by Jamie Reysen
Miami-based dance duo Cuci Amador and Smurphio formed Afrobeta in 2006, quickly gaining local recognition for their fusion of catchy vocals and electro-pop beats. The Miami New Times named them best electronic band in 2007, best local songwriters in 2008, and best band in 2010. Afrobeta released their four-track EP, Do You Party, in July of 2010. Their first full-length studio album, Under the Streets, is slated for an Aug. 9 release. In this interview, Cuci and Smurphio discuss their upcoming album, the music production process, and what Camp Bisco X attendees can expect from their live set.
Jamie Reysen: How did you two meet?
Smurphio: We met at a live local music venue called Jazid. I was playing keys for a band called Suenalo, and Cuci was in the audience, dancing.
JR: I have to ask—where did the nicknames come from?
Cuci: Smurphio's nickname comes from his studies in Smurf architecture. My nickname comes from my mother, who used to call me "coosita" as a child. It means "little precious thing.”
JR: Miami is such a Mecca for electronic music. How has living and working in that environment inspired or shaped your sound?
Smurphio: It has really inspired and shaped our sound, especially in the last two years since we signed to Do IT Entertainment. The reality is that our roots were more planted in the "live" music scene.
JR: In your music, I hear elements of dance/house and electro-pop, and then there are songs—like parts of “As Long As You Like”—where there’s a rock-meets-electro vibe. What genres do you draw from, and how would you describe your sound to someone who hasn’t heard your work?
Smurphio: Cuci mainly draws influences from the indie genre –bands like Phoenix, My Morning Jacket, Erlend Øye, and Robyn. I've been listening to a lot of EDM – Skrillex, Feed Me, Wolfgang Gartner – but I must say I am completely enamored with Little Dragon at the moment.
Cuci: I would describe our sound as a mix of electro/funk with a pop sensibility.
JR: Electronic artists are constantly incorporating guest vocals and samples of female singers into their work. You guys have a unique edge there, with Cuci’s vocals as part of the very foundation of your music. How would you describe the dynamic between your vocals and beats?
Cuci: Unlike producers that just hire a vocalist, we build our productions around songs that Smurphio and I write together. Once the song is written and can be performed in an acoustic environment, we produce it electronically.
JR: I can’t get your lyrics out of my head! They’re fun, sexy, and relatable. Do you do the songwriting together? What inspires your lyrics?
Smurphio: The lyrics are 80 percent Cuci, 10 percent me, and 10 percent [lyricist] Benjamin Shahoulian. [Cuci] is an avid reader and is always listening to stories on NPR. The melodies are about half-and -half. I write, arrange, and produce the music, but Cuci is always there to give her input.
Cuci: Love, friendship, relationships, party people, Miami, magic, and furry pets.
JR: What can fans expect from Under the Streets? How will it compare to the Do You Party EP?
Smurphio: Under the Streets is an album that you can listen to from top to bottom, with many hooks that you can sing back. It's completely different from our Do You Party EP. The same four songs from the EP are in the album, but they’re completely rerecorded and reproduced from scratch. We had worked with the production/engineer duo Blondes on Bikes for our EP. For our album, we decided to do it ourselves, with the help of Kent Hernandez.
JR: “Play House” is one of the coolest videos I’ve seen lately. Tell me a little about it.
Cuci: “Play House” is the creative baby of Dutch director Ruben Van Leer. We met at Ultra Music Festival 2010, where he did the visuals for our performance. We shot the video in Amsterdam this past January. It was a great experience.
JR: Looking back to 2006, how have things changed for you? What do you think the future holds?
Smurphio: In 2006, Afrobeta wasn't even a side project yet. Things really changed in October of 2009, when we signed to Do IT Entertainment. I think the future holds a lot of touring to spread our messages of love, dancing, and having fun.
JR: I know I’m excited to see you at Camp Bisco this year. For those of us who haven’t seen you live, tell us what we can expect.
Cuci: You can expect a blast of fun and bass!
JR: And while we’re on the topic of Camp, who are you most looking forward to seeing?
Smurphio: I'm excited to see MSTRKRFT, Wolfgang Gartner, Skrillex, Beats Antique, Ghostland Observatory, and Break Science.
You can catch Afrobeta on Thursday, July 7th, at Camp Bisco X in Mariaville, NY. Details at www.campbisco.net.
Afrobeta - Nighttime
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