Terraphonics, a Charleston music project that blends R&B, electronic, world and jazz elements, is switching gears with the release of a brand new song featuring vocalist Shaniqua McCants.
Charleston Scene has the song premiere for "Stay Warm." Listen below and read our Q&A with Terraphonics mastermind Thomas Kenney, who also is in new local synthwave project Doom Flamingo.
Q: What was your inspiration when creating Terraphonics a couple years ago?
A: My inspiration for the band was to get the guys I was playing jazz and funk gigs with (Alex Kellner, Jonathan Lovett, Brandon Brooks) to be the recording band for a project with a Lo-Fi beat tape vibe with a psychedelic edge. Some of my favorite producers are Flying Lotus, Mndsgn, Bonobo, MF DOOM and my local favorite, Rodrick Cliche. All of these producers take a combination of live studio recordings and samples and kind of mash them into a sublime cocktail of jazz, hip-hop, dance music and more.
Q: Why the name Terraphonics?
A: I was in Morocco doing some solo travel and making field recordings of a type of Islamic music called Gnawa music. I ended up playing a lot with musicians from all over North, West and Sahel Africa, and ironically enough they were all really into neo-soul and hip-hop from every decade, yet they come from such an organic-sounding, traditional musical culture.
So I thought to myself, "Okay, this new band needs to represent this ancient energy that inspires us and also tap into contemporary vibes." "Terra" is Latin for earth, and "phonics" is reminiscent of some American R&B, like Delphonics.
Q: Tell me more about this new songwriting direction versus your old approach? What’s different?
A: The old music was heavily influenced by sampling and by my production, which I think can be too much to digest. I have too many ideas, at times, which is the downside of having infinite options while composing.
For the new record, I'm really trying to write songs that are minimalist in the sampling approach and that feel completely natural and easy for the band to re-create live. If it doesn't sound good being played with just a guitar and vocals, it doesn't make the cut. Also, it's been really awesome working with Shaniqua McCants, who is now our full-time vocalist.
Q: How did Shaniqua get involved?
A: Man, life is random. I was playing a gig with her and ... the next morning I woke up and her Instagram page was the first thing being advertised to me for a single she put out called "Moss Drive." I was like "Okay, that's weird, lemme check this out." The rest is history.
Q: So what was the inspiration specifically for "Stay Warm"?
A: "Stay Warm" is actually the first song I brought to Shaniqua. The song is just a reminder for those who lose their way. ... The song itself is a little lost in a psychedelic haze, but there is a message of peace coming through.
Terraphonics has a few shows coming up, including a gig at the Pour House on Nov. 8.