Interview by Jordan Snowden
As the country seems more on-edge than it ever has been, music serves as a comforting solace to escape and make sense of all the negativity. April+VISTA‘s latest EP, Note To Self, seemed to have appeared at the perfect moment. The record is short yet powerful, composed of four genre-blurring tracks that illustrate resilience, liberation, and hopefulness for the future. In the wake of political and social unrest, April+VISTA is what the world needs right now.
Before their show on Thursday at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, I spoke with April George and Matthew Thompson about their artistry, navigating their way through the city’s music scene, and the group’s formation.
When did you realize that music was the path you wanted to pursue?
Matthew Thompson: In high school. When I first started making beats, I knew that I wanted to pursue it professionally. There was no breakthrough moment for me. I’ve always been interested in production, so to actually begin and take it seriously seemed like a natural next step.
April George: I grew up in a musical family, so music has always surrounded me. It was pretty inevitable, really. Music is the only thing I’ve ever been innately drawn to. I’ve been immersed in it since I was two years old.
How did you two meet?
MT: We both went to Hampton University and actually shared a lot of the same friends without ever meeting. It wasn’t until a couple of weeks after I graduated in 2014 that April found me on SoundCloud and began to talk music. That May, we met up at Busboys on 14th and immediately started planning Lanterns.
What sparked the creation of April + VISTA? How did you come up with your name?
AG: Like Matt said, the day we met we were planning projects and sharing ideas. April + VISTA was a natural progression that simply grew out of our mutual love for music and desire to create something that’s never been created before.
Your music infuses a multitude of sounds–how did you effectively mix these different genres together? What musical influences do you draw from?
MT: We don’t consciously blend genres. We just listen to so much that our influences just find their way in our music. We like to create what we feel without having genres in mind. It’s fun to see where we land in the end.
What do you enjoy about the music scene in D.C.? Do you feel the area has had any effect on your music?
MT:: I love how all of my friends in the hip-hop scene here in Maryland share a common origin. We all grew up going to go-gos while nerding out to hip-hop in high school. With everyone’s sound being so unique now, it’s interesting to think about each artist’s personal path to find their own voice.
AG: The silos in the DMV music scene are steadily melting away and people are starting to collaborate more, bridging the gap between scenes that never would’ve crossed otherwise. Matt and I are very autonomous people and we started off approaching A+V in a very isolated way. This recent shift in the music scene is teaching us how to extend our hands more and work with more people.
Where is your creative space? How do you get into the ‘zone’?
AG: My creative space is pretty much anywhere I can find solace. Matt and I can lock ourselves in his home studio and immerse ourselves in music for hours and hours. All I need to get in the zone is a large pepperoni pizza from Ledo’s and a cheap ‘ol Tecate.
What is the inspiration behind Note to Self?
AG: Lyrically, Note to Self was like our musical obscurus (Harry Potter fans will get this). We both struggled to find a balance in our lives, especially now that we’re seriously pursuing it. What you hear in my voice, the angst and grit, comes from suppression. It comes from hunger pangs–me longing so badly to be liberated from oppressive situations, an oppressive society.
While we were coming up with the concept, I read a quote by Henry David Thoreau that said, “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation… but it is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things.” I took that as a commentary on misplaced value and found it to be so relevant to our situation at the time.
So many people out there have abandoned dreams and aspirations, all because concepts like familiarity and comfort are positioned as the only catalysts for smart decisions. We almost demonize risking everything you have to dream big and realize that dream. Fear of failure and the pressures of society come into play here as well. Note to Self was our realization that one’s calling isn’t an illusion of grandeur–it’s real and should be pursued, despite what’s deemed normal, despite the odds one may face. We wanted to inspire people to explore this realization.
What is your favorite track on the EP?
MT: My favorite record is “Beasts” for sure. It’s such an epic song from start to finish. It’s also the song that we spent the most time on. I sometimes listen to it now and still can’t believe we put that together.
AG: My favorite song is “Touch,” that one is very near and dear to me.
How are you feeling about your upcoming show at the Smithsonian?
AG: I’m incredibly stoked–I invited my whole family to come see us, this is such a moment!
What is next for April+VISTA? Where do you see yourself going?
AG: We want to push the envelope further, explore different sounds, incorporate more instrumentation and experiment with song structures a bit more. We’re going as far as we see fit! No limits.
April+VISTA will play the Smithsonian American Art Museum [8th and F Streets, NW, Washington, DC 20004] on Thursday, Dec. 8. Show starts at 5:30 p.m., and it’s free to attend.