04.28.20

Interview: Easy Easy

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Easy Easy are a four-piece from Guatemala. Having already built up quite a reputation in their homeland and central America with some breath-taking live performances, they look set to continue their rise even further afield on new record '5'. 

Combining a multitude of influences and switching languages between English and Spanish seamlessly, Rodolfo Madrid (Guitar), Walter Monterroso (Keyboard and Bass), Gerardo Flores (Drums) and Sofía Insua (Vocals) are a force to be reckoned with. 

This week the band have also contributed a mixpack to our MMJ music creation app, which you can download and get creative with.

Watch their new video and read the studio interview below.

Walter, Rodolfo, Sofia, Gerardo - thank you for taking the time to speak to us.

Thank you for creating the space for EE, a Guatemalan band, all the way over there in Berlin...it’s very cool we get to talk about our new material for your mag.

When and how did you all meet and what was the inspiration behind Easy Easy? 

Gerry and Sofia:  

S - I first met them at Walter’s former studio, June 2017. He was still just going to be producing for EE and I was only going to work on a potential two song collaboration with them. Gerry reached out to me after hearing a song I’d released with a friend on Guatemalan radios in 2016 - Big City Dreams. Him and Chofo were part of the previous line-up, and I was a fan - I was curious as to what the instrumental demos would be like when they sent them my way because their previous sound was completely different. We were all very pleasantly surprised to find that what I had to offer vocally and lyrically made so much sense with what they offered musically and in terms of production… we found each other. 

G - The inspiration behind EE is to make the best music we can, tour and have fun. To hopefully change someone's mind for the better and have them enjoy the world a bit more. We are privileged to be able to do this, even more so coming from where we come from.. It's the craziest ride I've ever been on. 

Easy Easy 1

Have you ever had a specific routine for working on your music together, what does it look like?

Sofia: It varies a lot ‘cause we adapt to the circumstances. I’ve lived in NYC for almost four years, and our first album together Lo Veo Todo (Lo Siento) was mostly done long distance. The guys worked on producing the tracks and they sent them to me to write whatever I ended up singing on top of those. I came to Guate' exclusively to record with Walter for a couple of weeks, during which we all spent all day, everyday at the studio. For ‘5’, we were mostly together, but again we adapted to the places/spaces and tools we had whenever we were working on the songs. 

What are your current creative processes, individually and as a collective?

Sofia: I like deriving my lyrics from a specific concept, visual image, feeling, phrase or word. Vocal melodies, what I say and the language I choose to say that with, is very much born from the mood the sounds of their instrumental demos make me feel. As a collective, we always feed off of each other's input. Whatever they come up with influences what I make, what I write alters what they initially proposed, and so on. Walter: These past weeks in quarantine, I have been experimenting and trying different approaches to making music. I’m just trying to be aware of any moment I feel inspired or with a mood, play whatever I feel like playing in a synth or guitar, record it (sometimes with my phone) and later produce around it. But I would define my process as not having one.

Chofo: I usually have a very guitar driven creative process on writing songs. Meaning I focus on the chords, and my intention is to create a mood or just to get you in some sort of vibe. I also apply that "ambience" or mood that is being created on other things such as audiovisuals; I believe it's important to also comply with that part of the audience’s experience.

Gerry: Lately, it's been trying new ideas on Ableton; sampling stuff and trying to find my way into using them and tweaking them to make them my own. Also writing notes whenever i go for walks and some ideas come into mind or sending our bass player random voice notes with ideas we both probably forget later haha. Also tons of listening and watching people play. Even if I don't get how they do it, it's fun to try and understand how your brain processes their ideas and makes you come up with your own.

Easy Easy 2

Your latest single, ‘5’ is out this week - can you tell us a little about the tracks that made it onto the EP?

Sofia: Katana, the first single, was born on tour in Mexico during a jamming session  - the setting was our airbnb. We recorded it a couple of days later in Costa Rica. This song triggered the rest of the EP.  

The second single, Digital Kiss, was originally a demo for our previous album. Walter undusted it and added a more aggressive beat to refresh it, we re-recorded the vocals and I altered just a bit of the lyrics so that it would make more sense with the new material.  

Nada Pasó started with a drum loop that we captured on an iPhone while rehearsing. Personally, it was the most challenging one to understand and finalize. But hey! People seem to like its oddness haha. 

