Placing you in a space somewhere between funk and psychedelic with a pinch of rock, Specialists uses vivid imagery to transport you from the mundane to the imaginary. Their latest EP Too Easy is a 5-track journey through synths, enticing vocals, RnB and funk. We sat down with Will (guitar) to talk about the EP, their creative process, music and much more!
OSR: How did the band get together?
Will: Specialists developed from an experiment. In January of 2017, we started an improvisational funk group called Deep Sea Specialists. After exploring the realms of a spontaneous sonic landscape, we (Will and Mikey) decided to try our hand with composing and recording. This led to instant chemistry, resulting in us releasing music weekly in fall of 2017 for 20 straight weeks. We were dedicated to writing and completing a new track a week and releasing it on SoundCloud. The Friday releases became known as Funky Friday. This is how we quickly gained a loyal base of weekly listeners and developed a cohesive sound.
OSR: Did you know where you wanted the band to go from the start, or has your direction evolved over time?
Will: At the start of our career, we were completely unsure where we wanted to take the music. We were initially just a recording project that was entirely devoted to studio experimentation. However, over time our desire to perform forced us to form a live band. This live band has influenced our approach in the writing and recording process because we live to see the songs come alive on stage.
OSR: Is there a theme or backstory for your EP Too Easy?
Will: This EP was written and recorded entirely over the internet during quarantine. Writing music while stuck inside for months on end created an ongoing theme of an imaginary social life. We found ourselves writing about imaginary social occurrences, occurrences which we found ourselves longing for. For example, the first song, ‘Thanks, Boss’, is about us playing music for people. The following track, ‘Be Easy’, is about an experience one might have at a bar while watching us play.
OSR: You draw on different influences for the tracks of Too Easy, is this something that comes naturally in the creative process?
Will: Absolutely. Between the two of us, we have a very wide spectrum of musical interests. Mikey tends to lean towards the RnB and hip-hop side of things. Meanwhile, I am more of a rock and roller. Our music tastes align and differ simultaneously. The differences in influences create challenges when we are composing. Our ideas are all spontaneous. When we touch on different sounds and genres, it is a result of our creative intuition. We never go out of our way just to replicate a genre.
OSR: What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome when creating the EP?
Will: As I mentioned, this entire EP was written and recorded in quarantine in isolation from each other. The biggest challenge was developing an effective system for long-distance recording. We’d Zoom call and discuss/display our ideas. Then, we would have a Google Drive folder where we would share and upload recorded tracks. Mikey would take my guitar/vocal/keys tracks and load them into a Logic session. It took weeks of troubleshooting before we had it down to a seamless process.
OSR: What is your favourite and least favourite track from the EP?
Will: Man, this is a tough question. My favourite would have to be ‘Down n Out’. It was the only track we recorded in person, and it set the standard for the entire EP. The new sound quickly followed.
Least favourite? I don’t know if that exists because I love them all as if they were my children. We made sure this project did not have any songs we could categorize as “least favourite”.
OSR: If you could play any music venue in the world what would it be and why?
Will: Another tough question! I feel like most musicians would say either Royal Albert Hall or MSG. I have to say, if I had my pick, it would be one of those mid-sized NYC theatres such as Irving Plaza, Kings Theatre, or Brooklyn Steel. Any shows I’ve seen at those venues have been intimate enough to be special and big enough to be a party. That’s the goal.
I hope live music in NYC will make a return before all of these incredible venues go under due to lack of business. The public needs to be prepared for an artistic renaissance in NYC following the victory over the pandemic. We need to keep our venues open and our audiences safe. We cannot forget the importance of live entertainment, especially after we have been deprived of it for so long now.
OSR: What would you like people to remember about your music?
Will: I’d like people to remember whatever they can. If there is a specific song or a specific melody that someone finds themselves attached to, that is a special connection we have achieved with our listeners. I want our audience to think about our music as they would think of any artist they’ve enjoyed at any point in time. Music tends to become a time capsule of memories. I hope someone who enjoys us will hear one of our songs down the line and be instantly brought back to the time they first heard it or remember that one week, or many, it was the soundtrack of their lives.
OSR: How do you deal with overzealous fans?
Will: There is nothing to deal with. If someone is incredibly excited about our music, this is the highest of compliments. It is clear our music has contributed some sort of tangible meaning to their lives. We welcome people who love the funk.
OSR: What are your plans for the next 12 months?
Will: Our plans revolve around getting our live sound to the next level. We want to be ready to take on all sorts of new performance opportunities once the music scene gets into action again. We want to make sure we back up our highly polished recording skills onstage. We will likely record another EP, beginning this September.