Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Artist Interview & Free Album Download: Simara - Yakushima EP

Simara (GTB Records) is a New York producer who recently released his EP "Yakushima." The EP features really interesting downtempo percussion that reminds me of other artists I've been into lately and including in my mixes, such as Sepalcure, Supreme Cuts and Tensei. The reverberating bass and staccato percussion sounds very natural, like they were created using sticks and stones and caves instead of a kit or drum machine. Simara combines this with Japanese strings and other lighter sounds that create a balanced and sometimes playful quality. My favorite tracks are "Water God's Lullaby" (chilled, introspection for weekend relaxing) and "All Night Long" (glitchy bass-trip for pre-partying). Check out a short interview with Simara, plus stream and download his new album "Yakushima" FOR FREE!

Downbeatscape: What does "downtempo" mean to you, and how does your work fit into your description?

Simara: Usually I associate downtempo with a relaxed pacing and mood - like ambient music with a beat. When it comes to my music, there's definitely a downtempo element. I've been heavily influenced by ambient music, but I also listen to a lot of artists like Massive Attack, Telepopmusik, Boards of Canada, Aphex Twin, Taylor Deupree, etc. There's a lot of overlap with different genres but I try to stay above all of that and just feel it out.

DBS: When you're producing, what part of a song do you start with to provide the foundation?

Simara: It really depends on what comes to me first. Sometimes I'll hear a melody in my head and I have to record myself whistling the parts on my phone or something, or sometimes I'll hear a percussion groove or I'll dig a particular sound or even just want to mess around with some general concepts. Having a variety of music helps with discovering and playing with progressions and synthesis. So, if something doesn't come to me melodically, I'll just work out some vague ideas in my head and let them grow.

DBS: The new EP is called "Yakushima" - what does that title refer to?

Simara: "Yakushima" refers to the forest with the same name on a south western island of Japan. The forest was a huge inspiration for movies by Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli films like Princess Mononoke and My Neighbor Totoro, which are movies I grew up with and really love. The forest itself is gorgeous, mysterious, and enchanting. To me, it represents the nostalgia and raw emotions from the memories I associate with my past and my encounters with the forest and Japan.

DBS: How has the New York scene and other areas you've spent time in influenced your style?

Simara: The New York music scene is crazy. I'm exposed to so many different styles. You can find me at a Grimes concert, a Baths concert, or even the Allman Brother's Band. A lot of people I'm around are into jazz, folk, and hip hop, so I'm thankful I don't have to go very far to be musically inspired. Before university, I thought I was going to be a house music or "electro" producer. I wanted to be a DJ. But I was never 100% into that stuff - I had always liked the alternative stuff, and my first ever album was a CD by a Japanese artist called Daishi Dance, who liked to use lots of piano and pretty melodies to accompany his beats. I really dug that. I think spending time in lots of different areas, whether they be physical or mental, really helps to carve out a groove. All the while you have to be open, you know? Inspiration is everywhere.

DBS: How do you distribute your music and achieve the production quality you expect?

Simara: This is the hardest part about it I guess haha. Actually, I'm no longer truly independent, since recently I was signed to a small label called GTB Records, which hosts a number of wonderful musicians and people. We are still getting off the ground, but its been fun even in the short time I've been involved, and the situation regarding distribution / production hasn't changed that much. To be honest, I don't spend too much time focusing on distribution. Every once in awhile I might send something to a blog I follow or a person I think might like my music. I just want to keep doing stuff for its sake. Production quality, of course, is a really tough issue when you're working alone (and when you're broke). You've just got to keep listening to stuff that sounds really nice, and try to emulate. There are tons of resources that I'm thankful for, and going through the motions of trial and error teaches me a lot. I try not to get too satisfied or fall into a particular pattern of doing things. Getting lazy never helps. If I have to automate a million parameters, or fix the smallest things, I'll do it. If I have to ask someone for their opinion, then I'll do it. But settling is never good. I can't level up that way.

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