Interview: AM & Shawn Lee
Published on October 22nd, 2013 | Jonny Abrams
This summer just passed saw the release of La Musique Numerique, a second installment of space-age disco pop par excellence courtesy of AM & Shawn Lee, so we did that thing we like to do where we fire over a set of questions to an act that’t taken our fancy…
You’ve been described in some quarters as “an unlikely combination”. Do you see it that way yourselves?
AM: I don’t at all. The whole reason we met in the first place was because I heard one of Shawn’s tracks on the radio here in LA and reached out to him.
I’m a big fan of Euro soundtracks and library music, funk, jazz. I partly grew up in New Orleans so groove has been part of my love of music for some time. However I think if you just quickly browsed iTunes or something on our previous efforts one would see I come from (at least publicly) more of a singer/songwriter background and Shawn from more of an instrumental groove background.
But, as with many musicians, the whole story is never told. In truth I’ve never considered myself a “singer/songwriter.” I’ve been playing guitar way longer than I’ve been writing songs and singing so I consider myself just as much of a musician as I do a songwriter.
I think my Future Sons & Daughters album is one where someone could see Shawn and I crossing paths since with that album I wore my influences on my sleeve a bit more. To me our working together feels very natural because we both love songs and we both love groove and together we’re able to pull from a vocabulary that goes from ’60s, ’70s and ’80s pop all the way down to the most obscure French or Italian library album. I think this is a big reason our chemistry feels so effortless.
SL: Who said that? I’ll give ’em a piece of my mind! Ha ha! But in my mind, our collaboration is a totally logical, organic and a great one. I love the music we make together. That’s my dog!
What would you say you’ve learned from each other while working together?
AM: Although I feel I had a pretty good handle on this prior, Shawn has definitely reinforced the notion of moving forward. Get it done and move on. Commit to what you’re doing. I see a lot of people struggling over one album for so long because they just can’t come to terms that what they have in front of them is what represents them artistically.
It’s terrifying as an artist because you’re always evolving. What you did six months ago may not feel as defining to you today, but the truth is you’ll never catch up to your inspiration. You’re always chasing it. Wanting to make a better record.
I think Woody Allen even said the only reason he keeps making films is that one day he hopes he can make a great one…obviously that is a bit insane. Ha! But you see what I mean.
SL: Everything and nothing… Just do what feels good and trust the “different forces”!
How did you source the various remixers for Replayed? Were they all acts you knew?
SL: Most of them were personal friends and peers. I know that they care and will do a great job. Nobody wants to hear a crap remix of their song, so I keep my homies close.
How’s the tour going? Any particular standout shows?
AM: Really good. I can feel that these are OUR fans. People are driving five or six hours to see us because we weren’t coming to their city. We get people dancing every night. Denver, Austin and Dallas were great shows on our last run. It was our first time in most of those places.
SL: Well the tour has just finished! We had a great new drummer named Denny Weston JR who killed it and it’s never felt better. It’s always good to meet the real fans and play music. It’s a good life.
Have you each given any thought to your next respective projects? Do you plan to do a third album together?
AM: I’ve got a new album I produced with Joey Waronker (Atoms For Peace, Beck, Ultraista) that I believe will be out next Spring. Shawn and I are also working on third record as we speak.
I’ve been doing more DJing as well. Collecting records and doing my monthly Rendezvous night out here in LA which I co-host with Alfonso Carillo and Adrian Younge. We spin soundtracks, library and other weird shit…show vintage giallo films. We’re just starting to do mix tapes, but I’m hoping down the line we can start releasing our own faux soundtracks.
SL: Well we’ve already started our third album and it’s gonna be great! AM has a wicked new solo album coming out next year and I have twp more albums about to drop this year: The Electric Peanut Butter Company with Adrian Quesada on Ubiquity and a video game soundtrack to Zombie Playground on Wonderfulsound. Keeping busy as per usual!
What resulted from AM’s studio session with I Ced? Can we hear anything from it yet?
AM: Ced and I had a blast and I’m loving what we came up with. Not sure when that will be available, but I’m sure we’ll do more stuff together. It’s definitely some vibey soul, but with a hip-hop flare which is new for me, but a natural evolution I feel.
When I walked into Ced’s place his walls were lined with soul, funk and jazz records. These are the people that I connect with. People who not only make music, but actively listen, collect and educate themselves on recorded music. We spent nearly the whole time talking and listening to records and at the very end slammed out a tune.
Will Shawn be doing more stuff with Psapp?
SL: Yes! I am playing with them on November 13th in London! Come out if you’re here.
Shawn’s worked with some big names. Who were the easiest and/or most difficult to deal with?
SL: AM is easy to work with when he is not being a rock star!!! Ha ha. People on the business side are always more difficult to work with than artists/musicians.
Did you play many festivals over the summer? If so, any personal highlights?
AM: Last summer we played Bumbershoot in Seattle which was great. We also did Le Printemps de Bourges in France and Motel Mozaique in Rotterdam.
SL: The Abbot Kinney festival in LA was fun and Funky!
Finally, have there been any albums from 2013 that you’ve particularly enjoyed?
AM: I like the new Charles Bradley record. That crew in Brooklyn is just amazing. I’m liking anything Dam Funk puts out. Shawn and I are both digging the new Connan Mockasin track and the new Unknown Mortal Orchestra record.
As always we love Finders Keepers. Andy Votel and Doug Shipton are always doing great things over there. Spencer Hickman over at Death Waltz is also re-releasing some amazing soundtracks. Mostly though I’m collecting old soundtrack, library, jazz and funk records. The deeper I go the more endless the well becomes. I’ll be doing this ’til I die.
SL: Really enjoyed the Unknown Mortal Orchestra! DOPE…
AM & Shawn Lee, thank you.
La Musique Numerique is out now on AM Sounds.