Foo is one of the most vulnerable songs we’ve written. A bitter-sweet taste of nostalgia. It was very spontaneous - Chofo played the guitar melody and they produced the track within an hour. A few days later they showed it to me and I wrote the lyrics and melody to record it the very next day. A short beautiful song with lo-fi sonics and heartfelt words. 

For </3 or Corazón Roto, we took an already existing idea and approached it in a new way in the studio. It was the result of a creative experiment that consisted of us improvising with the instruments at hand - all of us playing together and recording at the same time: drum machine, Moog synth, electric guitar and vox.

Easy Easy 4

What is the concept behind you new EP, ‘5’?

Sofia: I first thought of this number as a potential title or concept for the EP thanks to the Kübler-Ross model, the five stages of grief. But…as I started looking for other meanings beyond the numerical one, I realized it is everywhere. 5 fingers to touch, 5 toes to walk, 5 senses to feel and take in the world. In numerology, this is some of what stood out and, I thought, made it a good match to the sound and narrative of the songs: 

“Commonly referred to as the number of humanity”

Word association:

 independence → freedom from social norms                             (in thought and action) 

 versatility →  desire 4 change 

                         ^ overwhelming 

 rebellion → daring nature

 unpredictability  → random energy 

 dynamic → constant motion

                                                        - e l a s t i c - 

People that are #5s can fall in love easily - could quickly find themselves with someone that is 

u n f i t .    

-attract 

       eccentric 

                people-                                                         

                                                                                                             ( sometimes rash )

Easy Easy 3

The video for ‘Katana’ is very cool, can you tell us how it was made, and about the filmmakers?

Chofo: We worked with a friend of ours, Renato Melini, a Guatemalan filmmaker, as our  director. And we were pretty much the production team along with a few other good friends. We produce all of our videos so we like to maintain that lo-fi / glitchy vibe since it very much matches our taste in aesthetics. Not everything has to be pitch-perfect, and we like that.

What can we find in your studio set up at the moment?

Walter: I have a UA Apollo Duo interface, UA 2-610 pre, some WARM Audio hardware (1176, Pultec, and LA-2A clones), a Neumann 103 and SM7 for vocals, a couple SM57, a Cascade Fathead. I used several VST Plugins. 

Guitar is my main instrument, so I have some guitars, pedals and amps. 

I have some LED lights, a lamp and some other stuff to get me in a mood. 

Can you tell us a bit about your musical education, or how you grew into being musicians?

Walter: Most of my learning has been by studying other musicians that inspire me. I am musically trained, I love harmony theory and learned sight reading with a friend of mine, Byron Campo. 

Later when I decided I wanted to produce music, I studied a masters in music production and audio at Berklee College of Music. I am constantly interested in learning; music is so vast and has several universes you can explore, so you never really stop learning. 

Sofia: My grandma wanted all her grandkids to have some type of musical education, so I started playing the xylophone at age 3; then went on to play the piano. Next, I turned to theatre / acting and at some point had to sing… the process of finding my own voice fascinated me. I learned music theory and solfege, but never really took any formal songwriting lessons. I unexpectedly discovered composing thanks to a piano class assignment to write 16 bars of whatever we wanted; I added some lyrics to what I wrote and the rest of my learning process has been pure experimenting and finding myself and my style within my projects. In a way, the collaborations I’ve worked on, Easy Easy and my bandmates have widened my musical knowledge and allowed me to have fun while doing so. 

Chofo: All the guitar basic stuff, I got it from church and the rest at home mostly listening to music and trying to figure out that one thing that was blowing my mind. The idea of writing songs and knowing that they will be part of your legacy made a lot of sense to me so instead of trying to become the best or fastest Guitarist, I wanted to understand all the sounds around the things that I like to listen to and just try to apply all that knowledge into new creations.

Gerry: My mom was always singing and playing a nylon string guitar at the house, so I guess that sparked music in me at a young age. But it wasn’t until I started learning bass at 13 (?) that it really got into my head and I was like  “yesss, I want this”. I learned whatever I know about guitar and really basic drum beats during the next few years. But basically everything I know about drumming, I've learned since I became the band’s drummer like 7-8 years ago? So yeah, that's how I ended up here haha. I've never really had any musical training, I just do what feels right to me. I need to practice more.

Easy Easy 7

What does songwriting mean for each of you? 

Sofia: Every song I write is an appendix or an extension of myself - my body, my heart and my mind’s eye - ways to materialise what all these parts of me feel and want to say.

Walter: A gift for humanity. 

