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)