Interview: Five Minutes with Frythm

Matthew Pena aka Frythm is a multi-instrumentalist originally from El Paso in Texas, but is currently based in Los-Angeles. He premiered his song titled ‘Colors’ via This Song Is Sick. The song is directly off of his upcoming album release titled Flow(15 May 2020) via SXN (a.k.a soulfulxnature). The music producer  has supported acts like Svdden Death, Slushii, Deorro, Daedelus, Great Dane, Sonnymoon, Huxley Anne, Astronautica and Eureka The Butcher. He has also shared the stage with current acts Migos, Foster The People, Khalid, Mija and J Balvin. Other support Pena has received thus far include publications like COMPLEX, Magnetic Mag, The 405, Nakid mag,Noiseporn and a feature with BBC Radio 6’s Tom Ravenscroft. He has also been supported on the Youtube Platform by channels including PandaFunkTV, Cafune and inversic. 

We find out more about the rising star in our exclusive below. 

Set the tone for us. Why the arts?

Since childhood, I was always fascinated by sounds and rhythmic beats. My mother was a dancer, so growing up I was always exposed to new styles and genres of music.  My brother and I took after her and danced as well. We always tried to create a free form of physical expression of how certain records and sounds would make us feel. I knew from a young age that music would play a crucial role in my life, when I was about seven or eight years old I was enrolled in my first classical piano classes. As weird as it sounds, I was conflicted and hated practising, it wasn’t the idea of sitting in front of the piano for hours, but more the concept of practising songs or compositions that I was forced to learn for recitals. I knew that I wanted to create my own songs but I did not know how. As a child the idea of music production seemed far fetched, but as the years passed and I began getting older that gut feeling of creating stayed. At around 17 years old, I received a hand me down desktop and followed my intuition. I downloaded a copy of FL Studio and started making music. After a few years of Fl Studio I jumped into Ableton, and began integrating hardware and analog gear into my creations. 

Which comes first when you’re producing – the sound or the idea?

There is a fine balance between the two. Some days I’ll sit for hours in my studio jamming, waiting to see if any transcendent ideas transpire. Other days I’ll have a progression or vocal melody stuck in my head that I try to bring to life.

Does your material feature any collaborations?

This new record does not have any collaborators, but I have a few projects in the works with some close friends that will be wrapped up soon. 

What’s on your current playlist?

I listen to a wide range of tunes, lately, I’ve really been into Shlohmo, James Blake, Toro y Moi, Bonobo, and Jadu Heart. I’ve also been listening to a lot of “rocksteady” music as well.

Tell us about the chemistry you have with your fans on stage.

I love playing live, it’s a way for me to truly escape and express. I try to reciprocate the crowd’s energy rather than guide them. Body language plays a huge key and I try to read when I need to switch up or what track would work next. At the end of the day I make the music as therapy for myself, but having fans there to enjoy it with live is an indescribable feeling. I always want fans at my shows to know that they have a space to freely express and move.

What techniques do you experiment with to get your original sound?

I like to do a lot of re-sampling. I’ll sit for hours coming up with chords or melodies on my hardware, record them into ableton, and then just completely make them something new. I also carry around my field recorder and try to record any cool textures or foley sounds I come across during the day to use as textures or organic percussion. I also love laying down ominous vocal pads as a soft background compliment.

Take us through a day in the recording studio.

Before I start a session I do a short meditation to clear my mind. I often enjoy having a coffee or tea on hand as well. I normally start with chords, then write drums and melodies around the idea. I use Ableton’s session view to create several different clips with ideas. After I have accumulated a healthy range of clips, I then begin the structuring process and do post-processing once most of the project is laid out. I like to take breaks and step away from the computer to refresh my mind and gather new ideas.

Was there a specific moment in your life where you thought, “this is what I want to do”?

That moment came to me when I was nineteen years old. I was accepted into a prestigious computer science and engineering school in New Mexico, USA. I was at a stressful crossroads trying to balance music and an intense school workload. I knew that I would be miserable working a 9 to 5 as a programmer, and although the money laid firmly in finishing school, I knew I’d be living with regret if I chose that path instead of music.

Any emerging artists on your radar?

Really love Amy G. Dala, Bad Snacks, Unthotof, and Odin. They’re all really talented artists/musicians making some really groundbreaking stuff right now.

What gets your creative juices flowing?

Many things can randomly trigger my inspiration, movies, random sounds, nature. But more recently it’s been reading, I have a great love for fictional books but took a deep dive into ancient texts and philosophical teachings during the creation of “Flow”. I actually spent weeks reading into the philosophy of “flow” or “the flow state”. After coming off a few months of writer’s block I entered a deep meditative state. I came back with a repeated voice inside of my head telling me to look within and let my body take full control of the creative process. I instantly began writing the record, just moving naturally, not giving much deep thought or logic to the process of things, and just allowing it to just happen.

Take us through your collection of gear, tech or software that accompanies your creative expression.

I use Ableton as the DAW for all of my projects, I have an Ableton push which helps me to get my ideas down fast and record/trigger samples I create during the creation process. Something I use in just about every track is my “Korg Minilouge” with processing and fx done in ableton. I also often use my Les Paul guitar and moog mother 32 for textured melodies.

How have you refined your craft since you entered the industry?

In a huge way! I’m a firm believer in the quote “practice makes perfect”. I understand that art cannot be perfect but when you dedicate most of your time to growing and progressing, it will happen. Over the years I’ve improved my sound-design, songwriting skills and live performance. A lot of people don’t realize the sacrifice that goes into pursuing music, but I wouldn’t change this feeling for anything in the world.

Breakdown the news for us: what can we expect from you this year?

This year my second album “Flow” will be released on “SXN”. The entirety of Flow was written, produced, mixed and mastered by myself. The project debuts a new phase of evolution in the Frythm project, debuting a range of vocal serenades, eclectic instrumentation, and experimental undertones. There will also be some video content to compliment the album and short tour that will be announced later this year. 

Famous last words?

To any young artists that are just starting; Something that hindered my growth in the earlier stages of my career was comparing myself to others. Stop caring about what people think, follow your intuition and be your truest self. When you are your truest self amazing art can be made.

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