Last month, when New York based band SUM dropped their new video for It’s Alright To Be Me, we were immediately hooked on their infectious sounds.
So now, with their new album being released (and available for purchase at Sydney’s Red Eye Records), we caught up with Steve Belvilus and Patryce Williams for a chat.
With their new album now available at Sydney’s Red Eye Records, we caught up with New York band SUM to chat about their music, and how Unknown Mortal Orchestra opened their relationship with Australia.
HAPPY: Hey how are you? What are you working on at the moment?
STEVE: Hi guys, right now I am just trying to handle the release of the record and since we are independent, it is a lot of work. Therefore, I feel a bit tired but very excited and nervous at the same time. A lot of range of emotions.
Releasing an album is a bit of a faith exercise. Though I am confident with the quality of the songs and music, no one can really predict how people will react to the album. My hope is that Australians will embrace SUM’s music and our philosophy.
HAPPY: We’re really loving the new album! How are you feeling about it now that it’s out?
STEVE: Thank you, glad you guys are loving it. I am very happy how it came out. I had an awesome mixing engineer, Eric Elterman who did a great job and an awesome crew of musicians. As you know, the mixing part of an album is a very long and draining process. I am relieved that part is over.
HAPPY: Aussie fans can pick up a copy at Red Eye Records in Sydney… How did your relationship with Red Eye come about?
STEVE: This is a very interesting story. Patryce and I were in Australia for the first time in April visiting. I instantly fell in love with Australia and particularly Sydney.
I always like to checking out record stores while traveling to look for local and interesting artists. We ended up at Red Eye Records and were browsing among the CDs and vinyls. As we were browsing, they played in the record store a track from Sex and Food from Unknown Mortal Orchestra.
Their album had literally just came out. Now, keep in mind, Patryce and I had never heard of UMO or Ruban Nielson. I was instantly drawn to the sound of the track and had a feeling of travelling inside the store while still being awake: It was kind of my first psychadelic experience but without any type of pills.
I looked for the store manager and asked him who that was and bought their album. After purchasing the record, we started talking and we told them we were artists from the US visiting and we were in the midst of finishing our album.
He said then to send him the info when it’s done and if he likes it, it would put it in the store. So UMO indirectly was the reason why SUM album ended up in the biggest record store in Australia lol!!! And we are now one of their biggest fans!
HAPPY: There’s a bit of an Australian reference on the cover of the album… could you tell us a little bit about this?
STEVE: Of course. There are actually three references on the album: Paris, France because I lived there for 5 years, then NYC because this is where I have been living for 13 years.
The Australian reference was because of what I experienced in April while visiting Australia. When we arrived to Australia, Patryce and I did not know what to expect. Keep in mind that, as a musician, I had toured a lot in my twenties and saw many beautiful places.
So I thought well it just going to be another “regular” great country to visit. As soon as we arrived to Melbourne, I started feeling a very deep connection to the place that I still can’t explain.
When we arrived to Sydney after discovering Melbourne, I felt like the place was calling me. I can’t explain very well with words but I had a sense of very deep serenity and peace in Sydney, like I finally found a place of rest, where I don’t have to run anymore.
It was really a magical, spiritual and transcending experience and feeling. In addition to that all the people we met there were so nice to us. Though, I am sure there are some bad people like anywhere in the world.
Therefore, I have a firm intention to go back in Australia next year to explore those feelings I had but also to do our first shows. I hope that the Australians will receive SUM music and embrace us.
HAPPY: I want to talk about the philosophy behind SUM… could you tell us a little about the name SUM?
STEVE: SUM is the Latin translation for “I” or “to be”. I wanted to define my band by an idea, a core value instead of a specific genre of music.
The pronoun ‘I’ is a powerful word because it defines who you are, your identity. SUM consequently is who I am as an artist but as well as a human being.
I am constantly evolving as a human and artist. We want the audience to grab this message and accept as well who they are when listening to the music.
The fact that I lived in different places and now want to discover more about Australia and it’s people contributes as well in the development of my identity.
I learnt so much while living in different countries. That’s why you have those references on the album. I believe people should be free to live anywhere they want if that’s what they need to do to discover themselves.
HAPPY: The video you released for It’s Alright To Be Me was great! Where’d the idea for that come from?
PATRYCE: Thanks so much! I’m glad you’re digging the video! The ideas where really a collaboration between Steve and I. Steve had a very clear vision on the story he wanted to tell and particularly during the first 2 scenes in the video. I came up with the concept on the last 2 scenes.
HAPPY: Steve, we understand you use to work on Broadway… do you feel your time working in that world influences the music you make today?
STEVE: Not at all. Broadway has no influences on me as a composer. I don’t listen to cast albums at all. Broadway was just a cool challenge as a drummer: being able to rehearse on your own, read the music, nail the show when you have a show date.
I am very influenced by Kirk Franklin especially when I write background vocals, gospel music, got some jazz influences and also pop influences (Ariana Grande, RH Factor/Roy Hargrove).
HAPPY: Patryce, how did you become involved with SUM?
PATRYCE: My involvement with SUM was pretty organic. Steve had an opportunity to play a residency at a restaurant in Harlem. He asked me if I would like to come on as the vocalist and I was like sure!
It was really the first time that had an opportunity to have regular gig with a band. We where mostly performing cover tunes. Steve had the idea to bring in originals that he had previously worked on and wanted to hear how the songs sounded with a full band.
It was during our first rehearsal when we played those originals is when I knew that something special was brewing. Steve and I never had another conversation concerning my involvement, it just felt right.
HAPPY: How do you think your experience singing for theatre productions fed into It’s Alright To Be Me.
PATRYCE: The art of storytelling! It’s one thing to sing notes and to be on pitch but to tell a story is something else … My experience in the theatre helped me bring that to It’s Alright To Be Me and anything I sing.
HAPPY: Any other exciting things coming up for SUM? Can we expect more music any time soon?
STEVE: We will be going to Europe for the first time in October. I did start writing some new music for the next album. I don’t think we will put it out right away.
My first goal is to try to put some shows in Australia for next year. If any music curators in Australia are interested, please reach out to me.
SUM’s album is available now at Red Eye Records in Sydney.