&Friends in High Places – LA Weekly


&Friends in High Places: Sean Thomas AKA &Friends started producing hip-hop beats on FL Studio in the early 2000’s.

“I’ve always loved to write and was a closet poet, so creating rhythms for my words to roll off the tongue was quite nice,” he says. “The desire to create things for myself fueled my early production work. It was an outlet for my emotions and helped me make sense of the world. I’ve always been curious about taking something from my mind and translating it into frequency, sound, and words. From there, I became enamored with the world of house music. I was deep in the warehouse circuit near San Bernadino and loved the underground dance culture that emerged in Southern CA around 2007. I remember my first rave too, I stood front and center, dead middle of the dance floor, leaning on the railing for eight hours. I fell in love with trance music. The OG days of Above and Beyond, Ferry Corsten, Cosmic Gate, Tiesto, Armin; what a run that was. They were the biggest names in dance music at the time before all the subgenres started branching off, so right from that show, I knew I needed to be surrounded by this music that allowed me to connect with something that I couldn’t put into words. By 2008, I was obsessed with the big melodies and vocals that made you sing your heart out. I bought my first decks, CDJ-400 (no usbs, when we used CDs), and started producing and djing with a close friend for fun. We created a podcast and started pushing out live mixes every week, and sure enough, a promoter in San Diego invited us to play our first show. From there, my friend and I started a duo group called Digital Life. We were opening and closing for all the big artist’s that came through San Diego and LA, playing shows in San Francisco, and small festivals in Mexico. I think when you’re starting to make it in something, and you’re at a young age, egos tend to get in the way. After a few years of getting our name out, the project was moving in the right direction, but there were some unresolved creative differences.”

“During this time, my little brother passed away,” he continues. “When he transitioned, it felt like the joy music brought me died with him. Something about producing and playing shows just didn’t feel right anymore, and so I stopped.  It was almost five years until I started producing music professionally again. My spark was rekindled by a group of inspiring creatives in NYC around 2018. Serendipitously, the first show I played back fell on my brother’s birthday, December 6th, 2018 – a day I’ll never forget. From there, I got the itch to start DJing again but just for fun. I was busy building my career at the time, so it wasn’t until COVID hit that I was able to make time to produce music more intentionally. With all the turmoil going on, it felt like a lighting bolt of inspiration to start a project to honor my brother. This was the seed that evolved into what I’m doing now. I wanted to bring more collaboration into the world and use my skill sets to help uplift other artists. I called it “&friends” because the project’s core is collaboration and paying it forward. I know there’s no such thing as perfection, but the start of &friends feels perfect, and I can’t think of anything better in my life to be doing and building than creating with the people I love. I recognize my privilege and intend to use every ounce of it to uplift others.”

The artist says that it can be hard to describe his sound when he’s so close to it.

For me, the &friends sound is curiously familiar, with melodic overtones, lyrical vulnerabilities, and deep percussion lines that sway the soul. Each piece carries a story vocalized by global citizens with big hearts. They are a rhythmic remembrance of the complexities of what it means to be a human. An expression of freedom and cultural collaboration with no boundaries. &friends music is an intention for connection and resiliency carried by sound.”

He says that this is a great time for positive change in the electronic music world.

We could all use a reminder of festival’s place in human tradition,” he says. “We have long used music, collective dance and voice to communicate with our environment and the forces of nature.  Although nightlife may look different, we’re still connecting with energies greater than ourselves. These settings are ripe for connection but require embodied leaders to promote it. My aim is to harness the potent power of collective experience, and funnel it into something more intentional.  Music has that power to pierce through and I think there’s a big responsibility for artists to be compassionate leaders, to use their platforms and sound to enhance the greater collective. With how much spotlight is on the electronic music industry, there has never been a better time to use the power of dance music for collective healing. For me, this is what dance is for, connection with ourselves and with each other so that’s what I’m super excited to bring into the space of electronic music – the remembrance of our ancestors and what they used music and dance for.”

&Friends’ latest release is “Ode Ireti.”

Every record we make always has a story,” he says. “It starts with what we want people to feel, the intention behind the lyrics, the emotion behind the melody, and what type of curiosity we are trying to inspire. Ode Ireti came from an idea of wanting to provide a calling of hope. “Ode Ireti” means “Hunters of Hope” in Yoruba, and this record is about a story of a young boy who lives in a small village with bigger dreams and aspirations besides following the path of a simple way of life. The most significant discovery we can make is tapping into our fullest potential. Your passion is your uttermost purpose, and the world needs you to be you, and the collective needs you to fulfill your purpose. No dream is too big.”

Finally, &Friends has plenty planned for the remainder of this year.

Some incredible plans for the close of 2022,” he says. “We’ll be touring a bit with dates in Miami, Mexico City, Tulum, London and Paris. I’m excited to say that my brother, aka Nitefreak, will be releasing a remix of Ode Ireti on October 7th, which has already been receiving some beautiful support from bigger artists I admire. Nitefreak and I also have a collab record coming out at the beginning of November, which features our homie, miss Phina Asa. I’m thrilled for the world to hear her voice as she’s a special talent and an even better human. We’ve got a lot of fun news to share about future releases and collaborations with other artists. More tour dates and music releases with a few prominent labels in the beginning of 2023. Fun and exciting times ahead, and I am forever grateful to have conversations like this with LA Weekly to help spread our message.”

&Friends in High Places: “Ode Ireti” is out now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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