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Interview with ARCTISKY: Exploring Love, Sound Evolution, and Musical Heritage

This week, ARCTISKY sat down with A&R Factory to discuss his latest single, “Unreal Love,” a narrative about the complexity of chemical romance and the importance of self-awareness in relationships. In this interview, ARCTISKY delves into his creative process, the instrumental choices that evoke euphoria, and the evolution of his music since his debut. He also shares insights into his journey from the Maldives to Melbourne, the influences behind his genre-fluid sound, and his ultimate artistic goals.

ARCTISKY, welcome to A&R Factory! Thanks for sitting down with us to discuss your latest single, Unreal Love. What does the single, which narrates a tale of chemical romance, mean to you personally?

Thank you for having me! ‘Unreal Love’ happens to be a confusing tale about an intense romance being ignited while two people find love in a super-charged ‘situationship’. The message is like, “Make sure you both know there could be other factors driving the whole interaction.” It’s about being aware of yourself and taking time away from other influences before wasting anyone’s time.

How did you manage to capture the euphoria of love in the instrumentals and production? 

This track is one of those tracks that stayed in the cocoon stage until I was ready skill-wise to bring it up to speed. Ever since my last release, I really took the time to come up with a sound that truly captures all of my core musical influences. With this one, I believe the live upright piano sounds did the final bit of work in bringing this song to the finish line. Initially, I had a very thin-sounding piano sound, which was fine when I was just writing other instrumentation around it, but it still didn’t give that fuller feel I was looking for. So, later on, I decided to record an upright piano with a pair of AKG c414s, with the help of a couple of my peers. That was the final ingredient to this sound I’d say.

I had written the synth parts years ago, in the early stages of the song, so those spacey-arpeggiator sounds at the back were another factor in capturing that euphoric feeling. I tried to stay true to the sounds that evoked euphoria in me as well. It’s still got that core element of rock & roll, but then those influences from other areas weave through. So this song evolved through quite a few stages to achieve the sounds I was after. I’d say it also had a lot to do with being surrounded by the right people who helped nurture my craft.

How do you want your fans to feel when they hear the single and what do you want them to take away from the lyrics? 

Well, the song is kind of like an unspoken conversation between you and that person you found some sort of crazy love with in the heat of a moment. It doesn’t have to be anyone specific either. It’s just one of those tracks that will help people come to terms with the fact that it’s better to let go by connecting to a song, rather than trying to reach out to an old flame. Never a good idea!

It’s been a while since you made your debut with Losing My Control in 2022; how has the break influenced your music? 

I think I realised I had a bit of work to do to bring my writing to something I was happy with. So, for me, it was more about going back to the sounds that felt most natural to me. That’s actually the main reason why I named this album ‘Roots Vol. 1’ – due to it paying homage to my musical heritage, being the classic rock & roll I grew up with. Unreal Love is the first track from this album and showcases this new sound I’ve been working with the best.

All the songs that will be on this album are what I call “journal songs” – they’re songs that hold more to the lyrical content, and have something listeners can take away and project onto their own experiences. It’s nothing more than a bit of art you may or may not be able to relate to. This stuff is written for the introverted side of people. I know I’ve heard those songs, where I listened to it and the music just helped me come to terms with things I had no idea was bugging me in the first place. Music does such a good job of healing people. I wanted to write some music that could help my audience shed light on some of the things they may be dealing with.

This new sound, with the foundation of rock & roll and the blend of fresh sub-genres, is what I got out of my creative break. This project just feels very fun for me! I’m not taking myself too seriously I’d say. I put a lot of trust into giving this another go, knowing I’m writing and releasing music that I loved writing and enjoy listening to.

You gained a fair amount of notoriety in the Maldives, has establishing yourself in Melbourne been a daunting experience?

I’ve been very lucky to learn and work with some extremely cool people since moving to Melbourne in 2019. I got here and realised I had neglected a lot of important theory, growing up as a drummer, so I had a lot to catch up on. I wanted to make sure I understood music to a certain level before trying to enter the live scene here. I’ve certainly had a bit of work to do to polish my craft before starting live gigs. Melbourne’s already got such a vibrant live music scene, so I want to make sure that what I’m bringing to the table here is going to be something a bit different and adds value. I needed to know that if I were to do live gigs, there were no loose ends in the songs. I want my live performances to bring a high level of energy to the venues here, and I needed time to develop my live-act. Live gigs are something I’ve really had to physically and mentally prepare myself for.

