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 u
p 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