Producer and songwriter Vonavi (aka Andrei Ivanov) has never taken anything for granted when it comes to music. So many things in his career have been a result of the unexpected – he never anticipated going from trading CDs to beating professional DJs in a DJ competition as a teen. His new single, “Regrow,” was another happy accident, sprung up unintentionally from a few chords. With this song, he hopes to remind himself to stay in the present, where he feels we are at our most uninhibited creatively. Vonavi is keenly excited for his upcoming debut LP, Reflection, out November 8th – in his mind, an important first step to laying claim to his hopeful eventual title as a true artist. Listen to “Regrow” below!
Cliché: How did you initially discover your passion for music?
Vonavi: I think around 13/14 y.o. I remember I was into American hip-hop, r’n’b at that time. I was so eager to find the coolest and the newest tracks. I didn’t have an internet then so we were exchanging CDs with my friends. Sometimes you can get the best stuff from my older brother’s friends. Then I switched to dance oriented music: house, techno, trance etc. I got my first internet at 15 and I discovered so many amazing and unique music on Beatport. Then I got my first really crappy CDJs and mixer. I even won a local DJ competition not only because of the music I played but also because my DJ skills. On the last round of DJ competition judges covered LCDs on CDJs so you needed to beat-match by ear and because of my crappy/cheap home setup I had learned to sync tracks without any BPM showing. I was so proud of myself, cause those fancy DJs were beaten by some humble kid from nowhere. At the age of 17 I got my first cracked DAW and started making some really shitty dance tracks. That’s how I started to learn music production.
Who are your biggest musical influences?
It’s quite a hard question. Because I have this tendency to live with one Artist and listen the music till the point where I feel nothing. And then I move on to another. It’s like in a relationship – going through phases. Though there are some of them that keep evolving and I can’t lose interest. Such as Trentemoller, Nils Frahm, Massive Attack, Radiohead, Max Richter, earlier James Blake’s stuff and more.
How would you describe your sound?
I never stop searching for a new sound, and it can be quite tricky to describe my sound cause I’m constantly changing as a human being. But what remains is cinematic and a bit melancholic colors in my music. It’s hard for me to imagine that I’ll do something 100% upbeat. To me it’s inappropriate, it’s not the soundtrack that I’d make for the life I see.
Talk about your new single, “Regrow.”
Regrow was an unexpected child. I had finished my album, but I started working on some new ideas for the future and came up with those chords that struck me and I continued building the track. I finished the demo and sent it to Chris James (RUN RIVERS). He was so excited about it and did some vocals. We were sending files back and forth until we were happy with the track. I listened to the track and felt it should be on the album. Production wise, I’m so proud of the strings on “Regrow.” I like to use real instruments if I can and when possible. I know there are dozens of good sample libraries that sound awesome, but real recording is worth a try and it makes music more personal and unique. I recorded all cello/violas/violins just with one musician by placing her in different positions of my studio and also different rooms with more reverb. It was a very meticulous process and I tortured my musician quite hard with moving her and playing the same parts over and over for multitrack recording. But at the end it was worth it!
What significance does the prospect of regrowth hold for you personally?
For me it is always important to stay in the present. I find my thoughts so many times in the future and that freezes me up to do any actions. I think to be in the present is the most paramount thing in life. It is in this state that one can truly make great art. Enjoy the process, and be happy in the end. I need to practice more of “being in the present”, especially in our “Black Mirror” days.
The track is featured on your debut LP, Reflection out November 8th. Are you excited for the release? Do you feel like it’s sort of your coming out party as an artist?
I’m excited to finally put my record out. Not to impress someone but rather to put my first brickstone in the wall of becoming an Artist. The “Artist” is such a profound word to me. It’s something that you should earn through time by digging deeper, learning, discovering. It’s about the attitude of doing things in the right way or right things in a wrong/unseen way. There a possibility of becoming an artist but no guarantee. I’m not an “Artist,” not at the moment at least.
What would you say is the overall message of the LP?
There is a message for me. Making this LP was a reflection of me trying to do what I can with means I had at the moment. It was a journey of ups and downs. Absolutely relying on myself and luck. It was a period of time that captured my life, my influences, my struggles.
Which track are you most proud of and why?
I think it’s “Sunburst”. That was the first track I made. It’s really hard to start and when I made the demo inside I knew that It was a new chapter in my life: something new and exciting.
You’ve had the opportunity to work on some pretty awesome collaborations. Who else would you like to work with?
Yeah, I was extremely lucky with collaborators. My dream now is to make a track with Thom Yorke. Maybe I’ll be lucky someday, we’ll see!
You also create music for soundtracks and commercials. How do you go about finding the right musical “voice” and tone for a client?
I think through a conversation. I’ve been making music to picture for 4 years now and the biggest skill as composer you should have is a sharp sensibility of what the film needs. Most directors are not musicians and they speak to you through stories not with musical terms. A big part of being a composer is to be a psychologist. You need to guess what the director really wants and then you act.
Several popular TV shows have featured your music, including How To Get Away With Murder and Marvel’s Cloak and Dagger. What’s that feeling like?
I’m honored to see my music in the credits of these two shows. My cousin once told me that she was watching How To Get Away With Murder and heard my music in it without knowing that they used it. And then she told me. That feels nice!
Any other new projects in the works?
I’m working on music for upcoming short film by Daniel Uribe (who directed music video for “Sunburst”). And also working on some demos and ideas for my next LP.
Read more Music Interviews at ClicheMag.com
Vonavi Remembers The Importance of Staying Present in New Single “Regrow”. Photo Credit: Dmitri Bilous.