Name: Vize Verza
Members: Chelcee Grimes, Ollie Green, Ben Dumcombe
Current Release: Closure on Ultra Music
Musical Recommendations: Chelcee: I’ve recently been reading ALOT in Lockdown. One of my favourite book’s I’ve been reading is “A NEW EARTH”. It’s helped with my anxiety and for always chasing the next thing … I’m learning how to stay/be present in this exact moment. It’s deep, but it’s sick!!
Ollie: Moonriver (Cover) - by Jacob Collier - just opened a whole new world of harmony and arrangement to me.
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When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What what is about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
Chelcee: I started later in life, I didn’t take music seriously until I was about 16, but after that first song I wrote I was hooked. Up until then the only feeling of feeling myself was on a football pitch & then I had this new passion.
For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you? How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice? What is the the relationship between copying, learning and your own creativity?
Chelcee: I’m not going to lie, I listened to Lady Gaga’s The Fame like it was the bible. I studied backing vocals, transitions in verse - pre-chorus - middle 8’s and just started learning the structure of a pop song. That’s when I think I did most of my “learning”.
What were your main compositional- and production-challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
Chelcee: I hadn’t had enough life experience. At 16 I was writing about being in love or heartbreak or going to a club and I hadn’t really done any of it. Fast forward 2 years and I got a major record deal with SONY RCA and I started thinking, “wait a minute. I don’t even know what I’m singing about … I need to live a little.” So I did :)
What was your first studio like? How and for what reasons has your set-up evolved over the years and what are currently some of the most important pieces of gear for you?
Chelcee: I literally had a keyboard in my mum’s kitchen, and that was it. I didn’t have a studio, I used to just write songs there and go into studios with different people.
I’ve now just built a studio in my new house. I just spent so much on a new microphone, (sm7) LOADS of plug-ins - a new desk, speakers, and the most expensive thing I’d ever bought before my house was my martin guitar. I love her so much!!!
How do you make use of technology? In terms of the feedback mechanism between technology and creativity, what do humans excel at, what do machines excel at?
Chelcee: I still think that humans capture emotion, in a vocal. That will never be able to be compromised. Hearing a vocal and knowing that they’re pretty broken when writing/singing a lyric in a song is my favourite thing. OBVIOUSLY technology is amazing and now there’s no real need for a HUGE studio, when 90% of the songs are the radio are from a laptop setup. I think what certain plug-ins can do now is incredible and may have seemed to be impossible a few years ago. The sky is the limit with music production it seems …
Production tools, from instruments to complex software environments, contribute to the compositional process. How does this manifest itself in your work? Can you describe the co-authorship between yourself and your tools?
Ben: It’s the most user friendly DAW for users that don’t play piano/keys. It has some of the best native VST’s. Plus if it’s good enough for Avicii, it’s good enough for anyone.
Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives through, for example, file sharing, jamming or just talking about ideas?
Ollie: I think nothing beats being in the same room as each other when collaborating. But this lockdown period has shown that you can still get good results over facetime/zoom calls etc ... I work with many artists in America and this year that’s the only way we’ve been able to work. I have a 7pm start tonight for my writing session as that’s with 2 people who are in LA. I have a piece of software that I link to my music production software which allows them to listen into what I’m doing in real time as if they're in the studio with me and we write over a zoom call. It’s different and there’s a slight delay over the Internet which is frustrating but we make it work.
Sometimes we’ll just get started from scratch, other times someone will have an instrumental they want us to write to. Other times someone might have a lyric or a concept they want to work on so it differs every time which is good, keeps it fresh and interesting and allows the creativity to not get stale.
Could you take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work? Do you have a fixed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
Ollie: In all honesty, life for me is certainly revolving around music. It’s the last thing I’m sending emails about at night and it’s the first thing I’m replying to messages about in the morning. It’s tough because I think a healthy balance is important. However, I also think if you want to be successful you HAVE to really put the hours in.
The other thing to keep in mind is that for the most part, this ‘job’ doesn't feel like ‘work’ and is still genuinely what I want to be spending my time doing. I make sure I get outside in the morning for fresh air and that I do proper exercise at least once every 2 days. But other than that I’m really just working on music. I think when it’s safe to travel again I’ll allow myself a holiday. I think you gotta just listen to your body, too. Sometimes I’ll wake up and think, yea I need a chill today. And I will.
Could you describe your creative process on the basis of a piece or album that's particularly dear to you, please? Where did the ideas come from, how were they transformed in your mind, what did you start with and how do you refine these beginnings into the finished work of art?
