When a folk singer collaborates with an EDM producer, things could go terribly, terribly wrong. In the case of The Cycle, collaborative effort of Cymbol 303 and This Pale Fire, respectively an EDM producer and a folk singer, things have gone oh-so-right.
I met the guys at Tyler Street Garage on Friday afternoon (heyo bottomless coffee), ahead of their EP release show the following night, in that same space. First impressions are interesting, especially when one's music precedes them. Had I been unaware of their musical talents (and not present solely for the purposes of gleaning an interview), Shivnesh Sumer and Corban Koschak are exactly the kind of people who I would have quickly decided I wanted to be friends with.
Shiv has been making beats since he finished high school in 2008; before Cymbol 303, there were different monikers, although none of them steadfast. Deciding to become serious about his music, he asked a mate to throw some ideas for names at him, and they eventually settled on a mash-up of the things closely related to his musical identity: 'cymbol' is an intentional misspelling of a drumkit's cymbals (combined with interpreting 'symbols'), which always feature in his tracks, whilst '303' pays homage to the Roland 303 synthesiser, the very first instrument Shiv touched. In 2013, under this name, Shiv won the George FM Remix Factor Competition, bringing him closer to mainstream public awareness - as if his Soundcloud clocking in with over one million plays doesn't serve that purpose.
Corban has been writing and singing music for the past ten years, and describes his gigs as, "Half heart-string-pulling songs, half dad jokes." He decided he needed a stage name because his Austrian name (Corban Koschak) was not so catchy. This Pale Fire intends to embody his on-stage self-aware lame humour, personal brand of singer-songwriter sorrow, and personal character as a "pasty red head."
This three-song EP - which dropped (for free download) on Friday - is the product of two years of hard work. Corban and Shiv had only known each other for a few months beforehand through 9-to-5 work; Corban's work in "the video side" of advertising led him to seeking out a talented audio engineer. Both kept their music separate from their working relationship until Corban worked with one of Shiv's friends to produce his first EP. Shiv took the time to listen to his work, dug it, and pitched the idea of what was originally meant to be one song.
Both sides of the pair bring different things to the table. Corban "bears [his] tortured soul," whilst Shiv has a preference towards "cinematic music," with "lots of motion". They both liked the idea of a themed EP, one which created "little worlds for each song," but had a unifying feature. Given that both guys are in their early twenties, and both belong to genres not unfamiliar with serenading and lamenting women, it should come as no surprise that the bundle of songs Corban initially brought to Shiv all had a relationship lean, and that those were the ones Shiv stuck to. The lyrics were "depressing," but with the aid of "doof doof" EDM and Drum & Bass, Shiv was confident he could make some real, meaningful music out of it.
The Cycle is intended to follow the life cycle of a relationship. Burst of Colour is a positive opener, focusing on the initial stages of a relationship, where everything is flirtatious, and your rose-tinted glasses shade the world in a better way. Don't Rob Me tracks the moving-in stage, where one begins negotiating the areas of their life that they're willing to share with this partner; a partner who may be the enduring light of their life, or cripple them with heartbreak. Better than Me sadly presents itself as inevitable, closing off 'the cycle' we trap ourselves in, doomed to fail in love: it's the break-up anthem.
Who's the ideal listener? Shiv proposes someone who is open-minded and thoughtful; someone who will listen to the end, paying attention to the artful construction of each song, as opposed to holding out solely for the drop. Corban agrees, noting that he intentionally leaves his lyrics somewhat ambiguous to allows the listener to impart some of themselves and their own experiences into the music, making it their own.
The pair remarked about how they are now in a better place to make music; whilst practicing together really just meant going through each song's motions, it's now a jam-time, where they push the boundaries, make mistakes, but more importantly, discover new ways of doing things and produce new work.
That's not to say that Shiv would ever let anything less than completely polished off the production line and into the ears of his fans; Corban laughs that this EP, two years in the making, finally came off of Shiv's computers as, "Version 234a."
As for the future, they'll continue to feature on each other's work, but will maintain their own identities. They'd rather the work be approached as a 'fusion', producing inherent tensions in their chosen styles, rather than building their own box to think within, and risking falling stale.