With a passion for creating music and spreading hope through friendships comes Austin five-piece, Shadow of Whales. They are all songwriters, they all love music, and more importantly, they all love people. The band made their debut appearance at the Austin Convention Center in front of thousands of people for DellWorld; this act brought them to appear on TV only weeks later on KTBC – FOX 7. Less than a year later, SoW released their debut self-titled EP and saw an explosion of support from their quickly growing fan base and the web. The debut EP charted on CMJ’s Top 200 and has seen regular rotation at Starbucks Coffee and Hollister stores across the United States and Canada.
We decided to pair up these experienced bandmates with emerging alt-pop artist, Vaeda Black, who has just released her debut single, “Face Down.” Just 16-years-old, this native New Yorker has a powerful stirring voice, reminiscent of early soul, with comparisons to Lorde and Lana Del Rey, with lyrics that are profound and poignant beyond her years. The best songs are a mirror image allowing the listeners to reveal themselves in the music. Her music accomplishes this and much more. Vaeda Black’s songwriting and delivery is the wizardry that conjures the soul.
Check out the interview below.
Shadow of Whales: I imagine being surrounded by thousands of talented and ambitious people in New York would be a surreal experience for any young musician. Do you think living in New York has done more to hinder or foster your creativity?
Vaeda Black: Though New York is so big, and can be even overwhelming at times, I feel like it’s inspired me musically. New York is filled with opportunities to get out there and share your art.
Vaeda Black: What is your writing process?
Shadow of Whales: Very collaborative. None of our songs are made by just one person. Even if someone has a major hand in a large portion of the song, every one of the band members usually has their take and revisions that may or may not get made. One of our favorite things we do every year is rent out a cabin on AirBnB (or find a friend with property) for a weekend where we go through all the demos and partially written songs that each of us has made and just start writing and collaborating together.
Shadow of Whales: What inspired you to make your music the way it is? And where do you see yourself going from here as a musician?
Vaeda Black: My music is something that has been, and always will be, a part of who I am. Music is a feeling and that’s what’s driven me to make my music honest and a reflection of myself. So I guess you could say the experiences I’ve had, the music I listen to, and everything in between has inspired my music. As a musician, I know I’m going to be constantly growing, and since I’ve begun writing, I’ve already seen growth in myself and growth in the passion behind everything I do. I just see my music evolving into something beautiful and relatable.
Vaeda Black: For each of you, what is your favorite song you’ve created?
Shadow of Whales:
Josh: “Forever” off of our first EP because of the rhythm line and verse progression. I was proud of our use of standard tuning for that song. [Laughs] Lyrically, my favorite song we’ve created would be “Pretenders.” Collaboratively, I’d pick “Runaway.”
Jeremy: Musically, “Roots” is the most fun for me to play as the bass player, but lyrically, “Runaway” for sure. It’s hard to not be affected by the emotions put in and expressed by that song.
JD: “Runaway.” I remember driving up to the rehearsal space two years ago and hearing the seeds of that song for the first time. I rushed in and knew it was something special. It’s one of those songs where the personal meaning continues to evolve and grow with the band as we grow.
Shadow of Whales: We’re told you have a background in Musical Theater. How do you feel this affects your performance on stage?
Vaeda Black: It’s definitely helped me with my stage presence and performance. It helps me get my message across more clearly. Through acting, I’m able to bring myself to the emotional place I was in when I was writing the song, which I can channel into the performance. Musical theater has taught me a lot about the ins and outs of putting on a show and how to connect with an audience. I’m not always conscious of it, but I think it has helped me in that way.
Vaeda Black: I listened to the song “Animals” and I really liked it. What was the inspiration for that song?
Shadow of Whales: That’s a tough one to explain. [Laughs] The concept I think is simple enough though and could help bridge the gap. Essentially, we are of the belief that everyone has a dream, or at least what one would consider the best version of themselves. The world and society often has a lot of rules and regulations that state how each person should be. While those rules fit for some people, others lie outside the box that they are forced to fit into.
Much in the same way that animals have a basic instinct and personality that is inside them regardless of their training, humans have dreams, aspirations and livelihoods that reside within them. These dreams and personalities can sometimes be suppressed by the box that society tries to fit everyone into. “Animals” is a call to action to be the animal that lives inside of them and no longer allow themselves to be chained to the wall of society.
In other words, follow your dreams and live your best life. It might not fit inside society’s box and that’s not always a bad thing. The inspiration came from talking to our fans every day and reading about their dreams and who they want to be but also how they felt they would never be able to do that; be it because other people in their lives told them they couldn’t or because they had more complicated issues beyond that holding them back. So short story long, our fans inspired that song.
Shadow of Whales: What’s your take on the recent news that iTunes Music Downloads might be going away in 2019? What’s your thoughts on a potential ‘stream-only’ world?
Vaeda Black: It’s making me sad. What ever happened to downloading music or burning a CD? It almost seems like a joke now. But in all seriousness, I think a streaming is great for the listener, but a con for the artist. It makes it harder for new artists to get their music noticed. I’ve always preferred buying music because I know that there’s someone out there working their butt off to make a career out of their passion and I want to support them! But of course, the stream-only world is inevitable so we have to roll with the punches.
Vaeda Black: What has been the most memorable moment between the band and why?
Shadow of Whales: Warped Tour, definitely. Growing up listening to all the bands on Warped Tour and then actually being able to play on the Ernie Ball stage in San Antonio a year or so ago was a dream come true. South by So What is close to that. Being told that our music is streaming inside Hollister is also definitely a big one for us.
Shadow of Whales: “Face Down” is ‘hands down’ an amazing track! Could you peel the layers and explain the meaning behind the line “I’ll call for your submission and you’ll pay the price with your face down”?
Vaeda Black: Everyone wants something they know they shouldn’t or can’t have, even if they’re struggling to admit it. The message I was trying to send with “Face Down” is that it’s okay to have deep dark desires because you’re simply not alone in them. So in that particular line, it’s almost like the line of acceptance. You may hang your head lowly not wanting to admit that you want this thing, but by submitting to your desires you’re freeing yourself. When I use the word “I,” I’m not so much referring to Vaeda Black, but to the mind and inner thoughts of the listener. “Paying the price” may be different for everyone, but it’s about admitting the desires you have to yourself.