SEYE is Gbenga from Metronomy's younger brother and the new act on Stranger Records, the small NYC label that put out Lana Del Rey's Video Games more than a year ago. After he joined her on tour, he's now in the studio working on his first album, promising irresistable, sun-drenched Afro-pop. We talked to Seye (pronounced Shey-ah) about Lana herself and why he ditched his guitar.
You used to play guitar for a lot of different pop artists such as Paloma Faith, The Noisettes and Ellie Goulding. The guitar doesn't seem to have a prominent role in your own music though. How come?
It changes a lot in my music. Some songs have a lot more guitars than others and also when I play live the guitar is a centre piece. With my songs White Noise and Mexicana Bounce I wanted to try different kinds of production and different sonic styles. The Mexicana riff was born on the guitar but we went more synthy with that one. Its' a changing process …
Can you give some insights into the composition and production process? Who do you work with and how much do you try to be in control of things?
I play the guitars and bass on my records, plus the way I sing suits me in quite a specific way so the melodies I write do always end up giving the tunes a Seye quality – beyond that I'm really into collaboration and taking advice from producers. I have worked with a fair few guys now but have certain favourites like my boy Jonny Lattimer – who I did Mexicana Bounce and White Noise with. We both play guitar and other instruments so we are running around the studio humming and picking stuff up and writing drum parts and dropping keys parts in. It's fun and it's different each time.
Your music features a lot of rhythms that seem to be really influenced by African music. But unlike bands like Vampire Weekend, your approach seems to be more poppy. Was it a conscious decision to avoid an indie sound?
Not at all. I'm a pop-py kinda guy and I'm not a band, so I can't really sound like that anyhow. I'm a big fan of pop music, especially 80s pop music and pop culture so it's just a natural kind of expression. Plus, to me, African music IS dance music, and I love to dance … And I'm African … so it made sense to take it there. I love Vampire Weekend. A lot. One day I hope to work with them.
You went on tour with Lana Del Rey. How did the audience react to your rather energetic music compared to Lana's more melodramatic songs?
I did that tour on my own with my guitar and they responded really well. I'm a bit of a chatter on stage so people got to know me quite well. I like what you can gain from the intimate approach to gigs as well as the full on band show where you get a whole different energy. She was great and I think the contrast of me to her was good for the audience.
What can we expect of the first Seye album? Will it be rather a collection of singles or is there an album concept?
This album is going to be a collection of the best songs I have written at this time. I just started writing and these tunes turned up, no prior though of a story or anything. But my next album I already have the concept for, so I'm looking forward to people hearing this record, going out and touring it, then getting to work on the next one.
Text: John Luas