Gerry: It means experimenting until something clicks in my brain. It can be fun or really stressful, but I always enjoy it in the end.

Chofo: The way to express myself.

How do you find the music scene in Guatemala? Are there any bands or artists we should be looking out for?

Gerry: I think it's starting to have a new generation of bands that are bringing new sounds to what is known here. Still, we’ve got a lot to learn and a lot of space to grow. I just want people to believe in their ideas and try making music, no matter what genre is popular. People should listen to Dina Ramirez, great jazz sax player with some albums out, Mabe Fratti who is currently in Mexico but is a great experimental musician and Franc Castillejos, my favorite Guatemalan songwriter and great friend of mine.

What was the last piece of equipment you bought, and where and why did you buy it?

Walter: A Macbook Pro 16. My last computer died after 9 years of work. So I had to finally upgrade all my system and get new plugins.

Which piece of studio gear could you not live without and why?

Walter: Any microphone, preferably a condenser mic so that I can record any source. 

And which piece of gear would you consider an indulgence?

Walter: Moog One.

Have you ever sold something and regretted it?

Walter: To be honest, I don’t regret anything I have ever sold. 

When you are in the studio, how much is improvised and how much is pre-planned?

Sofia: It depends. I personally like to have some time on my own with the tracks while working on the lyrics and vocal melodies. I feel more comfortable coming in with an established or somewhat solidified framework to start building the song on. Of course, there’s always some improvisation when it comes to recording those ideas in the studio - not every idea will please everyone all the time so we’re always ready to let go of them if they don’t work and come up with something on the spot. For two specific cases in ‘5’ - Katana and </3 - not pre-planning was key. 

Who are your greatest musical influences? Who are your greatest non-musical influences and why?

Gerry: Musically, for this EP, Frank Ocean, JMSN, Toro y Moi + Lo-fi in general. Personally, I guess every band/musician/songwriter I've ever come across and enjoy listening to, been to a show, bought their records, etc have somehow impacted my life and how I play, write and even listen to music. But I can say when I was younger Thrice changed my mind from whatever MTV was giving me and nowadays Cat Power and Silver Jews have influenced my life a lot. Non-musically I guess my parents, my dogs, friends and random people. It's fun to observe and learn from everyone and anyone.

If you could work with any 1 person in the studio who would it be and what would they bring to your music?

Chofo: Well that's a tough one but probably Rick Rubin with the whole Rick Rubin Vibe.

Do you have advice to young artists looking to get signed to a record label?

Sofia: I think we must get rid of the idea that getting signed is the goal while making music. Sure, it’s a great way to count with more resources and grow a project… but it is not the only way of making music. It’s also something that should come as a natural next step to you, and it should feel like it makes sense to take it. I’d also say it’s important to research whoever you decide to work with and that the labels’ values - what they stand for - align with yours. We see so many cases, more often than not, in which artists are exploited and/or get their creative freedom snatched away from them when they sign a contract. And this goes against what we believe the creation of art should be. You have to be careful, but not skeptical… sometimes these collective efforts do pay off and benefit your project when done for the right reasons. 

Chofo: DIY. Opportunities will come. 

How do you see the future of music production going?

Gerry: Ever-evolving... more and more a mix of old and new stuff. Analog music manipulation will never go away; at least for me it's important. As comfortable as it is to have options with the digital world, the human part of things being imperfect is what keeps me producing.

What are your thoughts on Music AI? Have you ever used AI in your work?

Walter: I believe AI and the automation of processes is good for other industries. But in my opinion, if we continue to take out the human value in music, it’s going to keep losing its soul and essence and will become artificial art, or maybe not art at all. 

All recording arts, songwriting, mixing and mastering should benefit from technology and AI to optimise processes, but not substitute the human labor. 

Could you see AI leading the next stage in studio evolution?

Walter: Yes, AI is leading the next stage in everything. Making music today is accessible for everybody and lots of music is being produced and released. AI will make it possible for any individual to make a radio-ready song.

What is next for ‘Easy Easy’? Where do you want to take the band, creatively?

Chofo: Music for us is an adventure, and we are always looking forward to exploring all sounds even more and having fun while working, learning, and growing. 

Sofia: We want to be able to reinvent ourselves musically and have fun while we’re at it - the formula for us is ever-changing and I think that’s what prevents it from going stale. It’s always a pleasure to find out our songs are reaching corners of the world we’ve never even been to. Definitely more live shows, and more music. 

Easy Easy, thank you for your time and good luck with the new music.

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