How did your genre-fluid sonic signature come about? 

I grew up with brothers who loved rock music, so it was playing around the house most of the time as a kid. I always heard a lot of Bob Dylan, Santana, Bon Jovi, Bob Marley and all that. Then I discovered Pink Floyd around the age of 18. They have the kind of music that helps you open doors in the back of your mind. Around the time I started this project, I was listening to a lot of Bob Dylan and the ‘Exodus’ record by Bob Marley & the Wailers. They inspired me to get my own messages of love, peace and freedom out with my music – to the individual and to societies. Especially ever since the wars have become a lot more frequent on the news, I wanted to get my message out with these songs. It turned out that when I was writing these “journal songs”, I always wrote music that I felt reflected love, peace and togetherness – “Lead with love and respect,” being the core message. It’s come with trying to strike that chord which resonates with our innate instinct to come together, and to work together and learn from each other.

What is your ultimate goal as an artist? 

My ultimate goal as an artist is to bring my work and artistry to a stage where I can start collaborating with more artists, and to just keep writing and recording music I’m proud of. I want to have songs that my audience can listen to and connect deeply to. I feel like a lot of what I’m hoping to get out of this ‘Roots Vol. 1’ record is to find a true audience that I can take on a new musical journey away from my current sonic blend. Music is such a subjective experience just like any art form. I feel like creating the best art you can do with your abilities and putting it out there is necessary if you have a message that’s greater than what you want to achieve sound-wise. I feel like I’ve been fiddling around with this sound for a while now, but I’m happy knowing this blend was authentic to who I was throughout the writing and recording process. My goal is to story-tell and share some of my crazy experiences with my listeners so that they too can feel and experience those moments. I feel like all my music will have that unique element of ‘me’ in it.

My message is to stay true to yourself no matter what kind of inner demons you may be battling. If you’re still in the thick of that period of your life, I hope some of these tracks I’m putting out can lend a hand.

Listen to Unreal Love now on SoundCloud; find more ways to connect with ARCTISKY via his official website.

Interview by Amelia Vandergast

Jeffrey A. Meyer became the superlative savant of soul with his reggae-rock hit, L.O.V.E., featuring G. Love & Special Sauce

By merging talents with G. Love & Special Sauce, best known for his single, Rainbow, created in collaboration with the soulful one and only, Jack Johnson, the accomplished fusionist, Jeffrey A. Meyer, orchestrated the ultimate source of sonic serotonin with his funk-spliced, pop-hooked and reggae-wrapped roots rock hit, L.O.V.E.

The vibe-heavy sun-bleached hit keeps you ensnared with every chameleonic shift as Jeffrey A. Meyer exhibits his dynamic vocal talent and delivers everything from funked-up soul to evidence of his command over rhythm in the revved-up with rapture rap verses.

The North Dakota-born, Cali-based artist’s creative ambition with L.O.V.E paid off in spades; you can’t help but catch the self-love fever and forge a spiritual connection to the euphonically rugged in all the right places single that proves you’re never outside of love if you project adulation inwards.

Between the wind in the harmonica blows, the staccato rhythms pulsing through vintage tubes and the delicious grooves, L.O.V.E is as authentic as euphoric earworms come; each instrumental vividly paints the radiance of the track’s emotional underpinnings.

With more fresh, feel-good, funky jams ready to drop through Jeffrey A. Meyer’s sophomore album in 2024, there has never been a better time to affix the orchestrator of tonal transcendence to your radar.

L.O.V.E. was officially released on May 24; stream the single on Spotify.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

Nicole Leaskk unveiled RnB’s most authenticated modern love story with ‘Want You’ ft Strizzy Strauss

Nicole Leaskk’s latest Afrobeat-heated single, Want You, is a subversive symbol of defiance in the face of RnB tropes. If you’re tired of the lyrical fawning and mourning old flames as their light dims, tune into the 90s RnB-inspired summer pop anthem that captures the passion of tragically relatable conflict. Tempers run as hot as the tones in RnB’s most authenticated modern love story.

