Different Sleep Conflict EP Friends of Friends Interview

Photo credit: Kevin J. Hsia

Over the weekend, I got to chatting with Chicago-via-San Diego producer Different Sleep (Rafa Alvarez), who recently joined the Friends of Friends roster and just dropped his newest EP titled ConflictYung Rafa and I talked about everything from the importance of his higher education in music business to experimenting with recording his voice for the first time, his 21st birthday and the ultimate question: Chicago or New York pizza.

Read through to find out more about this talented artist, and be sure to purchase Different Sleep’s Conflict EP on iTunes.

His haircut

I kinda got the sides chopped off.  It was too much.  I had the same haircut since I was like … 10.  So, had to switch it up.

Being chill

I definitely try to go for the downtempo vibe with my music lately.  People say it definitely matches the way I am.  I’m definitely a very chill person.

Studying Music Business

Going to school at Columbia College in Chicago.  I’m studying Music Business.  I’m a junior as of right now.  It’s going well.  I finished most of my homework today.  I don’t have class on Thursdays or Fridays so that’s good for playing shows and stuff on the weekends.  I could have gone to school for music – like actually composition and all that – but I like treating music as a hobby and something I enjoy doing on my own time.  I didn’t really want to make that my homework.  So, that’s why I chose Music Business.  First of all, it’s probably good to have a real degree in business, but I wanted to learn about that side of the music world.  It’s important to be aware of the stuff that goes on.  I’m taking a publishing class right now and we’re learning about how to license music.  That’s really important in the modern state of the world because not much music comes from releases these days.  A lot of it comes from licensing.  It’s interesting.

I don’t necessarily see myself managing.  I think going to school for that has shown me that I’m not interested in the managerial side.  But, I am interested, at some point, starting a record label.  Doing branding type stuff and working with sponsorships.  And having a knowledge of that so as I continue to do music, when something like that comes up, I can be prepared.

Chicago winters and the next city…

I’m from San Diego.  I went to high school there.  When it came to college, I chose Columbia.  I’m still trying to think of where I’m going to go after graduation.  At the moment, I’m considering going to L.A. because it’s close to home and lot of people I know are in L.A.  L.A. might be the move.  But I really really like New York too.  I really want to move to another city at some point, but probably not like immediately upon graduating.  It’s all up in the air now.

It’s really nice out. Starting to get nice out – like 50 degrees.  It’s been a rough winter.  Being from San Diego I kinda miss good weather, but I think it builds character.  I can say I’ve gone through a few winters.

His Conflict EP, out today on Friends of Friends…

I made it mostly last summer. It was just like a time in my life when I was just going through some emotional turmoil shit. Classic breakup shit. At the same time, it was a really introspective time for me because I wss living in the city.  In my apartment, in a shell of just…. spending a lot of time inside working on music. So, I feel like the whole EP is, not necessarily dark, but introspective – a sound that I haven’t really done before.  Kind of like going in a new direction for me.  A lot of the music I did in the past was beat-oriented and sample-based and meant for the Soundcloud realm.  With this release, I really wanted to take step in a new direction of really creating songs that will stick with people, and that are meaningful to me with content that I find personally meaningful.

A lot of the music was all original vocals and a lot of original instrumentation.  Me playing guitar.  Me playing guitar.  It’s actually one of the first time’s I’ve experimented with recording my own voice.  I’m on the track “Conflict.”  That’s me singing throughout most of the song.  I also utilized some female vocal samples from a royalty-free sample pack that had like random vocals of different people singing. I was able to utilize that throughout the EP – almost as a back-up vocalist for me, hitting notes that I wouldn’t be able to.  It kinda let me still have that producer element, where I like to chop up vocals and stuff.  It let me do that in a way that I was still able to be completely original.  It feels like a more meaningful release for me.  I feel more attached to it because it has a lot of my own original work in it.

