by Isabel Kalnin
Common Souls are an electronic R&B duo comprising of Ryan Yoo and Nick Velez, coming out of LA, and currently on a West Coast tour. KDUP caught up with them on March 5th to talk a little bit about their music, their gear, and future beefs.
Q: What’s your origin story, or rather, how did you guys find each other?
Ryan: Found each other on Bumble. Just kidding. We went to UCLA together, and were playing around and would talk about James Blake, and didn’t know anyone else who liked the same music, and then we started making music together. Been playing ever since.
Q: What’s the story with your equipment?
Ryan: The guitar is from 1962, which they used to sell at Sears, that I bought on Ebay for 200$. It sounds awesome but is very finicky. Both of us have an affinity for old equipment – it’s got an inspiring vibe that something more modern won’t. The trade-off is that it’s a hassle to deal with.
Nick: Rolland Sp404, I think it was made in the 90’s, or early 2000s, but I don’t use it conventionally, just lazily. I use it as a way to play tracks without a computer. It’s very disengaging to have a computer on stage. Early shows had computers that went really wrong,
Ryan: The computer puts a wall between the performer and the audience I think.
Q: Best college memory?
Ryan: Meeting Nick 😊 <3 😊
Nick: Doing Spring Sing
Ryan: Our first show ever was in front of 10,000 people, at Spring Sing at UCLA. Assorted celebrities were in the audience. One of Nick’s equipment malfunctioned in the middle of the song. Nick flipped his sh*t, but he managed to bring it back. Except he brought it in on a different beat, on a vocal loop. There’s a video. If you look at it, you can see his stormy expression, and I was just singing happily. Research Common Souls “Spring Sing.” You’ll see our onstage meltdown. We actually kept the song like that though.
Q: What’s your music process like?
Nick: It varies. Most of the time, we write our best stuff together. It’s very collaborative, giving each other feedback on different ends of the process. We’re both amazing producers, but Ryan always has good ideas on how to finish things.
Ryan: Throwing sh*t against the wall.
Nick: Lately we’ve been focusing more on songwriting as opposed to sonics. What we really resonate with is the message.
Ryan: As opposed to textural sophistication or perfect instrumentals.
Q: Who are your biggest musical heroes?
Ryan and Nick: Prince! Kanye West, Frank Ocean, Stevie Wonder, D’Angelo, Corey Feldman.
Ryan: They’re all people who package wild ideas into an easily digestible form that anyone can get into, like the Beatles. They’re all the Beatles that way. They’re all also people who were very fearless and incredibly intelligent. So incredibly individual and pioneering, without losing sight of the whole music and the economic realities of making a popular song.
Nick: They all have stories to tell, which is a beautiful thing as an artist. They all have experiences that come through in the music.
Ryan: Someday I hope to have an experience.
Q: What did you listen to this morning?
Ryan and Nick: We drove down from Olympia this morning – Sam Evian, Jpeg Mafia, Prince, LCD Soundsystem, Post Malone, DRAM, Daryll Reeves, Sufjan, Miguel, FR David.
Q: What was your most biggest step forward with your music?
Ryan: Definitely realizing what was important to us in the music. We spent a lot of time dialing in and tweaking synths, then we understood that these thing were only as important as the emotion of the song. That changed how we made music.
Nick: Defining the roles we had as we made music. As a result, you get better at your thing.
Nick: I could do it all, but instead you become really good at one thing, as opposed to being pretty good at one thing.
Q: So where do things go from here?
Ryan: First we go the Analog, and then SF and LA, on the rest of our tour, and then we return to the studio, working on a full length album, and maybe 3 albums simultaneously.
Nick: Working on new music, a bunch of stuff is in the works, taking it step by step, and recording as much as possible.
Q: Any closing thoughts?
Nick: Post Malone is the Nickleback of Trap.
Ryan: Young Thug. So underrated.