What brought the band together?
Lee John: This band happened because we - 'we' being myself and Naia and her brother Imani - played together for a very long time and so, a couple years ago, we were doing a lot of performing out on the street in Santa Monica, as well was Lightfoot. Lightfoot was out there doing his own thing, singing, playing guitar, and then we all became pretty good friends just doing that. Then, at some point, I know that I backed Lightfoot up, I was playing drums with him, and then he started playing percussion with me, and then he was playing percussion with Imani, who I had played percussion for, as well. There was a bunch of switching around and different things and then, finally, we came together and we had a gig; we were backing Naia up at Hotel Cafe in Hollywood a year and a half ago or something and she needed a guitar player so we invited Lightfoot to come play the gig and it was just really obvious to all of us that there was a magic there that was worth exploring.
Where does your name 'SayReal' come from?
Naia: We had definitely spent a lot of time going back and forth between names, in fact, at one point, we had settled on one, but it still didn't feel quite right and so we kept exploring different options and one of the things that we all agree about our music is that we really want to make sure that we're being authentic and speaking truth, whatever is true for us in that moment, whether we're talking about an emotion or speaking a message of revolution. And so, SayReal, we feel really embodies the core of our reason for playing music.
Are there any artists or bands who influence your sound, individually or as a band?
Imani: We're influenced by a lot of music. My sister and I grew up on a reggae influence background, so a lot of Bob Marley's kids, like, Damian Marley, Stephen Marley we're influenced by. I know our bass player, Lee, is really influenced by bands like Incubus and Dave Matthews, stuff like that. Lightfoot would have to speak to you.
Lightfoot: Oh yeah, I was raised on more funk. My dad's kind of a funk soul drummer, so a lot of James Brown and Prince and things like that.
Is there anything you're hooked on right now?
Lee John: Yeah, what have I been hooked on?
Lee John: There's this artist named SOHN that I got really into recently. I'm not, to be honest, usually one for electronic kind of stuff, but his music just really hits me hard. I know I've been on that and then, honestly, with the recent passing of Scott Weiland, I've been going back and listening to a lot of Stone Temple Pilots, just kind of vibing on that and getting inspiration because when I was a kid they were a huge inspiration, as well.
Naia: For me, I'm always one who loves to listen to female driven vocals and lead singers, I just gained a lot from that. So I grew up, you know, in addition to all the reggae influences, I would be super influenced by Erykah Badu, India Arie, Lauryn Hill and, more recently, I've gotten into Selah Sue and Nneka and other ladies like that.
What words would you use to define your sound?
Lightfoot: It's definitely a blend, we're trying not to fall into one particular genre, but we usually kind of call it a reggae rock soulful sound.
What inspired your latest single, "Marbles"?
Lee John: Well, Naia came to us with this idea, she's like, 'I wanna write a song that's about losing my marbles, because I feel like I'm going freaking crazy'.
Lee John: And then there was some shifts, some chords, and some little ideas, and I know that Lightfoot came up with the riff, and then all of a sudden the thing just kind of happened in a rehearsal, I think, it just gotten written in one minute.
Naia: Yeah, I mean, it was our first exploration writing a song as a band, all together. I had this kind of concept for a song and I think - because this isn't just myself going a little bit insane - I think it was right around when we started playing together and there was a lot of this transition and everything going on in the band, among individual members, and this song became a way for us to kind of express all of that and handle it and make something great. We're psyched that it's been getting such good response.
Is that same sound indicative of what we can expect to hear on your forthcoming EP?
Naia: I definitely think it's a window into what you'll be hearing but, you know, like I said, it was our first song, and I feel really excited that it became the first single, just because it was kind of a monumental moment for the band, but since then we've developed our songwriting quite a bit over the last year and the songs are not only our favorites to play, but also give voice to that eclectic reggae/pop/soulful rock. So, "Marbles" is definitely a window and a good marker, but I think the album, as a whole, will be a fun journey for the listener to go on.
How would you describe that EP, Unarmed and Ready, in one sentence?
Imani: It is the shit.
Naia: [Laughs] Only Imani would say that. Lee or Lightfoot, you guys wanna try?
Lightfoot: Maybe, how about this? An amalgamation-
Naia: Oh my god.
Lightfoot: An amalgamation of reggae rock vibration.
Naia: I don't even know what amalgamation means but I trust you.
Lee John: I'm going with the one word thing, like, I would describe it as 'earthy' because it's got slightly more acoustic driven things, the acoustic droves and things like that, so it just kind of has an earthier feel to me.
Lightfoot: Earthy amalgamation.
What do you hope listeners can take away from your music?
Naia: I hope that listeners can feel inspired and, definitely, we hope to ignite revolution through the music that we play. So, I hope that it not only inspires people to go after whatever it is that they're passionate about, whether it be music or any other passion in life, but also inspires a positive change in the world through people coming together through music and then, you know, just having that ripple effect happen where there is a real movement created.
Is there anything you'd like to add?
Naia: We're doing a [free] residency at Harvelle’s this month, it's been going on since October, continuing the 15th and the 22nd, and the 22nd is my birthday and it's going to be a big deal. It's going to be a big Birthday/Holiday/New Year's blowout, so it should be a lot of fun.
Lee John: Harvelle's in Santa Monica.