Featured Artist: Suerve

Featured Artist: Suerve

Suerve, a brand new duo hailing from Boston, Massachusetts, is one of the hidden gems of the retro funk scene. Their 2016 album "To Be Frank" features five dimes, back to back to back, each one bringing a groove that you feel in your bones.

We caught up with Suerve to learn more about their process, ask where they find inspiration, and get the scoop on some of their favorite tools.

Q: What’s the backstory with Suerve? You both have been producing for a while, but Suerve itself is new?
Nick and I met when a group of my friends were shooting a short video during Boston’s 48 Hour Film. The idea is that you get together and shoot a film for a contest within a two day deadline, and our editor had dropped out the day before the contest. A friend of a friend mentioned she knew a guy that was into video production, so we drove up to meet Nick and hopefully convince him to join our team. We spent the whole weekend making this video. The best part was that these videos were totally ridiculous, and so was my group of friends at the time. So the fact that Nick didn’t quit as editor right away was impressive and he stuck it out the whole weekend as part of our team. That short amount of time shooting the video pretty much solidified the friendship between us. We all had the same sense of humor, and we were all interested in the same creative projects, especially with music. We were always trying to learn and create and share things with our group of friends. Nick and I both were always playing in bands, and occasionally making music together. But a couple years later Nick ended up living at my house for a while, and that’s when the producing started. 

Q: How did you decide on the funk direction?
We wanted to do something fun and that’s kind of how Suerve came out of nowhere. I had always been into funk and retro 80s synth wave music, and Nick was making all sorts of different styles. He would make punk songs, and score films with orchestral arrangements. But we both kind of gravitated towards groovier, funk music, and I think you can see our sense of humor carrying over into the songs. Sometimes we purposefully make it sound super 80s, or add cheesy lyrics because we think it’s hilarious. We’re not trying to prove that we’re good musicians or worry about reproducing everything in a live scenario, so we can occasionally do obnoxious things with the music. We mostly wanted a project where we could put all the rules behind us and make music that we liked. We only started releasing the music recently, and that’s kind of where the joke took a backseat and we started taking the production a little more seriously. I think the level of knowledge when it comes to production and our toolset improved quite a bit over the past couple years, thanks to mentors like Mike Conway of Jetty, and Jay Deluca of The Bear’s Den recording studio. Nick and I really started to pick each other’s brain about process. We started using the same synths and plugins so we could send projects back and forth. We continued to share tips and tutorials that we came across, and I think that’s really why Suerve picked up momentum, as well as how our productions started to get better.

Q: How do you guys get started on a new song? What are your first steps?
Nick’s a gnarly drummer. For a while, almost every song would start by Nick making a beat and giving me a foundation to start with. Most of the time, songs come out of nowhere as the result of collaboration. Ideas that he’s given up on land on my plate and I try to breath new life into them, or vice versa. Nick is an idea machine, he’s always pumping out song ideas and I think the more you throw at the wall, eventually something has to stick. In my process, the first step to writing is always listening to other music. I use it to get inspired but most of the time I listen to things that I’d like to aspire to. I really try to get a good sense of what I’m trying to create, and then I attempt to capture that certain vibe right from the start. Tempo, swings, types of basses, etc. I really try to start with a plan. I usually find that out by listening and seeing what gets me excited to sit down and write. Sometimes its painfully slow, and other times the first 10 minutes are the most successful moments in song writing. There’s no right way, but you have to just start. Most of the time I won’t even come close to what I was going for, but at least I sat down. 

Q: What's your go-to synth? The mystery behind those fat pads?
I’ve been using Arturia synths. Nick still uses some Logic presets that he has dialed in by taste for synth brass. I like the Arturia synths a lot but I think the UI is awful. There are too many parameters on a small screen to really fine-tune what you want. So I end up avoiding the experimental phase of tweaking synths, which is the worst thing you can do. The mystery isn’t what synth you use, it’s how you learn to tweak the parameters to make it fit into the track. And once you figure out how to really dial in a synth that sounds good, then focus on layering them up. Making two synths sit on top of each other is like another art form. Some people are super good at it, like in most of this new future bass stuff. The result is super unique, a huge wall of synth. I love tweaking synths, I could sit there for hours and work in circles. Just trust your gut, and take breaks. 

Q: What artists are you listening to right now? Are there clear influences in your music from what you're listening to?
I’ve been listening to Walla P’s show Voyage Funktastique this afternoon. The past couple weeks I’ve been listening to mostly Saosin, and Circa Survive. I think Nick and I both were very influenced by Toro y Moi’s - Causers of This album. It kind of introduced us to that dance, retro vibe which is always influencing our music. Lately, a band called Pomrad really sparked our interest. The bands production is really well done too. It's interesting to see how that influences the music too, in terms of technique and not just style or vibe. But I think almost all of Suerve’s songs are built on that old school 70s R&B and Funk sound. Bands like New Edition, Atlantic Starr and The Whispers are just a few big influences that you’ll hear in a lot of our songs. 

Q: Do you have another album planned? What's next for Suerve?
Both of us have been super busy with life, and other music projects lately, but we’re hoping to finish up a full album within a year or so with all the ideas we have. We’ve been working with a singer in Los Angeles and another in Jamaica, and they’re both great but sometimes the tracks are hit or miss. It’s hard to blend styles of all these different people when you’re not all in the same room working on it. So we’re kind of sending out a lot of tracks for vocals and letting the cream rise to the top. So far, the stuff Wes and Akeem have sung on has been great, we’re just making sure we keep sending them finished tracks, I would love to play a small show with Suerve, and see if we could pull it off even if we had to trigger some samples and invite some other musicians join us. I think the best thing about Suerve is that it’s an open project, the same way the 48 Hour Film project was 5 years ago when we met. We want our friends to be involved, being creative and having fun. 

Thanks for joining us. Be sure to check out Suerve on Soundcloud!