We're back with "In Y(our) Shoes", a series where we get to invite and chat with personalities from different backgrounds such as fashion, music, art, design and more, to learn more about them and their relationship with footwear and fashion in general. For the second entry on the series, we continue our journey within the music industry, this time around with Best Youth.
Founded in 2011, Best Youth is a duo comprised of Ed Rocha and Catarina Salinas, whose unique sound can best be described as "electronic indie rock meets dream pop". We got to sit down and chat with both to learn a bit more about the universe behind of one of the most hyped bands in the Portuguese music scene.
A: Hi Ed and Kate, first off thank you for accepting our invitation - it's a pleasure having the opportunity to talk with you, especially now that your calendar is getting increasingly busy with the return of live concerts. How has it been getting back on stage after almost 2 years of the COVID-19 pandemic? We can image a heartwarming comeback for both you and the fans?
Ed: We were dying to get back on stage! Luckily, we were able to perform a few gigs during the pandemic, but we'll finally be able to see people's faces in the crowd after 2 years of staring at masks.
A: The continuous lockdowns took a toll on all of us, but few were as affected as musicians. Even so, you managed to release an amazing single last year (Rumba Nera), and you have just presented a new one (Cool Kids). How did you manage to keep your creative process flowing, and your sanity for that matter?
Ed: It wasn't an easy period...it was the first time since we began making music together that we could not be in the same physical space. During the first year of the pandemic it was virtually impossible to compose anything new, we couldn't get into the right mindset from a distance. Our way to deal with that was to take a break and "dissect" music from artists we loved. We called it "Video Letters": each week I would record an instrumental version and share it on Instagram, people would try to figure out what song I was playing and meanwhile Kate would get back to me with a video singing that same song. By the end of the week we would share the result and it was a really funny creative exercise.
Kate: As Ed mentioned, we were a bit reluctant to release anything music at all. First, because it would be the first time working together from a distance and we needed to figure out how to actually make it work, as so many other artists did in the same situation! Secondly, because we truly felt that without concerts, things would eventually fall out of place and fade away and by the time the dust settled, the record/single could've already passed its expiration date! Based on these 2 premisses, we thought that the best thing for both us and our audience, would be to create a set of musical letters which we called Video Letters, where we could "talk" with each other through music ó the thing that brought us together as friends and as a band. It was a cathartic and very pleasurable exercise.
A: Still on the subject of Rumba Nera, it shows a different sonority and range of influences we weren't used to hearing from you. Was it the result of a natural experimentation process or a conscious approach following a more melancholic period? You describe "Rumba Nera" as a lifestyle, right?
Ed: We try to make every record sound different from the previous in terms of tone and instruments. Rumba Nera has elements from Latin percussion which both of us have been listening lately, and due to another project that required me to listen to Bach's Goldberg variations, we tried to push a Harpsichord with a melancholic approach into a pop song to see how it would work. I wouldn't called it lifestyle per se, but the song talks about a reality which we all share nowadays on social media: it's impossible not to compare our lives with those of other people...the song was written from an hypothetical users' point of view, as someone who let that reality get the best of him.
Kate: I agree with Ed, but for me instead of a lifestyle, "Rumba Nera" is more of a dance that we do everyday while browsing social media: you decide what you want to adapt to, for better or worse. It's a way to vent.
A: Despite having worked with other artists, including Moullinex whom we interviewed recently, Best Youth is you two. Did you know from the start this was the set up you wanted to work with, or was it a natural result of your friendship and musical chemistry?
Ed: It was a natural thing. We had a band before Best Youth, a trio that ended eventually. After following our separate ways for a while, I began recording a new album and invited Kate to join me on some of the tracks. It was such a natural process that we immediately realized that we should work on a record together. This was in 2010/2011 and continues to this day. Looking back (and forward), we have such a unique relation that it would be very difficult to incorporate other people into the band's "core", but we do love working with other artists.
A: You're highschool friends and you've been making music together ever since. Is there a line between the personal and professional worlds? When you write or produce something new, is it like "having friends over" or do you have to really change your mindset?
Ed: It's complicated to set both worlds apart. We have no days off, I cannot "disconnect" at the end of the day. Besides being independent workers, we are also an independent band, which means there's always something to do unlike those "9 to 5" jobs. In the end we try to find a balance between the personal and professional worlds. For better or worse, we usually have a relaxed mood but we go to the studio everyday and of course, there are times when your mindset must be different, especially when there are deadlines involved.
Kate: I agree with Ed, it's difficult to separate those lines especially because when you are part of a creative project, your personal side is ever present. Of course nowadays, an independent artist has other distinctive traits besides criativity, so in a sense, the professional aspect is essential: an artist is almost like a company where you play different roles, that are dependant on your professionalism. It's safe to say that Ed's professionalism is more refined than mine, so I'm very lucky to be able to share this company with my eloquent best friend. When we're working on our music, the mindset changes of course, it has to change when you're doing something that is as subjective and personal as music, you can't be institutional you have to be human. It's not a relaxed rendezvous with friends because you're working, but it's also not a board member meeting to decide on strategy.
