Your EDM attended Imagine Festival in Atlanta, Georgia this past Labor Day weekend as a media sponsor for the event and we were able to sit down with one Jeff Montalvo prior to his headlining set Saturday night. Before we dive into this interview, we would like to thank Imagine Festival and Iris Promo for having us. The festival was extremely well put together for its first fully fledged year and their hospitality served to impress. Despite iffy weather and a short postponement on day one everything was handled professionally, and the exceptional line-up complimented the good vibes perfectly to leave 15,000 attendees satisfied and ready for next year.
Now, on to our sit-down with the bass maestro himself, Seven Lions. Sprinkled throughout are tunes mentioned in the interview, and some to set the mood for your read!
*Pre-interview chatter discussing beer preferences as Jeff pulls a Guinness from his cooler*
Let’s just start off with this, I was just curious what your favorite craft beer is; actually the Your EDM team is…
I’d say on a larger scale the Dogfish head IPA is my go-to, but on a small scale based out of Santa Barbara I’d say Island Brew Co. it’s really small, they don’t have a lot of distribution.
So say you hooked up with Dogfish, and they were like “let’s make a limited edition Seven Lions brew” what’s going into it?
I would do a very, very hoppy session IPA. I’d say low alcohol and really, really freakin’ hoppy. Super bitter for sure.
Do you throw anything else in there that maybe represents you or just the flavors you like?
Umm, I’d say something citrusy and summery that reminds me of Santa Barbara. And really, really hoppy. Like, one of those beers that you’re just like “woah.” But low on alcohol cause I just like to drink beer, and I don’t like hangovers. I’m getting to the age that if I have too many beers I feel freaking horrible, and it didn’t used to be like that. So I actually drink a lot of session IPA’s now just because you can have quite a few.
Okay so to the music questions; a lot of what we want to focus on is: firstly how you found your characteristic Seven Lions sound, how it’s evolved throughout your career, and where it’s going next?
I think that whole dubstep/trance sound was basically just from having an open mind about different genres and realizing that most of the trance I liked was at 140 bpm and most dubstep I liked was at 140 bpm, so it naturally made sense. I like trance mixed with drum beats and dubstep.
Do you know where you think it’s going to progress from here? I know you’ve been branching out with some trance artists, etc.
Yeah, I’m not sure. I’ve been doing some darker dubstep stuff with some interesting artists. The next EP will have some cool stuff on there. And some stuff like ‘Strangers’, so more four-on-the-floor as well. I’m not just focusing on dubstep, and I never really have.
With that, can you tell us anything more about your future releases?
There’s one song that I’ll be putting out soon. It’s kind of a really weird, dark song and it’s definitely very left-field of what I normally do. I’ve been playing it at festivals and it’s gotten a very good response.
Are you going to play it tonight?
Oh yeah. It’s probably the song that I get tweeted about the most, like “hey, what the heck is this song” and people really don’t expect that it’s me and I’m like “oh, hey it’s something I’ve been working on.”
Can you explain ‘darker’ in regards to the previous question?
More moody, vocalist-wise I’m working with someone who is a lot darker in general. I’m not sure I can talk about it that much cause I haven’t talked to the label about it yet, but let’s say someone I used to listen to back in the day. Like I wore their t-shirts all the time.
So a ‘dream collaboration?’
Definitely, the kind of thing that I was like “no way, that’s going to be crazy.” And it just turned out to be awesome.
Do you have any releases that you like in particular more than others?
Oh yeah, but I mean probably the song that I’m most proud of is ‘Tyven’ and that has no vocals on it. I mean some I always like better than others. ‘Strangers’ wasn’t my favorite song by any means but that happens to be the most popular song I’ve done.
Alright moving on, your weekly #nerdmonday thing; how’d it get started and why?
It’s just more of a way to show off the different aspects of who I am. I’m not very social on social media, which is what it’s there for, and I have a hard time talking about stuff that interests me. So setting it up specifically has made it a lot easier. And, I’ve actually been really liking it and the response has been good. It’s just a way for me to go off on whatever I like which is cool; whether it’s Bacon or Coffee Table Books.
Can you point to somebody or something in particular that inspires you in your music creation?
Opeth has always been my favorite band and they’ve always kinda done whatever they want. I’m not a huge fan of the album they just put out, but they give no cares and continue to do what they do, and I have a lot of respect for that. They always push forward and it’s very cool.
Alright, we have a question out of left field in regards to the AMA you did recently. You said that you would take a lot of heat for saying Daenerys Targaryen is your least favorite character in Game Of Thrones. What’s going on?
