Music Spotlight: Trebles and Blues
Asymmetric Magazine: Tell us about your current work as a musician.
Lawrence Yeo: I go by the name Trebles and Blues, and I'm a beat-maker and producer. As a beat-maker, I find you can have so many different prongs of work. I can make work for other artists, rappers and singers, and I can also just focus on my instrumental work where I don't have anyone else–just my song. I've been growing the latter side of me a lot over the last couple of years.
In regards to my music, I try to diversify my craft as much as possible. My first project I put out was called The Blue Note, and it was focused on soul and jazz. I used that as source material because I pretty much basked in that type of music. I also tried to emulate my favorite, legendary hip hop producers. I think when you're first starting out, you should start by emulating your favorite musician. Start with emulation, and then you will gradually morph into your own sound and style. I took that route and made my first project in March of 2011 in light of the people I idolized.
For my second project, I wanted to experiment with something a little different. I didn't want to have the traditional sounds that I'm used to, and it took me two years to create it. It's called From my Father. It was my way to tell the story of my parents' journey as immigrants to the states. My father ended up getting deported, and he was separated from the family. It's a tale of hope, struggle, feeling rock bottom and trying to elevate yourself back into a place that was once native to you but is now foreign. I made this project through only sampling material that my father listened to when he was my age, which was Korean folk music. I took Korean folk from vinyl and his MP3 collection, and I transcribed it into my hip hop style beats. It tells a story of emotional battle and progress.
My third project, Seasonality, incorporates a lot of Brazilian funk. It was another way for me to reach out to a different source and build something based on how I interpreted it. So, my work is a lot of varying sounds. I don't like to stick to one bubble; I like to hop around to different things.
Currently, I'm in the midst of doing a 60 day challenge, so I'm making a beat every day for the duration of two months. Prior to this, I didn't make a beat for four or five months, so I was starting to feel like my creative muscle was atrophying and degenerating. It's like if you don't walk at all for two weeks, and you get up...you'd just fall down. It's the same thing with creativity–I think it's a muscle that needs to be exercised. I thought, 'Either I can walk away from this and wait for that allusive sense of inspiration to hit me, or I can try to do it by exercising that muscle daily and hopefully give it feeling again and have it regenerate.' I feel this will help me achieve a state of flow. So right now, I'm completely submersed in this challenge.
AM: So, what do each of these projects entail?
LY: Every project is a different phase of instrumental work under the Trebles and Blues umbrella. When I perform, I like to incorporate all of it together, but it's always something different. Right now, in this rehabilitation process with my music, each project is getting me ready for what's next.
AM: How would you describe your style across all of your work?
LY: I'd say funky but rooted in hip hop. It's very diverse in nature, but everything I create evolves from some form of hip hop–just with a lot of different influences baked into it. I like to create mellow music as well as music you can dance to. Sometimes musicians and artists get pigeonholed into one form or style and get stuck there. So, that's why my goal is to try as many different things as possible.
AM: What's your biggest inspiration?
LY: I'm inspired by the notion of being completely present when I make music and being immersed in a state of flow when I am working on my craft. Music–or any art form–is a snapshot in time. It's a way of personally capturing your visions and your ideas in that very moment. When you're in your element, everything else drowns out. I love the thought of another person interpreting my work and tying a song of mine to a powerful memory or snapshot in their own life. This can allow them to feel present in that emotion and really immerse themselves in those feelings, as well.
AM: Where is one place where you feel completely in tune with your creative self–completely present?
LY: I do something I call "beat retreats" in places like Big Bear or Joshua Tree where I go to create because I think creating in your home can get a bit stale after awhile. Joshua Tree is a specific place I love to go, and I feel super in tune with myself there. There's just something about that place. You feel the energy, and when you sit down, you're just in the zone. Maybe because it's so empty and you have nothing to gaze into except your art, but it just centers you.
AM: What role does Los Angeles play in your work?
LY: I was born and raised here, and as a result, I've been a part of many different communities and met so many different types of people. LA gave me the ability to get immersed in different cultures that I may not have been exposed to if I had grown up somewhere else. I got into hip hop when I was in junior high, and all of those cultural influences are reflected in my work.
Also, the community here really supports the beat scene. Today, there are so many different genres and styles, as well as ways to access music, and I think that really started in Los Angeles. The community is so welcoming to different types of artists and the idea of beat-makers as artists instead of just in the background of rappers and singers. Low End Theory comes to mind because beat-makers can get up and just perform their work. I think LA really embraced that type of art. So, knowing that it's very embraced and knowing that I can put out instrumental beats and make my own brand is comforting. Art communities are everywhere, and there's something really powerful about being around the creative energy in LA.
AM: What other musicians are you currently into?
LY: I've been really into Anderson Paak, whose music is really soulful. As for beat-makers, I've been bumping that new Kaytranada and also listening to Knxwledge.
AM: I hear you're starting a collaborative space for artists. Can you tell us about that?
LY: I'm starting something called CreatorsNest, and it's a private creative space for all types of artists. I repurposed a garage and gave it a rustic vibe in the hopes to draw someone in to simply create. We have lockers, desks and different equipment. The idea was inspired by the popularity of collaborative working spaces right now, but I feel like artists desire private space. The problem is that they are locked away in expensive studios and hard to access. I want to provide a space for any type of artist to use anytime they want, on demand and for an affordable rate. It came from my frustration of working in my apartment every single day and wanting a change of pace, somewhere I could go to just be by myself and work for a few hours but also somewhere inspirational.
AM: What's the best advice you've ever received?
LY: An awesome friend of mine recently told me to learn to let go. This came about in regards to this 60 day challenge. At first, it was really difficult for me because I was putting a lot of pressure on myself to create a premium beat every single day. I had to ask myself if I'm doing this challenge to become a better musician or if I'm doing it to feel in touch with the roots again–of why I started making music, why I was so in love with it and why I want to do it every day. I realized it was more of the latter. It's not about me becoming more technical or making better beats through this exercise. It's about accessing that feeling of presence again by making music. He said to learn to let go of the pride and ego that can be linked to your art sometimes. When you can't let go, you're constantly thinking it can be better, and you compare yourself to others. You compare your own work to your previous work, and you enter a cycle where it's just not fun anymore. I think that's the reason why I wasn't making music for so long–because I was so caught up in what I was going to do next. So, learning to let go of those expectations is a great piece of advice.