As you [attempt to] remove yourself from the hustle and bustle of work routine and into steady holiday flow, Common Souls’ Pyramid Lake EP could be the secret key to that well-deserved rest and relaxation. The L.A.-based duo who coined their music “ESM” for Electronic Sad Music have just unveiled their debut EP, and Ones To Watch has your premiere as well as some personal insight from Ryan Yoo and Nick Velez today.
From the “Intro” that’ll swiftly stimulate a pleasant meditation, to “Arizona” which boasts the coveted John Lennon Songwriting Contest’s 2015 Song of the Year, it quickly becomes clear that Pyramid Lake is a multi-faceted, soul-baring work of art. We move into “Roots//Habit,” Nick’s personal favorite which illustrates the duo’s metaphoric lyrical prowess, only to slow it back down with the spiritually moving “Cocoa.” “VLS” provides a proper conclusion with an explosive crescendo that just leaves us yearning for more.
Your exclusive stream of Pyramid Lake is below, and you can pick up your own copy here. Plus, read about Common Souls’ influences, Ones To Watch, and love for guacamole in our Q&A.
OTW: Congrats on the EP release! Would you say there’s a particular theme/narrative to it or each song tells a different story?
CS: Each song stands on its own, but there’s a theme of isolation and dissolving connections running through everything. We wrote the whole thing in the mountains with no cell service or wifi, which definitely affected the headspace we were creating from. I also just need to get out of the house more. The other theme is that we wrote the songs trying to avoid a traditional verse-chorus-bridge structure, so they’ll almost all switch up in the vibe/key/meter somewhere around the middle of the song.
OTW: Which song or lyric resonates with you most and why?
CS: Nick likes “Roots” the most. We worked hard on the production and the form for that piece, and there are lyrics he particularly likes (shouts out to Vanessa Chung for helping with those). My favorite piece is the introduction, it has no words or tempo but still has a structure and a flow to it. I also didn’t have to sit down with it on repeat for weeks trying to think of lyrics
OTW: How do you maintain that classic style while also staying innovative and fresh?
CS: Old school artists are some of my favorites. Marvin, Curtis, Sly, Donny, James Brown, Lennon, Prince (in my heart forever), the list goes on… Their sounds/stylings will inevitably show in anything I create because I’ve been drowning my ears in their music for years. Nick and I also enjoy playing with unusual timbres and textures. But at the end of the day, if anything would keep us sounding innovative and fresh, it’s the fact that we get bored real quick. If it starts sounding old or too familiar to us, it won’t come out.
OTW: Who are 3 artists on your Ones To Watch list and why?
CS: Our friend Kiefer Shackelford worked on some amazing projects in the past year (Mndsgn, Swarvy, Jonwayne) and has one of his own dropping next year–definitely look out for that.
We’ve been waiting for music from an incredible group called Wilberta that features some of our favorite musicians from here in Los Angeles, I’ll probably run outside naked and screaming when it comes out.
Also Nick Hakim, he’s got a new album coming next spring and we’re straight up counting down the days. Nick, if you’re reading this… sooner, please. We’re dying.
OTW: What else is in store for Common Souls? What’s your ultimate goal?
CS: New music on the way, expect something a bit different (look out on our Facebook, Instagram and SoundCloud in the coming weeks). It’s a lot less pretty, and a lot more narrative-based and personal. Separate from Common Souls, I’m shooting to write at least two songs on the Billboard Top 10 in 2017, and Nick is producing some other artists.
My ultimate goal is to be able to get a quesurrito with guac from Chipotle and feel absolutely no guilt. Nick’s ultimate goal is to feature on Lil Yachty’s next single as a guest vocalist saying “lilboat”.