Words by: Nat Siaw-Agyeman
Hailing from opposite sides of the Ocean, transatlantic duo FARR have been using technology to make music since they met in 2016. Made up of LA-based vocalist Romèo and London-based producer Linden Jay, they have not let the distance stop them from making great music.
Taking influence from a plethora of genres such as electronic pop and Motown soul, they have managed to create amazing songs through voice notes and Facetime.
We caught up with the pair to discuss their musical processes and how being in two different places works for them.
How did you guys meet?
Linden – we met here in my studio in London around four years ago, just in a random session that was organised through a friend. We wrote a cool song that day and kept in touch, then made a few more tracks and it escalated to the point where we were like, “right so we’ve got a bunch of music, let’s do something with it”.
Naturally it progressed so we started a group.
As a duo that combines so many sounds which genre would you say you fall into?
Linden – I guess stylistically people put us in the alternative soul, R&B kinda world, which is the music we love but our influences are very widespread.
Romèo – anything from old Motown soul to classical [music]. Linden’s family is from South Africa as well, so there are so many different influences at work.
Linden – Rap music as well, we’re just into good music, whatever genre it is. If the person has something honest to say, I’m into it.
Romèo – We’ve never really thought about that, but our style of things isn’t necessarily based off of like D’Angelo or the Beatles, everything is pulled from all over. We’ll be in random cities on tour and we’ll hear a street musician who’s playing one of those one-string instruments and its things like that that we will draw inspiration from. Linden’s sample library has so many crazy percussion loops that he’s made because he f*cks with a lot of instrument loops that nobody would think twice about, so our palettes are really wide and it comes off in our tastes too.
That said, if you could choose 3 words to describe your music, what would they be?
Linden – F*cking hell yeah!
Romèo – that too, but also hopeful, dreamy, and aggressive all at the same time.
What is the goal for your music and what do you want people to feel when they listen to you?
Romèo – I want people to feel supported and feel like they’re not alone because I say this constantly in the least d*ckhead way possible, that music is a selfish thing for me. It is very much a thing that helps me figure my sh*t out and I think that this album was very much for the outside world, it was personal to me but it was also about letting people know that even the sh*t that doesn’t make sense will make sense eventually and you’re going to be okay.
I really needed this album to get through that stage of my life and I just want to be here for people because music is the way we speak best and it’s the way we can be of service best to the world. We just want to make music for as long as we can and share it with the most people we possibly can, and always try to be as proud of it as possible because at the end of the day if we’re not happy with it then it doesn’t matter.
With you both being in two separate places, how does that affect your musical process?
Romèo – I feel like a lot of it depends on the place I’m in because Linden is always making music.
Linden – it’s different because as a producer, even if I’m not feeling mad creative, I can just sit down and play a few cords and put drums in it and that could be the seed for something that could become a great song. But ultimately, what’s going to turn those cords into a great song are the lyrics and the songwriting. Rome has to lead on that because I could make a million beats and it could be an amazing high energy beat but it doesn’t mean the song is going to be great. Or I could make three simple cords that Rome writes an amazing song to so on my end I’m always creating and as a songwriter I think you’re not as consistently creating like a producer.
Romèo – especially for me, I find that all of my writing for the album happened in pretty real situations and everything has been very literal. Whether it be romanticised poetic stuff, it still very much happened, and I think right now I’m in that place of recovering from completely exhausting my life and all its emotion to get that into the album. So it has to catch me in the moment, even Linden has caught in one of those moments when we’ve had to spend an entire day on one beat that I end up hating but all of a sudden he plays like 3 cords on the organ and I’m like “that’s the one!”
‘Someway, Somehow’ was like that, do you remember? We were on Skype and we were trying to write a different song and then he started playing these other cords and I had written it that night, it was just one of those moments. So, the separation for us is good and when it comes to finishing stuff, it can be a bit frustrating sometimes but we kinda make that work by going back and forth between here and the UK to do finishing sessions.
Linden – just because the process has worked once, twice, or even three times, doesn’t mean it’s going to work the fifth so we’re always looking for new ways to work. If we look back on how we made songs that we like on our album, all of them are different.
Romèo – every song happened in a different way
Linden – so we have to accept that what’s going to happen is going to happen as long as you keep your heart in it, be persistent, and be open to changing your process. The worst is thinking “this is the way I work, and I have to work this way in order to achieve something” but how do you know because you haven’t tried other ways! We’re always trying to open each other’s minds to new methods.
Do you guys think this pandemic has changed or altered your creative processes?
Romèo – for sure, we have definitely gone in, in the past few months pretty deep because we’re getting this live show together but we won’t babble on too much about it! It is definitely testing a lot of new techniques such as transferring sounds and getting Linden into my Ableton or Linden getting me into his Ableton or being able to be across the world and figure out new ways of recording and writing. We’ve gotten so deeply pulled into that live show thing that we’ve only been writing music in passing and we’ve only just started to get back into that mode of “so what’s next now?” We have couple songs that we’ve been working on so that’s sick, but aside from me being slow at writing just because there’s nothing going on to stimulate my brain, it’s been pretty good, a pretty productive quarantine so far.
