Today, New Orleans-based duo, sfam, released their new EP, neutral ground on Rezz’s label HypnoVizion.
neutral ground is an adventure into the off-kilter bass and hybrid trap sounds associated with HypnoVizion. The thrilling four-track project opens with ‘Bad Blood’, a ghastly left-field cut befitting its name, leading into the noxious focus track ‘Lezdewit’. neutral ground twists with the haunting builds and devastating drops devised with ‘Unhinged’, before concluding with its titular anthem, ‘neutral ground’, a rebellious collaboration with Denver-based producer DMVU.
Across the EP, sfam experiment with dizzying melodies, harsh broken-beat rhythms, and gritty basslines. In line with the defiant vision set forth by Rezz’s burgeoning label imprint, sfam’s curiosity towards unorthodox soundscapes has made them a natural addition to the growing HypnoVizion family.
StageHoppers sat down with the New Orleans-based duo at Hangout Fest in Gulf Shores to discuss their evolution from childhood best friends to DJing/producing as well as their excitement around the EP and their upcoming projects.
So you two have been producing together for about 9 years now. What’s been the most rewarding thing you’ve experienced from then up until now?
Michael: So basically I taught him [Jacob] how to produce, and obviously that was very rewarding to be able to teach my best friend how to do it. So we were able to do this together. I’ve made some of my best friends through this, other than him [Jacob]…SubDocta is one of my groomsmen. So is Eric from from Eazybaked. I mean, I’ve known these guys for a long time now. I think I met Eric through SoundCloud messages in like 2015 or something, so I wouldn’t have even met these people if it weren’t for making music. The friendships that you gain through it have been some of the most rewarding things for sure.
Y’all have had collabs with Boogie T, Wreckno, Dirt Monkey, and more. Are there any other artists you look forward to working with or would love to collab with?
Michael: If we were able to collab with like [DJ]Eprom, Alix Perez, you know all the legends… they’ve definitely had a huge influence on my personal production style.
Jacob: Yeah all of them have been a good inspiration. Hell, Michael has been an inspiration to myself. I would be down to do something with Rezz one day, that would be really fun. I’m shooting for the stars here, but I would love to do something with Skrillex, the GOAT.
Tell us a little about your music journey. What prompted you to get into producing?
Jacob: We’d been knowing each other since we were 11 years old, playing soccer together growing up. We’ve always been really good friends. We were in college and started going to shows, and we were really into EDM going on at that time. There weren’t many duos at that time, maybe like Floss[tradomas], Zeds Dead, so we were like hey, let’s be a duo.
Michael: He [Jacob] taught me how to DJ, and then I really got into the production aspect, like buried my head into Ableton nonstop pretty much. It was one of those things where we just became obsessed with it. We’d work hours and hours a day – work on music for 12 hours, go to work, sleep for like 5-6 hours, do it all over again. I like to say production-wise: ‘you’re its b**ch, until it’s you’re b**c’”. It becomes your playground. I’m always learning, but you do get to a point where you’re like ‘alright, I know what I’m doing and can do what I want from here.’
Explain the emotions you felt when you landed on Rezz’s record label: HypnoVizion?
Michael: Ecstatic, for sure. She gave us our first opportunity to play Red Rocks. She put us on another huge show which is coming up at Stanford University with an insane lineup – it’s us, Ivy Lab, Dr. Fresch into her [REZZ]. We sent music to her for a long time, she liked it, then Subdocta helped us out with getting that A&R email. We’ve become good friends with the A&R. They seem to really believe in us and believe in our music, so we’re really excited. It feels good to have a label and an artist that is so well respected to really be messing with our tunes.
How would you describe your new track, Neutral Ground, with DMVU?
Jacob: Absolutely amazing. Matt [DMVU] has been one of our really good homies for years. We’re really
Michael: It’s definitely a more high-energy track than most of our stuff because we do a lot of minimal, wubby-type stuff. We obviously try to stay experimental with it. Matt sent over a .wip with the first drop and I said ‘alright, let’s get on it. Then we added a second drop, added some stuff to the first drop. It’s a lot of very wild sound design. His [DMVU] sound design is insane, so whenever we’re able to mess with stuff that he made, that’s kind of our cup of tea – we like to stuff then just resample, resample, until it’s one insane sound.
How do you feel like your music compares with where the industry is moving? For example, we’ve seen a rise in as country riddim…
Michael: We’re definitely very different than a lot of stuff these days. Before Covid, I feel like we had a lot of momentum and then once Covid hit, I feel like it completely turned the whole scene on its head, especially with all the things that happened throughout that time. So I feel like the scene has been more high energy music recently. We do have high energy songs, but our stuff is more minimal, you know 130-140 type stuff. It’s been tough to get back to where we were, at least ourselves. Every artist beats themselves up and thinks certain things about themselves and their music. Now that we’re kind of getting momentum back and especially with Rezz and her label really believing in us, I think we’re in a good spot. Sometimes we’ll be like, ‘let’s make a banger’, a more high energy track, but we’ll still put our own twist on it.
Is there any advice you’d like to give to aspiring artists?
Jacob: Stay guided. Go on Youtube. Don’t go out, stick to what you’re doing at night, work on your stuff. Producing is the number one key. I believe making it in any scene is to stick to production. Play what you like, make what you like. Don’t worry about the crowd, don’t worry about other people. Just do what you want to do because that’s where you start getting more organic following. Don’t give up, because we’ve been doing this shit for 8-9 years and we’re still learning, we’re still coming up, so just keep at it.
Is there anything you’d like to share in regards to your next moves in the bass scene?
Jacob: The FrostVizion show is coming up in September. We also have Forbidden Kingdom that we’re doing B2B with Matt [DMVU] in a couple weeks, and we’re really excited about that. We’ve also got some stuff we’re working on.
Michael: On top of obviously the HypnoVizion EP, we definitely have some more stuff in the works for them down the road. We’re sitting on 25-30 songs right now. We’re always making music and trying to crank them out. We just gotta find homes for all the tunes. Self-releasing is cool and all, but releasing with a well-known, organic label that is really trying to push good music out helps get you into new fan bases. Especially for us, cracking into Rezz’s fanbase… everybody knows how diehard Rezz’s fans are. So hopefully, they like our music. It’s definitely a little bit different.