The enigmatic LA duo, Justin and Samia talk to Wonderland about their long-awaited debut LP ‘Trust’.
18+ are creating music that falls somewhere between the sexy beats of SBTRKT and the bizarre, sometimes slightly uncomfortable style of Die Antwoord. Just as hypnotic and attention-grabbing as the latter but far more subtle, Justin and Samia are two visual artists and producers, who under the pseudonyms ‘Boy’ and ‘Sis’, released three mixtapes and even collaborated on a Prada campaign, despite no-one having a clue who they really were. Their album is essentially a mastered ‘best of’ their three previous mixes which will take you through the entire spectrum of human emotion. It’s an extremely personal piece of work from them both and it sometimes feels like you’re eavesdropping where you’re not welcome but as the facade of anonymity is dissolving, 18+ are willing to let you in to listen to their secrets.
What musicians/films etc have inspired your new album most?
S: The songs on the album are a mix of three years worth of content (2011-2014). I listened to a lot of Rihanna, Oum Khalthoum, Kizomba mixes found on soundcloud and Aids-3d’s 11:11:11 during that time. I overdid it with “From Time [ft. Jhene Aiko]” on Nothing was the Same, and a harp rendition of “Nothing Else Matters” on YouTube, having heard both over a hundred times. In terms of films, I have always been disturbed and oddly inspired by the visual/audio combination in the opening scene of “Look Who’s Talking”. It is so perverse and has impacted my visual sensibilities along with the music video for Michael and Janet Jackson’s song, “Scream”.
J: The “Scream” video was huge for me when it came out. The song itself I had already come to love on MJ’s HIStory, but then the video added a whole new level of admiration. Michael Jackson undeniably has been a life long influence on my ear for music. Sorting my iTunes for most played tracks, it would appear Death Grips, Kendrick Lamar, The Streets, JME and The Dream are recurring influences. I’ve also been listening to Estonian composer Arvo Part ad infinitum. His compositions sound to me like sequenced samples that have developed the ability to grow organically. This merging of grid based music and organic expression is something I think we often reach for as 18+.
What are the running themes in your songs?
S: Privacy, sexuality, trust, control, and confession
J: I would add: jealousy, wrath, transcendence… I also think we continually draw upon a child like amorality.
Your music is known to be quite explicit, what influenced you to create such unique tunes?
S: My personal life mixed with the desires of invented characters I could only imagine being.
J: 18+ started with only the two of us as the intended audience and because of that we were able to reach outside ourselves to try things that might otherwise be embarrassing. Now that we have achieved some success with that formula we are continually pushing ourselves to find that embarrassing and generative place to make songs that sound new and alien to us.
Do you feel your music has a dark side to it?
S: The style of our songs unfold naturally. Like all personalities, I would say our work goes through mood swings. There are some songs like drawl that I find to be moodier than others, both directly correlated with a specific time and place. There is a darkness in confession (admitting to doing things wrong or reciting desires out loud) which might lean to the interpretation of a dark side.
J: Always dark with the light– Though i must admit we do seem to gravitate toward darker sounds… But if a sound is dark we then usually pair it with a would-be-happy image in an attempt to present a more complicated and realistic expression.
You’ve performed in art galleries and select shows around the world, which has been most memorable for you and why?
S: After working in a variety of settings, attention to detail and quality of sound and visuals become something of value. My most memorable live performances have been at Artists Space in New York, and the Jumex Museum in Mexico City. Those particular shows were organized professionally— fairly intimate, not too loud, an engaged audience and all technical aspects on point, providing us with everything we needed to play a ‘perfect’ show.
J: The Venice Biennale show was a stand out for me. I had never been to Venice and it was very inspiring to see so many art practices that weren’t overtly market oriented.
What are your plans for the future?
S: To expand the brand as much as possible while maintaining the integrity of the work. We’ll keep going as long as we continue to surprise ourselves.
J: Yeah, the plan is always to keep ourselves interested and trust that it will also be of interest to others. I’d like us to re-design some pedestrian/domestic objects/garments. Dungarees, plates, cups, maybe a swimming pool. We want to use the world as found footage, just as we have done with our videos.
If you weren’t musicians what would you be?
S: A dancer for Madonna
J: Everything else.