Linden – we’ve worked remotely for years so we’ve gotten used to working over Facetime for quite a while now. I’ve found out that I collaborate a lot in general, but in lockdown, I’ve been sending packs of beats to people and get friends to play instruments on beats that I’ve made. People are at home; they want to make music and they’re hungry to collaborate because there’s nothing else going on. I found out that I was just sending out lots of ideas to different people and it meant that I had some weird and organic creations that were made so I was very open to sending people more beats than normal. It also made realise that you don’t always have to go over to the studio because I’ve made lots of beats just sat at home over a cup of tea in the kitchen and a pair of earphones.
With you both being in different places, do your environments influence your sounds in terms of taking aspects from one’s hometown that may be absent in the other?
Linden – I mean music is a direct translation of what is happening in the moment, so wherever we are massively influences what we’re making. We have definitely made songs that sound more London-y and being out in LA, the sunshine helps keep my energy up in general. When you’re there all the times it’s obviously different.
Romèo – we did write one of our most depressing songs in LA ‘Magic’, which I guess is not mad depressing but it’s very melancholic. We tried to write the first time in LA, but it didn’t go so well so we continued writing it in London – I guess we had to be in a sad place for that song! (laughs)
Linden – but massively, the environment we work in definitely changes the whole energy but we kinda just take it as it comes. One thing we were talking about doing for a while was going to a place that isn’t either of our homes to write and we’re both out of our distraction zones. Like if we just went to another country and rented a studio for like two weeks, I feel like we would both be in the same zone together.
Romèo – also Linden and I are both people from two big cities that have a very tight-knit home life in those big cities. It’s not the kind of situation where you’re in LA and you’re isolated, it’s such a big rat race for music so to be able to separate yourself from that is so helpful. I think honestly that’s why I started coming to London in the first place because I was so sick of LA and seeing the same things I had seen my whole life, but my career was keeping me here so the only other place I thought to go was London. I decided to come on a whim to go and write and that’s how Linden and I ended up meeting.
What was touring with Kelis like and what did you guys take from that experience?
Linden – it was great, we were on the road with her and we had four shows left but then COVID-19 got out of hand and lockdown happened, so the last bunch of shows got cancelled which was a shame. The first half of the tour was awesome, we played in some of the biggest venues we’d ever played and picked up quite a lot of new fans as well as met awesome people on our travels. I felt like me and Rome massively levelled up in our live show performance and the way that we are on stage.
It just started to feel really comfortable being on stage together! The first few shows of a tour you’re already wondering how it’s going to go and how it’s going to feel but we started getting really comfortable. It’s a shame that it ended soon but we’re grateful to have had the opportunity to be away with her, and her show was awesome to watch, a few of my friends are in her band as well so I really enjoyed watching her show too.
What Is your favourite track on the Weightless album and why?
Linden – that’s a really hard question
Romèo – “Freedom” is my favourite song but it’s an emotional thing for me. I think that’s the proudest I’ve ever been of my ability to open up. I had a really hard time with it in the beginning, and we wrote the first part of it then the outro part. But the outro part was the first time I had ever felt fully out of my body when I was writing it and it was just pure feeling. I don’t think I’ve ever tapped into that as heavily – there have been small moments but never like that so that’s why it’s my favourite. I also like “Reversible” because that song has been so sturdy the entire time, and it never gets old. It’s such a negative song but it’s still good vibes – Linden also sounds great on it!
Linden – that’s my singing voice debut on FARR. My favourite songs are “Technicolour” and “Magic“. Technicolour because of how simple it is, a lot of the album is quite noisy, but that song is calm. I like Magic for the same reason, I think that I was quite proud of myself because I’ve never really approached a song like that where I’m going to let the vocals completely do the work and I’m going to make the production supportive of the vocals. There is nothing at any point that overbears the vocals and it manages to feel very grand and royal because nothing gets loud and in your face. It took me a long time to get it right, but I love how it builds very subtly. I’m a sucker for the details and obviously the bigger picture is massively important because that’s what everyone is hearing but I love all the fine details, so I was very proud of that. I also think post making the album, one thing that I massively learned is that you don’t need to over clutter stuff. In retrospect, I’m like “next time I do an album I just want to relax” because I don’t need to try and make so much noise and you can have the songs speak for themselves.
What else do you guys have planned for the rest of the year?
Linden – we have a bunch more remixes coming out, and we’re talking at the moment about another version of Weightless. This will be an extended version with some extra music on there because we felt like we dropped Weightless the second week of lockdown, so it was quite a difficult time to self-promote. We’re working on new music so there will be another project we would love it to put out at the end of the year but we’re going to see how quickly we can put it together. We haven’t decided whether it’s going to be an EP or a longer project but there’s going to be some sick collaborations on there. We have a couple of really cool tracks but we’re just not rushing stuff and taking it as it comes.
Romèo – the good thing about quarantine is that everybody is on hold anyways and I think because we have that advantage of knowing how to work remotely already and how to make things work. It’s an exciting time for growth especially when you’ve been in the grips of an album, it’s like you’re emotionally in the life that you’re constantly talking about in your music and constantly listening back to it to make sure people feel the same way. The album gave us a nice palette of sounds and places to sit in music that will allow us to experiment on the next project and find ourselves.