A: You're currently one of the most renowned Portuguese brands around, both locally and abroad, and another living proof of the crescendo that the "portuguese music scene" has been experiencing. After a decade, do you believe the Portuguese audience is increasingly holding national music in higher regard?
Ed: I believe there are different things happening at once, mainly because of social media platforms and the way algorythms work. On the one hand, I feel like national music is healthier than it's ever been, with lots of great artists and bands covering a ton of different genres and reaching their niches and tribes, but on the other hand it feels like a big part of the audience isn't aware of those artists because they're trapped in an algorythm-generated bubble that only shows them projects backed up by huge promotional investments to bypass those same algorythms. In reality, the music industry has always been a bit like that, but in 2022 with instant access to information at our fingertips, it's a shame that so many people are unaware of the amount of local talent due to external factors.
A: What are your next projects as Best Youth? We know you're always keeping up with the latest tech...metaverse, nfts, are these things that appeal to you?
Ed: I'm a bit of a nerd so I'm always keeping an eye out for those areas. Regarding the metaverse and NFTs, although I was super excited at first, I must say I'm disappointed with the direction in which it is going. I'm not sure if it's something that will be around for a while, but at this time it does not portray any of the aspects that got me hyped in the beginning. We launched NFTs last year and it helped us better understand the whole context behind the thing. I'm still interested to see what happens, mas from a distance. In fact, more than technological evolution, I believe we need a consciousness evolution regarding the way these systems work. We're talking about music, but this applies to food, clothing or anything else. Algorythms can be good or bad, fair or unfair, it all depends on the interests of the people behind them and right now, it doesn't look like they're heading in the right direction.
A: Talking about your relationship with fashion, it's clear you have a polished image that is thoroughly thought out. You have your own aesthetic that matches perfectly with your sound. Is there a difference between what you wear on stage and what you wear everyday, or are they an extension of one another?
Kate: It's an extension of our everyday wardrobe. We both see fashion and aesthetics as part of our personalities, it's something that comes naturally to us, so it wouldn't make sense to wear something on stage and something entirely different on our everyday lives. It's all connected, the music we play, the way we think, the clothes we wear, it all comes together in the message we're trying to get across as a band and as individual artists.
A: Who's vainer? Who waits for who before the shows?
Ed: That's an easy one!! I believe that in 11 years Kate has never once waited for me to go stage :P
Kate: Can't argue with the facts :)
A: What role does fashion play in your lives? Is it something more utilitarian or a means of expression?
Ed: I believe it's always a means of expression. People who say they don't care about fashion and clothes are kidding themselves. Usually, when they say that, it means they like to dress in a simple, toned down and functional manner, but....guess what: that alone is a form of expression, a way to let your tribe know: "guys who don't wear clothes as a means of expression, I'm like you!" But to answer your question, there is a great utilitarian aspect in the way I dress. I don't like to waste time choosing clothing, so I see my wardrobe as a series of uniforms that complement each other with the occasional statement piece.
I could easily be one of those persons that chooses 1 suit and buys 3 of all colors (and double that in black) and there, problem solved.
Kate: Undoubtedly a vehicle of self expression. In my case, I was (positively) influenced since a young age by my mother and her work. For her, fashion is an extension of who she is, without fashion it's as she is speaking a different language, and became misunderstood. That approach and values were passed on to us from an early age, not from a shallow perspective, but as way to educate us in how to own our differences in a society that often promotes a safe equality through a uniform that isn't meant to fit all. We are unique, individual beings before functioning as a society and the best way to contribute to a continuously evolving collective is through freedom of speech, be it in music or fashion. For me, it would be impossible to wake up in the morning and not think about what I want to wear depending on my state of mind, which changes everyday =)
A: When it comes to footwear, we know Ed in a boot lover. how about you Kate, any style you can't live without?
Kate: Sneakers, always. I love and wear all sorts of footwear depending on the context, but no one can take away my sneakers.
A: What do you value best when purchasing footwear?
Ed: They can shred my feet to pieces, but if like a pair I can wear it everyday and deal with the pain.
Kate: The visual impact is always the first, but if they're uncomfortable, no matter how pretty or stylish they are, they'll end up on the shelf.
Ed: I'm very picky when it comes to sneakers. I tend to go with monochrome styles, white mostly. What I liked about these ones in particular, is the fact they are made from recicled materials. I have a few pairs at home I no longer wear and that are in no condition to be sold or given away, but I don't like the idea of throwing them away. It would be much easier if I knew there was some sort of "plan" to dispose of them properly after their life cycle had come to an end. For sneakers and for many of the objects I collect throughout my life.
Kate: As a petite person with small feet, I always favor sneakers that don't make my feet look big. I don't like the concept of gravity although I'm well aware of its importance, so I avoid styles that "glue" me to the ground =) I also favor a more minimalist, slick design that doesn't steal the attention from the rest of the look ó harmony above all.
The new single from Best Youth, "Cool Kids" is now available online on digital platforms. You can learn more about the band on their official website, Youtube or Instagram.