79.5 interview: synths, love and striving for greatness
Making soulful, melodic tunes akin to Patrice Rushen and Labi Siffre, New York City band 79.5 has been evolving since its early single ‘Terrorize My Heart’ took off among DJs and fans of classic soul.
Named after an imaginary radio station, the group was started in 2010 by singer, songwriter and composer Kate Mattison. In the five years since the group’s 2018 debut album, Mattison connected with singer and rapper Lola Adanna for 79.5’s self-titled sophomore album.
The group’s new album is a beautiful blend of 70s disco, Midwest electro-funk and harmonious soul that lovers of A Taste of Honey, Chic, and Prince will adore.
79.5 has just begun its spring tour across the US – with sax player/flautist Izaak Mills, drummer Caito Sanchez and bassist Andrew Raposo joining the ladies on the road.
Just before they set off, Mattison and Adanna told Fringe Frequency a bit about the journey to create their second album, what they’re most excited about with their US tour, whether we might get to see them live in Europe, and why they wanted to make an album about femininity and self-belief.
How on earth are you today? And can you briefly describe what it’s like where you are now and/or what you’ve been doing?
Kate Mattison: I’m feeling like it’s years of hard work and it’s release day, feelin’ pretty groovy right now!
Lola Adanna: To go off of Kate, I feel like all the hard work is paying off. I am excited to have made great music with the band and created such a great project!
So, it’s been a while since 79.5’s debut album, Predictions, in 2018. What have you been up to in the intervening years?
Kate: Working so hard on this release since then. Hanging with my dog.
Lola: Well, during the pandemic I remember really digging deep in the music. Kate and I got a chance to create some awesome pieces along with Izaak [Mills] that ended up on the album. So, that was great. It was a great outlet during a really stressful and anxious time. Other than that, I’ve just been working out, and hanging with my dad and boyfriend [laughs], and other friends!
Tell us about your new project, your self-titled sophomore album. Where did it start life?
Kate: I believe the roots started when I spent some time in Detroit, and wrote the bones for ‘BDFQ’.
Lola: Yeah! To go off what Kate said, the momentum started when Kate let me hear ‘BDFQ’ and then the creative ideas kept flowing leading us to amazing songs after that. I was so inspired by Kate’s writing style and music, as well Izaak’s style, because it’s so different and refreshing! I was like: “Okay, okay, I’m vibing!” We had to keep it going.
We’ve had a listen to the album: love and femininity are big themes. Tell us a bit about the album’s themes. Why was it important to express these themes now?
Kate: Very important to express them, at least to me – I wanted to scream some of these songs that ended up being very tender. This album is about never giving up on yourself.
Lola: It was important to share and talk about because not many people are talking about it. I feel it’s so easy to get stressed and give up – not believe in who you are. And, in a way, I feel it’s encouraged, so we can lean on material things, if that makes sense. This album screams: “BUMP THAT! BE YOU! GET YOUR WEIGHT UP!” Have your moments. We all do. But get up, get back on that horse, and keep striving for greatness!
How has your songwriting changed since your last album? Has it changed?
Kate: Now it’s a process of many things, but it’s become so collaborative and supportive that I’m stoked to see what our next album will be like!
Lola: Coming in as kind of a new cookie [laughs], I remember jamming, listening to alot of demos, and just adding my vibe to some songs. Also, Izaak sending us new beats and just creating as we went. The whole band works so great together. I’m real old school: I love the notebook and writing things down. But, recently, I’ve been writing ideas on my phone in the notes app – but there is nothing like that marble notebook and a pen, or any notebook.
What instruments and/or production tricks did you use on this project? And how did they help express your ideas/themes?
Kate: Synths, Rhodes, sax – all very important to this record, and to me. Honestly, the recording process was very natural, and we didn’t have many bells and whistles, as they say. And working with Aaron Frazer as co-producer was dreamy, because he appreciates our art for what it is.
Briefly, let’s talk about the cover art for the album: the two of you are barechested, keyboard and microphone artfully displayed with you, as you stare determinedly into the distance. It’s powerful, it’s alluring, it’s provocative – just like classic soul and rock albums of the 70s and 80s. Why this concept for your sophomore album cover?
Kate: I had the idea since forever. Just paying homage to The Ohio Players and Tina Turner. 😉
Lola: I feel it was very important to show us and who we are. It’s great to show the audience who we are behind the music. It helps the audience connect with us.
How do you feel now the album is complete? And what’s next for 79.5?
Kate: Ready to hit the road! We’re just living in the moment right now.
Lola: I feel a bit trippy seeing us on a vinyl cover [laughs]. My dad has so many so the fact that our bodies are splat on the cover is like, woah! I feel excited for what’s next and ready for the tour and more. God willing.
You’ve got live dates coming up in the US in May and June. What can people expect from your live shows?
Kate: They can expect a very dynamic and emotional show. And we have custom costumes made by our friend, Tunisia Renee. We’re making it hot!
Lola: Yaaas! First off, Kate’s right: our costumes are awesome. Tunisia Renee did her thang-thang! So lucky to have her pieces as part of our show. Expect some major vibes, great vocals, awesome instrumentation and, yeah, we are making it hot!
Finally, when will fans in the UK and Europe get to experience 79.5 in all its glory? We know we speak for a lot of folks when we say: we need your soulful sounds on our stages!
Kate: UK and EU get us out to you, we love you!
Lola: Listen UK and EU, we love you – and we are so ready to fly out to you when that moment comes and show y’all some love. Get us out there!
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Kate: Thank you for having us!
Lola: I’m so excited for this new journey. I’m thanking the Creator, and my parents and family, and friends for always believing this would happen. I’m thankful to Kate for trusting me with her art and her music and adding me to such a great vibe and band. And, yeah, let’s do this, let’s make music and rock! Thanks so much for having us.
79.5 by 79.5 is available to stream now on all major streaming services on Razor-N-Tape. Get tickets to 79.5’s spring 2023 US tour here. You can follow 79.5 on Instagram and Twitter.
Images: Rosie Cohe (lead image), Greg Manis (body)