Oh my god.. cause she’s just, she’s a wanker.
*His wife, Emma, laughs and shakes her head*
There’s conflict here…
Basically when she takes over Meereen she’s just sitting around like a love-struck girl, like “I’m going to do what I want to do, and forget about everyone else” and all of these people are dying and all of this horrible stuff is going on, but she’s just like “I’m the Khaleesi, I do what I want.” You know what I mean? I just want to slap her in the face and be like “wake up!” Her whole thing is like “but I’m the queen of dragons”
*Emma interjects* But she has a lot of clout in that aspect.
*Jeff repeats* But I’m the queen of dragonssss
Jeff: That’s just what I see her character as. She’s asking for the boats from those rich people in Quarth, and they’re like “how are we going to get the boats” and she’s like “cause I’m the mother of dragonssss.” Like that doesn’t work in real life, c’mon… It’s annoying.
Emma: Dragons don’t exist in real life, either.
Jeff: The series is so based in reality, though. You can’t just have a character who’s totally oblivious and with all this horrible stuff going on she’s just in love with that dude and that’s all that really matters to her.
Emma: She’s supposed to be like 14 too.
Jeff: Yeah it’s weird.
If it’s not Game Of Thrones what are you watching?
We had a really heavy ‘It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia’ binge recently.
*most of the room sings ‘The Nightman Cometh’*
I just got Diablo III, and I’ve been playing that a lot too.
So what’s better, a good story or a good laugh?
A good story.
On that note, seeing as you derived your name from a book, do you have any novels or series that you are into right now?
I was really into ‘The Wheel Of Time’ for a long time and then I kind of got off of that. I really like to read one-offs, like I just finished Dan Brown’s ‘Inferno’ which was really cool. And right now I’m going back to a book I read a long time ago by Gene Wolfe, ‘Shadow of the Torturer.’
Does that influence the music? Literature, cinema…
Definitely the visual aspect of it, like the audio part of it; the epicness. But it’s not like I’m writing songs about things that happen. It’s more like I kind of focus the world I’m creating with my music around that fantasy vibe.
We can see how that translates, especially with your most recent music video for ‘Worlds Apart.’
Oh yeah that is heavily inspired by that. They did a great job. So the interesting thing about that: for ‘Strangers’ we were supposed to have a music video. I wrote out exactly what I wanted and we just couldn’t find a director. A month goes by, two months go by… and basically the time window is gone. So, I had already written what I wanted for the second video which was supposed ‘Worlds Apart’ so it’s actually part two of a longer story. And a lot of people are like “oh this doesn’t make a lot of sense” and that’s cause, well, it’s part two. But I’m just going to have to re-write the first part. The next song will definitely be part one, it’s just about trying to get the lyrics and everything to fit into it. It was perfect for ‘Strangers’ but the time frame just didn’t work out.
Check out the Worlds Apart music video here.
As far as production goes when you’re in the studio, what’s your biggest strength that you’re most confident with and what’s your biggest weakness that you’d like to improve upon?
I would say my biggest strength would be making lots of different melodies and combining them into one and making it really intricate. Chopping things together and making, out of like five different melodies, them work together really well and sound like one big picture. But, the thing I’m not really good at, with four-on-the-floor music especially, is making it sound full and interesting. I don’t really think *replicates house kicks* when I’m making music, so when I try and make music like that it just… I’m not very good at it.
Is that based on experience?
Yeah, I just know when I make broken beat tunes I can make it like “hell yeah” in five minutes, but four-on-the-floor takes a long time. I don’t know what it is, I’m just not very good at it.
I have a follow up question to that, how much time do you put into each record before it’s released?
That’s tough, I’d say over 40 hours, so about a month a song. And then there’s the time in between when I get the vocal line and add it to the song, and that’s another like ten hours to get the vocals sounding good.
How far done is a song before you give it to a vocalist?
Oh, it really, really depends, I’ll get usually half-way into a song. I’ll get the intro, breakdown, maybe some of the drop section, maybe… and if I’m not feeling it and I want some more inspiration then I’ll send it to a vocalist and go from there. But if I’m really like “oh man I’m on a roll, I’m ready to finish this” I’ll finish a song and send it out. Sometimes it might just start with a really simply melody and not even a song, it’s always different.
Well it’s getting close to set time, thanks for your hospitality and good luck tonight!
To close, enjoy my personal favorite from Jeff –
Special thanks to Patrick Shannon for assisting with the interview! Pictured above is Trivecta, Seven Lions, and myself.