It’s all about love, isn’t it? No, really. Love makes us care about things, love inspires and, unfortunately, sometimes destroys us (but still inspires!). When two people combine their love for each other with their love for music, the results are magical. Please meet James Hopkins and Sara Snyder who create dark, sensual and genre-boundaries-defying music under the name of STEREOSPREAD.
tipkin – What is STEREOSPREAD and what do you spread it onto?
Sara – It’s funny because I told James people would think it was like butter! A buttery sound! It’s actually a music production term for widening the stereo field.
James – The name started out as a joke. We were trying to come on to each other using audio engineering terms. For example: “I’ll send to your buss,” “I’ll tweak your potentiometers,” “ooooh, automate my reverb baby,” “I’ll spread your stereo,” or “will you ride my faders?” Yeah, we’re nerds. It’s nerd love.
t. – This blog is about trip-hop (mostly) and even though there definitely are trip-hop influences in your sound, I wouldn’t classify it as such. You call your style “Truepop” – what is it exactly?
J. – We try to take all of our favorite genres and mix them into something new. Trip hop is a large inspiration (especially bands like Portishead, Archive, Télépopmusik, Air, etc.), but we wanted to branch out and bring different things into the mix, including some pop elements and retro vibes. “Truepop” is kind of a play on words since it sounds so similar to “trip hop” and we have both pop and trip hop influences.
S. – For some independent artists and fans, “pop” has a negative connotation. Certainly there’s a lot of vapid stuff out there, but I feel we take the best of what is “popular” to make our sound and therefore it is “true pop.” We write music that evokes strong emotions and addresses some tough topics, but it is also beautiful music that is enjoyable to the ears (we hope), where the listener finds something new with each play.
t. – You both come from rich (and very different) music backgrounds. What are some of the most important things you’ve learned from working with all the different musicians and genres?
S. – I grew up on classic rock, grunge, and classical music. My earliest vocal influences were people like Janis Joplin, Robert Plant, Chris Cornell, Eddie Vedder, and other powerhouse singers. I ended up studying opera and jazz in college and discovered a multitude of ways to manipulate my voice, so it’s hard for me to stick to one style. James is similarly versed in many different styles, but I think we do a pretty good job tying it all together. I have learned that having an open mind is the shortcut to creativity. And it is absolutely necessary to reign in the ego – an inflated ego is a swift death to inspiration.
J. – What I’ve learned is, in music, no one is right. Sometimes the “amateur” can have more innovative ideas that the seasoned pro. Collaborative work is the only way you can really be pushed. Working with others can offer many different musical directions that wouldn’t necessarily be visible to one person alone. I’ve learned to be more patient, to slow down, that music should be a joy rather than a job. It shouldn’t be forced — you have to feel it. I know people always say stuff like that, but you have to actually live it to know how true it is.
t. – Is working together easy? Is it a perfect harmony all the time or do personalities clash sometimes?
S. – It fluctuates from song to song. Some songs flow easily and we are completely synergistic. Other songs we butt heads through the whole process. But in the end, we don’t move forward with a song unless we are both feeling it. There are actually a series of Youtube videos that document the making of our track “Heaven,” which give a glimpse into our creative process.
J. – We live together, so sometimes day-to-day issues collide with the music-writing process. But music is the perfect tool for learning more about ourselves and our relationship, and for working through the emotions that make life what it is.
t. – Who do you think would like your music?
J. – Anyone with an open mind would give it a chance.
S. – People that enjoy pretty melodies, interesting concepts, and the occasional flair for the dramatic.
t. - Can you talk a bit about your upcoming album? Is there a story there, a common theme? What kind of emotions do you hope to evoke in its listeners?
J. – It’s a mix of different sounds, textures, and genres. Before the lyrics are even written, we have a feeling or a concept. Lyrics and melodies usually come last. We often like to have an image or character in mind before any music is written. For instance, we knew that “Black and Blue” was an angry song. Sara and I had our feelings hurt by a friend and we were really mad, so the song started angry. Then once we began writing the lyrics, a story unfolded about an abused woman that murders her abuser then drags his body through the woods to bury it, where she finds a hole he had dug for her. Kinda crazy, right? But we gave the song a theatrical feel to go along with the story. There’s lots of Foley sounds (including some samples of Sara breathing and walking). Sara sings several styles from breathy ethereal to Chris Cornell angst to opera on the track. I think this album will have something for everyone.
S. – I expect the album to be a trajectory of sentiments that listeners will flow along with to experience something of their own lives in the music.
t. – What’s in the future (near and distant) for STEREOSPREAD?
S. – First is actually finishing the album and developing our live set. Then a mini tour of several cities later this summer and fall. Our booking agent is David Floodstrand of Criterion International operating out of Chicago.
J. – In addition to the album, we’re always producing tracks for other artists and seeking remixes and collaborations. We just completed a track with Jadugara called “Little Ashes.” We also have a couple of film soundtrack projects in the works with director Young Man Kang and others.
Oh, and did I mention that our very own netlabel Trippin’ The Rift Records is working on releasing STEREOSPREAD‘s debut EP? It is going to happen very soon, so stay tuned, and for now enjoy the single from it: