We recently premiered Ex Reyes
' new EP, Do Something
and after hearing their funky psych sound, we reached out and asked to learn more about how they get said sound. Mikey Freedom Hart, who is the brain behind the project, most certainly did not lack enthusiasm as he not only sent over his favorite piece of gear with photos, but also supplied us with a special improvisation using the instrument.
A lot of thought went into choosing his favorite piece, says Hart, "Choosing a fave piece of gear led me into a deep existential inquiry. Spent a few days in nature, contemplating this, and I came back with what I feel is The Truth. As a producer, I think a piece of gear can be as valuable a starting point for a creative idea as it can be a tool for refinement." Which totally makes sense. A lot of producers just starting out tend to think that they need a certain piece of gear in order to make music, which isn't true. Sometimes a piece can be good to improve what you already made.
"So that said, my favorite piece of gear is my U1 piano + turntable + boombox zone of my home studio. I know it's not an exciting rare box with a bunch of knobs, but the thing is I've been playing piano since I was 3 years old and this part of my house is where I most look forward to getting back to when I get off tour."
"I like to sit there with a coffee and just try stuff -- I split up playing time along a few lines. I'll learn new music that I like, but also I keep the boombox nearby to record piano ideas that I improvise. The tape distortion gives it such a brilliant, nostalgic tone. I have stacks of tapes that's just random edits of me playing solo piano -- the general idea of them is minimalistic / ambient etudes...whatever. I also like to record random shit on voice memo and send it to friends -- new songs, jazz tunes, the Beverly Hills Cop theme song, whatever. The iPhone voice memo does a special thing to pianos. I just pressed record and improvised for you a bit, hope you like it."
Check out the bit that Hart improvised on his U1 piano, so you can get an idea:
"I also like to get weird stacks of records on tour, always from the used zone, and come back and sit there on the turntable sampling the bits that inspire me. I'll throw samples in to folders and when I'm in a hotel room at some point later on, take them out and use them as markers for inspiration. The U1 has a very special soft pedal that mutes the strings -- I almost always keep the soft pedal on because that's a magic tone. I have endless piles of barely listenable cassettes and records that are very dear to me."
"These photos are taken with my other favorite toy, a couple of polaroid cameras. I found an old photo a friend took of me diddling the keyboard in the morning. For good measure, I also took a picture of me in my little production nook, a zone where I make most of my stuff. The keyboards on the left rotate depending on what I'm working on, the guitar and pedalboard are always nearby. I almost always use the same two guitars. And all the microphone input shit is on the right (not pictured). In this photo, I am dressed in another piece of my favorite gear, a chavvy tracksuit. Taking comfort and style from 0 to 10x. That's what I'm all about y'all!"