Name: Abe Rounds
Occupation: Drummer, vocalist, producer
Current release: Abe Rounds's debut EP, The Confidence to Make Mistakes, is out September 17th via Colorfield.
Recommendations: Mark Hollis - Solo record from 1998 // Originally the lead singer from the English band “Talk Talk”. This record was huge for me. A lesson in space. Phil Brown has a an autobiography that covers the engineering process of this record.
Milford Graves documentary - Full Mantis // This fairly recent film is a big inspiration. Milfords study of the human heart beat and his connection to the earth is groundbreaking. Truly one of a kind that defies all tropes.
If you enjoyed this interview with Abe Rounds and would like to stay up to date with him and his work, visit his official website for more information. He is also on Instagram and twitter.
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
I have been playing the drums and been around music since I was 1 years old.
My earliest influences came through the music of my parents, particularly my father who is a bass player. I remember Prince, Peter Gabriel, Youssou N’Dour, Stevie Wonder and an array of eclectic music my parents were listening to.
I was drawn to the sound of the drums and the feeling of using all my limbs at once to create groove. It was really fun and I enjoyed the process of learning new things and making music with other people. Not until I reached my 20s and moved to Los Angeles did I being writing/producing music. It’s what I am most interested in these days.
For most artists, originality is 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?
No doubt I spent most of my youth emulating artists/musicians that I admire. As I have gotten older it has became less about emulating and more about deep listening. Whatever I grasp and take in feels more unconscious.
My own development as an artist is a product of the direct influences I have been exposed to and it continues to grow. Relationships with myself, others and the landscape around me.
How do you feel your sense of identity influences your creativity?
Culturally my roots are Polynesian on my fathers side (Fiji,Tonga) and Sephardic Jewish (Iraq, Hungary) on my mothers side. Keeping an open mind while allowing these histories to pass through my body unconsciously influences my art. Perhaps for me my sense of identity is the journey and its influence on my creativity will be ever-changing.
What were your main creative challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
As an artist the hardest thing for me is knowing when something is done.
My first record The Confidence To Make Mistakes which comes out this month was quick to make because it felt completely authentic. Looking back at old VHS footage my dad sent of me when I was 4 years old playing the drums really influenced my process on this record. In that moment of my life I was completely free and playing entirely with joy.
I was inspired to find that inner young Abe that loved playing music freely, had zero cares and just existed in the present moment.
As creative goals and technical abilities change, so does the need for different tools of expression, be it instruments, software tools or recording equipment. Can you describe this path for you, starting from your first studio/first instrument? What motivated some of the choices you made in terms of instruments/tools/equipment over the years?
When I began making music I was very conscious of what particular brand drum/cymbal I used but as I have gotten older I care less. I believe the sound comes mostly from the human. These days I'm more excited about recording equipment, techniques and mixing.
This record was made at Lucy’s Meat Market (A studio in the northeast of LA) with Pete Min. We stripped the recording progress back and just used two microphones to capture entire live performances in his room. This allowed the drums to really shine in full hi-fidelity without competing with other instruments for frequency space.
Have there been technologies or instruments which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?
With the invention of laptops, sample/loop libraries and extremely powerful DAWs its become really easy for anyone to make music. Also I feel music has become very visually orientated due to instagram/tictoc. It's become less about deep listening and more about going viral. (In my limited opinion) You have 30-60 seconds to show all that you have got.
For something new to resonate for me it has to have a message or evoke an emotion. Whether it just makes me want to dance with joy, cry over a beer or book an impromptu holiday ticket. This record I focused on making something live, impromptu and abandoning the fear of judgement.
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?
All the above for sure. I find collaboration elevates my creativity and my output.
This record was made together with my good friend Pete Min and it wouldn’t exist without him. I thrive off collaboration and enjoy being pushed/challenged by another person. My original band is a duo with my friend Jake Sherman called, “Jake and Abe” and a lot of our songs were written through voice memos because Jake lives in NYC and I'm in LA.
Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please. 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?
I don’t have much of a fixed routine but I do try to leave as much time as I can on weekends for leisure activities and fitness. I do a lot of TV scoring work with my mentor and bandmate Meshell Ndegeocello, so I try to prioritize that during the week.
As a session/touring musician work comes and goes. I am an avid golfer so I try to get in at least 1 round a week and a half day of practice.
Can you talk about a breakthrough work, event or performance in your career? Why does it feel special to you? When, why and how did you start working on it, what were some of the motivations and ideas behind it?
Joining Meshell Ndegeocello's band when I was still in college was a breakthrough for me. It opened up my listening and elevated my musicianship 10 fold. She got me to sing which was something I was quite shy about (still am) but gave me the confidence to progress as a singer.
I remember playing the first note on stage with her band and my now close friends (Chris Bruce, Jebin Bruni) and it was a feeling and sound I’ve never experienced. They are truly, generously giving musicians who elevate the music and whoever they are playing with.
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?
Distractions for me come in many forms and they are both healthy and unhealthy. Balancing these things and various human flaws are key to not only being creative but getting things done.
Judgement is a big one, I tend to be more creative if I stop judging my own ideas and just finish them no matter what.
Music and sounds can heal, but they can also hurt. Do you personally have experiences with either or both of these? Where do you personally see the biggest need and potential for music as a tool for healing?
As cliche as it sounds, music is a universal language and a place of solace for people all around the world. It is your best friend and will always be there as a tool for healing.
As a repetitive sound source it can also really harm your hearing. I've been playing drums since I was 1 years old and have to be careful of losing my hearing because I already suffer from ringing of the ears. Wear your ear plugs.
There is a fine line between cultural exchange and appropriation. What are your thoughts on the limits of copying, using cultural signs and symbols and the cultural/social/gender specificity of art?
It’s something that’s always going on. Particularly in music, appropriating sacred native and folkloric music through sampling to the benefit of someone who has 0 cultural ties, no permission or doesn’t give anything back to those communities. I don’t have tolerance for that.
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?
Science tells us all our senses are related and cross-modal. Music can remind me of certain tastes, feels and smells. It can be nostalgic in that sense but also make me what want to just physically move my body or give me an extreme appetite for a certain type of cuisine.
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?
My journey has only just begun but I do believe social and political issues directly influence me. Artists like Marvin Gaye or Banksy stand out for making transcending pieces of art that draw directly from those influences whilst being completely original.
My approach is to differentiate myself by being myself and always continue to learn and be open.
What can music express about life and death which words alone may not?
I don’t think there are the words to describe it. It’s something intangible and subjective to each person’s emotions and feelings. Sonic transcendence.