Catch up with Anwar (all instruments) and Andrew (lyrics, vocals) of R&B pop duo, A+A, and check out their video for new single "Changes" off A+A's forthcoming debut EP, LivingRooms, out May 11.
What brought you guys together?
Andrew: What brought us together, first and foremost, well, no, let's start from even further back. Anwar, what got you into music?
Anwar: Well, what got me into music - wow, you're questioning me, okay - I think, more than anything, probably just my upbringing. My whole family was into music, my mom was a musician, my father was a singer in a band and he had records on RCA Records and stuff like that, and then my dad's uncle was in a band which was famous at the time, so that's me. What about you bro?
Andrew: Me, same thing with my upbringing. My father is a musician but I was eased into it by Prince and George Michael, who are some of my biggest influences, so that was the upbringing that I had. It was that sense of music like Michael Jackson and when music was real music.
Anwar: What's wrong with music now?
Andrew: It's not real bro, it's not real. It's just not.
Anwar: I think it's real.
Andrew: Yeah, but we're not real human beings.
Anwar: That's true. Okay.
Andrew: So, yeah, just the upbringing was the same, like that was very influential in molding my music likes and dislikes and whatnot.
Anwar: I think that's what got us together, is the fact that we were on the same page with being real and honest in our music.
Andrew: Right, it's more-so about what we love rather than what the world is telling you to do right now, like, 'oh, this is hot so I'm going to do this,' no, that's why there's such a different variety of music that we make, because there's so much music within us that we'd be selling ourselves short to stay in one lane.
Anwar: Yeah, one lane, one genre, forget about that. Crazy enough, I'm a classical jazz pianist by trade and I listen to classical music half the day sometimes but, when me and Andrew are together, we're writing-
Anwar: I think, more than anything, just the fact that me and Andrew love music so much that we don't give it one face.
Andrew: I feel like it wouldn't be real if we had to, because then that would be the case: we would have to sound like this or do this because it's what we're doing. Even starting from the beginning of everything, we've always made different types of music, even when we were working with and writing for other people, so that's what made it easy, the fact that our background was so different. Me, personally - and I know that Anwar's the same way - I'm very, very stubborn and selfish in the sense that I don't care about what people like, I want to make my own music and if you don't like it, then you don't like it and if you like it, then awesome.
Anwar: [Laughs] I used to own a recording studio in New York and, unfortunately, it closed down but it's all good because I met Andrew through that. There was this top artist and we were looking at her project and we just ended up hitting it off right from session one.
Andrew: Yeah and we just kind of went from there.
You've touched on your separate influences, but who would you say influences what you're doing now?
Anwar: In terms of musically and all the sounds that you hear on our album, a lot of influence just comes from, you could say, Bach or Chopin, because that's what I always listen to and then I'll apply it to this music. I listen to a lot of Radiohead, I love Radiohead, and I love artists and bands that follow a wave of making great music, they're not really finding one distinct sound, 'cause that's what Radiohead is and I really dig that. I like James Blake, I'm listening to The Japanese House too which has really, really cool sounds made with 1975 but, I think, more than anything, our sound has so many different influences, it's even jazz. We watched The Basement Tapes and fell in love with Marcus Mumford and we wrote the song "Manhattan" right after we watched that TV show, so sometimes it's not even music that influences us, but TV shows or walks in the park and all that.
Andrew: Right and, from the lyrical standpoint, me personally, I'll be the first to say that I love music, but I don't really care for it. I'm all about words, the meaning of words and how I can say whatever I need to say or want to say and developing phrases and statements that way so, with that being said, I listen to a lot of artists that are known for the way that they put words together so surely; the way that the words are put together are so definite and there's no doubt in any of it or I wouldn't even want to replace it any other way. My biggest influences in writing are George Michael, that's one of my biggest, if not the biggest, lyrical influence because everything he says is just so sure. Same with James Fauntleroy; he has a totally different style of writing and he's more melodic first, but everything that he says has a way of flowing and messing with your mind, but everything is so definite, as well. It's about the story and about the message, and also marrying that with whatever sound we choose to be portraying that day.
Anwar: We loves James. James is definitely a huge influence on us.
What words would you use to describe your sound?
Anwar: It's so unique, so freaking unique, I don't even know what words to really put to it. It's almost like starting our own little genre.
Andrew: The word I would say, to describe our sound, is just, 'whatever'. It's really whatever we feel, it's not about, 'oh, this is the A+A sound,' - and I guess it's because it's coming from the same base that it's all cohesive - but it's literally whatever we feel.
Anwar: Yeah, I think whatever is the best word.
Andrew: It's careless and it's careful; it's just whatever.
Could you tell us more about your inspirations for your single and video for "Changes"?
