A Vivoscene Exclusive Interview by JD Halperin
I am always intrigued by people with wide interests. I see it as evidence of a hungry mind, and their work and outlook is usually quite original and unpredictable. As such, the music duo Svelt St., based in San Francisco, is a fascinating case. Multi-talented, broad-minded, and obstinately evolving, they’re impossible to pin down! I think post-genre art that gets assessed without being chained to a corresponding rubric is the way of the future, and Svelt St. definitely embodies this perspective. I spent a considerable time listening to their music online before I decided to send away some questions. After all, it’s hard to speculate about groups so resolutely idiosyncratic. Bang! Cheeto and Feelmore (the funky aliases the two members of Svelt St. go by) graciously responded together with thought provoking, eloquent answers. I’ll leave the rest to them.
JD: Aside from hip hop, dubstep, and electro, are there genres secretly lurking in the background of your music that would surprise your fans to know? Anything like classical, or something on the surface quite different?
Svelt St.: Anything, really. Different moments bring different genre references. We both think music should be something that continuously evolves with your own life. The range is wide and depends on which song we’re talking about. There’s a lot of blues, some rock influences, and definitely trip hop. Anything from Klaus Nomi to a cat screeching could be a secret influence.
JD: What are the influences from other mediums, film or literature, which seep into your music one way or another?
Svelt St.: There are a lot of influences from other mediums – maybe even more than music itself. Ideas and concepts found in literature often inspire our own narratives, such as the song ‘Kapila,’ which was based off a story from Jose Luis Borges. We also have a penchant for obscure, dark films, but there is also a lot to take from real life. We both love to travel, often spontaneously, which leads to a lot of crazy adventures and unique experiences, which probably fuels our creative perspectives more than anything we’ve watched or read.
JD: You have a wide range of songs and sounds, spanning genres and varying in mood and tempo. What are the obstacles you face in a market that more and more requires unity for packaging’s sake?
Svelt St.: There is a lot of pressure to conform to one genre and in the grand scheme, it makes sense because that’s how you accumulate a mass fanbase. A genre helps package your music and your image in a way that’s easy for people to understand quickly. But that can also take away from the whole reason why many musicians get into music in the first place. So in a way, there are limitations and benefits to both. In our case, we made a conscious decision to put the music first. That may mean we lose some of the die-hard fans of specific genres, but it also means that there are fans who are more connected to our music on a personal level which is way more important to us in the long run. It also means that there’s probably something for everyone, which is really cool. We’re not after a mass market of any type. We’re more interested in connecting with someone who is feeling a certain way on a certain day. Packaging is necessary and we have our own approach to that but when it comes down to it, we really want it to be about that personal connection more than a socially positioned attitude.
JD: When you picture fans listening to your music, where are they? In a club? In their house with people? Alone?
Svelt St.: We’re definitely not your typical club music. We’re not sitting down and thinking about how a song is going to work on the dance floor. In a way, we’re selfish because we usually aren’t making music with the thought of how people are going to listen to it. But when people do connect with the songs, it’s usually on a very real level. To be totally honest, it’s always a surprise to see how and where people connect. That’s part of what keeps it fun for us. That’s not to say we don’t like to party and have a good time – we do and that’s definitely reflected in some of our music. But there are other moments in life that are just as important that people can identify with – whether they’re in a club or in a car with their friends, or just walking down a lonely street with headphones on.
JD: As a married couple, do you have set times where you work on music? How much of the work happens through routine or structure versus spontaneity?
Svelt St.: It’s pretty organic. Sometimes we set a day aside, sometimes we just end up spending 48 hours straight working on a project. It just depends on that moment, but we’re pretty diligent once we get started on something. We met while working on music so we know how to keep a good balance. Everything we do together feeds into our music and everything we do in our music feeds into the rest of our lives.
JD: Do you feel like you need to specify your sound because advertising a diverse sound is difficult? How close have you come to giving in to that?
Svelt St.: Whenever people ask us what kind of music we play, there’s usually a pause before we try to phrase it in a way that gives an accurate, holistic description. It’s easier to specify each song on its own rather than our overall sound, because our sound is always evolving and changing, but we do like to play with genre specific ideas – even if it ends up being a bunch in one song. In this way, we promote songs or albums more specifically than we do ourselves. Classifying ourselves as a specific genre feels like a dead end, whereas specifying a song or album feels more like a point in time.
JD: You played the Motocross Championships before thousands live, and way more on TV, and you’ve played smaller shows in clubs. Where do you prefer playing?
Svelt St.: The Motocross World Championships was kind of surreal – there was a lot of adrenaline going at the event and that definitely fed into our performance. Each event we play affects the mood of our performance and that’s something that always keeps it interesting, no matter where we are. Smaller venues allow for a more personal connection with the audience, as well as room for a little more spontaneous experimentation, which can be its own kind of rush. Larger venues, like fashion shows, have a totally different kind of feeling – they tend to be a really positive atmosphere with a lot of collective energy. The fashion crowd tends to be really open to hybrid music; maybe it’s partly because fashion itself can push the limits between art and wearability so trying something new is more readily accepted.
To check out more on Svelt St., visit:
Watch: Svelt Street “Meta”