Ollie: Our first single, ‘Temporary’. That whole song started from a guitar loop that I had that had this melody that I liked. I looped that round and round and sung that same melody and it felt good. It ended up being the Pre Chorus melody. I like things like that because by the time the pre chorus comes along, the listener already subconsciously knows the melody because they’ve heard it in the guitar part playing under the verse.
Me and Chelcee wrote the rest of the song basically to that guitar loop for the verses and pre-choruses, then I tried some different piano chords for a chorus and we got the theme of ‘Temporary’ as we were singing melodies over the chorus. We decided on the concept of not wanting to be with someone if it was only going to be temporary and the rest of the lyrics flowed from that theme.
Once I had a rough arrangement of the song a few hours later I sent Ben a demo vocal, the guitar, the piano and some guide drums for him to start producing up properly whilst me and Chelcee started recording the proper vocals for it. Few hours after that we had something that closely resembled the finished song.
There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?
Ollie: 100% yes. You need to find that initial creative spark that initial idea. That’s what it’s all about. You get that, and you’re away! Musically this can come from finding a new sound/drum beat to get you stated or lyrically this can come from a conversation you have in the room. I think the trick is to not over-think it. The odd distraction CAN sometimes be helpful at least to me. It can act as a reset switch and suddenly your coming at the idea from a different angle. I think it’s about giving your creativity different stimulus and not getting too stuck in the same place for too long.
If you’re going round and round and not getting anywhere, change it. Stand up. Go get a drink, walk outside, read twitter for a few minutes and suddenly a word or phrase might just pop out or a melody come to you whilst you’re boiling the kettle. It’s important to be enjoying this whole process too and not beating yourself up if you haven’t got a killer idea in the first hour.
How is playing live and writing music in the studio connected? What do you achieve and draw from each experience personally? How do you see the relationship between improvisation and composition in this regard?
Ollie: To be honest we haven’t played live yet as Vize Verza, but we’ve all done different live performances in the past in other projects or for other artists. There’s an amazing energy in live performance. When you play at home or in the studio, you can afford to make mistakes whilst experimenting with ideas which I guess is where the line between improvisation and composition gets intentionally blurred. I would argue for pop music in the live arena, there is little room for improvisation and the focus is more on giving the best performance of the original material possible.
Personally, for me, I gravitate towards the creative freedom that composition in the studio brings although mindful of some of the self-imposed limitations one has when trying to construct a ‘pop’ song.
How do you see the relationship between the 'sound' aspects of music and the 'composition' aspects? How do you work with sound and timbre to meet certain production ideas and in which way can certain sounds already take on compositional qualities?
Ben: It depends what exactly is meant by ‘sound’ & ‘composition’ aspects. I think for me, the relationship between ‘composing’ and ‘sounds’ is usually always starting with the ‘compositional’ elements of what I’m trying to create. So the basic foundations of chord progressions, melodies & rhythm, usually all just created over a piano and/or bass. Only once these things are in place will I ever look at the actual ‘sounds’ or production aspects of what I want to do, whether that involves a certain synth, piano treatment, or snare sample.
Sometimes a great sound can make me reevaluate what’s going on compositionally e.g rhythmically, and therefore lead into making alterations to what the drums are doing or what the bass is playing. So I think from that point onwards the two overlap.
Our sense of hearing shares intriguing connections to other senses. From your experience, what are some of the most inspiring overlaps between different senses - and what do they tell us about the way our senses work? What happens to sound at its outermost borders?
Ben: For me, the more obvious connection between different senses is in sound and visuals. As an example, go and watch clips of Eric Prydz’s HOLO tour in 2019. I have no explanations as to why, but every laser, strobe, visual image just seems to make perfect sense with the sounds being played. I literally have no reason why this is the case but our brains can be a beautiful thing sometimes.
Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?
Ben: Art will always play a role in portraying the social/political issues present, as it has done throughout history and as it always should do.
I think one big bonus to come from the rise of social media is artists being able to directly reach their fans and raise awareness of issues they feel should be talked about it. In turn, it means a conversation begins and suddenly more and more people, who might not even be fans, are finding themselves discussing issues. I suppose this shows how art can inadvertently build a platform for artists to voice their concerns on issues that matter to them, whether or not the material they make has any direct social/political meaning ....
It is remarkable, in a way, that we have arrived in the 21st century with the basic concept of music still intact. Do you have a vision of music, an idea of what music could be beyond its current form?
Chelcee: I don’t want to put a limit on it, music keep smashing down boundaries and it will forever keep changing. I think that’s the reason we all love it so much: It grows, like we grow and it’s like, real life magic.