You might not be familiar with Slavvy, though you might have heard about the Miami-based musician, producer, and filmmaker from his previous pseudonym, AbdeCaf, under which he put out a couple of albums that gained the support of mega DJ-producer Diplo.
"My parents came to Miami when I was four or five from the former USSR. We had a refugee passport, and we made our way here via France," Vaynshtok tells New Times.
It was after he immigrated to the States that he got into music.
"At 12, my neighbor gave me a bass guitar and wanted to cover Blink-182 songs with me," he recounts.
Eventually, he started a band, Fight Like Animals, which he describes as "instrumental rock influenced by Explosions in the Sky, but some people called us arena rock."
At the age of 20, Vaynshtok underwent his first musical metamorphosis. He started messing around with a laptop equipped with Reason Studios software and "got some cool-sounding stuff out of it," he explains.
In 2012, a chance encounter with Diplo led to the Mad Decent label head endorsing the music he made as AbdeCaf and sharing it on social media.
"I walked into a class at FIU and when I walked out, my song had 10,000 plays in an hour," Vaynshtok marvels. "I never went back to class again."
Despite AbdeCaf's success, Vaynshtok rechristened himself Slavvy for his upcoming EP, Romantic, for a simple reason.
"The music is so starkly different," he says. "It's not in alignment with that other project. AbdeCaf was lo-fi beats. This is much more mainstream. Now I'm trying to play music that will chart or play in a club. Guys like Drake and Jay-Z have one-word names for simplicity. Slavvy seemed like a more simple, mainstream name."
Vaynshtok says the EP, which is due out September 24, is made up of autobiographical songs about being in his 20s in Miami.
"I'm about to be 30, but I guess it's a fond look back at the lifestyle I was leading," he says.
The first single, "Lavender," will make you question that statement. The music video, which Vaynshtok codirected, shows him holding guns and wads of cash while boasting, "Got a million different women asking me to be their man." The persona doesn't really jibe with the thoughtful voice coming over the phone. He describes the visuals and lyrics as a bit of a "skewering of modern rap," though he says it's just as well you can't tell from the presentation whether it's meant to be tongue-in-cheek.
"I don't think the mainstream will accept music if you're like, 'Yo, I'm a nerd, and I make music,'" he says.
"I shot it in three days in June," he says. "Me and [camera operator] Juan Orta did everything: Wrote it, shot it scored it. Most of the dialogue is in Russian and I got my friends to act in it. I told them to wave around these guns and just be you, to make it easy on them."
While Vaynshtok is a definite film fanatic, don't expect him to give up music anytime soon.
"I have close to a thousand songs in my back pocket. Ninety-nine percent will never see the light of day. I had 30 polished for the EP, but I picked the five songs I like the best. I'm my own worst critic, so these I think are the five songs anyone can get down with."
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