On Oct. 30, The Collective held another edition of its livestream concert Sounds Fair on Instagram featuring artists sunswan (Shravan Raghuram) and KYWN (Jamarri Nix).
Shravan Raghuram is a music producer and multi-instrumentalist at U of I. You might know him as the drummer of The Data Waves but he also writes and records his own music under the name sunswan. His music is centered around capturing different emotions and exploring all sides of their existence—the ups and downs and what’s between. He writes songs in different styles and genres to reflect different emotions, mindsets, and environments. He has 3 singles out on streaming platforms and will be dropping a debut album this winter.
Click here to check out his Spotify
KYWN (pronounced ky-waan) is an independent producer, songwriter, and rapper from Chicago, Illinois. He released his first EP “Blackout” after graduating high school in 2018. Since then, KYWN has released five singles, another 2-track EP, and his first album “20,” which came out on Oct. 20.
Click here to check out his Spotify
Read their Q&As below and follow The Collective on Instagram for more art and livestream music events.
KYWN (Jamarri Nix)
By: Annamarie Olsen
Q: What got you interested in music?
Jamarri: “Going back to when I was little, I would try to come up with little verses, but it never really went anywhere, but it was sometime my Junior year of high school that I found this app Music Maker Jam, a beat making app, that has premade loops that made the process easier for me.”
Q: How would you describe your music visually? Genre? Color? Texture? Visually?
Jamarri: “Music can be a lot of different colors. For me it depends on what emotion is brought of you. A lot of the music I make is uplifting, so the color yellow comes to mind for most of my music. If it is a sadder song, or a darker song I see the color changing there.”
Q: What genre of music do you identify yourself with?
Jamarri: “I consider my music to be mainly hip-hop, but I do have trouble determining what other genres my music might fit into otherwise. From my recent project “20”, I can see a few songs maybe fitting into R&B or pop-rap. At the core of it, hip-hop is my main genre, but I do like using instrumentals to make different sounds.”
Q: What is the creative process like for you, writing and music wise?
Jamarri: “I probably have a strange approach to it, I never go in with an idea. I start out with a melody, whether that be one I am making from scratch or if I have a loop. I let the music guide me and see where that goes. I ultimately just try not to force the song writing process because I feel like when you do, you do not come up with your best work. It is ultimately just me seeing what emotions or ideas I am hearing from the instrumental. I also bring what I have experienced into the lyrics.”
Q: Tell me about your recently released album “20”.
Jamarri: “I wanted to make an album, but I never had enough ideas coming to mind. I decided to make it fairly personal since this was my first album, sharing a bit more than I would. My main group of friends would know these things, but more on the issues not everyone outside of my group would know. It was July into August when I began writing, and I wanted to release it on my golden birthday this year, which is why the cover art is gold. It was also the first time I had features, I got a few of my friends to feature on the project.”
Q: Who/what influences your music?
Jamarri: “I take a lot of inspiration from all the hip-hop artists, but I would say that my all time favorite artist is Eminem. Lyrically, he is one of the stronger artists. I do not swear in my music actually, not to be family-friendly but to challenge myself to find other ways to phrase things and find different rhyme schemes. Besides Eminem, other artists that stand out to me are Denzel Curry, Big Sean, and Lil Wayne of course. Other than that, it is more personal, like my uncle who I have shown a lot of my music to while working on. My uncle supports me and I like hearing how he interprets my music. I like to see how my music comes across to other people before I am fully done with it so my friends play a big role there.”
Q: Has COVID influenced your work?
Jamarri: “Over the summer I was going to release a five or four song EP, but then once COVID happened, it did not feel right to release it because it was going to be a happy summertime type. We did not even have a summer so it felt wrong to release that. As far as my recent project “20”, it pushed back that process. I had to make sure everyone was being safe, we could not have traditional studio sessions where you bounce ideas off each other. It was a learning experience overall.”
Q: Where do you foresee your music going?
Jamarri: “I just enjoy writing music for the most part as a therapeutic process. It is like a musical journal for me. I do not particularly see myself being a huge mainstream artist. Even just doing these local events is amazing to me. I enjoy the community of music and what it does for me.”
Q: If you could leave us with one piece of advice from your musical journey, what would that be?
Jamarri: “Just do not be afraid to dive into anything you have an interest in because if nothing else it can be a good pace of change for you.”
sunswan (Shravan Raghuram)
By Karina Belotserkovskiy
Q: How would you describe the music of The Data Waves and how did you get involved with them?
Shravan: “Well, we [The Data Waves] are mostly instrumental funk but influenced by a lot of genres including soul, rock, hip-hop, and pop. I got involved with them in 2018, when I was a member of another group. They were already a group and had a drummer, but going into the 2018-2019 school year, the original drummer had a co-op work opportunity, so he wasn’t going to be in the area. He also wasn’t interested in pursuing drumming or being a musician professionally, so the band reached out to me [….] so starting August-September of 2018 I became part of the group.”
