MOVIDA Modern Lovers

For Perth duo Movida there was much more than just the music that went into their debut EP Dressed in Snow. While the couple came together over their shared love of writing and performing songs, it wasn’t so straight forward making their vision and differing styles come together on record. Katherine Valvasori’s angelic voice already lent itself to soothing folk music, but with her fiance Trent Benson the act sought to breathe new life into the music by incorporating rap, electronica and a bit of studio magic into¬†a sound they both loved. BRAYDEN EDWARDS caught up with Movida to get the story of how they both rekindled each other’s musical journeys and The Lion King moment that brought it all together.

You’ve both been involved playing music before but it seems you both had trouble finding the right musical avenue to express what you really wanted to do. Do you think you would both be writing and recording music now if you hadn’t met each other?

K: I can safely say I would still be writing weird songs in my bedroom for another year or two if I hadn’t met Trent. We didn’t really plan to write together, it was more a case of me overhearing Trent playing some catchy riffs here and there and melodies emerging from that which gave us something to work on together. That happened a few times in a row and we liked what we had so decided to record.

T: I would definitely still be writing music as it’s something I do when I need to escape life for a while, I can hide away with my guitar and come up with new material and once I find a decent riff I’ll add to it to make a song and tab it out for future use. I’ve been in and out of bands and my first band Tempest Rising have been quite successful which motivates me to push forward with my music writing.

Given both of you are guitarists is that the main instrument you write songs on? Or do you incorporate other forms of music to inspire your music, whether it be acoustic or electronically crafted?

K: I started out singing in bands and started learning some guitar when I wanted to move into songwriting. I think it’s fun to explore instruments but the guitar/vocal combo has me hooked and I can’t imagine ever reaching a creative limit with that. The electronic side of music is just heaven because you can put a song into any number of different worlds and it takes on a whole new meaning. There’s also the satisfaction of searching for a sound and knowing when you hear it; knowing the fit has hit the spot. For me though, I need someone else to do the searching for me!

T: I always start with a guitar riff whether it be on acoustic or electric guitar and then I’ll try to make a full song out if it sometimes remembering old riffs to use for a verse or chorus etc, then I think, ‘hey this song might sound cool with keyboard or synth’ and I’ll record my guitar on Reason and try add keyboard sounds over the top. So for me, after hearing our EP, I’m all for electronically crafted sounds to be included in our mixes.

You’ve said you initially thought your different styles would clash and given the diverse elements you draw from it’s probably fair enough to feel that way. How did you work this together into something that felt right for both of you?

K: When we started dating Trent would put metal on all the time in the car and I found it horrific! I said so too [laughs]. But I guess it’s like a lot of things – eventually I came to understand it a bit better and was able to appreciate some elements of it. I don’t know how our sounds worked together – they just did. It wasn’t a conscious thing that we worked on.

T: For me I think because of the vast variety of music I listen to, I can hear in my head what we would sound like if we had rap over singer/songwriter type music. Because in the beginning we just had our acoustics, we hadn’t incorporated any other sounds ie other strings, brass, percussion etc. So I thought it sounded pretty new yet interesting and we should give it a go. And when our producer Rob added beats…. It really did work.

You said rapping wasn’t part of the initial formula of Movida but it has certainly paid off in the end. It is a pretty bold kind of move to combine that with the acoustic folk guitar picking and the angelic vocals that seem to be the basis for a song like Dressed in Snow. Did you also need some time to convince yourselves this was a direction you wanted to take?

K: One thing that became evident when working with Trent was that we could do things fast because we aren’t afraid to say what we think and feel. Anything that wasn’t a yes from both was a no. I like dynamics in songs and I think rap is a great way to introduce another dynamic – it’s fast and the immediacy gives a kick that some pop/ballads can sound a bit repetitive without. I think the rap and the lyrics match in terms of the level of emotion Trent and I both convey so that might be a factor in why it seems to gel.

T: I honestly wasn’t too sure Kat would be keen on the rap vocals and as it’s something I’ve never done in the past as I’ve only ever been lead/rythym guitarist in metal bands and haven’t had any vocal experience, apart from singing lines to myself to make sure they’d fit into the riffs I was writing. So I thought let’s just try it, there’s no harm apart from sounding like a dick in front of my partner! But it worked with the riffs we had and the emotions in the lyrics we are trying to portray in each song.

That song in particular seems to kick into a new gear altogether about halfway through when the rapping comes in. But even then it felt like it was moving with the vibe of the song rather than shifting the dynamic too did you go about balancing the ideas you had for that transition?

K: That was a little bit tricky right from the start when it was still just vocals and guitars. We tried out a few different transitions including tempo changes but letting the song breathe there for just a moment felt like the right decision. This was fleshed out in the studio and it ended up sounding like the ushering in of a new chapter – I think we all had a bit of a Lion King moment when we heard it in the mix which was unexpected but great!

Even the drum beats seem to lean as much to electronica as it does to hip-hop which tends to give it a smoother finish. What ideas or devices did you employ in the studio to get the vibe you were after?

K: Rob Agostini worked with us in the studio and really lead us somewhere great. He’s a very talented producer and was able to colour in our sketchy ideas and also give us options we never would have thought of. We had three recording sessions with long gaps in between each session and I liked having that time to let the previous session’s work simmer, although I wouldn’t necessarily say it was ideal. Trent and I kept putting our ideas out there, and Rob sifted through them with his expert music mind. And I have to say a lot of them were left on the table! But that’s part of creating. Everything has to work to serve the piece at hand.

And what was the recording process like as a whole? Did you discover new things you weren’t originally planning to do that ended up working for you?

K: Overall it was incredible. Rob was indispensable on this EP and it was a joy to collaborate with someone who really took the songs seriously and used his skills and experience to take them to another level. We worked on the arrangements first to get them locked in, but Keep it all Within grew in length after the fact because it ended up sounding way more epic than we had first envisioned.

I particularly like the violin sounding arpeggiator…that was definitely a touch that seemed to incorporate the organic and the augmented seamlessly in a way that really tied the rest of the music together. How did you create that effect?

K: I think that was one of those trial and error moments where you stop when you hear it because it just fits. We were conscious that we wanted a consistent sound across all the tracks and the balance of natural and produced sounds was a key part of that.

T: Keyboard…and many hours sharing ideas in the studio to make something we all liked. And listening over and over and over again until we felt like it was meant to be there and wasn’t just some piece of music glued to another piece of music just to fill a gap.

So what’s next for Movida? I gathered as much that there’s a wedding on the way but what about more music from you?

K: [Laughs] yeah, it’s a busy time for us with lots of good things happening! We have a music video in the works and we will be launching the EP officially with the video around April next year. Our job now as I see it is to get these songs out to some influential ears, as well as share them – the feedback we have received so far has been pretty humbling.

T: Sold out stadiums, going platinum and a wall of framed and signed golden vinyls…[laughs] I think Kat answered that one pretty well already!

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