On joining the Friends of Friends roster…

I’ve always been a fan of the FoF roster and the label.  When I started to put together the EP, I had a few demos that were rough at the time.  We were just shipping them around to different labels.  Brice (Proper Management) was showing them around.  I remember on my 21st birthday, an email that he got back from Leeor Brown saying “oh shit, I really like these, do you have more.”  Seeing that was really crazy.  Ever since we found out that Leeor was interested, even though nothing was set in stone yet, it just felt really right for this release and for the step I wanted to take my sound. It felt like a really good fit.

FoF definitely has the producer element, but they’re down for making artists that have a distinct sound of creating songs and not just producer-type beats.  We just kept on talking to Leeor and FoF, and then pulling the trigger.  I got to meet with them over winter break back in California and it was really good.  Right when we met, we all knew it was a good plan. It’s been a good ride thus far.  I really like working with these guys.

On his 21st birthday…

It was funny. I’m in Chicago so you would think that I would just go out to a bunch of bars here.  I’ve had a fake ID since I was like 18.  You kinda need one if you’re in the city.  I actually went out to Ohio State to visit my roommate’s friend.  We thought it would be fun to go out and have a real college experience, because art school isn’t really college.  It doesn’t feel like college.  Everyone basically lives in apartments throughout the city.  There’s not really a main campus – just sort of a downtown campus. So pretty much, you walk out of class, put on headphones and get on the train and go back to your apartment.  So, we just wanted to get out of the city and have a brofest.  But honestly, we’re both producers and DJs…. while we were out there, we were getting excited about the FoF thing and kind of reflecting on the life we were living, and going out there made us realize how much we love living in the city and pursuing an art life instead of the college bro life. It was a fun experience.

On celebrating the release of his new Conflict EP and working on his live set…

This upcoming Thursday, we’re having an EP release party in Chicago with Sweater Beats playing, The GTW, my roommate Nolan who goes by Soleman, and Aztek.  It’s at the Empty Bottle here in Chicago.  I think it’s going to be a really fun show.  I was thinking about doing a live set, but I might just be DJing.  At this point, I kinda want to wait on the live set until I work on an album.  I feel like, at the moment, with an EP, it’s not enough material to do a full-on live performance.  Once I start working on my album, and getting that more together, a live set would be better.  I have a cool drum pad I’ve been using.  It’s definitely in the works.  I’m just not ready to show it to the world yet.  We’re also doing an EP release in L.A. with FoF on May 14 at Low End Theory.  There’s really some awesome special guests with Deru, who also just signed with FoF and Groundislava and some others.

On his bedroom studio and wall art…

(Looking at the tapestry on the wall) It’s a yin-yang with koi fish inside it.  This is where the magic happens. (shows me his bedroom studio).  I have like my three original inspirations for why I wanted to make music (showing records on his wall)Flying Lotus‘s Los Angeles, J Dilla‘s Donuts and Postal Service‘s Give Up.  Keeps me grounded and remembering what were my original inspirations.  It’s very classic to say FlyLo and J Dilla changed my life blah blah blah… but there’s a truth to it.  I feel like everyone who makes this kind of hip hop electronic music takes inspiration from them.

On Chicago music…

A lot of Chicago has been inspiring me lately.  There’s a lot of hip hop in Chicago that’s really awesome.  There’s guys like Lil’ Chris and all the Bop guys like Sicko Mobb and Stunt Taylor and Dlow.  It’s sort of like Chief Keef if he sang more.  A lot of auto-tune singing and fast-paced.  Footwork music here like DJ Rashad, Spinn, Earl and Traxman(Rashad and Spinn performed for Okayfuture’s SXSW show).  Yea, I was at the Okayfuture SXSW show. (Did I see you?).  I was definitely around.  I also saw Brenmar who was playing with my friend EMP Dasme who’s from Chicago too.  We’ve made some tracks together too. (Check out Different Sleep’s guitar solo on that EMP Dasme track “Optimistic” that he produced below!)

Chicago or New York Pizza…

New York pizza.  Deep dish is cool until you have it more than a few times, and then you never really want to eat it again unless people are in town and you feel obliged to take them to eat deep dish.  Probably gonna have some shade thrown at me for saying that, but New York pizza is better.

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