The reprising lyric “I don’t even want you, I just want to prove you’re mine” testifies to the inevitability of becoming an unwilling pawn in mind games if you dare to delve into the dating pool as Latin flavours ooze through the guitars and percussion and bring the rhythmically kinetic groove in the Afrobeat-tinted production.

Strizzy Strauss’ grime-y rap bars work in dynamic contrast to Nicole Leaskk’s firebranded vocals as he delivers the other side of a cat-and-mouse vignette of tormenting prey before casting aside and moving onto the next chase.

The flawless execution of Want You will undoubtedly leave the UK singer-songwriter open to more critical acclaim. If you’re still sleeping on her, you may as well be in a coma.

Want You was officially released on May 31; stream the single on all major platforms via this link.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

Spotlight Feature: ELZON broadened the alt-RnB hip-hop horizon with his psychedelic trip of a hit, ‘expensive dreams’

ELZON redefined the boundaries of alt-RnB and hip-hop with his latest single, expensive dreams. The London-based artist, known for his rich cultural background and boundary-pushing music, delivered a scintillatingly serene installation of hypnotic innovation which begins with a visionary overture that lures listeners into transcendence, where dreamy 8-bit tones meld seamlessly with cloud rap influences.

The track is a kaleidoscope of cultivation, opening a portal to unrestrained artistic expression. As the song progresses, it builds towards a mesmerising mid-section, characterised by ethereal falsettos reminiscent of The Weeknd’s early work. This shift in tone, akin to a record player hitting play on a fresh LP, elevates the track into a crescendo that injects subtle intensity and speaks of ELZON’s status as a revered pioneer who is well on his way to becoming a viral sensation.

Produced between London and Manchester, with the signature touches of Elliot Taylor and Blamebrazy, expensive dreams is a testament to ELZON’s relentless pursuit of pushing leftfield sounds into the mainstream.

ELZON describes the track as a “psychedelically experimental rap/RnB track inspired by Frank Ocean and Lucki, featuring cloud rap-influenced instrumentals and Blond-esque pitched vocals”. This fusion creates a lush soundscape of surreal serenity that speaks to the senses louder with every listen.

ELZON’s journey from his early days making music in his bedroom to collaborating with Grammy-nominated producers attests to his talent and dedication, which the airwaves will see more of later this year when he unleashes his art PUNK mixtape.

Stream expensive dreams on Spotify, and follow ELZON on Instagram.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

7ELIX found a new depth in intimacy with his emo rap vignette,  ‘CALLMEWHENYOUGETBACK’

CALLMEWHENYOUGETBACK taken from 7ELIX’s seminal LP, emergency exit, pt.3: death of a memory, is the perfect introduction to the Asheville, NC-born artist’s music which is offered as a salve for the outcasted soul.

The songwriter, producer and audio engineer created the ultimate testament to his motivation to advocate for mental health and suicide awareness by orchestrating this confessionally evocative emo-rap vignette of vulnerability. By illustrating the power of candid expression and giving an outlet for jagged emotions that become scars if they’re harboured for too long, he gave a lesson in catharsis in CALLMEWHENYOUGETBACK.

The light production work on the intricately melodic track ensures that none of the visceral sincerity from the recording was stripped away. Painted in nocturnal light that depicts the intimacy of late-night thoughts cascading into vocalisation, CALLMEWHENYOUGETBACK captures 7ELIX at his most uninhibited as he attempts to hold onto a relationship that is precariously hanging in the balance despite his tight grip on the affections that bring warmth to the bittersweet release.

It’s a heart-wrenchingly authentic release which is a clear sign of even bigger things to come from 7ELIX. We can’t wait to hear what’s lingering in the prodigy’s timeline.

