Interview: Five Minutes with PINERO|SERENE

PINERO|SERENE is an alternative/dreamscape duo based in London. They have recently released their debut single ‘Take My Soul’ and today share the follow-up ‘Dead Flowers’ which was premiered on TMRW Magazine. 

Neeq Serene and Cheryl Pinero are the creative force behind the band, creating a potent mix of bass-infused, grungy dream-pop. Their EP Dark Matter is slated for release on July 12th, and promises to stand headstrong as a release not to be missed.

We caught up with the duo for some insight into their creative process.

Set the tone for us. Why the arts? 

NEEQ: I just wanted my feelings to breathe, somewhere safe, without judgement and I found solace in writing from a young age. It gave me and continues to give me better insight into myself and my experience here. Life is heavy, as it is beautiful. It’s easy to get taken by the tide. Art, in its many forms, allows us to escape momentarily, or at least share the experience of being taken under.

CHERYL: When I started playing bass at 13, I instantly felt deeply connected with the instrument. It helped me to express myself emotionally (writing) and physically (performing). I didn’t realise it at first, but as I got older and started playing in bands, writing songs and performing live, I knew that this a way of channelling my inner self, in a fearless and honest way and it helped me to find my own voice. It quickly became a very fulfilling and also empowering experience for me. By the time I was 19, I just knew that I wanted to keep creating and performing music to share these experiences with other people and thereby find connection.

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

When we wrote the EP, we did so led by a dream-like visual representation of the elements; earth, wind, fire and air. The songs were written in a particular sequence and each one possesses a correlating energy, which we characterised in mood. Dark Matter is the consequence of the balance and interconnection of the four.

Does your material feature any collaborations? 

For the first EP, we didn’t have any song-writing collaborations but this is something we’d be really excited to do in the future. Working together has been so grounding and inspiring and we wanted to focus on nurturing the connection we have, to develop our sound.

What’s on your current playlist? 

NEEQ: My “current” playlist consists of The Verve, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, The Doves, Portishead, Bombay Dub Orchestra, Atoms for Peace and Anoushka Shankar

CHERYL: Currently listening to a mix between Zola Blood, RY X, Fink, Banks, Sevdaliza and Men I Trust

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

We’ve not performed as a band yet but it’s something we’re both really looking forward to. We have a vision of how things “should” be and want to create an audio-visual experience that people can get lost in.

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

One of the major components of our sound is that it is bass driven. The combination and balance of effects used, create quite a unique mood that features throughout the EP. The blueprint of the songs are always written on bass first, then vocals are added and we lose ourselves in a loop until we find that moment that the two tell the same story. Our thought processes are very often echoed in one another and there’s almost an unspoken understanding before we even begin, of where we should end up.

Take us through a day in the recording studio. 

We usually start early in the morning and record the bass takes first, to have the foundation for each song. Then we move on to layering other instrumentation before recording vocals and BVs. We’re pretty focused when we record music, but make sure to get our coffee breaks in and the days are always filled with laughter and all manner of emotions!

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

NEEQ: I can’t pinpoint a moment in time specifically. I have always felt comfort in words and music and every time I read Rumi’s poetry or listened to a beautiful soundtrack or a band as open and abstract as Radiohead, I felt part of something. I just knew that I wanted to continue feeling that way and grow confident enough to share my thoughts the way they had.

CHERYL: Even before I started playing bass, I just knew. I never considered music as a hobby. It always meant more to me. Listening, writing and playing can be healing.

What do you keep close by while you’re playing a set? 

NEEQ: We haven’t played live together YET. I’m not sure personally. What would I keep close by? Maybe a crystal! Cheryl?

CHERYL: When we play together we tend to keep things minimal but ambient and immersive. I wouldn’t have anything next to me but you (Neeq), my bass set up and a bottle of water!

NEEQ: Aw that’s my answer too! Cheryl! And a crystal.

Any emerging artists on your radar? 

NEEQ: Art School Girlfriend. Cheryl introduced me to her music recently and I love her vocal tone and the overall production on the tracks. Esya also blew my mind last month at Omeara (London). She sounded like the lovechild of Bjork and Atoms for Peace!

CHERYL: A friend of ours recently introduced me to Hejira. I’ve been listening to their album “Thread of Gold” on repeat for weeks. Their music takes you on a journey from start to finish, it’s absolutely beautiful.  

What gets your creative juices flowing? 

NEEQ: I tend to write the most when I feel set apart from the world. I have a “low” day and everything pours out of me. And when travelling. I can be on the tube, a train, a plane; my mind wanders and my imagination leads me to write.

Also, Cheryl’s ability to tell such heartfelt tales on her bass is hugely inspiring to me. She’ll play me something and within seconds I am writing words and experimenting with melodies.

CHERYL: I am always inspired by what we create together and it drives me to want to write more. Travelling also inspires me a lot. Especially if I spend time in nature. Getting grounded and an open mind and open heart helps me to get those creative energies flowing.

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

NEEQ: When I’m recording at home, I love to use my Rode NT1A. It’s a simple and effective condenser and coupled with the user-friendliness of a Focusrite audio interface, I am seldom let down. I also like experimenting with the TC Helicon Voicelive 2. You can do so much with it. But at the moment, with the style of music we’re doing, I really appreciate minimal effects with the focus being on tone.

CHERYL: I play a Fender Mustang or a hollow-body Coronado bass, depending on which sound suits the song better. Apart from this I mainly use Boss effects for Chorus, Delay, Bass Drive and a Holy Grail Reverb by Electro Harmonix. Bass strings also make quite a difference to me, as I also play harmonics and chords. I use DR Hi-Beam strings as they cut through perfectly on both the low and high-end frequencies.

Any side projects you’re working on?  

NEEQ: I am currently working on a series of dark electronic/trip-hop tracks which when finished, I would like to have friends and like-minded musicians feature on. I’ve always loved the idea of having an open, creative collective.

CHERYL: I will be playing Festival shows with Friedberg this summer and I’m also planning to do some travelling and remote collaborative writing later this year.

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

NEEQ: For me, accepting the beauty of difference, has been the key to refining my song-writing. I allow myself the freedom to be experimental and care less about what people think of me and more about what they think of themselves and the surrounding world. Words have always been my way out and it’s a natural instinct to want to sing them with conviction, so I challenge myself with new techniques and tones to nurture that relationship.

CHERYL: I’ve simplified my songwriting approach over the years and I focus much more on the energy, flow and mood of the melody or rhythm rather than following any particular or standard structure or pattern. Neeq and I let the melody go or remain where it sits right and layer and build each song from there. It just happens organically and is never forcefully implemented. 

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

This year, in essence, is our debut. We want to share what we’ve been doing and communicate our identity as artists. We’re already working on our second EP and our focus will be maintaining consistency with our releases and creating an immersive experience, that we hope people will want to be part of. 

Famous Last Words?

CHERYL: Dive in. Dive deep.

NEEQ: You know nothin’ Jon Snow.


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