The Herbivores Release Nightshades EP (Interview)

 

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.  

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.

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.

Follow The Herbivores on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 




Soul Singer Bel-Ami Has A Solo Reckoning: The MUSE (ic) Interview

 

MUSE (ic) finds Bel-Ami’s honeyed vocals in good company with some of New York City’s best players including Lauryn Hill, Stevie Wonder and Adele alumni. In this interview, he shares the origins of MUSE (ic) and the importance of letting art breathe for its own sake. 

The title is a play on the words muse and music?

I think without a muse there is no music so the title being music being spelled in that particular way I believe that if you shine your light and other people can do the same and you can use each other as muses. Like me and my brothers, I gave them the creative space to create their own full expression via their instrument and use that to inform the rest of my writing. The skeleton of my writing to inform what they play. I feel like if we could extrapolate that throughout the whole world now we would be in a better place.

Who or what are your muses?

Anything I gain inspiration from it can be in people, a moment I experience things that I see more tangibly like people. I’ve had relationships that have given me plenty to write about whether they be romantic or just platonic or my brothers who I just kick it with I use to teach as well so kids. All of these things I use as muses to inform my creativity. Of course, there are artists who because they were operating in their full purpose being their best selves and sharing the best part of themselves.

Anyone in particular?

So going back how did you start singing?

I’ve always sung. My grandmother use to have a camcorder and I think the earliest video I’ve seen of myself was in her apartment in Philly I was probably like five-years-old. I was a huge Michael Jackson fan I mean who wasn’t. I would try to do all his dance moves but I wasn’t trying to be a singer then it just felt good. Music was something that was always with me I didn’t write my first song until I was in eighth grade. And I didn’t perform publicly until that same year and once I saw the response it was kind of like that’s all I needed. From then on music has been a major part of my life but I didn’t get into recording until much later when I got to college. But I’ve always had friends and groups because groups were always the thing Dru Hill, Boyz II Men, Jodeci, Jagged Edge that just made you want to get your boys together and just write a love song.

Houston is another great music city, is there anything about it specifically that inspires what you do?

Yes, Houston has like heavy roots in music particularly. All of my experience growing up centers around Houston whether it be like the diverse cultures that I grew up around which opens me up to be influenced by different styles of music. Houston also has a really large arts culture as well especially visual arts. I was raised around a bunch of artists just the idea of art and expression itself I directly relate that to my experiences in Houston. I think that’s why I approach this work the way that I do. 

You released your first EP Know U in 2013 so what’s changed artistically for you since then?

Everything has changed when I did Know U I was very green I didn’t know what was going on I was discovering myself as a writer. I’m still very new to it although I had been writing songs I hadn’t been recording like I said being a solo artist wasn’t something that I envisioned for myself. But there was so much I had to get out and the way Know U came about I and really good friends of mine Justin Lewis and Al Jerray they went to my church and I was recording some stuff for a New Year’s eve thing.

They called me up were like ‘Yo man we’re at the house let’s record some stuff’  and they proceeded to give me a master class in what to do and how to do it and push myself. I think Know U was the best of me at that point and it was definitely them steering the ship and me just sitting back and learning and have a writing experience where that five-song EP it really put things into perspective and as I’ve grown since then I’m now more comfortable with my sound and more confident in what I’m doing. This project MUSE (ic) was me actually steering my own ship with the help of my brother Errick Lewis who was a wonderful guide this whole process. He co-produced this project with me but this is an expression of me doing what I want to do the way that I want to do it and making the final decisions and making the calls that I want and this is a full expression of me so that’s what’s different between Know U and MUSE (ic).

What was the experience of recording MUSE (ic) as a whole?

It was almost surreal. The beginnings of the project is one of those moments and I’ve said this before it’s like an outlier moment, are you familiar with the book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell?

Yes.

So you know how in every sector he talks about how success is a function of so many factors but ultimately their preparation was key in making the best of their circumstances. I think me making the decision to move from Houston to New York to put myself out there and just be out be seen put me in places where I was able to meet the right people at the right time and the best people I could meet. The whole process is crazy how it happened. So Matthew Harnett did horns on this project he plays trombone and he played with Bilal, Lauryn Hill he played with lots of people. I know Matt from Houston we did a couple of gigs together so when I moved here he was like there is a jam session and I want you to help me host it. I did that when I got here and eventually, Matt ended up moving back to Houston so I continued hosting the jam session here so there I met Errick Lewis who is the bass player. He came to a jam session and I was just amazed by his playing and found out that was his first weekend in the city I found out he just moved from the west coast. At the time he was living in a house in New Jersey renting a room with a guy named Bigmore Thomas who also played with Lauryn Hill he’s just an incredible arranger and composer and he had a basement where it was a space to record they had a drum set down there.