CALLMEWHENYOUGETBACK is available to stream on Spotify.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

Unveiling the Layers of Healing: An Intimate Interview with Jonathan Thomas Maiocco on ‘Religious Trauma Syndrome and The Other Side

Embark on an introspective journey with Jonathan Thomas Maiocco as we explore the depths of his latest album, “Religious Trauma Syndrome and The Other Side.” This interview doesn’t just skim the surface; it plunges into the raw, unvarnished realities of personal trauma, resilience, and the profound healing power of music. Join us as Jonathan reveals the complexities of his path, shedding light on how his art has become a sanctuary for those grappling with similar battles.

Jonathan Thomas Maiocco, welcome to A&R Factory! Firstly, we want to congratulate you on the creatively candid and heart-wrenching triumph of the first part of your next LP, Religious Trauma Syndrome and The Other Side. What inspired you to take the leap and share your story through your music? 

Thank you! Thank you for this opportunity, I’m honored to be here. This project has been such a labor of love. My music is always inspired by my real-life experience, so creating this album is an extension of living it. It’s been kind of terrifying to explore this part of my story in music, especially so bluntly. My first album, The Point of Contingency, was about the beginnings of this journey, but very cryptic. My new music is much more pointed, which was uncomfortable at first but necessary for what I wanted to convey.

I took this leap because I had to take this leap. I don’t know if I had a choice in the matter because I never envisioned myself not doing it. Creativity has always been like that for me. This feels like a silly analogy, but it’s something I think about a lot: when you squeeze an orange, you get orange juice, it’s a natural by-product. And for me, when I go through heightened experiences (positive or negative), I create art about it, it’s just a natural by-product of me simply existing. I can’t not do it.

The next half of your album will be released one single at a time later this month before the LP is released in full at the end of August, is there a particular reason for this release strategy?  

Yes, there are a couple of reasons! First, I’m an independent artist with a handful of listeners, I’m still learning how to be comfortable on social media and building a fanbase. Music and social algorithms feed off consistent posting, so from the start, I knew that releasing this album one track at a time would be the best for exposure and opportunity. Another reason why I’m releasing this album in singles is because deadlines keep me focused. I could spend years editing, so giving myself clear release dates has helped me finish this project. I was also afraid I wouldn’t have enough time to finish the entire album, so I figured releasing as I go was the best move.

Can you describe the emotional process of writing, recording, and producing an album which exposes the clearly still tender wounds of personal trauma? 

It isn’t easy. It’s a strange game of not feeling healed enough to share, and at the same time, knowing that healing comes through sharing. I spent so many years trying to not feel, so for me, the first step was feeling. It’s a non-linear process: some days you’re on cloud nine, and other days, you’re completely defeated and torn apart. I had to let go of looking productive or making anything of this journey. I think in our current culture, we’re encouraged to monetize trauma and it’s not healthy, that’s just another capitalist lie. The most important thing is navigating through the healing journey for oneself alone, regardless of whether it’s advertised or perceived as productive.

In the process of my healing journey, I would hear song melodies and lyrics in my head. I wrote them down but didn’t pressure them to be anything. I created a “music garden”, I planted the seeds but didn’t force them to grow. I would periodically return to the ideas and “water” them by adding new lyrics and production ideas. Eventually, these songs came into existence, not because they had to, but because they had the time and space to. They grew into the songs they are now, and when I could see what they became, I realized there was an album in front of me, one that I was terrified to share but knew I had to for my own healing.

Religious Trauma Syndrome will undoubtedly become a source of solace and consolation for queer people who have endured similar experiences to you, what piece of advice would you give to anyone struggling to make peace with the trauma of rejection from religious indoctrination?

I hope my music is a source of solace for my fellow queer family, I know creating this music has brought me peace!

In terms of advice, I would say – first – I am so sorry if you’ve experienced trauma and rejection, especially for being queer. Acceptance, belonging, love, and safety are basic human needs. From an evolutionary perspective, we are similar to pack animals, we need each other. Humans can’t live without other humans. So to be rejected, especially for who you are, is a primal and threatening experience. Recognizing the pain and feeling it, that is difficult work. Don’t do it alone, surround yourself with people you don’t have to prove your worth to. Healing is not an isolated journey. Be easy on yourself, you’ve been through a lot and deserve rest, understanding, and love. Healing is possible, it just takes time. Drop the timeline, drop how fast or slow you think this should go. This isn’t linear.

