Ah, to jet-set the country – nay, the world – and spread sweet music to the masses like a nectar straight from the gods. As glamorous as it may sound, the touring life is still one plagued with pitfalls; the types of issues that bring out the human element of our very favorite musicians and afford a relatability at times rarely seen between artists and fans. A voicemail from singer-songwriter AM illustrates those issues perfectly.
“We’re just entering the New York area and our reception’s been spotty. We’re in the middle of Manhattan, basically entering into the beast of New York,” AM explains.
When finally reached, the LA-based musician is in search of a venue – his and Shawn Lee’s next spot to conquer on their whirlwind tour supporting the critically acclaimed La Musique Numerique. This being the Big Apple, AM & Shawn Lee get the full, chaotic treatment of big city driving and narrowly miss getting hit by another car. AM is still ebullient and eager to reach their destination, (the legendary Knitting Factory in Brooklyn) joking that historic moments are being made as they survive near-death experiences traversing the city.
AM & Shawn Lee began their musical partnership in all things groovy through the very normal act of appreciation. Though both are known independently of another as expert composers, their musical sorcery reaches a whole other realm when fused together in collaborative admiration.
“I was a fan of Shawn’s music and really just reached out to him via email. We became buddies and bonded over soundtracks,” AM tells The Appeal.
“We decided to do a record together and it just went from there. This goes to show that it never hurts to reach out to people.”
Soundtracks have consistently informed the duo’s compositions and La Musique Numerique expertly illustrates that cohesion. Where debut LP Celestial Electric acts as an at times frenetic primer, their second album has those fringe influences distilled in a sea of disco, electro, and funk, and the mixture is intoxicating.
“We’re focused on the sound and making it cohesive. Our first record was all over the place. We were listening to records from the ’70s and ’80s that have a disco sound but were records emulating that as well. We definitely have an appreciation of the influence,” AM says.
Opening track and single “Two Times” acts as an apt example, placing indie Bee Gees-esque vocals with an absolutely infectious riff from the reggae classic “Under Me Sleng Teng”. In a strange mix of great musicians thinking alike, ardent Rastafarian Snoop Lion (or Dogg or what-have-you) used the same ultra-catchy Casio MT-40 sample to usher in one of his latest bangers, the rasta-jam “Fruit Juice”, which AM is quick to note as one of the coolest coincidences from the album.
AM & Shawn Lee are more than just reticent crate-diggers hidden safely behind laptops, though. When it comes to live shows, “It’s more of a band experience,” explains AM.
“I mean, we’re a four-piece band. It’s just this raw passion and four guys maxing each other out, switching instruments… like, I go from bass to guitar and Shawn goes from synth to percussion to bass and back to drums. It’s really funky and groovy.”
SF has been consistently kind to the band and they’re aching to get back. “There’s such an enthusiasm and support from the city behind us. You really get that feeling,” AM says.