Vancouver based duo IAMTHELIVING and Teon Gibbs are on fire right now. Between the synths and summer vibes of the latest release 'Translation' and catchy hooks of previous release 'Boxes', I caught up with the pair to delve into their creative processes, what collaborating is really like and what it takes to ticks their boxes!
So you guys have released five tracks together now in total - 'Between The Groove', 'Puppa', 'Distance', 'Boxes' and most recently 'Translation'. How did you guys meet, and what made you initially decide to start creating together?
(IAMTHELIVING) - Teon reached out to me on Instagram back in early Feb of 2020 as he was putting an event together for black history month. He asked if I could be one of the performers for it, and I said yes. That night of the show, we just got to talking and said that we should work together sometime in the near future. A few weeks after that, he sent me over a few beats that he had sitting on his laptop, and one of them was the beat for Between The Groove, which I instantly fell in love with. That then went on to be our first collaboration single together. That's basically how it all began.
(Teon Gibbs) - I put together a collective of really cool artists that I thought had a vibe, I'd reached out to IAMTHELIVING and invited him out, and he did a great set. From there, we just became friends. Obviously, the covid pandemic hit, but we just stayed in touch. In April or May, I started sending him a few beats, and that's when we just started making tracks.
Your single 'Boxes' came out just over a month ago now; what is the story behind the track, and how did it come about?
(IAMTHELIVING) - Well, Boxes was actually the second song that we had worked on together. The song is about being single for an extended period of time, not having to commit to anyone and just being out there having fun and playing the field, but then at the same time in the midst of all of that, hoping to find someone to settle down with and then out of nowhere finding that someone who ticks every single box of what it is that you have been truly looking for. Teon and I were down at Gabe Millers (the mix engineer of the song) studio, and we were working on the last few adjustments on the Between The Groove mix. At this point, we had both decided to commit to working on a joint collaboration EP together, so we were now in the process of finding and collecting more music for the project. As we were sitting together on the studio couch listening through some of Cheap Limousines tracks between breaks of mixing, we stumbled across the beat for boxes. As soon as we heard the opening sound of the drink bottle being poured into a glass and the rhythm of the clicks behind it, it immediately captured our attention. The sound of the percussion followed by the build-up of the keys felt really good to us. Then, as soon as the kick and snare came in, I started singing melodies that complimented the chord progressions. Teon and Gabe looked over and were like, "Yo, that's fire," and we were all bobbing our heads to it. I then did what I always do and reached for my voice recorder and started recording the melodies along with a bunch of gibberish and boxes was a word that just came to mind at that moment.
We left it at that and then decided to revisit the idea again at a later date. While at home, I listened to the voice note and then started putting words to the melody. Working as a pair is really nice and authentic, our creative process has organically grown into something that works for us, and one element of that is, once I have come up with a few ideas, I usually record a rough guide down on my voice recorder and send it over to Teon, he gives me his thoughts on it and then when the time comes for me to record my vocals we're both on the same page and we can either add or take out what it may or may not need i.e. harmonies, vocal layers, words etc. Teon usually records his vocals in his own time, he usually has a few different ideas that we both listen to and analyse, and then we choose which idea we both feel works well with the song, that's basically the story behind this song. It's all about the feeling, and if it feels right, then we go with it.
What would be the top three most important boxes someone could tick for you?
(Teon Gibbs) - [Laughing] It has to be a sense of humour, good banter. Honestly, that's the number one thing for me; someone to catch jokes with is very important. My second box, they've got to love 2000's R&B, and I'm a dog person, so number three, I need someone who loves dogs too.
(IAMTHELIVING) - Mmmm, the first box they would have to tick is cleanliness and being tidy. It's the worst when you start getting to know someone, and they don't know how to keep their personal spaces such as their house or car clean and tidy. The second would be not eating anything that comes from land or marine animal or at least being open to the idea of not eating as much of it. I am very much into natural holistic health and wellness by way of eating plant-rich foods, specifically fruits, berries & melons, herbs, vegetables, nuts and seeds, which are the easiest for your body to digest, absorb, utilise and eliminate. Eating those clean foods gives your skin, hair and body another level of glow, beauty, energy and clarity. All other species are our friends; we should have compassion for them; they just are trying to live in peace just like us. And the third box, being athletic, whether that be working out, yoga, stretching, or a sport. Again health and wellness is a big part of my life. Our bodies are the first and the only place we have to really live, so taking care of this vehicle is and should be the most important thing for all of us. Staying active is one thing you can do to keep it functioning to the best of its abilities. Those would be my first three to start.
Do you feel like working together as a duo takes the pressure off slightly?
(Teon Gibbs) - You know, I think there's a few things that have been great about working together. It's good to have someone to bounce ideas off of. I think it's also been really good for us to also just build our own personal brands. In Vancouver, there isn't the largest black community, so for the two of us to get together and make something is a pretty rare thing to do, to be honest with you. In a lot of ways, we're kind of creating our own lane here. It's also been good for networking. I've met so many people through working with IAMTHELIVING that I never ever would have connected with without him. It's been dope.
That's amazing! How about on the flip side, is it ever challenging working as a duo - do you guys ever clash?
(Teon Gibbs) - I mean, I guess there are always things people can disagree on, but it's only ever small stuff. We're pretty much always on the same page. I think something that's really cool is we just go with what feels right, what has good energy. We have a really good understanding of each other's brands; for example, IAMTHELIVING is vegan, he lives a really clean life, he doesn't drink, doesn't smoke - so if a liquor company was to come to me with a sponsorship post or something, I'd know like as a duo that's probably not something we're going to do. I think it is just about having that understanding of each other.
The EP 'JNGL' is out at the beginning of June; what can you tell us about the EP as a whole?
(IAMTHELIVING) - Well, we wanted to create a project that embodies who we are, where we're from, and shows what we can do. The word "JNGL" just seemed to capture it all. Teen being from Botswana, he told me the word has followed him around his entire life, and me originally from South London, which really is the concrete jungle. This project is those worlds meeting. We wanted to bridge the gap of the sounds and styles of music that we are both fans of and create a fun, uplifting, and easy to dance and sing along to, especially during such stressful times. There literally is a track on there for everyone.
If there was just one word you could use to describe the EP, what would it be? You can have a word each!
(Teon Gibbs) - Eclectic - With me being a hip-hop artist and IAMTHELIVING being a soul artist, and such a big mix of influences and elements. Like I was saying, I'm from Botswana. I even speak some Setswana on a couple of tracks; it's a big melting pot of culture. I'm excited about it all.
(IAMTHELIVING) - Mine would definitely be... Vibe!