A Raging Bull Goes Superbad

7 mins read

This conversation provided insight into Romeo + Juliet’s creative process and plans for his upcoming album “Superbad.” We discussed the musical direction and themes explored on “Superbad,” which he sees as a riskier follow up to the previous project “Raging Bull.” Romeo + Juliet also shared his perspective on influences, the challenges of the music industry as an independent artist, and his aspirations to continue growing as a musician.

What are the current plans for the upcoming project? You were crafting a sound with the Raging Bull. Will we be introduced to a new sound with the new project? Or will it be a continuation of the established sound?

Superbad is different from Raging Bull. I think my voice will be the bridge between Raging Bull and Superbad. As different sonically, as I think it is, I think that it won’t be too unfamiliar since my voice hasn’t changed. Superbad is coming from a place of frustration, the same thing as Raging Bull. I thought I’d be farther along by this point. Success in many ways is subjective, but I think when it comes to music, there are some things that you can put on paper to deem yourself a success. Superbad was pretty much me taking a step back and acknowledging that I have more work to do musically. There may still be questions about whether or not Raging Bull is a fluke because it is just one project. There might be a bunch of people wondering, can he do this again? Raging Bull was a question. Superbad is the answer. I’m taking more risks on this than I took with Raging Bull. I’m just excited to see people’s reaction to me continuing to do what I feel I do best. 

There’s a theme. A bit of frustration. The music industry is frustrating. Maybe you’re not doing the work. Maybe the music industry isn’t doing the work to know who people like you are. What’s the story behind the album cover? We all know Superbad, the movie. There’s also this dude on a loud bike. 

Interestingly you mentioned the dude with the loud bike. In many ways, I hoped that Superbad would make noise. They say you have your whole life to make the first one, and the second one is what people are anticipating most because they want that feeling. Part of it is from the movie. I’ve made up my mind that I want all my projects to be named after films. The last two films I sat on were Rebel Without a Cause and Superbad. This is more of an expressive mixtape. All these are mixtapes until someone’s paying me to do this. As long as I’m funding all this and doing it from my apartment, these are all mixtapes. I wanted to go Superbad because the movie was short, super impactful, super necessary, and left a permanent dent in pop culture. I wanted to put something shorter than Raging Bull together but packed just as much of a punch. I’m very much a project person. I know the industry is very single-driven but I grew up on projects. At my core, that’s who I am. And I’m done running from it. 

On the other hand, it was me looking in the mirror thinking I must be bad at this. Maybe I’m not good enough despite the people who are discovering me every day and despite all the meetings that I’m having. It’s me expressing that I’m losing my mind. In the intro which is called The Doors Part One, I say I’m losing my mind. I’m running out of time. Every day as I’m getting older I wonder if I’ll ever see that dream fulfilled. That is a theme amongst love and a few other things. Anger is what’s driving me. This is what will allow me to continue to have the edge to keep going.

One could argue that the extra edge is positively adding to the music. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. You don’t have to change some of those elements. I imagine it’s coming out this year at some point. 

Hoping for the second quarter of the year. April or May.

After this project, you’ll have Raging Bull, Superbad, and a couple of other loose stuff under your belt. Are there any plans for you to do any live shows? 

I badly want to go on a tour. I thought I’d do one for Raging Bull but then Superbad came out of nowhere. I feel like I have a much stronger setlist. Being an independent artist can be overwhelming at times. I just have to put myself out there and roll with the punches until things start to look the way I want them to look. It goes back to one of the themes of Superbad. I want to give my all to this thing. I want to look back and have no regrets. I’m also interested to see how the music will translate live because a lot is going on with my music. I’m hoping for this summer or spring. I’ll start with one show, most likely in the tri-state area. New York.

When you’re recording do you not listen to any other music so it doesn’t influence the current music? How are you blocking out some of the noise?

