V-Train – Sunset On The BLVD/Sunday Service [Interview]

Sunday Service has a lovely nostalgic vibe. Tell us a few things about it.

Thanks again Hip-Hop Paranoia for asking me this question. Sunday Service samples “Friends Let Me Tell You About Jesus” by the Dixie Aries that highlights the theme of the song of going to church and singing hymns. It is then followed by lo-fi pianos and bass. As a religious person myself, I wanted to create a lo-fi song that contains a religious theme. I found the sample in Tracklib. Tracklib is an excellent website for Lo-Fi Hip-Hop Producers like me who want to improve our craft of sampling music and getting legal licenses to use the samples in our music. With that, they also got a huge catalog of genres to sample from which is perfect for producers like myself to explore.

Sunset on the BLVD is seriously lofi. You have managed to maintain a consistent style throughout your music. How easy though is it to stick to a coherent idea and not be carried away?

It’s easy for me because there’s no other genre that I can really branch out to. When I first started with music, I was doing covers and posting on YouTube. Rock music is more of a team effort and EDM is vast and difficult to navigate for me. I was already familiar with R&B and Hip-Hop music from my late childhood to early teen years so after taking music production lessons, I’ve discovered I had a lot more fun with Hip-Hop production, but I can’t rap and don’t have any connections with rappers. Somehow, I stumbled across Lo-Fi girl on YouTube and discovered Lo-fi music and I just took off from there.

Do you accept the term study beat? Why is lofi used for studying?

I accept the term study beat for the lo-fi genre, but I think it can be used for multiple reasons. I would also accept other terms like relaxing beats, work beats or even jazz beats (Jazzhop or Chillhop). I think there are 3 big reasons why lo-fi is used for studying. There are almost no lyrics to the music which makes it easy for the listener to concentrate or relax. Lo-fi usually has a slow to medium tempo between 80 to 100 BPM which also increases the relaxing mood of the listener. Atmospheric pads and Vinyl record sounds are always associated with Lo-fi music and those sounds bring a certain mood to the listener by having them imagining themselves floating in space with the synth pads or reminiscing on what the past was like with the vinyl effects. In contrast to EDM that is fast and loud, Lo-fi Hip Hop does the opposite making it perfect for study music.

How would you describe your musical progress over the years?

An improvement. When I released my first album “My Quiet Room”, it was liked by friends, family, and people within my community, but it didn’t get much buzz and I was working with limited sounds. Then while I was working on my second album “A Wandering Soul”, I upgraded my DAWs, downloaded new sounds appropriate for lo-fi music and I’ve bought new gear including my new Akai MPC One Drum Machine. With the help of some friends, my music began to spread outside of the community and even in different countries. Right now I currently have almost up to 40,000 total streams on Spotify.

What first got you into music?

I was playing music all my life. After watching my mother play piano at home and at church, I started to follow in her footsteps as well as experimenting with all the different sounds and effects on the keyboard. My parents and teachers discovered that I like to keep a steady rhythm and though I would be perfect for the drums. So I would bounce back and forth between piano and drums. Eventually I would pick up the guitar and bass and things just took off from there.

Do you think there is a true underground hip hop sound today?

Absolutely. Hip-Hop since its conception has always been underground music. Even when it became mainstream and America’s #1 music genre, there are still cats like me making excellent bangers in the comfort of our houses. There’s also a major benefit working underground compared to mainstream like signing to a major label. When you’re underground you have complete control of your sound, and you get all the payments you wouldn’t get if you worked with a team hired by the industry. The underground Hip-Hop scene is a lot more versatile in my opinion which makes Hip-Hop unique. Today’s mainstream Hip-Hop music is mostly created with trap beats and mumble rapping. Don’t get me wrong, I like some of the current popular Hip-Hop songs of today, but I was raised in the 90s East Coast era, and I take pride in it. Most of the underground Hip-Hop sounds replicate the sounds of the 90s because I think most producers like myself missed how Hip-Hop was more about the message and creativity rather than making the same beat used by many other mainstream rappers.

What would be your dream performance venue?

I’m not into performing in big venues so I would be content in playing music in a small café.

When not writing music, how do you spend your time?

I love to play pinball. I’ve participated in local tournaments and have gotten some recognition. Currently I’m in the top 200 pinball players in Pennsylvania and I have a best friend who’s #1 in the state. He’s the one who got me into pinball. I also like to play video games to relax especially Call of Duty. Drawing and reading are my other favorite hobbies especially when the topic is Hip-Hop and producing. Currently I think I have over 10 books about Hip-Hop.

What is the best concert you have ever been to?

When I went to see Jacob Collier live in a Philly club, I was impressed to hear about this artist from England who is a multi-instrumentalist. After that experience, I’ve listed to all of his albums. I was disappointed that I couldn’t see him in concert this year but I hope he comes back to Philly soon.

Your dream collaboration?

I would like to collaborate and co-produce with DJ Premier if I ever get the chance. I really love his sound. It was and still is the pinnacle of Boom Bap Hip-Hop in my opinion.

Favorite music related film?

I haven’t watched much music related films, but I use to watch a lot of movies about Ludwig Van Beethoven when I practiced classical piano. The movie that stands out to me is Immortal Beloved. I think Gary Oldman portrays Beethoven well and I can relate to Beethoven in many ways in music and life’s struggles. I want to see Straight Otta Compton one day. Maybe sometime during the summer I’ll rent it from YouTube.

Thank you!

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