September 25, 2009 | 10:00am
One of my favorite South Florida groups, the dark indie-pop duo The State Of officially start a national tour for their new record Day of Abandon October 1. I e-mailed the pair, made up of pianist/vocalist Steph Taylor and drummer/vocalist Nabedi Osorio, a few questions about their influences, background, and what to expect from the new album. We'll be keeping track of them for the next month, so stay tuned. Read the full Q&A after the jump.
New Times: The State Of seems to be heavily influenced by electronica, incorporating the genre in unique ways. Growing up in South Florida, an area with a strong electronic scene, how did your geographical location, as far as local groups you listened to, influence your approach?
Nabedi: Well, in the early '90s, there was a huge Drum and Bass scene. Every Thursday, the kiddies would gather at Beat Camp, on Washington Avene. DJs from all over the world would come through and spin some of the sickest sets. I'd always listen closely to all the beats and dissect them to the core, understanding the difference from one track to the next: a new world of beats. When the world of Drum and Bass would roll into town, this was during the WMC, I would really look forward to watching Roni Size with his full live band and posse of DJs. The collaboration between Live/Acoustic to Electronic would simply amaze [me]. It opened up the endless amounts of possibilities for the future. I always wanted to incorporate the essence of Electronica replicated by acoustic instruments. A lot of time was spent practicing along to D-n-B albums. It became almost a test to see just how many BPMs [beats per minute] were humanly possible.
Steph, you studied music in an academic setting, and Nabedi, you stayed and played with local bands. How does each experience contribute to your compositions, and how do your different musical education experiences inform your approach to making music?
Steph: I am glad you asked this question, because I find myself always having to clear up the fact that I am not a classically trained musician, but a self-taught musician. When I applied to Berklee, I assumed I wouldn't get in because I had no musical education credentials. What I did have, was two solo albums under my belt as well as a solid list of gigging credentials. When I got in, it was shocking. I thought I didn't stand a chance. In the two years that I was there, my main studies at Berklee were in music business, songwriting, ensemble, and studio recording. I came away from that school not a better player, but a more well-rounded musician. I would say that at this point in our careers, we are 20 percent artists and 80 percent business people. When we play live shows though, people see only artists. We spend more time booking and promoting than we do creating and practicing, and we hope for that to change in the very near future.
Nabedi: Staying in the local scene in Miami and playing with all different genre's of music allowed me to have some great ear training, and it allowed me to be exposed to different scenarios. In a live setting, having other musicians to showcase themselves, I had to apply a great amount of dynamics in my own playing style. Also, being local, I've had the opportunity to play with some of the most respected and talented artists that we're lucky to have here in Miami. Steph and I are both self-taught musicians. We're two different people, with one idea. Our writing styles are different, but work so well together. The ideas we come up with come together like magnets!
What are topics you like to write about?
Steph: Most of our songs are about relationships with the outside world. Whether they be with people, with yourself, or in the day-to-day hustle and bustle. There is constant inspiration and beauty with every single interaction, good or bad. Once you figure that out as an artist, you are free.
Can you explain what influenced the song "All Come Back?" Was it influenced by a real event?
Steph: "All Come Back" was written about a friend who had a bad experience with open relationships. There seemed to be conflict between the idea of having a healthy progressive lifestyle and having your cake and eating it too. It seems the two ideas, though completely different, have a tendency to merge together. This was interesting and song-worthy and hit a little close to home.
When you started creating this album, what were some of the themes you wanted to incorporate?
Steph: When Day of Abandon began, it was going to be the third Steph Taylor album. This is because we hadn't hooked up as a band yet. As Nabedi and I found each other during this process, the intentions of the album changed from a solo singer-songwriter's music embellished by a big production to a duo's full sound being enhanced by other instruments. The main theme of the album is out with the old and in with the new. This concept rings perfectly true for the old Steph Taylor music and the new The State Of music, which was the big transition that happened during the making of this record.
As an all-female group, what is your opinion about women in music today? In South Florida?
Nabedi: We can definitely say that there's been a significant amount of change and growth in the music scene in Miami within the past 10 years. A lot more women have been doing their thing out here, pushing the boundaries that have been set in the past. Today, we all really respect and support each other as musicians no matter if you're male or female. It feels nice to see the camaraderie between us all here in our hometown.