Michael Montuori and Daniel Abruna met in kindergarten 25 years ago. Theirs is a friendship that endured preteen awkwardness and the pitfalls of adolescence and eventually morphed into a creative collaboration that would become Twelve Tales.
Last week, Montuori and Abruna released the two-track EP The Tower: Part 1 on local record label XYZA, and today they deliver the visual for the track "Nether."
As many creatives find themselves stumbling to find ways to make long-distance collaborations work in the face of the pandemic, the audiovisual duo has found itself ahead of the pack. Three years ago, Abruna moved to Paris with his girlfriend, yet despite an ocean between them, they've made it work. While Abruna completed an intensive course at the School of Audio Engineering in Paris and Montuori focused on his own responsibilities, Twelve Tales blossomed, and the two became practiced at the art of caring and creating from afar.
In its synth-driven, down-tempo entirety, "Nether" feels like a five-minute, six-second odyssey that spans the elementary bleep-bloops of old-school video-game music, ambient techno, and the sweet euphony of dream-wave. The track's luminous vocals belong to Broward County musician Sndngchllz, whose face (if unrecognizable thanks to the visual design magic cast by Twelve Tales) can also be seen in the accompanying video.
The EP as a whole embodies the filmic sound for which the pair is known, but it's elevated by sonic explorations that break away from traditional sound structures with long buildups and tempo shifts — all without being punishing.
And if you needed more incentive to buy the release, all of the proceeds from sales and streams will be donated to the Family Action Network Movement, a Little Haiti-based organization that provides advocacy and social services to local immigrant families.
So, what's the secret to collaborating from afar?
"First, you have to constantly exchange ideas and progress updates," Montuori explains. "Communication is key."
For Twelve Tales — whose greatest obstacle is the six-hour time difference — sharing ideas unself-consciously, at any time, has proved to be an imperative, "even if it means the other person is waking up to a swarm of texts. In fact, it can be inspiring to wake up to that kind of energy from your collaborator," Montuori says.
The pair has also found that having regular video chats can be fruitful.
"We set up a video chat a couple of times a week to do a thorough progress update — see what's working and what's not, talk about goals, and create plans for the immediate future," Montuori says.
Twelve Tales has several moving parts, including music and visuals — which they do themselves — both deeply rooted in technology. The duo stays on top of these many components by working in spurts.
"When you have a shared vision but have to do your actual creating alone, it can be easy to lose track of what exactly you should be working on," Montuori explains. "In our meetings, we create a list of what we want to accomplish in the next few days, and we decide who is going to work on what. This helps a lot in keeping our trajectory aligned."
It also helps that Montuori and Abruna — who each refer to the other as a brother — are friends.
"Seriously, if your collaboration is digital, it can easily feel like homework," Montuori admits. "Time spent having fun and investing in each other as people is invaluable in creating a lasting and meaningful collaborative project."
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