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Swedish Duo Smith & Thell Discuss How They Got Started and Their Journey So Far


Smith & Thell, a duo from Sweden, began making music together shortly after meeting at a local event in their hometown. With recognition in the industry as “Best New Artist,” and selling out shows including one in New York City, they are quickly rising up in their pop/folk genre. Their song, “Forgive me Friend,” from their latest EP, Telephone Wires has over 1.5 million hits on Youtube. Smith & Thell took time to answer some questions for Cliché about their origins, including getting to know each other musically; their first tour, which included a sold out show in Berlin; and their creative process.

Listen to “Forgive me Friend” here: 


Cliché: I’ve read that you met at a local music event in your home town and started creating music together after that. What was it about each other that drew you to one another to create music collectively?

Smith & Thell: At first when we started rehearsing and writing together we realized that we were very different musically. Today we’re happy that we were curious enough to find our differences interesting rather than seeing our differences as something negative. Instead of thinking the other one was weird we really started introducing each other to the music of the bands we loved, broadening each of our perspectives. We would switch iPods for the day and listen to each other’s influences and that really helped us grow. What wasn’t different was our passion and drive for music and as people we found that we were very similar emotionally. When we started writing songs together instead of separately the songs just became better and better.


What role would you say winning the “Best New Artist” award from Sweden’s Denniz Pop Awards had in launching your success?

It meant a lot to us. We sent in our song “Statue” as a demo before it was released and it was a real shocker that we won. Winning the award was our first real “industry” win and it gave us some extra confidence to continue to be us.


In the past year you had the opportunity to tour Europe. What was that experience like for you? Was there a favorite city on your tour?

It was a real indie tour haha.  We carried our gear on trains and airplanes. We played shows at small venues in Berlin, Hamburg and Holland. Our favorite show on that tour was a small gig at Grüner Salon in Berlin where we realized we have fans in Germany that travelled far to come and see us.  We also played in a container store in Berlin that was so small it only fit 20 people. It was really intimate and special AND we can also brag about selling out a show in Germany.. haha!


You both have experience writing for other musicians and artists. How would you say this has shaped how you write your own music?

We learn a lot from all artists we write with. Every artist has their own vision and it’s our job to help them find their musical identity in every new song. It broadens our perspective of what we’re capable of creating and that will push us to think outside the box when we write for our own project.


I’ve read that sometimes you create music with very direct lyrics and other times to evoke emotions that you have felt but that you cannot define in words. How would you say you create the music that evokes these emotions? Is there a process to it or does it just naturally happen?

We never force ourselves to write songs for Smith & Thell. The song ideas usually happen when we don’t think about writing. Voice Memos on our phones is our best friend. We can go weeks without writing and then all of a sudden something will bubble up from under the surface and we may write three songs in a day. The process is always different, we don’t have a formula, but we always stay patient and choose not to force it.


What has been your favorite song that you’ve written together so far? Why?

Though “Statue” wasn’t the first song we wrote as Smith & Thell it still feels like it’s the first song we wrote. It was the starting point of how we like to write lyrics and something just clicked after that, we felt very free creatively. “Forgive Me Friend” is our favorite song, melody-wise, written up until this point.


You just had shows in LA and NYC. How was that for you?

It was amazing to see that we have fans on the other side of the planet, knowing the lyrics to even our lesser known songs. Our NYC show was extra special as it was sold out. That was a milestone for us.


What can listeners expect from you in the near future?

They can expect a lot of experimenting with sounds and rhythms. We are working on our second album and we’re in a creative flow at the moment which feels really free and relieving.


Read more Music Articles at Cliché Magazine. 

Swedish Duo Smith & Thell Discuss How They Got Started and Their Journey So Far: Featured Image Credit: Shervin Lainez

