Chatting With Seven Lions
After unexpectedly winning a remix contest, Jeff Montalvo aka Seven Lions has taken the electronic world by storm with his versatile repertoire of music and extremely entertaining sets. We caught up with the accidental star before his set at the Miramar in Milwaukee, WI for his current Journey Tour which has taken him around the country. We wanted to get to know his journey as well as where he still wants to go, so we asked some questions few have asked before.
Sensible Reason: How’s the tour been so far?
Seven Lions: It’s been awesome, been doing a lot of stuff. Lots of shows, really good shows.
SR: What’s the most memorable place you’ve been so far?
SL: I think doing San Diego. We surfed in the morning and went skydiving in the afternoon and then had a great show.
SR: Are you a surfer?
SL: Long time ago, so I wiped out quite a bit.
SR: Still enjoy it, though?
SL: I did.
SR: Do you have a place that you like to visit more than others?
SL: I grew up on the West Coast, so I know all those places quite a bit so it’s nice being over there. The East Coast is a little less familiar, and the North Coast.
SR: As your tour has progressed, how has the crowd been responding to the new music you’ve released this year?
SL: I think are people are pretty stoked on the visuals, we keep getting a lot of feedback on that.
SR: Visuals specifically?
SL: Yeah, we brought out a lot of production. We have some projection mapping and some LED panels we brought.
SR: So it’s safe to say the visual experience is a huge part of the aural experience for you?
SL: Yeah, I think they go hand-in-hand for sure. It’s very important to have both rather than just one.
SR: In what ways?
SL: With electronic music, it’s supposed to be all the senses. Some people can get away with doing just a white light and deep techno, but that’s not what I go for. I like to blow it out, basically.
SR: Your Creation EP has quite the variety. It goes from dubstep to folk to metal track after track, is there a journey we should be listening for? What made you go so back-and-forth with it?
SL: It’s all really influenced by my metal days, except for “Coming Home,” the straight indie one, which was inspired by me being in the car with my wife who listens to Of Monsters & Men and Mumford & Sons, so that is very much influenced by personal experiences.
SR: What is the creative process like when you create a track that involves a ton of other people like “Rush Over Me,” which has 3 other artists credited with you?
SL: That song I created with Haliene the same time we did “The End,” about 2 years ago. I ended up working on that song for about 6 months, and I didn’t like it. I left it in a folder for about a year and then started talking to Illenium and Said The Sky and let them know I’ve got this track that I’m not super stoked on, what do they think about re-working it. I sent it to them, they re-worked it and sent it back, I re-worked it and sent it to them and we worked on it for maybe 3 months and finished it up.
SR: Kind of a call and response way of working at it?
SL: Yeah, and that was actually pretty quick, too. A lot of collabs don’t work that fast.
SR: How long does it usually take?
SL: It depends on the artist. The one with Kill the Noise is a long time in the making, but the one with Jason Ross was actually pretty quick.
SR: How have you grown as an artist as you tour and come out with EPs and make more music?
SL: That’s hard to say. I’m not super introspective in that way.
SR: Do you have any personal goals you’d still like to achieve?
SL: I feel like I reached my personal goal the first time I won the Above & Beyond remix competition. Now everything else is kind of a bonus. I had no plans on being a professional musician, so the fact that we’re talking on a tour bus…that still just blows my mind.
SR: What got you to enter into the contest?
SL: I just wanted to work with Zoë’s vocals. I wasn’t planning on submitting anything, it just so happened that I finished it in time and I just thought it was a good opportunity to get a hold of some really good vocals.
SR: What is your favorite part about the electronic music scene?
SL: Probably how welcoming it is. Good vibes, you go to these big music festivals and generally people are just nice and welcoming. I haven’t been in the crowd as much as I used to be, but we still go hang out at EDC and it feels just like it did eight years ago.
SR: What do you wish was different about the scene?
SL: The gimmicky nature of it, as pop is creeping in, the artistry is not that important. While people know certain people aren’t writing songs, people don’t care anymore. I feel like that used to be a big deal, it’s kinda sad. It’s just a part of being in the entertainment industry.
SR: As it gets more popular, it starts to lose its luster.
SL: Yeah, pop music is becoming very much a part of electronic music and that brings gimmicky acts.
SR: Do you feel like there is a separation between the pop artists and others?
SL: Yeah, for sure. There are still people who are doing the same thing they were and they still don’t give in to any of the shenanigans and put buckets on their heads [laughs] but that’s just what I think. There are people out there who still take it very seriously.
SR: How serious do you take it?
SL: I have fun with it. I’m not going to change my branding or anything to be more modern or hip or anything like that, but I definitely have fun with it, I don’t take it too seriously.
SR: What was the first album that you ever downloaded or purchased with your own money?
SL: I think it was White Zombie Astro Creep 2000. Long time ago, and I remember I bought it from Wal-Mart, because it was the censored version and Wal-Mart only had censored versions.
SR: Last question: Which cartoon did you either run home to catch after school or specifically wake up early to catch on Saturday morning?
SL: DuckTales for sure.
The opening acts Unlike Pluto and Pegboard Nerds were great openers for Seven Lions. Unlike Pluto reminded one of Jauz or Snails, very high energy and bouncy. A perfect act to open the night rather than starting the night out slow, it went 0 to 60 in 2 tracks flat. Pegboard Nerds were also a favorite of many in attendance. Yet, while extremely entertaining, Seven Lions really brought his A game. Even though Jeff was under the weather that night, his music was anything but. It was easy to tell that he truly enjoys music of all genres, and it’s impossible to categorize Seven Lions. His music went from dubstep to trance to metal to folk all within minutes of each other, and several people in the crowd knew every word to his new tracks off of his Creation EP. His projection-mapped stage was flawlessly tuned with each track. From epic scenes of beautiful women in isolated places to trippy and colorful abstract visuals, there was always something to marvel at. Even though he may not take himself too seriously as an artist, his fans definitely do and love what he consistently has to offer.