Q: Could you describe starting up sunswan, your solo project?
Shravan: “I always made music myself under different names, I used to just rap and make music under different names, and then I had an indie-rock project that was under a different name, but then I sort of settled on sunswan at the beginning of this year because I felt like go to the point as a solo artist. I kind of wanted a fresh slate, but it was also something I knew I would stick with. It also started up when I began working with my friend Alan, who’s a music producer under the name “Your Beautiful Ruin.” After working with him, I changed my stage name to sunswan because I like the image — a sun and a swan — and also because it sounds like my name.”
Q: How did you originally start getting involved with music?
Shravan: “When I was around 8 years old, I started to take drum lessons, because my parents noticed I was rhythmically minded, I guess. Up until I was 15 or 16 my main focus was sports, but I wasn’t into it and it was affecting my mental health pretty badly, so I had to pick up something else and went back to drumming. I linked up with some of my high school friends, and we started jamming together, through that I met so many other people and I’ve gotten involved with a ton of people at U of I as well and progressed from there. The inception of it [playing music seriously] was just me and my closest high school friends playing music obnoxiously loud in a basement.”
Q: What is the creative process like for you?
Shravan: “I don’t really know music theory that well, there’s a few things I can grasp, but as far as like, harmonic complexity, chord functions and stuff like that I’m not too well versed in. For the writing process, in the beginning, I’ll try to come up with some chords. Since I don’t really know music theory, that process can sometimes take me two minutes to come up with something that I like, or hours or maybe even days to come up for different sections for songs. I know what I hear and I know what I like, and I go from there. It ends up being beneficial to me because I’m not too brainy about it, following my ear, not my brain. I know what I’m making is stuff I want to listen to. As far as lyrics, that was really hard for me for a long time, but then I started taking some creative writing classes through the university, specifically poetry classes. After I took those classes it allowed me to talk through my feelings in a more abstract way without being right on the nose.”
Q: Do you have any specific bands or musicians you drive inspiration from?
Shravan: “Oh there’s a lot. My favorite band, the first band I ever got into was Pink Floyd. It’s funny because I’m kind of a music nerd and Pink Floyd is so Music 101, but I really connected with them early on. My favorite album by Pink Floyd is “Animals” and my favorite song is probably “Dogs.” I think it’s the perfect combination of what Roger Waters does really well and what David Gilmour does really well. I think both of their energies are perfectly compatible on that album. As of right now, I’ve been listening to a lot of free jazz and underground hip-hop music. Some names are Pharoh Sanders, Sun-Ra, newer Earl Sweatshirt, I guess more abstract type stuff.”
Q: Do you have any favorite memories performing pre-COVID?
Shravan: “My favorite shows to perform before COVID were definitely house shows, so like setting up in someone’s basements, just having 100+ people crowded into some house, everyone’s drinking and having a good time. The audience response we got playing house shows with The Data Waves was always greater than every other live-show capacity. The house show environment is so much more unhinged and free while more formal gigs that we’re booked for are different; people might dance a little bit but then they’re also looking around and don’t want to seem too crazy, but at house shows no one cares how they seem.”
Q: Has COVID impacted your music in any meaningful way?
Shravan: “Yeah, it’s made things more difficult in most capacities. Being a drummer, my main job in most bands is to bring everyone up and make everyone sound better than they actually are. If I achieve my goal, then the music will sound a lot better, and elevated to another level. Now with COVID, musical collaboration and linking up with other people is so limited and it’s so hard just to make music with other people. For me it’s been a real mental exercise to try and come up with more stuff on my own, without relying on other people. It’s allowed me to expand my creative boundaries.”
Q: Can you talk about your upcoming winter album?
Shravan: “It’s been the most amount of work I’ve put into anything in my life. Some of the earliest material, the original ideas, date back to September of last year. There are some songs on this album I’ve been working on since then, so it’s been really meticulous. I was trying to capture a lot of sounds, a lot of emotions and also make it really cohesive. The singles I’ve dropped have been doing really well, I’m looking forward to potentially dropping another one and then it’ll be the album. I’d say a lot of what the album is about is the idea of escapism, that being like in your human form and presence you’re only thinking about what’s directly around. Through escapism, your mind can have this experience where you imagine you’re in another body, in another place. It’s a perfect tool for me, especially in the times we live in where so much negative stuff happens to many people, we can all be looking for chances to explore a new world or feel something different. My mission statement for the album is to provide that outlet for people, so people can experience a range of emotions instead of the monotonous, cyclical, everyday thing.”