Sortof Vague prepares to unleash more fresh sounds as he gains momentumProducer Dojo Team
It was a crisp Florida afternoon that Sortof Vague had first played under the sweet Suwannee skies. Hammocks were swaying. Trees were shaking. Our full weekend of dance couldn’t have been kicked off any better. Everyone was eager and ready to hop into rhythm. However, it wasn’t until I got to sit down with Sam that I had felt my biggest admirations for his work. He was happy to give us a full look into how Sortof Vague came to be, as well as sharing his insights on this flourishing movement in music.
Whether it’s a ‘hammock chill sesh’ or an uptempo free-for-all, Sam will match the tone of any crowd and deliver a cohesive, yet diverse show that’ll leave you happily assured for the next one. He has an extensive knowledge of the plethora of underground bass music out there, along with a natural talent for weaving them together, keeping the audience engaged throughout the set. Or how he puts it, “just giving them something to nod their heads to.” Layering, substance, theme, transitions, and relatability are only a few aspects that come to mind for what he has mastered in a live setting, even with a multitude of different genres and elements coming into play. From classic hip hop instrumentals, to the deep bass of Kursa, to creating his own ambience from etheric vocals and melodies. Sortof Vague truly is a treat for any forward thinking individual captivated by psychedelic sound. Lovers of downtempo, breakbeat, hip hop, glitch hop, acid house, and everything in between will surely rejoice once Sam takes the stage.
There is a very inspiring part to his story as well that all young producers or anyone wanting to make that ‘leap’ should hear. A few years ago, Tipper & Friends, some of the pioneers and innovators of this scene, had just started a special event to gather us in for a weekend at the infamous Suwannee Music Park. They had a mix contest open to the public in which the prize was an opening slot at the festival! Who came out on top? You guessed it. Sam had sent in a mix, expecting to “not even be noticed”, and absolutely crushed it. This was only the 2nd time he had ever played for a live crowd. Fast forward a few years and he’s finished with his degree in Music Tech, opened up 3 more Tipper events, plus a number of local shows in different cities, especially the ever-growing Denver, CO, with leading promoters such as The Black Box and Cosmic Synergy. As a result, his latest works in the studio should definitely be watched out for. For example, there’s his first single ‘Tough Break’(seriously, go check it out), an original EP, and other artist collaborations that should be out in the near future. “Sort of Vague” may be the only 3 words you can come up with as it hits your ears, but his vast and growing potential is anything but ambiguous, just how it was hanging from those beautiful Florida trees, at the very beginning.
You mentioned that you’ve been working on your own productions lately. Can you tell us anything about that?
Yep! Been slowly working on new tunes and integrating them into my live sets. I also have a few collaborations in the works and I’m going to be releasing an EP of the originals & collabs in the next couple months. I’m trying to take influence from as many places as possible while also injecting my own unique ideas and production techniques to create tunes that are familiar yet forward thinking. Or, at least music that people can nod their heads to.
How do you progress and/or maintain your Artistry on your own time and in your personal life?
I try to relate most interactions and experiences that I have back to music and art. There are obviously strong parallels between the emotions that music evokes and the emotions that we experience on a day-to- day basis, even though the day-to-day can sometimes feel mundane and uninspired. I’ve found that producing and performing music has given me a better perspective about life in general and I try not to take things too seriously or get bogged down in negative emotions because then the music I create tends to convey those emotions. Instead, I look forward to having an impression on an those who see me perform or hear my tunes. It doesn’t have to be a positive or negative reaction necessarily, just as long as the music I play gets people thinking or takes them on a journey of sorts. If I can achieve that then I feel that I have somewhat successfully created ‘art’.
Who have been your biggest musical inspirations? Is there any genre that gets you to create more than others?
In no particular order: Royksopp, Mux Mool, Mr. Scruff, Ratatat, Luke Vibert, Mark Pritchard, Damon Albarn, Dr. Dre, Cut Chemist, Thes One, Tipper, Joker, Plaid and many, many more. In terms of genre I tend to gravitate toward music that is beat driven, psychedelic and progressive. hip-hop, prog/psych rock, electro-pop, electronica, idm, drum ‘n’ bass, etc.
What keeps your motivation up when going through slow creative periods or sticky times in life?
A cup of tea, some exercise and good old fashioned self loathing.
Congratulations on finishing your Degree in Music Tech! What advice would you give to others who are wanting to dive into Music Production? Are some subjects better to study and practice than others?
Cheers! I’d say to anyone who is considering diving into music production that if you’re passionate about sound and you don’t mind sitting in front of a computer (or other electronic devices) for many hours at a time then take the leap. There are thousands of tutorials online covering essentially every aspect of production, so most of the time a formal music education isn’t necessary. And yes, I think some areas of music production are better to study than others but like anything else in life it’s going to depend on the individual and his or her interests.
I feel like many young people who look up to this Music Scene are overwhelmed or mislead by a superior view towards sound designers and famed Djs. Is a high level of formal knowledge and experience on theory and such absolutely necessary, or can you develop solid production just by taking after your own niche of sound and getting after it on your own?
No, I don’t think a high level of formal knowledge about music theory, sound design or even recording techniques is absolutely necessary for making a solid tune. Experience, however, is essential. Many of the best producers and writers that I know are not classically trained musicians in any sense of the word yet they have spent countless hours reverse engineering their favorite music, which sets them apart from the crowd. Problem solving and perseverance go a long way when it comes to technical skills such as music production.
Besides music production, what other hobbies and creative passions do you engage in? Is there anything else you’d like to tap more into?
I like to ride my bike, snowboard and do as many other random physical activities as I can. I also like to draw, especially when I’m not feeling motivated to make music. In the future I plan on creating visual art that will compliment my music and live sets – but that is a ways off at this point.
Your first single track, “Tough Break”, was an instant hit to my ears and really gives the listener a sort of, headnodic euphoria. What was the message behind this, Can we expect more tunes like this in your upcoming release?
There isn’t specific message behind it, I was just feeling creative motivation after coming back from Tipper & Friends at Suwannee in 2016. I have a handful of other tunes that have a similar downtempo/headnod vibe but I don’t know if they’ll ever see the light of day. Or maybe the will?
Your last show with Cosmic Synergy and the Black Box was quite a hit. How have you liked this booming scene that Colorado has to offer? Where do you see both the industry side and new sounds/artistry heading in this environment?
The Denver scene is so fun right now and I feel fortunate have seen it grow to where it is today and also be a part of it. Nicole and the rest Sub.Mission crew have been absolutely crushing it, setting a good example for how electronic promoters should carry themselves and treat the artists that they associate with. The same can be said for Cosmic Synergy and the type of well curated events that they throw. There are also countless other promoters, artists, tastemakers and fans who have had their part in making the scene what it is. There’s no other place on the planet I’d rather be for this type of music, which is a very cool feeling.
2018 is going to be a big year for the Denver electronic scene. More key players will be making the move here and with that the scene will become even stronger. Venues like The Black Box will continue to give younger/smaller producers and DJs the opportunity to be heard by their contemporaries while building a fan base at the same time. The influx of fans and artists will also mean new venues/galleries/creative spaces, which is important because competition breeds innovation.