pilots, Jon Bellion, AJR, and Halsey. We’ve also heard that our indie pop sound reminds fans of The Chainsmokers, Daya, and James Blake.

Shades_Cant_See_HatersWhat made you decide to come up with the name Shades for your band? What is its significance?

We wear our Shades so we can’t see the haters!

Can you describe what a typical creative session would be to come up with a new song? What goes into the whole experience that we as listeners hear on the other end.

We’ll be creating some BTS videos to demonstrate the answer to this question. But for now, I (Casey) produce instrumentals and hand them over to Mary. She writes lyrics, we record, and I mix/master the music. Our beats and lyrics stem from very personal experiences.

‘Can’t See The Haters’ is your first EP, how did you decide on the song selections for the band’s debut?

We created an array of songs, but chose these because of their importance in creating our image. They’re based around our band name and everything we stand for. And, man. This EP is just the beginning.

Most kids today are just looking for a good beat it seems, especially in the mainstream. How important do you feel lyrical content is in music?

Lyrics are everything. A song without meaningful lyrics is wasted potential.

As an indie band and being in control of all aspects of your art, are there any difficulties or challenges in putting your music out and if so what are they and how do you manage them?

It’s difficult getting your music out there for just about any band without many industry connections. We’re based out of Iowa City, IA, so that’s a tricky work-around as well. Our band manager, Teressa Mattes, is doing a great job distributing our music to our passionate fans around the globe via the internet. Mary and I are perfecting our live show now, as well as recording more dope tracks for future EPs/albums. We’re going to continue putting in the work! It’s all about the grind, after all.

How long did it take you to work on your EP?

Almost 2 months!

Now that the EP is out, how do you feel about its reception?

We love seeing the feedback on social media outlets such as Instagram and Facebook. Our fans are the best!

Can you tell us a little bit about the music scene in Iowa City?

Iowa City has a very tight knit music scene. Most bands who play here are still in college, except for the occasional more prominent artists who plays at Blue Moose. I’ve played as a solo artist at Blue Moose a number of times, and am looking forward to returning with Mary this year.

What are the best and worst things about working with your brother/sister?

We value family most out of anything out there. It’s amazing to be able to collaborate with the people you know and love, and at the same time work together to bring new experiences and ideas to the table when it comes to creating new music. We both have our own taste in music, so sometimes that delays creating new tracks, but it is always for the best. If we both approve a song we work together to produce, we know that fans of multiple genres and sounds will too!

Are there any other acts that the band would want to collaborate with in the future?

We’re down for anything.

The new year is really just starting and you definitely kicked in some doors with your project, what is next for Shades?

Keep an eye out for our next EP drop at the end of March 2018! It’s as gritty and lux as it gets…

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Shades_Band_Interview

Shades is an American indie pop band formed in September 2017. The duo consists of siblings Casey Mattes (producer), and Mary Mattes (singer). Shades is a DIY pop group who writes, produces, and mixes/masters their own material from their home studio in Iowa City, Iowa.

Casey Mattes’ original music has been featured on “Spaced Out Magazine”, “VERSED”, and has won Artist Prolist’s Platinum Spotlight Challenge TWICE within the same year. Mary Mattes has been featured throughout Casey’s original songs over the last 4 years. Mid 2017, the brother and sister decided to combine their talents into the hit duo you see today.

Shades’ music style has been described as “dynamic”, combining elements of electropop, alternative hip hop, and EDM. Their lyrics, written by Mary, are poetry-based and reflect the all-too-real emotional states of many twenty-somethings who struggle to thrive in today’s world filled with hate.

In January of 2018, Shades dropped their first EP, “Can’t See The Haters”, consisting of 6 songs. “You can either let the hate blind you, or you can block it out,” said Casey, referring to their latest release. “This EP both introduces our band name to the world and describes the underlying meaning behind every piece of work we create. We wear our shades so we can’t see the haters, and we encourage you to do the same.” Casey continued, “This EP is just the beginning. We’re so excited to share with you what’s next.”

Their opening track on the EP, “Kill the Darkness”, was written to express the frustration built from the blossoming of an irrational, yet sweet fixation. Mary mentioned that this song represents an expression of consequence; when you let yourself recklessly fall in love with someone you can’t have, knowing damn well you’re diving into some murky morals.

In a nutshell, “Not Really Sorry” is a snarky, taunting song written about rejection. But more so, it’s lyrics represent the celebration of a sheer reluctance to compromise independence for a relationship. “Independence is an empowering trait,” said Mary. “This song for me conveys a realization of self importance and self empowerment… It’s just snarky as heck.”

Rainbowz” is by far the most unique song on the EP, loved by fans favoring all types of musical genres. “Writing this song was a unique experience. At the time I had just become homeless, so I was bunking in my car for the night. With nothing to occupy my attention, my mind fell down a Wizard of Oz rabbit hole, puzzling over how f***ing weird of a story it is, and all the conspiracy theory potential it has… Naturally, that segued into forcefully rapping about rainbows. But, in all seriousness, this song is an adaptation of the story’s concept- an interpretation reflecting my state of mind at the time.”