We know what you’d like to communicate to your friends, family and religious community who ostracized you by listening to the standout single, Heaven; have you been able to move past the anger, or is it still something you need to temper? 

A therapist once told me, “Anger is the emotion of injustice; behind all anger is pain.” I think it’s important to recognize that anger and pain go hand in hand. Anger is more popular than pain though because being angry is easier than feeling pain.

That being said, I don’t know if anger about true injustice is something to temper. It’s a completely valid feeling. However, I’ve made a decision that I don’t want to live my life as an angry person; peace is an inside job. Sometimes, I am sad and angry, but I choose to acknowledge it, feel it, and move forward. I can’t change the people who rejected me, but I can change myself. They may never be who I wish they were, but I can be who I want to be.

You’ve mentioned meeting many people in Los Angeles who have experienced religious trauma. How have these interactions influenced your music and your approach to this album?

I’ve been surprised at the number of queer ex-religious people I have met here. It’s almost comedic. I thought my story was original but now it feels cliche. Meeting people with similar stories has been so affirming, knowing I’m not alone. It’s also sobering though, it’s sad to see how widespread this problem is.

That being said, meeting others similar to me encouraged me to actually release this album. While I was writing it, I would think to myself, “No one will understand these songs.” But that changed for me one afternoon when I was hanging out with a friend. They are also queer and come from a traumatic religious background, being rejected by family, friends, and community. We were talking about music and so I played them my song Better Off on piano, singing it quietly for my first time to someone else. When I finished the song, I turned around and saw tears streaming down their face. I was shocked. I had never seen someone resonate with my music so quickly and viscerally. We were connected in that moment. And that was when I realized not everyone will understand this music and that’s OK, it’s not for them. It’s for the people who will resonate with it.

We can’t help but admire how much you’ve thrived in your career after all you’ve been through, what has been your proudest achievement so far? 

Thank you! I feel very lucky. It’s been a difficult journey but so worth it. There are a couple of achievements that I’m very proud of, like my degrees in music composition, writing additional music for mainstream TV shows, and producing different artists.

I think my two proudest achievements are, first, this album. This album is the culmination of me. It’s my experience, my training, my pain, my joy, all wrapped into one thing. I’m very proud of this album and I’m thankful to be releasing it! And second, I’m proud of my relationship with myself. I’ve learned a lot about myself on this journey and making this album. I went from being afraid of myself, not feeling like I could trust myself, to becoming my biggest champion, cheerleader, and confidant. It’s the cliche, “It’s not the destination but the journey.” I don’t care where I’m going now, I’m just thankful for who I’ve become on this journey.

Stream Religious Trauma Syndrome on Spotify and follow Jonathan Thomas Maiocco on Instagram and TikTok.

Interview by Amelia Vandergast

Remmorii became the king of cross-over appeal in ‘Radio Silence’

Radio Silence by Remmorii epitomises genre fluidity, offering a flood of slick and smooth grooves that easily do the lyrical gravity justice. The melody master’s focus on flow over genre fit is enriched with tinges of Afrobeat flavours within a pop framework. This, combined with RnB hip-hop vocals that spill soul, grants the track substantial commercial crossover appeal.

Raised in Brampton and influenced by Hamilton, Remmorii, a Canadian alternative hip-hop artist, emphasises authenticity and melody in his music. With a name derived from the Latin “Memento Mori,” he reminds listeners of life’s fleeting nature, encouraging them to embrace every moment. His music, characterised by organic sounds, skilfully blends rich basses, crisp mid-tones, and smooth trebles, creating a polished edge that is distinctly his own.

In Radio Silence, Remmorii’s lyrics resonate with a soul ready to scream about an era plagued with alienating confusion. The track’s rhythmic intricacies and emotive delivery reflect his commitment to merging substance with irresistible appeal. If this single is any indication of what’s to come, Remmorii is poised to lead the future of the music industry with his unique voice and poetic lyricism.

For fans of pop and beyond, Radio Silence is a must-listen. Keep Remmorii’s name on your radar; his ability to inspire and uplift through artistic expression is as rare as it is remarkable.

