The Brooklyn-based Herbivores just released one of the sweetest soul collections in the midst of the panic and frustration of a worldwide pandemic. Their self-titled EP is inspired by the current season and all the fun that’s usually associated with summer. Songs about love and the heat of a summer day are nostalgic when social distancing and face masks have become the new normal. But the current anxiety felt around the country regarding economics, health and the upcoming election has made the healing power of music while everyone is shut indoors even more valuable.
Musicians, songwriters and producers Bel-Ami, Redddaz, Misha Savage and Will Sacks were independent artists working in New York City before they became the Herbivores. They were drawn together by their desire to make music with each other as much as their love of plants. In this interview they talk about how the band was formed, the EP and being artists during COVID-19.
“Finishing this project I think for all of us has been really cathartic”- Misha Savage
How did you all come together to become the Herbivores?
Misha Savage: The Herbivores initially came together as myself and Will trying to find somebody to sing all of these weird productions that we were making at his house. I had been in a project with Red for a number of years previously and what happened is we had called Amir up kind of out of the blue. Will and I had met at a jam session probably two years before we founded the group. And we just called him out of the blue and said we had some random songs that and it just sort of ballooned from there we called Red in for another one of these little productions we just wound up writing these kinds of songs together.
Do you all eat plant-based diets?
Bel-Ami: Not everybody fully all of the time.
Where does the name Herbivores come from?
Misha Savage: When we first started writing, both Bel-Ami and Red were plant-based. That combined with the fact that Will is an urban farmer/crazy plant dad. Seriously, he has twelve fruit and veg plants on his fire escape.
I’ve heard the EP and you’ve made it a two-part release, where did the idea of music for the summer and then the upcoming Nightshades for the fall come from?
Will Sacks: Originally at the top of the year we were planning to do four seasonal EPs, which were going to be four tracks each so almost like one song for every month of the year. But when COVID hit we had to cancel our release tour. We were going to play a few colleges we kind of regrouped and we said how can we put out as much light as possible right now. And you’ll see in a few months when we release the Nightshades project It has a very different feeling and tone.
Was there a conscious decision to make love songs was that the theme?
Bel-Ami: I don’t know if that was a conscious decision. When we are inspired we just go me being like mainly like a writer of neo-soul music that’s one of the things that I touch on heavily. Red does as well and like Will alluded to this record being much more of a summer vibe like these are the happier of the songs these are the lighter of the love. You’ll see in the Nightshades it gets a little deeper.
What’s the story behind “Kind of Like A Crush?”
Misha Savage: So we were playing basketball one day and we had smoothies it was a healthy day. I went home and wrote the whole thing in a night on Will’s synthesizer and I thought about a dancer I had met on my travels overseas and I included kind of like a crush in the title. We passed it over to Bel-Ami and he had written the entire song based on the title of the project.
Bel-Ami: Often times when I receive music from everyone they have a title on it and maybe it’s the mood they were going for but I actually glean a lot from that and typically I like to stay within that theme if I’m inspired by the music just because it feels a little bit more authentic to their creation. I write love songs and I crush all the time so I was able to draw on a lot of my experiences and it just flowed. I remember I was actually on my way to out of town I don’t remember where I was walking to the Megabus I might have been going to Maryland and I wrote it on my way from my house by the time I got to the Megabus I was already done so maybe like an hour trip. And I had everything exactly how I wanted it and rarely do I get inspired in that way but there’s a song that’s on our Nightshades EP that actually is the first song that I wrote with Misha and Will inspired me in the very same way. So it’s good to have those moments and I’ve had lots of those moments working with these guys.
Who’s playing the guitar?
Misha Savage: I played the guitar on that one.
Who is the vocalist?
Bel-Ami: That’s me.
What was the process for “Like You?”
Bel-Ami: The composition on that song really got me and I’m a sucker for a good guitar riff and often times when I write I draw on current, past maybe wanna be future experiences and everything just came.
Will Sacks: I sent it to Bel-Ami as I often do and what I got back were these gorgeous vocals honestly I don’t know if I told Amir this but I cried a little bit when I heard the hook the first time it gave me chills I really love that song and that’s me playing guitar too. We went back to Amir and we were like we’re keeping these vocals like I know you just recorded these at home remote pre-COVID before it was even cool. There have been three or four songs where within an hour of me sending something or Amir sending something Amir is like I’m ready to record.
Now you’ve already kind of touched on something I want to ask which is of course, how has COVID-19 impacted your creative and work lives?
Redddaz: The thing about COVID-19 is that it took the touring out because we were looking forward to going to colleges and performing. But for the most part, we have already been utilizing our work style pre-COVID in terms of working remotely so in terms of that it was never really an issue it was just the fact of getting out there and performing and sharing music with the masses. But in terms of the production quality, we’re still able to produce.
Did you all perform together live before the release of the EP?
Misha Savage: Yes, the last place we performed was at a place called at a venue called Elsewhere and it’s kind of crazy looking back like a full house of 308 people and looking back on it feels like a fever dream cause it feels like it’s been three or four years. That was the week before everything.
Redddaz: It was the last time we saw our entire New York family.
Have you been creating more since everyone has had to quarantine?
Misha Savage: It’s gone different ways for each of us Will and I took a lot of time to finish mixing this record and finish mixing a lot of the stuff that we had. I know that both Red and Amir have been also mixing and working on their own stuff at home and I do want to say one thing in that finishing this EP a lot of us and this is something I have talked about with Amir through finishing this work we can be inspired to finish the rest of our canon.
Redddaz: Just to piggyback off of that COVID gave us all a second to take a deep breath and to finish the things we had been tinkering with.
Will Sacks: We were planning to release mid-April before everything but having an extra second to take a breath to re-listen to everything remix everything, get it mastered, and really make sure that everything in our house was clean. For me, the first part of quarantine was like reading hundreds of pages of Buddhist literature and kind of getting back to a place where I wasn’t succumbing to the hustle and bustle of New York City anymore trying to re-center. So finishing this project I think for all of us has been really cathartic.
Have you come up with an alternative plan to promote the record now that COVID has killed concerts until further notice?
Will Sacks: We have a multi-prong strategy that’s a hybrid of the digital and in-person media. Right now we’re talking about doing rooftop style shows on myself and Will’s building that we can live stream. The conventional way has been thrown out the window one thing I was looking to early on in the quarantine is to start coding to make some video game for us to market.