The statirecally written, romp of a song “American Dream” describes the current state of both our country and the world we’re forever evolving, for better or for worse. “I’m forever going to utilize social and political f***ery for creative inspiration,” stated Mary. The song lyrics take an independent stance for women and men of all traits, and implores acknowledgment from governmental personas.

Back & Forth” is an extremely catchy song about being fed up with shady powerplay in all facets of life… We’ll just let the lyrics speak for themselves:

Back and forth

lamenting the natural course

up and down of a power source

we’re stuck in a game, an oscillation

and I’m borrowed time

i’m reaching a decline

for a twisted rendition

of something more divine”

The title track, “Can’t See The Haters” started out as an instrumental track which Casey composed between midnight and the early morning hours of one single week. Mary was given the song, & told to “run with it”, both vocally and lyrically. Mary explained, “For a while, it was just ‘Sad Song in F’. We wanted something genuine and impactful for this song. It took delving straight into my feels and digging out my most vulnerable self to pull together the exact sound and feeling.” This anthem of a song is a fervent breath of fresh air in the music industry today. “Can’t See The Haters” is quickly becoming an intoxicating, enduring crowd favorite among fans.

Shades’ unique mix of indie pop and alternative hip hop has become a crowd-pleasing genre which the duo has used to gain a massive following in their hometown. It won’t be long before their music is sung by audiences across the nation!

Listen to Shades’ Single “Can’t See The Haters”

Connect with Shades Music

Listen on Spotify http://spoti.fi/2EYU4Qy

Visit  https://www.shadesbandofficial.com

Check out Shades’ EPK: https://www.reverbnation.com/rpk/shadesbandofficial

Like on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/cantseethehaters/

Follow on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/shadesbandofficial/

Listen on Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/user-112041493

Follow on Twitter: https://twitter.com/cantseethem

Interview with Artist SmartBlackKid BTS Discussion with SmartBlackKid

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SmartBlackKid Interview

SmartBlackKid Interview

 

Fun Facts:

One thing I can’t leave home without….

Gemstones. I carry gemstones with me every single day.

What is on my iPod right now…. 

I don’t have an iPod, but my iPhone right now? Is playing Bad Like Jesse James by John Lee Hooker.

The last album I bought was…

Can’t tell you the last time I actually bought an album.

When it comes to music, I dream of…

Genie. Kidding. When it comes to music, I see colors swirling around

to match the sound. I see the vibration of the world rising with the right music.

 

Inside the Music with Hakhi Alakhun, SmartBlackKid

We recently checked in with Brooklyn musician, singer, and songwriter Hakhi Alakun to find out the scoop on his newest album release ‘The Best of SmartBlackKid Vol. 1’. Check out the deets below!

Your album seems like a huge project, What moved you to release ‘The Best of SmartBlackKid Vol.1’ ?

I gave myself no time to do any promotion when I released an album per month in 2012.  I literally would drop an album, rest for the first week of the new month; and by rest, I mean, gathering the songs, music, pre-production. 2nd week was recording. 3rd week was mixing and 4th week was mastering, packaging and release. When it was all finished? I couldn’t believe myself. But still no one except my immediate fan base from social media knew what I was doing. I knew back then that the next album would be the “Best Of” as a way to draw attention to catalog and actually promote the music.

Can you tell us about some of your music influences and what impact they have had on your style today?

My first real musical influence was Maurice White from Earth, Wind & Fire. My mom shoved one of their albums in my face when I was 5 and she asked me to read the lyrics and pay attention to the words. I did the same thing with Sly and the Family Stone, sitting and reading the lyrics. Then Prince happened to the world and his music helped me discover my voice as a singer. I have a pretty low baritone most times and can’t sing those high tenor songs. Prince had a baritone and a falsetto and by singing his music, I discovered I had the same thing. The energy and spirit of my music is heavily influenced by Jimi Hendrix. Lyrically and creatively he seemed to always be reaching for new realities, new ways to hear sound, new ways to play guitar. I try to have that approach to making my own music, to not limit myself to hip hop or r&b just because I’m a black dude. But to really explore.

When did you discover that music was your passion?

I discovered music was my passion at 9yrs old. I asked my mom for piano lessons and she said we couldn’t afford them at the time.  Instead she bought me a Casio keyboard  which I took and sat with my boombox and taught myself how to play my favorite songs. I worked at this everyday with no motivation, and no encouragement. I just needed to know how to express myself with this instrument. I was in love with it and I couldn’t really stop until I developed some level of fluidity.

Everyday after school, I would hold these concerts in my room for about 2hrs, then I would have dinner and do my homework and be a normal kid.

It seems like your music is not just about music but there are some serious messages there, can you give us some insight into what that is all about?

