"Too Far is about the most important decision anyone will ever make - who you'll love." Q&A with BILLY MEDINA of SECOND SKY
[Originally published on DC Setlist on June 2, 2011. Republished here with permission.]
They are self described as "Properly Chilled." After speaking with Second Sky's lead man, Billy Medina, not only do we agree, we get what all the buzz is about. Check out the latest ESL band with a looming CD Release Party happening here in DC next week!
Q. You do most of the writing for Second Sky, yet it's a collaborative effort where your "musical moments" are translated by the band; explain how it works.
A. If I hear music that I like, I can listen to it 100 times over and over again. It's usually not whole songs that I'm interested in; it's musical moments inside of songs that I become intensely infatuated with. I think about moments like the intimacy expressed in the first 25 seconds in One Note Samba recorded by Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd or the urgency and emotion in the new Radiohead track Little by Little right when the bridge ascends into the instrumental chorus about three quarters (3/4s) into the song. I want to hear it again and again and again.
Countless moments like these inspire ideas that allow us to construct our own musical architecture. As a band, we want the result of what we build to make us feel something. Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn't; if it doesn't, we throw the idea out. It's a collaborative process of accept or reject over and over again. What makes it work is the clear vision that we have that acts as the decision-maker. It's like being in a meeting and trusting that there's no one in the room that's going to be off task or on a different page or completely nutty. So if I fly off the page, I can trust the others to get me back on it.
Q. Second Sky is from Lancaster, PA; how did the band meet and how did you come together with the DC based label Rhythm and Culture Music?
A. We met at school. Only Wes was studying music formally, but we were all involved in music in some way. We'd formed one band after another with different members who came and went, but the three of us always stuck together. During that time we found that we liked working together and had a lot of fundamental common musical interests. Eventually, we decided we wanted to express those interests in a meaningful way, so we set out to do this as Second Sky.
Q. What are the band's biggest influences? The ones that most define your sound?
A. We've been influenced a lot by musicians with whom we've worked or performed. One of our earliest musical experiences was a residency at Philadelphia's "The Middle East Club" where we regularly performed with a band called Jaffna. We learned a lot from them about Middle-Eastern music, which we all love.
We've noticed that we all gravitate toward certain musical elements, and tend to enjoy those elements in music regardless of style or genre. Typically, we like certain aspects of melody, dynamics and rhythm, etc... . and whether we're listening to Bhangra or Afrobeat, or Soul, or whatever, those elements are often present.
Q. You have a new video out! We love it. Tell us what it was like making it?
A. It was a brilliant adventure. I mean, what's there not to like about pretending to be a movie star? I loved the parts of the day that were like guerilla theater; imagine paying for a cup of coffee and all of the sudden there is a cast and crew that surrounds you. We were surprising people like this quite a bit. Actually, there was also a nerve wracking part about the process. We trusted Ryan (Ryan Mast - the director and videographer) to come in and create a visual representation of one of our songs, and it wasn't until we were doing it that I realized how much trust that really involved. I mean, we work hard to create music and we don't hand our music to someone else to mess with it or do something to it, and then suddenly, we are dealing with someone we barely know, and he is responsible for representing our song. But from the start, Ryan was great, and now that it's done we know that we are lucky to have worked with him; we'd work with him again in a second. Ryan made it great because he designed the process so that it had to be.
Q. What is Too Far about?
A. In my boss's office in one of my first jobs was a poster that said something like the following: "The most important decision you'll ever make is who you are with - as in boyfriend/girlfriend or who you marry. This one decision will determine 90% of your happiness or misery." It's rare that I choose to write about love - there are already so many songs about love out there - brilliant and not so brilliant - but when I think about that message (in the poster), I'm just paralyzed by how true it is. And you see people seemingly randomly getting together and other people so careful about it. So, I thought I'd write about it. "Too Far" is all about how a person might deal with that decision. (S)he might ask her/himself, "Is it really going too far?" (S)he might compare her/his relationship to others and imagine what's playing out in those other relationships happening to her/him, "Did you hear what they have done? I'm imagining we've won..." So, Too Far is about the most important decision anyone will ever make - who you'll love.
Q. Your album was recently listed at #35 of the most played albums on KCRW in CA, How does that feel?
A. I think about the part of me that's an appreciator of music, and there are so many songs that contribute to the soundtrack of my life, whether it be in the car when on a long drive or in the house or wherever, and I connect it to being on this list. Being on a KCRW list feels great because it's feedback saying that our music is out there to potentially become a part of people's lives - like part of their personal soundtracks - and that's an honor.
Q. What's the bands twitter handle?
Q. You have a gig in DC June 9th!!!! Give us the details! What, Where, When....
Q. Turn us on to some new music. What are the 5 songs & artists that have been looping on your iPod this week?
In no particular order:
1 Come and Play in the Milky Night by Stereolab -- could hear it over and over again
2 Little Darlin' by Benjamin Biolay -- it's like eating breakfast for dinner
3 Aux cyclades électronique by Betrand Burgalat -- other-worldly
4 Call for Unity by Hamza El Din -- like ancient wisdom
5 Cherish the Day by Sade -- always good
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