Maud Mostly: Hello and welcome to The Other Teams, Tunes Tuesday, a weekly series that discusses music and matters with queer artists you love. I'm your host Maud Mostly, my pronouns are they/them, and joining me this week is Philadelphia-based singer-songwriter and producer, Arami. It is fantastic to have you here. Would you like to introduce yourself?
Arami: Yes, thank you. Like you said, my name is Arami, my pronouns are she/her, I sing, songwrite, produce, photography, audio engineering, and I do a lot of musical things.
M: Yeah, so much! When I was researching for this interview, I definitely realized just how many different hats you wear, and I'm definitely hoping to talk about at least some of those things today, I definitely don't think we can get to all of them, but we'll talk about some links where you can find the other work at the end of the interview, so to begin with, kind of your musical journey, it's taken on many iterations, from being a part of different musical groups to then going solo and then working through different names before finding yourself now at Arami. How do you think each of those collaborations and iterations of your work have built on each other to get to you to where you are now?
A: I think that they all play a big role because I still feel like I have parts of myself when I first started making music, I have parts of myself when I was still trying to figure out my sound, so I definitely feel like every part that I was in, all of my bandmates that I previously had, they all helped me shape who I am now, even when I first started making music seriously at 16, I was in mostly all boy groups, I was the only girl, so it was like just having that really helped me shape my masculine side more, it's like basically, I had brothers all my life. So it was like now I feel like I'm more in a feminine energy now, but I still am able to come correct and be more assertive with things just because I've been around men my whole life, so it's definitely shaped my music and I like how I can be all cutesy, but I can also make hiphop music for the radio heads and all the people that just wanna bop their head a little bit.
M: Definitely. And I know you do more solo work now, but it seems like even your solo work is fairly rooted in collaboration and stuff, do you feel like that kind of goes back to coming up in more of those group and band settings?
A: Definitely, I'm big on collaboration because I know going by yourself, you go fast, but going with others, you go far. So I'm big on collaboration, even as being a soul artist, I'm always asking my friends, do you wanna hop on this? I have a lot of musician, so I'm like, you wanna play keys on this? You wanna play bass on this? Because it'll be much better without just one head.
M: That's really cool. I love hearing artists speak to just so many different things that they get out of collaboration. How do you feel like, you talk to friends and people around you, but what do you look for in a good collaboration?
A: Someone that's open-minded, because I like to make experimental stuff too, so if you're like a person that just wants to do one sound that's fine, I'll probably go to you when I wanna do that particular thing, but I'm also for people to say, Oh yeah, you wanna make a funk record? Let's do it. You wanna make an electronic record? Let's do it. Open to all different genre-bending. So usually someone that's open-minded. I do look for people that also kind of have their own original sound, someone that I know that if I get them on a track, people will be like, Oh, who is that? They won't think like, Oh, this is maybe, Cardi B or Nicki Minaj or some other artists that's already known, because they have their own distinct sound. So it's really just those two things like open-mindedness and being original and really having a competitive, but team-working, spirit as well, 'cause you know you can't be with someone and then they're like, oh, I wanna do it this way, like, Well, let me try and see if maybe you can do it another way. I need someone to say, Okay, let's try your way. If that works, that works. And if not, it doesn't. So yeah.
M: Yeah, definitely. And then speaking to that music that you're creating, your most recent single was See You Again released in November of 2021, but prior to that, in 2019, you release a visual EP for your 2019 album Cool Runnings, which feature, you know three songs from it. What inspired you to create that visual element to the piece?
A: I think, honestly, it really helps when people see the face of the music that they're listening to, 'cause people can listen to music and they'll be like, ‘Oh, the song is great, they sound amazing,’ but once you put a face to the artist, you get more of a connection towards them. So it's like you see people when they start making music videos, they start getting more now, 'cause... Okay, you get to know more of the artist, be to connect with them more like, Okay, now I feel like I actually know them as opposed to just hearing their voice. So I really wanted to do something different for that album 'cause that was my debut album. It was also me coming out as Arami, I was like, people need to see who I am now, because who I was before, as you know my other artist names and aliases, I had longer hair, I was a little bit younger, I look a little different than I did before, so I was like, I definitely need people to see that change as opposed to just hearing it.
M: Yeah, it's really cool to hear that. And obviously, that visual component takes us through so many different kinds of visuals, so what really inspired the look and feel and what you were trying to capture through it, other than you know that really important piece of showing up and showing yourself?
A: Yeah, I really just wanted to show my day-to-day life with my friends what we do. We're always just having fun and just seeing things, exploring sites, and my friend Rico, one of the videographers, he's really great with color grading and just making things look really put together, and he made about 75% of that whole project come to life so shout out to him and also shout out to my friend Jonathan, he was also a part of it. He's a photographer, videographer, and he really is good with his editing skills, and I was just like, ‘Listen, we're just gonna go to my friend's houses and we're gonna go to places that I'm usually at and just walk around, perform, see me rapping and singing.’ That's really all I wanted it to be. Even with the scene where I was in the store, the corner store. I'm always at poppy stores, buying stuff and just being at the fire pit with my friends, that's one of my favorite things to do, so I just really wanted to capture what I like to do, being in a car with my friends, there was just one scene where we just showed the bridge, the B-roll is just like...I love things like that, and I just like being out and about with my friends, so I just really wanted to capture that.
