After coming together in 2014, SayReal have been hard at work putting the finishing touches to their EP Unarmed And Ready, due out next year.
The band are fronted by Naia Kete from the 2012 season of the smash hit show The Voice with her brother Imani Elijah providing vocals, playing keys and percussion. Lightfoot plays bass and percussion as well as lending his vocals to the group and Lee John is a bassist, percussionist and vocalist.
The quartet were discovered by American Idol judge Randy Jackson who described them as being a "super group" and they haven't looked back since. Now, with big plans for 2016, they agreed to this interview with our staff writer Rebecca.
PW: How would you describe SayReal?
Naia Kete: Our music is a blend of reggae, pop and rock with an edge of soul. We’ve come together to do more than just play, we’ve come together to ignite a movement. We’ve all been incredibly inspired by revolutionary artists and activists who have made such a positive impact in our world. From Steel Pulse to Lenny Kravitz and Rosa Parks to MLK...there’s too many to name. We continue to walk and dance the path they’ve paved and unite our global community through music, the message and love.
PW: What makes you different from all the other bands around today?
Imani Elijah: Well right off the bat, our hair is the first thing people notice. We have all taken the approach of letting our hair do whatever it does naturally. So what you're left with is a lot of curly, wavy, dreaded craziness that makes us unique. Our musical style and approach separates us from the rest of the pack as well. Music starts and ends with a feeling. We allow our energies to come together and create a sound only we could create based on what we individually feel. We blend elements of roots reggae, with a rock edge, over funk driven riffs. Not many bands blend these particular styles the way we do, and even fewer reggae bands have female lead singers.
PW: Naia, how did your time on the 2012 series of The Voice impact your passion to make it in the music world and what tips and advice did you take from that?
NK: First of all, the amount of appreciation I felt to be playing a stage of that magnitude was overwhelming. The biggest take-away for me was to always make sure that whenever I have the opportunity to express who I am as an artists, I have to be authentic. No matter how big or small the audience, whether I’m doing an interview, singing a song, - be it original or cover - it’s imperative that I am true to myself. It sounds simple enough, and something I had grown up knowing, but being on The Voice was the first time I really had a chance to see that idea applied on such a large scale. It was very humbling and I learned a lot about myself. It definitely fueled my desire to be an artist and is always the first piece of advice I give anyone.
PW: Randy Jackson helped put you together after an impromptu set at Hollywood's Hotel Cafe. He called you a "super group". What are your thoughts on that and do you still keep in contact with him?
NK: I have a lot of appreciation for what Randy said to us and the timing, especially, was key. At the time we were performing under my name, Naia Kete, but I think I had always known that the music was so much bigger than any one of us, and our band name needed to reflect that. The fact that someone outside of our immediate circle, not to mention someone with as much experience in the industry as Randy has, was able to identify that so quickly was a really pivotal moment for me and for all of us. We actually started having real conversations about what it would look like to really be a band and be in this for the long haul. The dream became tangible because we knew we were in this together and were stronger for it. It was huge. Since then, I’ve written with a couple of producers Randy manages. Although we haven’t seen each other in a while, the door is always open.
PW: Who are your musical influences and have they changed much over the years? What impact have those influences had in terms of you creating your own music?
Lightfoot: We all grew up in musical families, so that foundation is a big influence in everything we do. We're constantly discovering new artists/songs to vibe with, but I think our sound is always colored by the spirit of our parents in one way or another.
PW: Who or what influences you the most when it comes to your song-writing?
Lee John: As far as people who influence our song-writing, at this point it’s really the four of us influencing one another. We all came to the band as separate songwriters with our own influences, but spending so much time playing together has created an effect where we’re all copying one another without meaning to. I think this lends to our unique sound, and is providing something fresh for us and our listeners because we aren’t trying to emulate anybody else.
PW: If you could have written any song by any artist living or dead, which would it be and why?
L: I think we can all agree on “Redemption Song” by Bob Marley. The clarity and power with which he expresses personal and collective freedom is unparalleled and timeless. Although John Lennon’s “Imagine” is right up there as well!
PW: Is there a story behind your latest track "Marbles"?
NK: There is! “Marbles” was actually the first song we ever wrote as a band. I had the concept for it. I think because at the time with all transition that was going on in our lives individually and as a band, I could definitely feel myself starting to lose my shit. It’s a blessing, in times like that, when you have a group of people you can turn to -namely the guys in SayReal - and a creative outlet to channel that energy and create something positive. When I shared the idea, we all put our heads together and had the song completed in the afternoon. It feels full circle that it would be the first song released from our debut EP.
PW: You have an EP Unarmed And Ready due out next year. What can you tell me about it?
LJ: Unarmed And Ready is something that we’re all really excited about. It’s a collection of some of our favorite songs we have written together as a band, and it’s setting us and our listeners up with a solid foundation that we intend to build a movement upon. Every song on it is something we’re very proud of and stoked to put out into the world!
PW: You've toured locally throughout LA, performed nationwide and opened for Andy Grammer. Now that you're gradually becoming more established, what are your future tour and performance plans?
LJ: We are planning to continue building our local LA fan-base with regular local shows, as well as expanding out into the rest of the U.S. and overseas. Presently we have two FREE shows planned in LA, Dec 15th and 22nd at Harvelle’s in Santa Monica. We will also be releasing live performance videos of our music online for our fans on Facebook and YouTube. There are many exciting things brewing for next year, so stay in touch with us via Twitter or visit our website to see upcoming tour dates and videos!
PW: If you could share a stage with four other bands or artists living or dead, who would you choose and where would you play?
L: Playing with Fela Kuti in the original Africa Shrine would be a trip! Also performing with Damian Marley in Jamaica is a dream of ours, especially if we could bring him up to guest with us during our set!
LJ: We’d do pretty much anything to go out on an international tour opening for Incubus, and the same goes for Steel Pulse!
PW: What are your thoughts on social media and to what extent has it helped you get your name and your music out to people?
IE: It’s crazy how fast social media has become a staple in society, particular when being used for promotion. Today it's impossible to release anything, without promoting it on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. For the music industry there are positives, and negatives with its rise. A fan now has a more intimate look into the daily life of their favorite band or artist. However a level of mystique that came from not actually knowing every single aspect of someone’s life, is lost. The market also becomes more flooded with such accessible - and a lot of times free - avenues to choose from. For SayReal, social media has helped us tremendously. It gives us a chance to share unlimited amounts of content, while receiving immediate feedback. Our fan base is still growing so we're certainly not where we want to be, but the more quality content we release the closer we'll get.
PW: Whose career would you most like to emulate and what's the ultimate goal for you as a band?
IE: Bob Marley and The Wailers are certainly a band worth following in the footsteps of, for the ability to achieve massive success, while maintaining complete integrity. It is also vital to carry a positive message, and always strive to help people. Music is healing and the ultimate goal is to heal as many people as possible.
PW: Finally, do you have any other plans in the pipeline you can tell me about? What's next for you?
NK: We still have one more tune to record for Unarmed and Ready so we’ll be getting back in the studio for the next couple of weeks. We’re also focused on creating a ton of content including music videos, and behind-the-scenes looks into our daily life and the creation and inspiration for the music. We’ve got an online campaign going to help the funding of all that. We’re also performing Tuesday nights in Santa Monica at Harvelle’s, but once the EP is released we intend to get back on the road and share it with the world! There’s nothing better than connecting fans, and getting to know new friends.
Check out "Marbles" below and you can support also support SayReal and their music by visiting their Patreon page.https://soundcloud.com/sayrealmusic/marbles