When I’m making music I don’t listen to anything for the most part. The only time I do listen is when I’m trying to figure out drums. I may put on N.E.R.D. How does that high hat sound? How did that kick sound? More than a handful of times I made a song that was not mine. When I’m creating it’s in my best interest to create based on all that’s already in my brain. Between Raging Bull and Superbad, there was so much more music that I discovered. I think I’ve become more of a student. When I’m doing a project, I’m challenging myself to put into practice the different things that I’ve learned from all the new music that I’ve heard between the last one and this one.

You mentioned drawing from different places and learning. We’re currently in a big wave of international music. You’re half Kenyan and half Ugandan. Are you drawing influences from African music? You mentioned drums and drums are such an important part of African music.

Down the line, I might even be able to dedicate a full project to just that. I love how much the music has grown. It’s a beautiful thing to see. I think the thing that’s hard for me is I try to blend as much as I can into one. If you have a listening ear, I think on this next one, you may be able to hear how I am using more live instruments. It’s to give you that feeling of the motherland. With time and the more I learn, I think I’ll find a more unique way to do it. Growing up that was the music I was introduced to first.

We hear the influence in the harmonies especially. Tell me a little bit about the decision-making with some of the harmony choices. Some of those choices are stuff that only musicians are going to understand. The average listener might not understand the complexities of what you’re doing. 

If you were to ask me what my favorite thing about music is, it would be harmonies. I owe learning how to layer with the guy who mixed my stuff for years. Dennis taught me. I asked him, how is it that Beyonce’s voice sounds like she did it 1 million times? I didn’t understand how she was doing that. He was like Beyonce is layering her voice. She’s going and singing the same line eight times. My first time putting that into practice was with NYC which was on Raging Bull. Growing up in the church that was the music we were exposed to in my house. A bunch of harmonies from African music or church music. It was choirs. Mahalia Jackson choirs and a little bit of Michael Jackson. Michael Jackson did the same thing with a bunch of layers. It’s very tough for me to sit there and sing a song with one voice all the way through. That’s not how my ear was trained to process things that sound good to me. There’s a song called Garden State that I love because it was like five or six arrangements that I used. When I make music, I’m searching for a feeling. Before you care to know what I’m saying I would like for you to feel good. I’m chasing a feeling. I hope that people feel what I felt. I do not envy the people mixing this project.

Is there an ideal scenario for Romeo and Juliet, the artist? Independent? Label? 

I didn’t think that I was capable of learning how to do a lot of the things that I’ve done musically without the help of a major label. A lot of the songs we grew up on when you look at the writer’s credits, there are so many people. There are so many people involved in making a song a good song. For many years it haunted me because I’m hearing this song that I love and I’m seeing that 12 people worked on it. I’m like, well, there’s no way I could make a song that good because I’m just one person. Because no one has stepped in to help me to this point, and because I’ve been pushed to the wall, the ways that I’ve responded have shown me that I might be a lot more capable of doing things than I thought. There was a time when I thought I 100% needed a major. At the end of the day, I’m on the outside looking in. If there’s a situation where people would come in and put me in the rooms that I need to be in, cool. I just want as many people to hear my music as possible. I don’t feel like one person can do anything like that on their own. Ultimately, I do think I will need help from someone. I don’t know who that someone is. So to be honest, I cannot answer that question for you. What I will say is that Superbad would not have happened if I signed to a major from Raging Bull.

They’d probably still be pushing Raging Bull, which isn’t a bad thing.

Not at all. It’s my dream. These are the things that keep me up at night. On one end I know if I was signed to a major I could quit my job. I could just focus on music. I could have fun with music. I could dedicate all my time to getting better. On the other end, everything I’ve done musically to date has come because no one else has. I hope someone comes eventually. Right now, strangely enough, things are working in my favor musically. It’s been a very confusing, bittersweet time if I could be transparent. I am sure that I can’t stop. I think Superbad is me affirming to myself, that I’m 100% sure that this is what I’m meant to be doing. 

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