I can still remember being a sixteen year old teen in 2012 and listening to Seven Lions for the first time ever. The upbeat melody and unfathomable bass from the track, “Fractals”, flooded my earphones and from that moment - I was hooked.
Jeff Montalvo, better known by his stage name Seven Lions, is an electronic music producer from Santa Barbara, California. Montalvo’s musical production is unorthodox and ingenious. Each track aims to construct a fantasy and incorporates a mix of genres that you’ll never know what’s coming next. Currently on "The Journey" tour, I had the opportunity to speak with Montalvo.
Your songs embody various genres such as trance and dubstep. What’s your creative process like?
It’s really different for each song. Sometimes I’ll start with the melody, sometimes I’ll start with more of a general mood. It’s always kind of changing. I definitely write very linear though, I don’t lay out the track and fill it in like a lot of other people. I like to do start to finish basically.
Is there a person, place, or thing you draw inspiration from when making music?
I’m influenced by a lot of other music. Music is what I draw inspiration from.
What type of music do you draw inspiration from? Is there a specific artist?
Just a lot of different metal music. Of course Above & Beyond as far as electronic music. I really like them. Old Delirium. Vocal driven kind of stuff.
Vocalists are an integral part in many of your tracks. How do you go about picking who sings on them?
That’s always different as well. Sometimes I’ll know exactly who I want and I’ll just reach out. Other times I’ll finish a track and have no idea, but I want something that sounds a little more like this. My management will help me look for a bunch of different options or the record label or sometimes even publishing companies like Warner have helped us quite a bit with vocalists. We’ll send it to five or six different people. They’ll all do demos, send it back, and I’ll pick which one I think fits best.
In the press release on your current tour it states “The concept for the The Journey tour was inspired by the millions of young people who are taking it upon themselves to create their own adventures and embark on their own personal journeys of discovery.” What was this “journey” like for you?
For me, it’s going to different festivals when I was younger and even now. You get a crew of people together and go to EDC and I remember doing that a long time ago. It was always an epic adventure because I didn’t live in LA so we would have to go on a long drive for that. Also going to Burning Man or Lightning in a Bottle. All these festivals are destinations so you generally find a bunch of cool people you really like. You make plans, prepare, and go for it. It’s a pretty epic adventure and it’s really cool to see so many people going to these festivals and putting in a lot of time and effort to make a cool camp or have a crew. It’s really cool.
How did teaming up with FCancer for The Journey tour come about?
My management asked me what I think about this. I thought FCancer specifically would be a really good one because I feel like everyone knows someone who is affected by cancer or has been affected by cancer. Whether it’s a family friend or a parent, it’s everywhere. There are so many people I know who have dealt with a loved one getting cancer and it’s really sad.
I think “Drinking With Strangers” is such an interesting thing you do. How did you decide you wanted to start doing that?
Basically because normal meet and greets are really, really awkward. If you sit down and have a beer with somebody, the playing field gets leveled and everybody calms down. You can actually have a really good conversation and I think that’s the best way to meet people is over beer. It’s been going really well. We’ve met tons of cool people, people we still keep in contact with actually.
Is there a city you particularly love playing in time and time again?
On this tour, San Francisco/Oakland has been one of the crazier cities that’s for sure and it’s always really good to play there. Seattle is also really amazing too. We actually just moved up there a few months ago. Not because it’s fun to play there, but because we like the area. There’s a really good crowd.
If you got to attend your dream electronic music festival as a fan, who are some of the names that would be on the lineup?
Bird of Prey, Xilent, Above & Beyond, maybe Tiesto ten years ago *laughs*. I really GRUM, he’s been opening up for us and he’s been crushing it. That’s been really good to see.
What is one mistake you see a lot of up and coming producers/DJs making? What advice would you give him or her?
I would say people who try and promote their music too quickly and put out songs that aren’t polished. Once you do that, it’s really hard to recover. Generally people need to focus on making music and making it really good before they start trying to put it out there and get people to listen to it. It’s really discouraging for people to spend a bunch of time on a song and put it out there and it doesn’t go anywhere. Nobody listens to it, nobody likes it, and people just give up when they should be like “alright well I’m going to keep at it” and not get discouraged. Be persistent. Don’t have crazy expectations. I think those are the two main things.
Interview by: Kimberlyanne Tan
Photos by: Kimberlyanne Tan