Your new album, AURA, draws from a palette of both soul and hip-hop sounds, but the album's rich atmosphere kind of transcends both.
Stacy Epps: For this album, me and Everett James had been working on songs for a few years and decided it was time to finally do a project. Everett came up with the name AURA - there was a distinctly positive and healing energy that we wanted to express in the music. This is something that I experimented with for my previous album, The Awakening, but Everett could actually translate that to sound, and use the healing frequencies within the music. So it was a coming together for everything: an embodiment of the energy that surrounds us, and we hope that through the music, your aura can be lifted, cleansed, and shine brighter.
Impressionism on such a deliberately fundamental level of the music's production doesn't often come across with such evocative results.
Everett James: A lot of records have it, but it's a negative thing. I got my start more on a punk end - punk and gangster hip-hop. It wasn't till I met Stacy that I understood ... When I was younger my mom and people like that would say to me, "You have to be careful about what you say on these records, because it becomes a reality." That's true! A lot of music speaks of very negative subject matter: a lot of stuff about money, death, drugs, and haters. When you hear these things, you absorb them, and you don't even know it. It's a subconscious thing - you go into the club feeling happy, but they play all this music, and you leave feeling angry and like you're ready to fight. You can change peoples' energy with music; I've seen it happen, and have experimented with it on stage and with recorded music. You can literally take someone's frame of mind and flip it with music.
Like I said, I grew up a punk kid, and I feel like you should be able to say whatever you want to say. But for me, it's way more punk and progressive to say something positive. You can be ill, but it's way more of an outsider type of thing to just be that way now, rather than talk about money, hoes, clothes, cars, and how somebody's hating on you.
SE: Positive messages. That's why I do music. It's a distinct position that I have - I don't know why - it's just the music that I create. And we have a good balance in the music, too. We have a good male/female energy going on here - him creating the music and the sound and the atmosphere. There are known frequencies that make you feel tired, angry, and depressed. Professor Griff has talked about a lot about this. We're on the other side of that - creating a musical offering of love.
It almost sounds like a radical concept ...
EJ: It was intended to be, but we're not preaching to anyone, or telling anyone that they're wrong for doing what they're doing. But positive music is kind of radical now. Like Stacy says, we're here to present a balance - like if there's too much red over here, let's add some yellow. That, to me, is what punk and hip-hop have always been about. In their true essence, they were about the balancing out [of] what was going on at the time, and presenting something different.
Is there a song on the album that exemplifies your approach, or resonates with you over the others?
EJ: I kinda look at the project as a whole - one big piece. The lead single, "Begin Again," was the one that made me realize we were on to something. That song is completely different from what I originally mixed. We were coming up on the deadline to have it finished, and I was thinking, "I don't know if this is going to work! What am I going to do?" So I went in and sped it up considerably. It was a slow song till I got the happy feet and danced to it. I didn't want it to be sad or monotone. I wanted it to be light and have some energy that makes you feel compelled to just do something. I literally had to begin again with it. It got the energy right and that's when I was like, "Ok, we're on to something." A lot of the stuff I mixed freehand, so it could only be done once. You can feel that energy, and that's something you can't reproduce, because it was created in that moment. That's what tied it all together.
SE: I really love the song "Now." It's really meaningful to me, and it's dedicated to the survivors and those we lost in the Japanese tsunami. That song is very touching to me.
Stacy Epps, Everett James, Muhsinah, Yamin Semali, and Rasheeda Ali perform at Cloud IX Lounge, 177 Peters St. in Castleberry tonight. $5. 8-12 p.m.
notice the name of the photographers brand .. "I Shoot My Friends"
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