California-based producer Mtendere Mandowa, aka Teebs, was introduced to the world four years ago through Flying Lotus's experimental beat-factory Brainfeeder, releasing the instant-classic Ardour LP. This week his sophomore followup, E s t a r a, is finally released. Teebs talks to EARMILK about the album, other artistic outlets, and what lies ahead.
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EARMILK: Congratulations on completing your new album, E s t a r a! Pick a favorite track and briefly describe the concept that shaped it.
Mtendere Mandowa: Favorite track at the moment is the entire record. Whenever I hear the record it sends me to places in memory, or made up.
EM: Your album title evokes the word “estar” which is Spanish for “to be,” in a somewhat temporary sense of the word. How does this definition apply to your music? Does it have to do with the ephemeral, fleeting quality of many of your tracks?
MM: It applies more to a state of being, the feeling of understanding where you are, where you were, where you want to be, physically or mentally. I want listeners to grasp those feelings with a record like this.
EM: You’re mostly known for your music, but you’re also an avid painter and skateboarder. Do your friends also combine these interests, or do you have separate relationships for each? Have you ever combined your visual art with musical performance?
MM: My friends are all incredible people, some have the same practices as I do and others do completely different things which I find important to me for growth. And yeah, on a few rare occasions and shows in LA I had the chance to do that, always amazing.
EM: Your label, Brainfeeder, is a staple of the weekly Low End Theory club night in Los Angeles. What is your favorite thing about this residency-style community? Are producers in the U.S. too focused on touring and not enough on creating a local music scene?
MM: I think building inside of your city is important, I'm grateful to Low End Theory for what they have done for me as a platform but you can never blame a musician for wanting or needing to tour. Definitely a hard time for people to sell records in this quick digital age and touring helps keep some of your favorite tune creators' families alive.
EM: Before your first album, Ardour, you attended the Red Bull Music Academy in Barcelona. What was that experience like? How did the transition from the Academy to Brainfeeder happen?
MM: The experience was amazing, it really turned me on to what the music community around the world was like. Transitioning to Brainfeeder was pretty quick after my return home. I had a few conversations with [Flying] Lotus about all sorts of things and after a few hang outs I got a text asking if I would like to join them.
EM: How did your recent collaboration with Prefuse 73 (as Sons of the Morning) come about? Did he influence your work in your early days before Ardour, and how has he influenced you after working together firsthand?
MM: Same old story really, we started chatting about art and moved into music and decided to give a collab a try. He definitely changed my life with his music and opened up ideas of what music could do. After working with him I feel as though I grew a lot in the way of what I can do in a studio, and loved being around people with different processes who I respect. I also learned how to get around a few different pieces of gear I never tried before.
EM: Now that E s t a r a is done, what lies ahead for you in 2014?
MM: Releasing a few shirt designs for Obey Clothing’s spring line, playing a few more shows with a live band if I'm lucky. An art showing in Japan and Chicago and a release of a demo tape I made around December in vinyl format to start.
EARMILK Interview: Teebs talks news album 'E s t a r a'