New Noise: serpentwithfeet

Meet the classically trained, Brandy devotee, serpentwithfeet.

If gospel music married classical music and had a baby who grew up to be R&B, then the result would be serpentwithfeet’s unique sound. Josiah Wise aka serpentwithfeet is a Blatimore-born artist who’s been drifting all around the world, honing his distinct musical style. The 25-year-old has spent time in Paris and London before finding himself in NYC, which is where his sound really started to take shape.

The artist’s first EP from Tri Angle Records is titled “blisters”, which now makes us think that perhaps he should’ve become a serpent without feet instead, and saved himself the inconvenience. With booming strings and dramatic orchestral elements, his music merges with 21st century electronic music to create something fresh and exciting. Wise’s emotive, exotic vocals run easily through the songs, showing off his classically trained vocal background perfectly. Citing legends such as Brandy and Björk as his inspirations, he aims to become the boy version of Brandy. His personal philosophy to live by is that when you walk into a room, say, “This is my room – [then] it’s your room. The end.” But don’t let his brilliant confidence and impressive skills intimidate you, as you should definitely click and have a listen to his magical music. We promise he won’t bite.

What’s the story behind the fantastic name serpentwithfeet?

serpentwithfeet is a name I’ve been playing with for a few years. I went through a brief phase when I was really excited by the king cobra. serpentwithfeet also felt like permission to be my version of seductive. Haha!

Where did you study to become a classically trained vocalist? Do you think that gives you an edge over other artists?

I used to take classical voice lessons as a teen at a local university in Baltimore. It was also my concentration in college. I definitely don’t think I have an edge over other artists. I feel like I am always trying to find my voice.

When did you decide not to pursue classical music? Or was it never part of your plan?

I decided not to pursue classical music when it stopped pursuing me. Haha. I wanted to be the next Lawrence Brownlee. Essentially, he’s the boy Brandy of the opera world. He has this wonderfully delicate vibrato and he does ALL the runs. I thought if I practiced and pined for it enough that I could be the mini version of him. BUT, that’s not my gift. I am so thankful for the discipline I gained from classical music. I am so happy that it’s in my ear. And I rebelled against it for a while, but for 9 years that was my life. I can’t escape it, and i don’t want to.

How would you describe your sound in three words?

Urgent. Desperate. Conflicted.

Who are your biggest musical influences?

Brandy, Kirk Franklin, Björk.

What’s your songwriting process like?

I always know what I want to feel. The music is just the residue of me following a feeling.

What is your opinion of the underground queer music scene? Has it affected you in any way, artistically?

The underground queer scene is incredible. When I was out at the parties it seemed like everyone wanted to unpack all of themselves all the time, and I needed that.

You’ve lived everywhere from Paris, London and now NYC. How do the music scenes differ in each place? Which one is your favourite?

I was in Paris & London in 2010, I don’t know if I can comment much on the art scenes there because I was only there a few months, but what I love most about Paris is the unbridled charm. NYC is pushy and I like that too.

Do you play any other instruments besides piano? When did you learn to play?

But I’m very basic with it, again I ONLY know how to articulate my little feelings with it. I suck at sight-reading. I love Chick Corea but my fingers can only dream of that agility. I started writing my own songs on piano in 2008.

What genre would you love to experiment with that you don’t tend to use?

I’ve recently been transfixed by flamenco music. I find a lot of similarities between that and the sound of black church people shouting. To be honest, I don’t think I’m very adventurous. Even when I hear music from other countries, I’m always thinking about its relationship to gospel.

Do you have any new projects that you’re currently working on?

I’m still following a feeling and we’ll see how it materialises. But I am working on some new ideas!

Mariah Rosslee
New Noise: serpentwithfeet

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