Good music doesn’t require a well-placed scheme or concept hatched in a boardroom prior to recording to ensure success. Quite frankly, much of the best music starts organically and takes shape as artist chemistry develops cohesion as songs are constantly constructed. In other words, many of the albums that stand time’s ultimate test didn’t begin with those involved having forced or contrived notions. On the contrary, the personnel involved caught a vibe and rode that wave into eternity.
Up steps producer Drew Dave and his approach to crafting songs. SynthBASED is his latest endeavor, but this is by no means Drew’s first dance. He’s been on the rise in the DMW for the last five years and caught the eye of Mello Music Group, thus finding a label home for his release. His natural approach to crafting beats is a refreshing, albeit daring, at times, amidst formulaic regurgitations in which the public has almost become immune. Most adventurously, Drew Dave crafts an entire album using his go-to saw bass synth sound throughout the project, but it’s the playing and programming that keeps the listener engaged from start to finish. Listening to the album and one finds the sonic textures coming alive as songs seamlessly transition from one to the next. Whether you have heard the album or not, find out more about this talented producer and his overall approach to making good music.
You mention Oddisee shouting you out six or seven years ago, referring to you as someone for people to keep an eye on. What’s been your course from that comment until the release of your latest project?
It stems from me being close to Washington, D.C., in an area in Virginia about 10 or 15 minutes from the city. I was close to the Hip Hop scene and familiar with Oddisee for awhile. I want to say it was 2009 and I was doing a beat showcase for this local label called Inner Loop with yU, Oddisee, and Surock, where I met all of them for the first time. After the show, Oddisee and I talked for a bit and he asked me how old I was. At that time I was 20 and he told me that I had a bright future ahead of me.
Fast forward to a year-and-a-half later in 2011, I put out an instrumental album called Mumbo Salsa & Drumbreaks (Inner Loop Records). I used to go by Soulful!. There’s actually a YouTube video of this out there. I was with Oddisee, Quartermaine, Roddy Rod and a whole rack of other people. It was that same night where I was playing my album and Oddisee decided to do a video there. In the video he shouted me out, saying I was “the DMV’s future.” I’ve never forgotten that.
In an era of dwindling regionalism, how does being from the DC-area factor into your music?
It plays a huge role! It seems like it never ceases to influence me; it’s my everyday surroundings. When I wake up, when I go to sleep, it’s there. The Go-Go sound is influential in our music, too. There are specific area references throughout the album, too, further showcasing DC’s impact on my music.
This latest project appears on Mello Music Group. How did this relationship transpire?
That was solely through yU. He was there from the beginning. I sent him an early version of the project when it was still an EP. yU decided to send it to Mike over at Mello Music Group and that’s how it came about.
Many people will conjure up different things when they hear the title of your new album SynthBASED. What’s the meaning and methodology behind this album?
It was actually pretty simple and I didn’t put that much thought into it. I started making it back in November 2013 when it was still a six-track EP. Over time, I just became a huge fan of the synth saw bass and I have bunch of beats where I utilize this bass sound. So, I decided to use this as the concept for the project. As new beats were being made using this method, it seemed like a natural progression to move from an EP to a full-length album.
Why does the saw bass sound appeal to you so much?
Actually, I’ve had this infatuation since 2008. It started when I heard Jay Dee’s Jay Loves Japan release and the joint effort Champion Sound he did with Madlib. There was a joint on that project with him and Kweli rapping called “Raw Shit” and he had the saw bass sound in that. I really became convinced when I heard this synth sound used on an (Uptown) X.O. track called “Ridin’” where the saw bass is just bouncing and fluctuating on the track. Ever since then I decided to use it for myself.
It’s brave to use the same bass sound throughout the entire album. Unlike other genres, listeners can be unnecessarily fickle and over-think the music.
I appreciate that. Keep in mind: It may be the same bass sound, but the patterns vary throughout the project.
The song “Sugar” really made me appreciate your take on beat construction. How would you describe your overall approach to this song in particular?
Yeah, I had a feeling you would mention that one (laughs). It’s a huge thing for me to flip something that is common and take it in a different direction. I wanted to attempt this one for awhile and I took a stab at it. Granted, it’s been used before, but not quite like this by taking various elements from different sources and creating a new fluid, seamless song.
Before we wrap up, we’ve been talking about your playing and chopping prowess, but explain your vibrant drum programming throughout SyntBASED.
When a lot of people do drums, they quantize them, and I tend not to do that. It stems from a Black Milk interview from back in ’07, or maybe older than that; it’s the same interview that I used in my intro. He just advised not using quantizing on drums and just playing everything out, so it has that live, natural feel.