Radio Silence is now available to stream on all major platforms, including Spotify.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

NASRUS has unleashed their fearlessly unfiltered funked-up debut, Neurotic Goddess

The pop/R&B duo NASRUS, comprised of Grammy-nominated artist Shawn Rivera and acclaimed singer-songwriter Norm Adams, exhibited a testament to their fearlessly unfiltered lyrical approach by unleashing their genre-fluid debut single, Neurotic Goddess,

Eschewing the typical ilk of funked-up, synth-laden hits, Neurotic Goddess dives deep into the psyche of the kind of narcissistic nightmare that you’d hope to only encounter in your subconscious and not the streets.

The audaciously infectious anthem leaves over-explored female archetypes behind, opting instead to explore the chaotic magnetism of neurotic femme fatales. The playful, devil-may-care narrative spills swathes of catharsis for anyone who has ever tangled with such a personality, providing a vindicating outlet for their pain.

The funk guitar chops against the rhythmically compelling beats, 90s aesthetics and synth-pop melodies paired with the augmented dualling vocals positioned NASRUS as one of the hottest duos since Daft Punk brought the funk.

Stream Neurotic Goddess on Spotify now and let NASRUS take you on a wild ride through the depths of neurotic euphoria.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

Starleen alchemised the key to self-liberty in their electronic alt-pop salve for the soul, Let Me Go

Starleen

Starleen’s latest single, Let Me Go, marks a must-read chapter in the San Antonio duo’s career, showcasing a transcendent synthesis of alt-electronica, trip-hop, soul, and pop, which elevates the listener into a state of auditory bliss and liberty.

From the outset, the track envelopes you in a cocoon of lush dream pop, slowly intertwining with elements of serene yet visceral avant-garde trip-hop to deliver a fusionist sound that is as revolutionary as it is ethereally beguiling. Once the single reaches its full rhythmic momentum, the backbone of Let Me Go becomes its robust and fiery backbeat, which propels the track forward, complemented by layers of sonorous synths that build a crescendo of sound, mimicking the uplifting process of self-liberation.

The masterful production sets the stage for the vocal mettle of Starleen Holmes, whose voice shifts effortlessly between crystalline harmonies and powerful outpours of emotion, matching the sonic complexity crafted by Zachary Holmes, whose production skills shine luminously throughout the track. Each note and beat in Let Me Go is skilfully placed, leaving the listener wide open to the message of the sanctity of freedom; especially when that freedom is by your own hand.

The official music video accompanying the sanctifying ritual of a release mirrors the song’s themes of freedom and self-discovery and is likely to add another accolade to Starleen’s collection of music video awards.

Stream Let Me Go on all major platforms, including Spotify, from May 23rd.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

Marcus Liuzzi is the last of the great romantics in ‘Right Whatever’s Wrong’

Marcus Liuzzi’s latest standout single, Right Whatever’s Wrong, teases the soul with flawless feel-good finesse by sprinkling layers of spacey Ziggy Stardust over kinetic drumbeats; the fluidity of the intricate laid-back grooves behind the nostalgia of the 80s synths are just as rhythmically compelling as the infectious beats in the Stone Roses signature sound. Paired with the soulful crooning vocal lines, Right Whatever’s Wrong efficaciously embodies the warmth of the sensation of finding perfection in someone that obliges you to never do them wrong or let them down.

Liuzzi, perhaps the last of the great romantics, crafted an atmosphere where the soaring 70s rock guitar riff tears through the euphony towards an ardent outro, giving the track another sweetly exhilarant dynamic. This colourful prism of a pop-rock hit ensures anyone who delves in will feel the full force of the earworm.

Influenced by the likes of the Beatles, ELO, Queen, Pink Floyd, and David Bowie, Liuzzi finds perpetual inspiration in themes of love, hope and peace; his latest single is a scintillatingly soulful amalgamation of his diverse influences, making Right Whatever’s Wrong a testament to his passion and artistry. Dive into this track and let it sweep you into its vibrant, nostalgic embrace.

Right Whatever’s Wrong hit the airwaves on May 10th, stream the single on Spotify.

Review by Amelia Vandergast