Interview | SIAS
For those who are unfamiliar with the origins of Sias, how was everyone acquainted before and why did it seem like a good idea to form a band?
Scott, Haley and I have known each other for most of our lives. Scott and I have been friends since kindergarten, had the same piano teacher for years growing up and played in a few different bands together in high school. I’ve been friends with Haley since middle school and she grew up playing classical piano so music pulled us together as well. After graduation, the only thing we knew was that music was air to us, so we decided to start a band so we could try to make something happen for ourselves. We moved out to Boston together, living in a tiny apartment to study at Berkeley, but we knew how passionate we were about Detroit, so we eventually moved home. We met D Love, a multi-percussionist in 2017, who immediately meshed and pulled us together as a band. It’s been absolutely incredible having him part of the family.
I’m sure you hear this often but your sound is quite difficult to describe if we had to use one word. I see “World-pop” being tossed around but with a sound so unique in which ways are you relating to the mass audience? There’s a high chance that the every day person you walk past is listening to either Hip Hop, R&B, Pop or Rock.
When it comes to making music, we don’t really try to cater to a mass audience or place ourselves under an umbrella genre such as pop. However we are influenced greatly by pop and electronic music, so we feel we reflect that in our work naturally. Between all members of the band, we listen to anything from film-scores, electronic, R&B, hip-hop and so much more. Instead of getting caught up trying to make music that we think people will prefer, we focus on creating music that we first and foremost would want to listen to. That way we don’t lose the heart of our songs, and we relate to a larger audience because they were produced from truth and passion.
Heirloom… That song was our introduction to you and it was such a great first impression! There is so much going on there from the percussion, the strings, especially the lyrics. Can you give us a run down of the creative process that went into Heirloom, and do you feel as if – after the release – the track fulfilled the intentions you had for it?
Here’s the run down:
HEIRLOOM started out as a voice memo with a rough melody and subconscious lyrics that revolved around the word “stay.” About a year after recording the memo, I started digging through some old ideas while in Yellow Stone National Park, and came across it again. It stood out to me so I showed Scott and Haley who enjoyed the vibe, so we started laying out an arrangement with acoustic guitar, sub bass and an earthy beat.
The topic was refreshing and there was plenty to write about, but at the same time we knew it was a subject that was bigger than ourselves. We didn’t want to rush it because we wanted to make sure we were portraying our feelings in the best way. This made the writing process a bigger journey than most of the songs we’ve created and that same pressure came through in our production process as well.
After tracking acoustic, a simple beat and some vocals we started layering some more cinematic/earthy elements that inspired us from Planet Earth II, James Horner and Hans Zimmer. We started layering strings, D Love’s percussion, Marimba and, of course, the cello played by our fellow high school graduate, Kellen Degnan. At times we wanted to add electronic textures, but we felt that the live instrumentation portrayed the subject in a more grounded and appropriate way.
Towards the end of our journey with HEIRLOOM, everything was being pulled together so nicely but, like all of our songs, it was challenging to let it go. After the release we didn’t listen to the song for a while but, when we started coming back to it, we were still satisfied. It’s a success to us when we still love listening to a song even after countless times of playing it over and over while producing and mixing. The feedback from listeners and people we’ve connected with was amazing. It felt incredible incorporating our passion for the earth with our passion for music, and meeting many like minded people along the way.
On the subject of creativity, I believe there are 4 members of the band that actually make the music. That means 4 people have to agree on a single path of artistic direction. Despite all the small/big challenges that’s faced within the band, what makes it all worth it to keep coming back to the studio, keep performing and, well, keep on keeping on?
Working as a band can definitely be challenging at times, but at the end of the day we’re a family and we know we face obstacles together. The way we feel when we perform, produce and spend time with each other is what makes everything worth it for us. We’ve come to realize what we have is rare. Our bond is built off the respect we have for each other as both people and musicians. That’s something that we don’t take for granted and it’s a driving force in our musical careers.
We’ve been through a lot together and we’ve worked hard to legitimize what we do, so when we face hardships we know that moving forward is our only option. Every day we figure out ways we can become a stronger team through aspects such as communication, structure, motivation and narrowing in on things that we feel need improvement.
I noticed from watching your studio tour that there are MANY “natural” influences ranging from wild life to plants. Even tracks like Tropical Island and bits of Element has this “earthy” sound to it. Care to elaborate on how the band is influenced by nature? Are you all geographers or something?
The great outdoors definitely has a huge impact on our music. Whether it’s through our world instrumentation or through the visual side of the music, we seem to always pull ideas from the more wild side of things. When we’re constantly submersed in the city life we have a desire to get out and explore something more natural. When it came time to build our studio in Detroit we wanted to make sure that environment felt organic and inspiring.
Our habitat for creativity is key, especially when we’re spending upwards of 60+ hours a week in the studio. One of the first things we do when we walk in the studio is turn on Planet Earth, Life or any nature oriented film, because it keeps us calm and is kind of our window to a world of inspiration. We also decided to take it a step further by setting up a tropical fish tank and a poison dart frog vivarium. In a way it keeps us grounded, and breathes life into our creative process.
What has been the most awkward thing to happen during one of your shows?
The most awkward things that happen during one of our shows is probably whenever a guitar string breaks or a microphone isn’t working properly. It makes it awkward and uncomfortable for us at least. Fortunately, we haven’t had too many awkward moments on stage (knock on wood.) However, there’s always some sort of curve ball, small or big, when we’re playing every aspect of the music live and not to a backing track. Thankfully, practice and technology are making it easier and easier for us.
I’m not from Detroit, but what I generally hear about it isn’t so great in regards to it’s socioeconomic state. I guess it depends on the area. How do you think a city’s political and socioeconomic state impacts local music scenes, and in which ways does SIAS draw inspiration from Detroit?
Detroit is definitely in its own bubble, which makes it hard for people elsewhere to understand what’s going on here. Every day Detroit is improving in ways that are still true to the city. Detroit is built on hard-work, music, food, cars, art, culture and so much more. That also makes it a crucial time to invest, plant our roots and assist in creating a new and enhanced image of the city. Detroit artists have cultivated a supportive community that is growing rapidly.
This modern renaissance, in a way, demands attention from local businesses, news outlets and venues which in turn results in more opportunities for the artists. This city has something amazing that no other city on the planet has. We draw inspiration from the resilient nature of Detroit; its flourishing abundance inspires us to grow and be a part of something so much bigger than ourselves.
Streaming apps have definitely changed the course of the music industry. How have the rise in popularity of these apps affected the way the band approaches promotion and release of music?
We never put all our eggs in one basket when it comes to marketing our music on platforms/apps, however, we do love Spotify, YouTube and Instagram. These platforms alone have offered great visibility, opportunity and ways to be creative as a band. When promoting our music, we always consider the ways we can keep things consistent across these tools, yet different across each platform.
Streaming apps like Spotify have offered great opportunities for us, both in building and understanding our audience. Through Spotify analytics, we’re able to target our audience and engage new fans not only on this streaming app, but on others as well. The digital age has brought a lot of opportunity in exposing our sonic brand to the world.
Okay… So (1) Artist/band that you guys would party with. (2) An artist/band you would spend a week with in the studio. (3) An artist/band you would like to have a D.M.C with (Deep Meaningful Conversation).
Awesome, yet tough question to answer.
1. ODESZA, and let’s hope we end up producing a bit while we party.
2. Hans Zimmer; he’s been a huge influence on us. It would be a dream to learn from him in person, and potentially record an orchestra under his guidance.
3. The wise and talented Jack Johnson, who is a huge influence in helping the oceans and the environment in general, especially throughout Hawaii.