Get to Know Stones Throw Soul Men Myron & E
It's uncommon for a veteran duo in any genre of music to put out their first album together after decades of correspondence and touring. But taking decades to release a debut isn't the only thing that makes the Bay Area-based vocal duo of Myron & E a rarity.
The two met as backup singers for Quannum/Solesides group Blackalicious. Before they were singers E was a DJ and Myron was a dancer on the early '90s sketch comedy show In Living Color. As random as that sounds the singing duo reassures everyone that it correlates with what they do now.
Signing to Stones Throw Records in 2012 the duo will release their debut album, Broadway on Jul. 2, over a decade after they initially met. The Boombox spoke to Myron & E about their sound and their transformation from hip-hop heads to classic soul men.
What's been up with each of you recently? Even if it's music related?
Myron: I've really just been trying to reconnect with the family. I moved out of L.A. more than 10 years ago and I've missed out on a lot of family reunions so it's really just simple stuff, just trying to get reconnected, reacquainted with family and hanging out with them outside of music and it really keeps you grounded. They'll check you like "Hey man, I remember when I used to change your diapers," in front of all these people (laughs). So that's always good. I love all of them but I don't like all of them (laughs).
E: I've just been working mostly with the record coming out soon we've just been putting in a lot of work, doing shows and just trying to do as much as you can to help promote the record and get the word out about the record coming out.
And speaking of that record, Broadway, that's coming out in July. What should people be expecting from you on that album?
E: I don't know, I think we do vintage modern soul because it's a little bit of everything on the record. I think it covers all sort of genres of music. Before you say throwback or something like that, we've got a little bit of '60s sound, a little bit of '70s sound and even up to the '80s when you look at a record like "Do It," it's a good record, we've got a little bit of everything and hopefully people dig it.
Myron: How would you categorize what genre, E?
E: I mean, I don't even know, it's just it's different. The instrumentation of it has sort of a reach back feel to it but I guess it would be more like '80s almost, '80s modern soul.
Myron: It still has continuity though.
You mention vintage and that's very appropriate in describing your music particularly from the song "If I Gave You My Love." It's very old school sounding but you mention that updated vibe that you bring to it. What kind of vibe though would you say you want fans to get from your music?
Myron: A good vibe, just overall a good vibe. A lot albums or a lot of projects end up sounding the same, like let's just say you take Myron and you take a video and you run them all together and you turn down the sound, look away, step away and come back and you feel like you're looking at the same video. Sometimes people's albums are like that audio-wise. We have enough time in this and that continuity is still there.
There are singing duos out but not really in the sense or way that you two do music. I don't want to call it neo-soul but how would you describe the type of music Myron & E does?
E: I'm not sure, I don't know if we're really ever thought about in that term. We just sit down and write songs together. If we're apart, Myron will write something and he'll write a part for me or I'll write to something, I'll say, "Ah man, Myron you'll sound really good on this part." Case in point is on "If I Gave You My Love," the beginning tag, if I say this there's an accent on this and it's a lot of give and take in the style that we write. As for a specific term, I don't know if we could actually pin it down with just one phrase or word.
Myron, you were on In Living Color during the early '90s. How do you translate that experience to your musical make up?
Myron: (Laughs) it's out now (laughs). That's one of those step siblings "go back in the room and don't come back out until we finished." So here's the thing, I started out as a dancer as you may already know, love dancing, I love watching people dance, I love dancing with people. We did shows in Finland that were way different than what we're doing now but what I ended up doing was having a conversation about how we wanted to do sets and the songs on the album are good but they lack points. You don't want people to sleep or become boring. If I'm on stage and I'm bored, people out in the audience are going to be bored and we want to make sure we keep it fun. The messages are kind of heavy like, "Oh my god, I love this band." Because the chords are happy and major, it keeps it positive in the sense of, "You know what, you're right, love is a cold game," and people keep dancing. I know it's cold but my feet are moving. We want the shows to be happy, we want the chords like in "Cold Game," the major chords, clap your hands and have a good time and so when we're dancing on stage, you're dancing to songs in an upbeat happy. It's just keeping it positive. Yesterday at KCRW, I was like "Man that was like a mini party in different rooms," because the rooms are separated and people were like, "Yeah you guys were dancing and having fun, acting silly." Because of the movement, everyone else is too and it's a good live show and you have to think about that and have that variety in choosing the music.