Grand and Warren Share Their Sound


601e99_4f420995c7142bdc923f804c091914e7The term “disc jockey,” created in 1935, was made in reference to those who operated or worked with vinyl records. Fast forward a few years to the discos of the 1970’s, and dance music is a not only a phenomena, but a culture captivating the lives of those in afros and white platform boots. Dance music is continuing to change, even today, and in 2013, dance music has taken on a completely new form. There are so many different styles of dance music that have evolved: hip-hop, rap, trance, electro, house, and dubstep are just some of the latest.
According to New Jersey’s up and coming DJ’s Grand and Warren, “DJing now, compared to DJing from years ago, is like night and day. Nowadays, DJing is only a fraction of what we do. Anyone can call themselves a DJ, but in order to stand out from the rest, you have to be on your game both in and out of the DJ booth. It takes countless studio hours, meetings with new connections, and constant marketing and promotion. DJing is our best time to interact with new people and when we really get to display our talent.”
The talented duo, James Alexander and Gary Rabbitt, originally met at Saint Peters Preparatory High School in Jersey City, New Jersey, which sits on the intersection of Grand and Warren. Although they were acquainted with each other for some time, they did not collaborate musically until a few years later. The two coincidentally spun at the same bar (Celebrities in Haledon, NJ) and decided to change their game up by performing at the same time, as opposed to having two separate sets. With the recent release of their original tracks, “Lion” and “Tonic,” Grand and Warren have just begun their journey to the top of the electronic scene.
Cliché: How have you progressed as artists and as a team since you began your DJ career path?
James Alexander: We do a lot of listening. I’m not talking about music. I am talking about listening to what everyone has to say. No one’s opinion is considered “stupid” or “irrelevant.” We realize where we are in the industry at this time, and we only want to get better.
Gary Rabbitt: We have definitely grown since the start. Like James said, we like to listen to what people have to say, and we draw our own business plans based on the knowledge we acquire.
Do you plan on having careers outside of this industry (if you don’t already)?
James: I definitely plan on making a few investments outside of this industry. Growing up, I learned and taught myself how to become a barber, and I am very blessed to be working with the best barbershop in the world, Fabulous Stylz!
Gary: Music has been my passion for most, if not all, of my life. So, whether it be producing music or helping others in the industry, I intend on keeping my career path focused here.
What aspects of your life (both past and present) influence your music?
James: The fans, the crowds we play in front of, Pacha in New York City. The list goes on…
Gary: For me, our music is just a reflection of our experiences that we’ve shared throughout our lives. Sometimes, capturing that one sound or writing that one verse is all it takes to bring back memories, both good and bad.
How do you come up with the concepts for your original tracks, in addition to mixing songs?
James: It’s all over the place. We hear so many great productions from other artists, and it can get very inspiring. Then, all of a sudden, something pops up in your head while listening to the track, and next thing you know, you are writing your own.
Gary: It’s difficult to really pinpoint where the concept for an original comes from. Sometimes, I wake up from a deep sleep with a melody, and I’ll have to make a dash for the piano just to jot it down. It comes and goes; it’s a gift and a curse.
Other than performing, name other projects that you are currently working on or aiming for.
Both: Producing and collaborating with other artists.
Which are some of the best and worst experiences in your musical career thus far?
James: Best experience by far was playing at Pacha NYC. We worked so hard to perform there, and it was everything we expected. The worst? Not too much. We enjoy the late nights in our studio, and everyone who helps us out and stays on top of us with everything we do.
Gary: For me, my best experience was when we produced our first track, “Carbon.” It was the moment when we realized we had a lot more talent than we expected.
In this type of musical genre, are there rivalries between artists similar to those in the rap and pop world?
James: Not that I am aware of, and I hope it never gets to that. This industry is filled with artists that use other artists productions to better their live performances! It’s beautiful.
Gary: From our understanding, this industry is more about love and passion rather than competition and “who’s better than who?”
Where do you see Grand and Warren within the next five to ten years?
Both: At the top! We can’t wait to show off our talent and share it with the rest of the industry’s best producers!
What activities do you participate in outside the DJ life?
James: Not too much. When I’m not working on music, I am usually in the barbershop.
Gary: I am fully involved with our music 24/7.
What advice do you have for artists pursuing the same passions?
James: Don’t listen to anyone who tells you that you can’t do it, and surround yourself around good, positive people.
Gary: As LaidBack Luke said to us, “Just keep going, work the hardest you can, never ever give up on your dream, and you will!”
Does pop-culture or the electronic world have any influence on your music?
Both: Every genre of music influences us.
What are some upcoming musical trends that electro-lovers should be looking out for? More dubstep, trap, or something new?
James: Dubstep made its way and is continuing to grow. Trap is definitely coming above ground, for sure!
What should fans be expecting from Grand and Warren in the not-so-distant future?
James: A lot of new productions and crazier parties! We are currently working alongside a girl by the name of Nicole Medoro. What a voice this girl has!
Gary: Absolutely. Nicole Medoro is a phenomenal person with a beautiful voice. We are putting out our remix of her song “Running Back” very soon.
When it comes to DJing, James says, “It is more than music: It is an art, it is creativity, it is sharing,” and he is absolutely correct. This passion for music is what separates them from other DJs and has lead them to perform at locations such as Pacha (NY, NY), 4Sixty6 (West Orange, NJ), Teak on the Hudson (Hoboken, NJ) and many more. Listen to their free, high-energy podcasts on the Grand and Warren podcast channel (available through iTunes) and download a handful of their songs from Soundcloud. For a further peek into the duo, don’t be shy—send them a tweet at @grandandwarren and like them on Facebook.
Photo courtesy of grandandwarren.com