One of the most versatile, talented producers is also one of the most down-to-earth. Seven Lions has blown my mind – as I’m sure with many of yours – with his distinctive production countless times, but I got to meet the humble man behind the euphoric masterpieces. I got to meet Jeff Montalvo – the Santa Barbara surfer who grew up on punk and metal.
The chance to interview him had me squealing like a preschooler, but I was fangirling just as hard for his colossal live set. He performed at the famous Opera Nightclub in Atlanta, and the crowd was sweating bullets ten minutes into the show. Tracks like “Strangers,” which had me in tears per usual (see below), commanded the entire crowd to belt every lyric and go utterly insane for the drops. His “Throes of Winter” Tour, which promotes his latest EP, should be immediately inserted into your plans, as it was truly one of my all-time favorite experiences.
How does a Santa Barbara surfer become so entranced by punk and metal?
I’ve always been into punk and metal. I guess I really got into them watching surf videos actually. That’s when I first heard of White Zombie and stuff like that.
Which works of yours are your favorites? Why?
That’s tough. I’d probably say ‘Keep It Close’ or ‘Tyven’, just because those are very unique. I don’t think they get too much exposure, to be honest, but they’re my favorites for sure.
Your production style is incredibly unique. What’s your opinion on the overwhelming monotony of certain EDM genres and the future of the EDM bubble?
I think it’s brought on by fans not wanting the artists that they like to experiment. It’s this whole genre-Nazism that a large portion of people bring on as in, ‘I only like dubstep and everything has to be dubstep’ or, ‘I only like trance and everything else is sh*t.’ That attitude that people have gets pushed onto the artists that people like due to their extreme vocality. Once people ease up, artists will start getting more creative. If you think about it, some people make careers off of one song. Techno stuff in particular – I like techno – but really, how similar is every single track that some of these artists put out. And that’s cool, but don’t expect everybody to be that rigid with their production.
‘Strangers’ admittedly made me cry during your set at EDC Vegas last June. Describe your creative process when producing that massive anthem.
That one, I just started working with Myon & Shane 54, came up with the track, did my glitchy part, and just sent it out for a few toplines. We got a few different people to try some vocals on it, but Tove Lo’s was definitely the best by far.
If you could collaborate with any artist, who would it be? Why?
Probably Sigur Ros or Imogen Heap because of their incredibly unique voices.
Your tracks cover several different subgenres of dubstep and other popular EDM genres. How do you decide what style your going to go with for a certain song?
I usually have that in mind before I start, and it’s just whatever I’m feeling at the time. I want to make songs that will play out. So with tracks like ‘A Way to Say Goodbye’, I knew I wanted to have something I could play live that would have a very strong sing-along element to it. With songs like ‘Keep It Close’, I knew I didn’t want to make a “dance floor” song , and it was totally out of left-field just as a song people could listen to.
What’s the secret to keeping your hair so beautiful and majestic?
I wash it every three days so I guess that’s the big secret.
Throes of Winter combines a certain deal of house influence with that classic Seven Lions ‘umph’. Should we look for more of the same in the future or will you continue to blow our minds with other genre-influenced sounds?
The stuff that I’m working on right now is even further from the curve than any of my work before. The ‘poppy’ tracks are more pop, with the left-field stuff being way more left-field.