I spent about 10 years of my life in the NYC underground poetry scene and from there I attended an unofficial “school of performing arts” so to speak. I was apart of a large community of artists ( writers, actors, dancers, photographers, musicians, poets, etc. etc) who performed regularly at various venues in the City. The standard was high and the expectation was excellence. I was a spoken word artist who always had a message about self-empowerment through the mind and through spirituality so a lot of my old writing habits from those days are still with me. I feel that writing song lyrics is a serious art and I have a lot to express but I have to be brief in a song. My time as a poet trained me, so to speak, to write about serious issues and themes in a way that is clear and simple. Plus, there’s no one really doing that right now. Bob Marley to me was the greatest example of music with messages done in a very wise and proverbial way. I’m reaching for that standard in my songwriting.

Do you feel that other artists need to be putting out more meaningful music content? If so, why?

Yes. Absolutely. There is a song for everything, every moment, every feeling, every circumstance that a human being can go through on Earth. But for some reason, today’s music only speaks to a few aspects of human life: social status, financial status and sexuality.  It’s a very limited means of self-expression against the backdrop of this very complicated world we live in. I personally need art to help me make sense of the world, and to hear the truth be affirmed. Music is bigger than money and fame; it’s a language of motivation , of love, of community, of society and I want to be counted among the musicians who wrote about more than myself. There are 13 and 14 year olds out there who are big thinkers just like I was as a kid. I want my music to be present for them.  If our world was a plant, and music was the water feeding this plant, it’s a plant that is wilting pretty bad I feel. I don’t feel the love, the insight, the wisdom, the motivation, the affirmation from a lot of today’s music. I hear a lot of the same themes in variation and repetition. Meanwhile, I’m over here trying to eat organic and not consume too many GMOs, I’m thinking about my right to privacy in the surveillance age, I’m talking about coming to terms with my shadows and my own dark side so that I’m not projecting it on others. I want to personally hear music about these things. So I write it.

If there were 3 words you could use to describe ‘The Best of SmartBlackKid Vol.1”, what would they be?

Creative, Intelligent and Visionary.

The Best of SmartBlackKid Vol.1What is your most favorite track on the album so far?

Ohhhhh that is so hard. That’s like asking which finger is your favorite. Hmm.

I would say the song I’m most proud of is Labyrinths Within. I say that because it was inspired by a book

I read on shamanism. Most songs about people target another person as the antagonist, the cheating partner, someone didn’t love you enough, someone hurt you etc. etc. I wanted to write a song about what’s  really going on inside of people. What if your biggest enemy is really yourself? Your ego? We are often projecting what we dislike about ourselves unto others. We blame others for situations we create with our various levels of self-esteem. We are often looking for people to love us in place of not really loving ourselves. The song deals with that and in particular, betrayal , which is something a lot of people can relate to. I really like how I was able to capture a complex idea and turn it into what I feel is a funky, danceable, groove. That was cool. I also like Sell, Sell, Sell because it’s daring to say what people wouldn’t really dare say on a record. Today’s music sucks. Every song is favorite, really.

Your album is available in multiple media outlets, how has the response been from your fans thus far?

As an indie artist in control of my own business, I think the response has been really good but can also be better. Since I don’t have a major machine behind me, every move forward is a success.

If there were at least one takeaway for new listeners just tuning into SBK, what do you hope that one thing will be?

That real music played with real instruments with intelligent lyrics is very very very cool and worth owning and listening to regularly.

So, you do your own instrumentals, vocals, production, have your own label and publishing capabilities. Is there anything that you do not do?

There are instruments I can’t play, notes I can’t sing, and guitar riffs I’m still learning how to play. I have my limitations but I end up attacking them when I get ready. I also don’t eat GMO foods.  I don’t watch TV and I don’t believe everything I see and hear. 

If there were aspiring artists out there looking to follow a similar route in production and distribution, is there any advice that you would offer them?

Make sure you copyright your work twice. You need to own the sound recording AND the composition. Never take advice from amateurs and people who are NOT artists. Create time and space for self-care. Artists like to brag about how long they worked in the studio last night, or how hard they worked on this or that. But speaking for myself? I need to schedule some time at a spa and get a massage; and sit in a hot sauna to get my mind, body and spirit in the right balance.  Always create the conditions that inspire the best of your creativity.

When you are not in the studio or touring, where can your fans find you?

Wandering the streets of New York collecting ideas for songs. Or at a burlesque show being inspired the feminine form.

Your album just came out and is gaining traction, what’s next?

Next is releasing the video for Free Thought which will happen as soon as the planet Mercury comes out of retrograde. Then I will release a series of SBK videos to offer visual elements for the music. Also, be on the lookout for the SmartBlackKid Show which will be a series on YouTube later this fall.

Any parting words for our music-starved readers?

Visit smartblackkid.rocks and support an artist who actually cares about you-the music lover.

Check out our latest Music Review of ‘The Best of SmartBlackKid Vol. 1