Expansive yet intimate,Where the Crawfish Sings elucidates those attributes which define label owner and producer LeVirya (Leon) and musician/producer Broey. (Joey). By combining the LeVirya’s rhythmic and textural nuances with Broey.’s instrumental accoutrement, the duo voyage into new territory. Characterised by subtlety and candour, the EP exemplifies their personalised approach to music.
Could you both introduce yourself and talk a bit about your new EP?
Joey: Elders first [laughs].
Leon: [Laughs]. I’m Leon, and I’ve been making music under the alias LeVirya for about five years now.Recently I’ve been collaborating more through Aviary; I have connections to a lot of artists. I had started writing a track and thought it might be good to have Joey play some guitar on it. Was the first one“Bittersweet”or the one we gave to Lofi Fruits?
Joey: The first was the one we gave to Lofi Fruits. He sent me something and I sent him something back in a couple of hours, and then we did that again the same day. I was more impressed with the outcome than I think he might have been, to be honest. [Laughs]. It started out as a lo-fi track, and then I started playing on it, and it got a little funky and groovy.It wasn’t anything I had expected to turn out. That’s one of my favourite tracks I’ve made so far.
Leon: Bittersweet, yeah, it’s one of my favourite tracks. I think it’s the saxophone that had a particular groove to it. But it wasn’t a groove that had any particular meaning until Joey started playing his guitar over it. You can say he’s more impressed with himself than I am, but that’s just not true! [Laughs]. We started working together more and more, and we just decided to write an album together. It ended up being an EP, which was challenging enough to be honest. You need a special mindset to go deep on a multiple-track record. I’m really happy with how it turned out. This was really something special.
Joey: I go under the artist name Broey., it was just a nickname people called me in high school. I’ve been making music since I was 13—I’m 24 now. I was just making little electronic beats in my bedroom that I didn’t think anyone would ever hear. For the ten years I was making beats, my friends asked if I had thought about putting my music on Spotify. I had been uploading to SoundCloud and hadn’t really thought of taking it more seriously. I did very little research and found out about TuneCore, where you can pay a few dollars and upload your music to Spotify. A year later, I couldn’t keep using it, because you just spend way too much money than you’d make back in the long run. Then I found Distrokid, and I tried uploading as a different name. I originally discovered lo-fi from Adult Swim bumps, and I had never heard anything like it before! Later on, I found it again on SoundCloud. I had been searching for it for six or seven years, and after I found out what it was called, I decided that I want to put my style with that sound and see what happens. Then I transitioned to chill-hop, which had higher quality and live instruments.
Leon: Give it two years and you’ll be onto something new [laughs].
Joey: Absolutely! That’s what being an artist is about. We’ll always be changing and pushing barriers. If you’re stuck in one lane, you’ll never reach new people and you’ll never grow. You’ll become complacent which is very damaging for any person. However, the sound on this EP surpasses anything I would’ve made for myself. It’s gonna be bigger than what I expected it to be—sound, image, everything. We started this in... September? So, it took us almost a year to finish. Now we’re here with all this new knowledge. I feel like that’s the hard part of being an artist in general; you want to go back and change things since you know more than you did before, but you just make up for it by using the new knowledge in future projects. Everybody gets their first listen only one time, so you want to make it impactful.
Leon: If you do a project, it needs to be thought through. You can do an album, but it has to be coherent so that every track belongs there. Don’t make a collection of singles, because that’s not going to make sense. If you make a story out of it, then people are more likely to keep listening as you take them on a trip somewhere. You learn from the process and improve as an artist, especially in the electronic genres. We’re not like indie bands who release albums every two years. If you don’t push it through, then you won’t go anywhere. This project was challenging. Even though you may look back and think about how you want to change things, I’m still proud of this EP. I think that’s the mind of a producer. And we have way too much time to look back at production, so we are always in doubt if something is good enough.
You both mentioned the organic qualities of Where the Crawfish Sing and how albums should be like journeys. In listening through the EP, I found that there are different spaces conveyed in the tracks. How did you guys find a balance between sound design and live recording to create an organic space for every track?
Leon: I think that was basis of the whole project. We wanted to make something organic with real recordings of birds, water, and stuff like that. We went into nature to do certain parts of the process.That’s always been the idea from the beginning; to create a space to escape real life fora second, an oasis where you can find inner peace and tranquility. I added field recordings in between the tracks to make it sound as if it was recorded in one take in nature.
Joey: In the type of music that we make, space is everything. Everything has to keep the listener’s ear from the beginning to the end. By creating this space, it’s like painting a picture of that space in their mind. I think painting a picture is equally as powerful as putting vocals on the track. Everyone will have their own perception of tranquility, but the feeling is still the same. Being able to hit that feeling is the foundation of the whole project.