Andrew: I was going through a lot at the point of writing that record. The record was a prayer and I went on a hike one day and I was just rambling in my mind and going through it and beating myself up and overthinking - as us emotional people do - and I got to the top of the mountain and I was just like, 'I can't do this anymore,' and I started praying, but praying really loud and screaming out loud and, literally, what the record says is a play by play of what happened: 'I fell my knees just hit the ground / I feel your presence all around / I lift my hands and scream out loud / I don't know what about 'cause it all just hurts / but things are changing now'. It's just a declaration of faith to let the world and the enemy, whatever the enemy may be, know that you're not going to be put down by the struggles or your situation because you have faith that there are better days coming.
Anwar: Yeah baby!
Are your past two singles indicative of the sound we can expect to hear on the album and can you tell us more about LivingRooms?
Anwar: When we release the record, one of our next singles is going to be "Naked" and it is a great summary of the type of sound that we're going for which is, we have major urban influences and then we have some pop influences, for sure, like indie pop. And we love Kanye West so we'll throw 808s on.
Andrew: "Naked" is definitely the perfect marriage of all the sounds.
Anwar: You can expect a whole lot of everything. Just picture all the tracks that you hear on Soundcloud and then put it all into one track and that's our focus and sound.
Andrew: That's it. As far as the whole project, the sounds will be everywhere, but what you can expect is, honestly, to get to know who I and Anwar are, because it's really - sonically, lyrically, vibe-wise - everything is the perfect representation of who we are, as people and as artists and just as beings of the universe.
How would you sum up LivingRooms in one sentence?
Andrew: The waiting area between one door closing and the next one opening.
Anwar: You know what it is, we started in a recording studio and then we moved it into my living room and we pretty much made the whole record in my living room. It's a very open space, my kids are running around everywhere and there's always people in the house, so it's a very open, free vibe in the studio.
Andrew: That went hand in hand with my songwriter process with writing all of these songs, even before we decided to group them together, because I'm 23 and I'm still figuring it out; I'm figuring life out, I don't know when I'm going to be done figuring it out, but I'm just going with it, I'm rolling with the punches, and literally every single song came from a place of confusion and a place of, when is the next door going to open? I want this one to close, I want to get to the next stage of my life, and that's basically what a living room is and it's kind of perfect that the way that we did it was in a living room, because we were able to express the way that we were just waiting for that next level and we were literally in the living room making all of these things happen while waiting for the next level. Whatever's coming up, God is in control.
Anwar: What's really crazy is, as we're writing these songs, I might be jamming on the guitar for awhile and what's awesome about the setup that we have is, if Andrew gets mega inspired, my bathroom is right next to the studio wall, so he writes the majority of the music in the bathroom.
Andrew: In the bathroom, yeah.
Anwar: You're a bathroom songwriter.
Andrew: I am, I mean, it muffles the sound so it's quiet enough for me to think, but then I still hear it so it's like I'm still there [laughs].
What do you want your listeners to take away from your music?
Andrew: Be yourselves.
Andrew: Be open, be who you are, because that's the greatest way to be different. Everybody's trying to be different, but we're all already different as individuals; there's nobody on this Earth that's just like you, and I feel like, especially working and writing with other people, it's really hard to portray yourself or lead yourself through the work that you're doing when other people are dictating, 'no, do this, do that'.
Anwar: You just hit it on the nose, because we've been writing for other people for a really long time and, after a while of just doing that, I realized, coming from a producer standpoint, I've just been everything to everyone for years, just making people sound like a million bucks and I've never really spent the time to really focus on myself and, the moment I met Andrew, it hit me, it was time to really do this and just shut the others out and focus on myself. It's okay to be selfish, a little bit.
Andrew: You have to be. I come from a background of always being on the backburner of things, maybe family, maybe life, and when I got to high school, I just started to be myself and, if you don't like it, then you don't like it, and if you like it, then awesome, we're friends, but it comes with a lot of loneliness and being with yourself but, you know what, at the end of the day, you are all that you have to answer to and you are all that you have to live with and everybody and everything else is irrelevant. As long as you're happy, that's what matters and that's what the whole project is about; it's about that process of finding life and finding you and finding love and being loved and being real with yourself.
Anwar: And we reflect this on the stage; all our live shows are very 'real' feeling. We just don't care what anyone else thinks, we'll do the craziest things - it's not even that it's a comedy act - it's just the fact that we don't really care so we'll just do whatever we feel in the moment. We love that and we preach that to people and we hope that we can also open up doors for other people to feel the way that we're feeling.
Is there anything you'd like to add?
Anwar: Basically, do whatever you want, meet whoever you want. Andrew and I met on blackpeoplemeet.com... [laughs].
Andrew: No, we didn't.
Anwar: [Laughs] I don't actually know where I was going with that.
Andrew: I would just say, closing statement, there's a very wise man, his name is Aubrey Graham, he goes by Drake, and he goes, 'yeah girl, just be you / and I do this shit for my hometown / it been going down it ain't new / that's that north north, that up,' just kidding, but just be you. Be you! [Laughs]
Anwar: The album's coming out May 11th.
Andrew: May 11th, LivingRooms, yeah.
Anwar: And we'll be opening for Glint at Pianos in New York City on April 26th.