This past summer the Herbivores released their debut EP and became one of many artists to lift spirits with music during the pandemic. The bright tones and lyrics about fresh love were the kind of energy needed during a year of chaos and political confusion. Will Sacks, Bel-Ami, Misha Savage and Reddaz compiled their histories with love and put the songs into two collections reflecting the stages of a relationship. Bel-Ami quickly followed the first EP with his Muse [ic] album.
The excitement of new romance fades on their current Nightshades EP and the more difficult moments of love are on display. Nightshades is literally about shadow work, meaning the things we don’t necessarily like about ourselves, owning them and transforming self. The psychiatrist Carl Jung gets credit for the idea but artists have been looking inside since forever. In part two of our conversation, the band openly shares the creative processes behind the frustrations and vulnerabilities embedded in Nightshades’ emotionally fearless soul.
“The best piece of advice my mom ever gave me is that patience is something that you do not something you have”-Will
So everything that grows in the light has a shadow and I think that is a great analogy for the ups and downs of relationships as you all stated in the press release. How did you all get to that idea?
Reddaz: The last EP that we did was really happy because we were going to release an LP but we had all of those songs ready to go but due to the whole pandemic situation we decided to split it into two different projects. So when we were planning to put the project together we decided that the songs for the first EP was gonna be more happy in terms of meeting somebody and getting to know them just like the fresh start to a relationship. And then with the second portion of the EP it was much more emotional because of the song content and the different aspects we were coming up with so it was much more of an emotional rollercoaster for this portion of the project but we actually had this planned out since the beginning of the year.
That was my next question so the decision to split up the songs really was a response to the pandemic? How did you decide to release the music as two EPs instead of one full-length album?
Reddaz: Yeah we had a bunch of tour dates and stuff like that but at the end of the day we made the best of it to keep the connection going keep the chemistry going where we were able to still create and do all the work we can do.
Will: If you talked to us at the beginning of February we would be saying that we’re releasing all 11 songs together as one unit but we kind of sat down when the pandemic hit and we had to cancel our spring tour. We said Ok we can put people in a better mindset because we have these much heavier songs more stressful songs and at that point we made the conscious decision to put something of light into the world to kind of sit with these moodier ones until this winter.
Its funny because that first EP really does match the summer and Nightshades matches winter. Did you learn anything new about the conflicts we experience in love while making this music?
Misha: I think the most curious thing that I learned was an interpersonal thing with the group about how different people experience love and the different types of relationships that people are accustomed to or used to the writing would be the entire record to showcase how each of us as individuals have endured relationships in our lives. I wanna say there’s one song specifically on the upcoming record “Roses” that’s going to be coming out that I was specifically really taken aback by just the sheer magnitude of difference in experiences that myself and Will had in dealing with love and how it’s come about in our lives and the way that it was expressed. I would say without being too wordy just really really understanding the magnitude of love and how many different people can experience it and I think that this record really showcases those different aspects in really honest and genuine ways.
Bel-Ami: This record definitely illuminated a few things about myself. I think the songs on here fall from different spaces and how I experience things and came to those understandings. I learned about myself in creating the songs particularly “Weak Bones” it’s frustration it is also like, like having a Eureka moment as well and all of this it was definitely a stretch for me. I didn’t think that I could write something like that and I didn’t know how comfortable I felt sharing and being vulnerable enough to let people into that side of the love that I’ve experienced as well so throughout this process I’ve learned a lot about myself. And what each of these other men have experienced and how they are dealing with themselves.
Who is singing lead on “Mama’s Nose?” and did you your moms really school you about patience? We don’t hear enough about mothers schooling their sons about relationships in songs?
Reddaz: That would be me. Honestly, I’ve had these conversations with my mother and the thing about it is unless I feel I’m in a really serious relationship I don’t bring her home to mom because you’ve got to make sure it’s the correct one and knowing who you’re dealing with. I’ve had that conversation.
Will: The best piece of advice my mom ever gave me is that patience is something that you do not something you have. That’s something that has always stuck with me and this came at a very rough time for us and helped us as a unit me, Misha and Red writing a song. I think it was February two years ago we started writing that. It was sort of like a mantra we could carry forward into the future.
“One thing I’ve learned about marriage is oftentimes what you seek in the other person most of the times the issues that you see in the other person are issues with yourself”-Bel-Ami
I notice that even though there is a lot of frustration there’s still vulnerability on a song like “Roses?”
Will: It was something that I wrote about four years ago sitting on the shelf never sitting with my voice so I sent it to Amir and it sounded so much better than I ever could. It came from thinking of a past fling we kind of fell out kind of miraculously and crazily. We were really tight for about six months and one day she was gone. I found out later that she may have had an abortion.
Bel-Ami: First of all I want to say it was a privilege to be able to communicate the feeling that Will had in “Roses.” The only two songs I’ve ever sung other people have written have been “Roses” and “Running In Place” and these are both Will’s joints you know when I’m tasked with communicating someone else’s experience it’s a big deal for me. Seeing how heavy “Roses” is I definitely don’t take it lightly.
A lot of R&B is influenced by hip-hop’s need to be invulnerable, how do you get to the self-reflexiveness to write a song like “Boomerang” where you’re talking about things coming and accountability in love?
Bel-Ami: “Boomerang” one thing I’ve learned about marriage is oftentimes what you seek in the other person most of the times the issues that you see in the other person are issues with yourself. A lot of times we misplace that disappointment or those feelings of anger or resentment that you may have towards the other person so I look at “Weak Bones” and “Boomerang” as opposite ends of the spectrum. One is I’m so maybe you can’t handle this, maybe this is not for you and then “Boomerang” is saying maybe this person can but maybe it’s just you, you’re the cause of your own frustration so I wanted to present a different aspect. I really try to be as honest as I can in my music and with my writing and that’s one the things that I’ve learned over the past few years that it’s less about what the other person needs to change and it’s more about what you need to change in order to make yourself feel better about yourself.
So is the end of the story at two parts or will there be another like a trilogy?
Will: We’re in writing mode right now. Our goal is to write 48 songs and to release the very best 10 of them. So for this next project which we’re calling Photosynthesizers is different beats the crème de la crème the best we can possibly do right now.
Ok, so going back to our first conversation, now that you’ve mentioned Nightshades and Photosynthesis regarding the Herbivores concept do any of you have gardens, plant-eaters? Or is it also a 420 thing?
Misha: It’s legal, and one in three every Americans!
Will: Misha and I were roommates and we were talking about band names and we were talking about how Amir was at the time a strict gluten-free vegan and he was an herbivore and it kind of landed on that. But I will also add that I love gardening. I have a pink lemon tree and two passionfruit plants in my living room.
You have lamps for them?
Will: Oh yeah they hate Brooklyn but me and my girlfriend sprouted two of these passionfruits from seeds. I have a very parental relationship with my citrus.
Bel-Ami: That’s just a part of it Will has a full ass garden. For someone who lives in New York City he has blueberries, strawberries, peppers some jalapenos.
Will: We make a run of hot sauce cause not many people know the name cayenne.
You have earthboxes?
Will: At the time it was me, my girlfriend and Misha and we had planters in the backyard. I still have a blackberry plant that was We had a blueberry plant, a blackberry plant, and we had a strawberry plant we had lemon drop peppers cayenne peppers, habaneros, and the cayenne the guy just gave to me at the shop because it was in such bad shape.
So what’s next especially now that we’re probably going to be in the house for another six months?
Bel-Ami: Just creating like Will said we’re trying to pump out as many songs as we can so that when the world does open up we’ll be ahead of it.