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Exclusive Interview with &Freinds

When did you first know you wanted to become a musical artist? What was the first song you ever wrote?

It’s funny, I was one of those people that didn’t find their art form until later in life. I’ll never forget, the first ‘rave’ I went to in 2008 was Together As One. Armin Van Buren played a 9-hour set. I was sold.

The energy, the sweat, the loss of care for anything else in the world besides that present moment. All I had to do was feel the rhythm in my soul and move the body however it wanted to express.

I remember the first thing I put out was back in 2009 as part of a duo with my best friend. It was this dirty, dutch electro track that used Muhammed Ali’s vocals saying “float like a butterfly and sting like a bee.” Wow, haven’t thought about that in a while, thanks for the nostalgia.

Who are some of your top 5 musical influences?

Top 5? C’mon now! That just isn’t fair. I feel guilty answering this question myself as the group has so many influences from classical to opera to soul loving jazz, and everything else outside and in between.

For me personally, funk/soul artists like the magical Queen Calypso Rose, legends like Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles’, Stevie Wonder, and the mind astronaut Dj Drez.

I admire their passion, dedication, and full commitment to themselves. Constantly pushing boundaries, imagining, dreaming, loving, giving.

What is &Friends? How and Why was it formed?  

Honestly, the “Let it Be” music video is how &Friends was really formed.

&Friends is a group of people trying to do what people have always tried to do together: discover truth through the act of creating with each other. Everything about &Friends is about community, lifting each other up, participating, showing up, giving back, connecting the dots. An ecosystem that all creates for each other so that we may all experience abundance and bliss.

Funny, I was looking to start my own project again after being away from music for more than 6 years. In the past two years I started playing shows again here in NYC, dusted off the cobwebs from Ableton, but it was just me, and what fun is that?

Why don’t I collaborate with some incredible humans that I know, some that I don’t, and meet some strangers and other gems along the way. That’s exactly what happened.

In January 2020, I started producing with a very close friend from back home in San Diego, Mr. Mikey, who is also a business partner in this project. We actually hadn’t caught up in about 5 years until the end of 2019, but we had a couple of great FaceTime calls and got right into it.

Over those few months we started honing in on the energy, the emotions, the stories we wanted to tell, the sound design—what is it we wish to make others feel?

I had a vision of a 20 piece ensemble playing live—choir vocalists, percussion, strings, brass, keys—I woke up and knew we needed to find the right humans to collaborate with for all the live musician aspects.

Then COVID hit and the remix idea was born. Through music, art, wellness, we can create such supportive and uplifting communities for us all to thrive.

Why did you choose “Let It Be” as the first release for &Friends?

Our first release is a house/gospel remix of The Beatles’ “Let It Be”—intentionally chosen for its universal and cross-generational reach and positive message. In this particular global environment, we believe people all over the world are starving for a positive, unifying connection. We believe we can do this through music.

&Friends began as an organic collaboration amongst artists, musicians, producers, and videographers. Every person that works on &Friends wants everyone around the world to participate in the collaborative experience with them. Hence the birth of the “Let It Be” music video. This video to me is bringing every ounce of pain and suffering to the surface while still loving every single bit. A love affair with discomfort.

This is proof that anything is possible when people come together with an open heart and no judgement. We must slow down. Sink in. Feel. Honor those around us, but most importantly, ourselves. We want others to remember how big the world is and to feel a sense of gratitude for the ability to just breathe for a moment in it.

What do you miss the most about playing live?

There is nothing like giving energy to crowds who want it, and some of them want it so badly they don’t even know. I miss that greatly. Creating and sharing a story for an evening.

I miss it. I miss that connection, the eye contact, the shoulder shakes, the ear to ear smiles, the laughs that make the cheeks hurt.

Tell us about the process of shooting “Let it Be” 

How the heck are we going to make a music video? Who can do it how I see it? How am I going to get people from all over the world to submit a video in different languages?

I got on a call with a videographer friend. I knew he didn’t have the chops to build it out how I saw it, but wanted to brainstorm. He intro’d me to a TikTok “Star” who has millions of views on his channel. It was an amazing call, but not a fit. Then he said to me, “Dude, I have the best person for you that will match with your energy and everything you’re doing.” I’m getting goosebumps talking about this as it’s bringing me back to the whole process.

He introduced me to Gabe Desanti, and magic happened. It felt like fireworks, rainbows, butterflies, a cosmic creative revolution. It was one of those times where you meet someone and you think “Man, have we known each other all our lives or what?!”

The creation of the video began, I started putting assets together for personal outreach and hit the ground running. I sent 300+ personalized voice notes and Instagram DM’s to friends, family, and people that I’ve never met. What a crazy sprint that was, I remember being drained beyond. But 200+ submissions later, we had all the content to make something beautiful for the World. Now 8 months later, we’re ready to release the first music project, the first video.

 What’s the best concert you’ve been to? 

This is a tough one too. The first thing that comes to my mind is James Blake, acoustic piano set at the Lincoln Jazz Center here in NYC. I mean, the view, looking out the glass to half of Central Park, half of the City, and one of the most ridiculously talented musicians of this last decade.

He was beyond….effortless, raw, so powerful yet so soft. That one really stole my heart. So special.

If you could meet, play a gig, co-write a song, have dinner, have a drink with any band or artist (dead or alive) who would it be?  

I dislike this question because there are so many variables that come into play here.

The first human that pops into my mind is Alicia Keys. Her ability to poetically connect, and create art that everyone can relate to. She is someone that speaks so much truth, and with such strong, gentle elegance. She’s never afraid to talk about the struggles and I adore her work in philanthropy. She’s the definition of BEing—freedom of expression. She’s been at it for such a long time and is so respected. That speaks volumes and I would love to hear her story. Bonus points for being a New Yorker—the ones born and raised in this city are always humans I want to spend time with.

What are your goals for the future? 

Everything about &Friends is about community, lifting each other up, participating, showing up, giving back, connecting the dots. An ecosystem that all creates for each other so that we may all experience abundance and bliss. A circular giving model.

There will be many streams, but they will always tie back to the community.

The most important thing in my life, and what I want to share, is mental wellness education and health. Having left home at 17, and coming from a soul loving mother but a mentally and physically abusive step-father, we saw a lot, we experienced a lot. There was a lot of pain and a lot of trauma, things that just shouldn’t happen. I lost my brother when he was 22 to mental illness. My mother has experienced depression and anxiety from a young age.

The biggest aspect I want this all to go to is the &Friends Foundation, with the idea of partnering with Mental Wellness/Education programs in underprivileged neighborhoods. That’s the high-level of where I want everything always funneling to, but I know I need to grow first.

On the music front, we’re in discussions with a few larger labels currently for the album. We also have a bunch of art projects, merch, and wellness projects coming.

End of Interview

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