It was like let’s record these songs down in the basement. I went down there me, Errick and Bobby Weston Our drummer canceled on us at the last minute so Errick got on the phone and found Obed Cavalier who played drums down there and is one of the best drummers in the world so much that he doesn’t have social media but has his own hashtag because people tag him.

So he came through and the first song we played was “Raindrops.” I think the first or second take is what’s actually on the record and this is like within 10 minutes of meeting each other. That was like wow this can really be something the last element we brought into it Miles Roberson I met him on a wedding gig that I did and it just so happened they wanted music during the dinner which never happens. They just wanted us to vibe out so I was like what do you want play. We just vibed so well that I told him I was working on this project a week or two after and I told him I would just love for him to come down. He came and he just fit right in and it turns out that he used to be Adele’s music director.

So I say all that to say that was the whole process. The other musicians that I brought in Matt Hartnett who played horns Idris Frederick who played organ on a song and Will Holden who played flute on the song “Muse (ic)” those were the only parts that we didn’t do at once together in the same room. But even those interactions were like a mutual respect for one another and we use that energy to build so when you ask that question it was transformational for me. It will honestly affect the way that I record everything moving forward like if I don’t have that same feeling it’s just not gonna hit me.

I guess that would be like divine serendipity.

It is, it’s evidence of god if you were to ask me what is your idea of we started recording this in February of 2018 just working weekends sometimes during the week. If you had asked me then what do I want this to sound like what I would’ve given you would’ve been far less than what’s there because I’ve been limited by our own experiences and our own understanding to allow others to affect us we can really express our best selves because we don’t fully understand our capabilities until we see it with others and I think that’s why it’s important to let your light shine and go be a muse and see who’s affected by you and who you’re affected by.

It’s interesting that’s what I was totally going for I’m glad that that translates whether people add a negative or a positive connotation to it , it’s going to meet them wherever it needs to. It’s one of those things I really had to decide along this journey what do I really want to tie myself to for lack of a better phrase what hill do I want to die on do I wanna be the art for art’s sake guy or do I want to make something that everybody’s going to like. And I think I fell in a place of this is expression and it’e been difficult to get like on your playlist and things like that because you know I have an album that has an eight-minute song and another seven-minute song and a six-minute song and a song that says nigga like 50 times and it’s mad and angry but I think it’s like necessary for art to exist in a space where it can truly be what it should be and not watered down to meet the tastes of what people say we want.

I don’t necessarily think people want three minutes and 40 seconds I don’t think people’s attention spans are short I think people just don’t have something to keep their focus I listen to “Raindrops” and I forget that it’s seven minutes and when it’s over I want to play it again and that’s been the feedback I’ve gotten from people. Some people will look at it and be like man I’m not going to listen to that and other people understand like hey this is expression. I’m a realist and I understand it’s not going to be for everybody sometimes we think that we need to be for everybody we don’t need to be for everybody but you need to be for the right people. I think the right people will find you it’s just about you doing the work to get it in front of them I’m willing to do that work and I understand. I mixed this record and mastered myself so I can understand what it’s gonna take and who’s going to appreciate this you know I make music not just for this moment and I want the music to last. So if I don’t ever see it in my life that’s cool because I know it’s going to be there because it’s quality work. As long as somebody’s playing it.

Can you tell me a little bit more about “Raindrops?”

It’s about being there for someone when they need you. When it’s rough and it’s heavy and things are happening to you you’re the one I call on to be there to be that protector the person who shields from that provides that umbrella. When the tears roll down your face it’s about crying that’s raindrops. It’s about being there and I think that it’s something that really essential now especially since there’s so much of an attack on people for differences now. It’s not just about romantic relationships but it’s about those fears that you have and showing up for people and I hope people get that from it and if they don’t one day they will. I’m all for music meeting you wherever you may be that’s what makes great music. You can grow with a song and change the meaning to you. I think that is the perfect balance.

Is there any song that you have a great attachment to on this project?

“Raindrops” particularly because that was the first song that we did together as a unit. I think we spent the rest of time chasing raindrops. We were like if we can’t put this on a project with “Raindrops” it doesn’t need to be here. I hold that really highly I revere that song because it forced me to be like this is our bassline and I feel like every song on the project is quality I think each song holds its own place.

What is the status of the next EP from the Herbivores?

We wanted to come out with it a little sooner but once we laid everything out and we realized that we each had individual projects that we’re working on as well which is something that we see as an asset to our collective. I think Red has a project he’s working on. We’re in the process of finalizing all the mixes this week and it’s really solid some of my best writing I have done. I think we are planning to have that out in December right around our birthdays Misha and I share the same birthday December 11th and I think that our birthday falls on a Friday this year. It’s going to be called Nightshades and it’s much deeper. This is the deeper heavier side of love. My favorite song on it is called “Weak Bone.”

Follow Bel-Ami on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.