E: That's a huge thing for us. We're trying to make it show that our show, not only does it flow but it's up tempo and not necessarily involving BPM but we definitely wanted to have a flow that's uplifting and something that's going to give people something to dance to or something to clap to. A lot of the stuff we draw from, like the hip-hop element, we even have a little caller response stuff in a song or two, which is something that you never really see. You never really see a lot of Soul acts with caller response, especially the newer acts. For us, as long as we're up there having fun we know that that's going to translate into the crowd.
You two met after Myron moved to the Bay and began touring as a backup singer. How specifically did you two come together when that happened?
E: I met Myron, we were both working with a group Blackalicious and Myron came on as the background singer and I came on as the tour deejay so we met that way. We were friends probably what? Six, seven, eight years before the Myron & E project ever came to fruition? Before that I was a DJ, I still am a DJ but before that I was just DJing, I had a couple of record deals on some other record labels as well though production and I had a record that was out on a San Francisco independent label and the record that I put out with them did really well. They wanted me to do another record with them because the first one was really successful so when it came time for me to prepare music for another record, I was like, "Wow, how can I make this happen, how can I make it happen sample-free?" So I met Soul Investigators a few years before when I was on tour in Europe in Helsinki. And so I was searching through my mind on who I can get to play music for me, they came to mind and when I thought of them, I sent them an email and said, "Hey, I got this deal and I'm trying to get people to play live music for me, would you be interested?" And they emailed back and said they'd definitely be into it but when you were over here, you came to our studio and you sang a little bit and I really wasn't trying to impress them at all but when I sang they loved it and so they were like, "If we give you this music, we want you to sing on a track for us." I said, "Okay, sure, that's fine, that's great, I'll do it." I really didn't think much of it at the time and then one day Myron just happened to come by my house and I was like, "Hey man, these guys in Finland want me to sing on a song. Sit down and sing the song with me." And he was like, "Okay, cool." So we wrote and recorded "Cold Game" and from that point on it's just been building.
That sort of addressed what I was going to ask you next, E that you're really into crate digging and DJing and that's kind of how you got your start as well. How does that develop you as a musical talent and not just a singer?
E: Well, I mean the knowledge of just the old funk and soul and stuff that I know is just, I've been doing this for 20 plus years. I've got easily 10,000 45s and I've been collecting records around the world for at least 15 years so a lot of the music that you hear on the album would be me just sending the YouTube clip to some of the Soul Investigators, like a rare 45 saying, "Hey, we want something with this feel, not necessarily re-create that but just listen to the feel of it, if you could do something in this sort of vein, this would be a good one." So just the knowledge and the records that I have, it makes it a lot easier for me to not only pick the right music in that vein but I just try to give those guys ideas in a way that a song is going to pick the right mood or the right vibe, especially when it comes to us performing live. We definitely want that kind of stuff when we're on stage performing.
That's really interesting and I actually read that. What made you think of that because it is a good idea? How did that start?
E: Well a couple of the guys in the Soul Investigators, they're huge crate diggers as well and they're very verse in this music. They've studied this music for a long time as well and in the beginning, myself and Jukka, who's the drummer in the group, we would always just be on G Chat all the time and we would constantly be sending each other stuff back and fourth, back and fourth. I'm sitting there at work during the daytime and it's nighttime where he's at, pretty much for years we would just sit there. And a lot of times he would just send me songs to say, "Hey, this is an easy record to find in the Bay if you could get it, get it for me." And then I would send him one back and then say like, "Hey, I know you guys got stock on this record." And us just having love for records like that and that kind of rolled into us choosing songs to say, "Hey, take this one, take that one, put your spin on it and you guys do something with this musically that's not a copy but like I said something in that same vibe."
You two have a long musical history and you signed to Stones Throw last year. Finally you are putting out that debut album as a duo, what does it mean to finally get that one out there?
Myron: Of course it means a lot since we've been hashing at it for quite some time it's more than even just Stones Throw. It was discouraging at times and a lot of things came into play and here we are, especially not recording with someone else to begin with, not to take away from the whole Blackalicious, touring with other people, (doing) background vocals, DJing cause it's all relative but to finally now be in our own lane.
E: I'm just excited man, Myron said it's been a long time coming and many rivers to cross to get to this point. It feels really, really good to be here. I think one of the main things with us is that if we didn't believe in us, we probably would have gotten to or we would have gotten to a river and said, "You know what man, I don't feel like swinging anymore." I think we both are really, really happy with the music that we recorded and I think just the response that we've always gotten from the stuff that we've released for the singles that have come out, people have always loved them and that's kind of what kept us going really because for a long time, the only place you really could get any of our music was that you'd have to buy a 45. I think the first two songs were available digital but just persevering with it man and it's nice that there's finally a light at the end of the tunnel.