It’s clearly a collaborative story with dynamic voices and textures. Could you discuss how you arranged the melodies and instrument voicings?
Joey: I made the melodies and sent them to Leon to work on the drums. I just played what I was feeling. I let my emotions lead the way instead of theorising it. In theory, everything looks great on paper, but when you’re out doing it, it feels totally different. I have very little understanding of scales and stuff, but I have a very good understanding of myself, and that’s where the melodies come from.
Leon: Every track was a new challenge. With what he was trying to say with his instruments, the drum choices were obvious to me. On some tracks, I reworked what Joey sent me to make it work without drums, and that was fun as well. I wanted to look for special foley sounds to build organic grooves. We decided not to have any snares; we wanted really soft sounds. You work to build the groove while keeping it as organic as possible. It was a challenge for me to do it like that because I usually work with keys. It changed my perspective on making music. Since then, I’ve been thinking more about my music. There are projects coming in the near future that are really different from what I did before; more conceptual.
Obviously there’s a lot of detail in this EP. I’m wondering, how has producing in this context changed how you listen to music recreationally?
Leon: When I listen to music, I’m always very critical. If I really listen to the music, I tend to hear what should have been done differently. But it’s not about that; it’s about how you make it work for yourself. I learn from listening to music, but I never try to copy anything. I’m really inspired by the music I hear. With the stuff I release, you can hear a progression and you can hear my influences. I wanted to do something that’s still in the lo-fi genre, but I wanted it to be really different. With the concept album Late Night Espresso, something that took more than a year, I just wanted to make tracks that nobody had heard before. But, usually I am inspired by anything; I just pick something and work with it. Sometimes it’s a sample, sometimes it’s a loop. When it doesn’t work, I try to collaborate, and that’s always a good way to expand your craft. I can never listen to music the same way again. I’ve always been a person that wants to know how things work. I’ve always been analysing music, but it’s become worse since I’ve been releasing music [laughs].
Joey: I agree with that. I’ve always been curious, but when it comes to listening to music, making music kind of ruins it. I used to listen to tracks and wonder how they did it, and now that I know how, the magic is kind of gone. It’s still there; it’s just not as in your face. I don’t know what exactly they did, but I always have an idea of how I would do it. I’m still really taken aback when I hear a good mix. It’s still really impressive, but now I can really notice shitty music at the same time [laughs]. I can listen to music and know whether it’s a good song or bad song. Everyone has to go through the trial and error of finding what works and what doesn’t work, and it’s still a learning process. You have to be better than you were yesterday. In terms of inspiration, I first got the idea for this project from the track “Rainforest” by Saib. I heard that song for first time while half asleep in the morning, and I thought, “This is beautiful! I’ve never heard anything like this before”—that was the switch that made me want to go into a project like this. Like Leon was saying, if you try to copy music, it will never work. The feeling I got from that song was the feeling I wanted to put back into the new project. I think if I hadn’t ever heard that song, the project probably would’ve never happened in this way. It’s very easy to be inspired if you know where to look.
How did you both challenge each other creatively and emotionally to make these ideas come to fruition?
Leon: [Laughs] we critiqued every day!
Joey: Yeah! He would give constructive feedback. Leon has a very good ear for music, and he’s very truthful with his feedback. As an artist and as a label owner, he knows that critical feedback is needed to get better. Especially with this project, we needed to think about this project regardless of our egos in order to push it to where it had to be.
Leon: As a label owner, it’s always a test. If you critique music, and someone can take it and come back with a changed track, even if they didn’t take your advice literally, then you know you inspired someone to work on something that they thought was finished. It means someone has a good mindset. As a label owner, you listen to so much unreleased music. There’s some really awesome stuff in there, but some crappy stuff as well. It’s amazing to listen to raw music and work with them to make it better. It’s great to be able to mentor someone, and then meet with them on a new level next time. It’s magical that it works that way.
Joey: You would be surprised that either of us get any work done [laughs].
What’s the meaning behind the title, Where the Crawfish Sing?
Joey: There is this book, Where the Crawdads Sing, and one of its themes is finding peace with nature. I shared with Leon, “This encompasses everything that we just made! How can we do this as an ode to the theme, but still keep it subtle?” I think it hits home. It’s different from what most people would name a project, but it all fits together like a puzzle. Sometimes things happen that are on track with what’s happening, and you can ignore it or accept it.
Leon: I had never heard of the book, so I searched it, and the meaning I got from the book made sense. For me, that was enough to make the title work. The track titles as they are, are going to change. I thought it would be cool to use the first letters of the titles to spell out OASIS, but I’m not quite happy about the titles yet.
Joey: That’s an Easter egg, you’re not allowed to tell anyone! [Both laugh]
Between this interview and the final prepping stage for the release of this project a lot of details changed, including the track titles ;)