M: Yeah, I love capturing that sense of joy and also similarly, how much collaboration went into that project as it does with your music, that's really exciting to hear, and do you feel like, I understand that was kind of this foray into that visual element with your debut album, so do you feel like there were any key challenges when you were working on that?
A: I think definitely not having a car at that time because I shot those scenes in different areas, some were in Philly, some were in New Jersey, different parts of JErsey, so it was like dang, like how am I gonna get around and do this project, 'cause I had it in my brain for a minute, but I emailed a couple of my friends, this is the greatness of collaboration, one of my friends had a car, it's like, We can just drive around on a day and shoot, so it was really just because of him that I was even able to do that, so shout out to Tristan 'cause I know he's probably gonna see this.
M: Yeah, that is incredible the way that people can show up for us and support us even when we don't necessarily know that they can, but as people say, always just ask, and you'll be amazed what’s at your fingertips. And then alongside your music, as of this January, you host the radio show, Soulful Gems, which is just so cool. So what drew you to the radio format and what have you been able to dive into or explore through it?
A: Oh yes. So basically, my friend TJ…I’m in a lot of different collaborations, I'm in a couple of different groups. I have a girl group with my friends, TJ, Maya, and Sensei. We’re called Home, and we're basically like a RnB rap girl group. We haven’t released any songs yet, but we do have songs coming soon, so just putting that out there for everybody that's an exclusive, but we basically went to the studio, Just Vibin’ studios, a creative space where they have a radio station, you can go there to practice, you can go there to make music, and then we went there one day to practice one of our songs and the owner, he really liked us and he was like, ‘When are you guys coming back?’ We had at one time, and after that our schedules got crazy and we just hadn't been able to go after a couple of more months had passed, and he kept hitting us up, ‘what I gotta do to get you back. I want you back here.’ And we were like, I was like, You know what I mean, I can do other things around there, it may not have to be just like me making music, if y’all need like a DJ or something, I can do that as well.
And they were like, ‘We need DJs.’ There's like radio engineers who know how to do it, and I was like, y’know, I do have a little bit of experience DJing when I was younger, I would make playlists for my friends and when my friend got me my DJ set that was when I was like 18/19 for my birthday. She bought me the actual controller and after that y’know I would play around with it, and I have a little bit of experience, so I was like, I wanna dive in deeper to that, because whenever I'm not doing music or I'm not doing photography, there's always that itch. So I need something to replace it, so because I haven't been doing music in a couple of months, I was like, I'm gonna focus my energy on this other craft that I have, so I was like, Alright, cool, let's do it. When do y’all want me to start? And when they told me that I could start, I went in there and I started. That was it.
M: Yeah. I mean, amazing that there was just that support there, and there's kind of this history of experience that you had, but also just an area where you were willing to put yourself out there and try. So how has that been going for you, now that you've been doing it, not for very long, but for a little bit, what have you been having fun with, what's been a little bit harder? Tell us a little bit more about the show itself, I guess!
A: Yeah, so it first started off just as an ode to jazz music. If you know me, jazz music is like my life. I've always wanted to make jazz music like Miles Davis, who else we got, Frank Sinatra, Robert Glasper, there's so many jazz artists that inspired me, so whenever I hear jazz music, I'm like, ‘Oh, this is a great chord, let me put that in my next song’ or something. So I basically start off as a jazz thing, but as time progressed, I was like, y’know, I'm not just a jazz head. I like RnB music, soul music, I like blues, funk, pretty much anything honestly, so I was like, let me just incorporate more into that, and as things progressed, I started putting my friends songs on there, and I really wanted to be a community type of thing, if you've ever heard of ‘Soul-ection Radio, they really inspired me with Jokay and how they come together as a community, and he posts beats from his friends, he posts songs and his friends, they do collaborations. I really want it to be that type of thing, but on the east coast, 'cause that's like a west coast type of thing.
So I wanted to bring it over here and just really make it a collaborative effort, and it's been going really good so far. I think one of the newest things that I started doing this mashups where I'll play one of my beats over someone else's vocals, and I think that has been so fun 'cause it is like I've always wanted to do it, but I've never even thought about how I would do it until starting the radio station, so I just really have fun with it, making mashups, making remixes, transitions. It also helps when I do start making music again, because it's like I have more musical knowledge no matter what area or avenue that I'm pursuing. So it all works out.
M: Yeah, that's really exciting, and I love hearing about that 'cause over time, what we see as like mainstream radio has gotten so commercial where if you're not kind of in the top 10, no one's gonna hear you, no one's gonna find you through radio, so seeing all these kind of community-based and community-rooted like radio efforts start coming up so that more emerging artists, more artists that deserve and need and could really use the radio play are getting that opportunity, because it's definitely something that's been missing, and I love what you were sharing about it. Starting as this ode to jazz, 'cause kind of going back to your most recent single released, See You Again, the cover art for that in itself was also like an ode to older jazz art.
A: That was exactly the whole point of it, because I’m inspired by a lot of jazz musicians like I told you, so I'm always trying to slip it in there, whether it be in the song, the cover art, you're gonna know that I love jazz music.
M: I love that. Well, thank you so much for joining me this week on Tunes Tuesday. If you would like to check out any of the music, videos, if you'd like to follow along to get some news on that incredible sounding girl group that you're doing that will hopefully be releasing music soon, stay tuned at the links below. Check out Arami’s work. Thank you again for being here and Arami will be playing us out.
*Sensual by Arami begins playing*