Behind the Beats: Trebles and Blues
First and foremost who is Trebles and Blues?
Trebles and Blues is just an ordinary, average dude living in Koreatown, Los Angeles, that has an above-average love of music. In regards to what I do, I'm a hip hop producer that has a deep infatuation with the sounds of soul, funk, jazz, and any other genre of music that hits the depths of my heart. I just put out my debut instrumental album The Blue Note, in March 2011, which has been received fairly well within the online community. For that, I am truly grateful and humbled by everyone's response to the body of work.
Your name is very unique and I am positive that it describes your personality. What does the name Trebles and Blues mean to you and when did you decide on using it as a name?
The way I came across the name was actually pretty ridiculous. I took a brief, 6-week production course at Scratch Academy (a DJ/production academy in Los Angeles) that teaches you the basics of using Reason, and after that course, I went up to the stage to do a quick showcase of what I've made so far, so I got up there and played a few of my beats. Even though I thought the beats were basic as hell, the crowd of about 50+ heads VIBED OUT to it!! Afterwards, one of the instructors, DJ Hapa, asked me what my name was because he wanted to announce it to the onlookers. Although I was playin' around with names before, it was at that precise moment that the words "Trebles" and "Blues" just came to mind and I simply blurted out, "Trebles and Blues." Since then, it just kinda stuck.
But in regards to what it means to me personally, I think it defines me both in a musical sense and in my overall character. My songs are very melody-heavy, I love taking the listener through a journey of different sounds, whether it's through samples, instrumentation, whatever. I think the Treble Clef is symbolic of that melody-driven sound. In regards to the "Blues" part, I think it more so describes the color of my aura. I had this interesting discussion with my friend before about auras, and I just think blue is representative of my own aura. I'm a chill, laid-back dude, but also very introspective and always searching for ways to solidify my purpose in life. After noticing those things, I thought to myself, "Hey yo, Trebles and Blues is actually a pretty dope name." Haha, there it is!
In March 2011, you released The Blue Note on The Soul Dojo. What did you want to present with the project?
The Blue Note was an album I wanted to release ever since I started making music in 2009. I wanted to present a body of work that would really resonate within people's minds, something that would touch them in a way that only good music can do. However, I wanted to wait until the timing felt right. When it comes to dropping a quality project, your gut has to tell you that you're ready. In order for you to get to that point, you have to keep practicing, keep listening to the music of those that inspire you, and just get better at what you do. Then, you'll reach a point where you feel like you're finally ready to do the damn thang. Once you're confident in your skills, then you gotta think about how you're gonna convert that to a comprehensive, flowing body of work. The Blue Note was just 11 tracks, but it was literally my heart and soul poured into them. All I wanted was for people to know I poured my all into it just by listening to what I had to offer. That's all I cared about.
I also like the fact that your website and Vimeo has videos and descriptions for every track. The inclusion of the videos and song descriptions allowed you to reach more listeners (those who are visual learners haha). Where did the concept originate from?
Man, for this question, this all ties to the creative director of this project, Nam Bui. He did an absolutely phenomenal job conveying the message of The Blue Note into a format that he knew he could accomplish with his unparalleled skills as a graphic designer, videographer, and photographer. It's funny, this concept was first discussed at this Thai restaurant we would go to every now and then, where he showed me this website that was built for some app called Ben the Bodyguard on his iPhone. If you go to that website real quick, you'll notice that as you keep scrolling down, you start following this fictional character strolling through these dark alleyways that look shady as hell. He gets approached by all these crackheads during his descent and a storyline starts to show up in text until you near the bottom of the screen.
Nam showed it to me and was like, "YO, let's do something like THIS for The Blue Note." First of all, I love working with Nam because (a) the dude always has crazy ideas brewing around in his mind, and (b) he's just a chill-ass homie that I could kick it with whenever. But of course, with crazy ideas, comes that "Wtf you talkin' about foo?" factor. Haha, and then he broke it down. He wanted to take that model and do a step-by-step sequence on the site where you could click through all the tracks, with each one having a story behind it, and some of the tracks having accompanying beat videos, sample sources, pictures, etc. It was genius.
Then we shot the video for "The Tempo", which we released a month before the actual album as a way to market it. Honestly, without Nam's involvement, The Blue Note would not have reached as many people as it did, and it definitely would not have had the same impact as it has had so far. Truth.
You have ties to The Soul Dojo as evidenced by The Blue Note being released by The Soul Dojo. How does it feel to be involved with a talented collective such as The Soul Dojo?
I'm blessed, grateful, and excited to be a part of The Soul Dojo. Nefarious!, AbJo, Phantom Kay, and Scrabble (who will be releasing his debut project soon) are ridiculously talented individuals that continuously push me to be better at what I do. Also, the great thing about us is that we're never trying to out-do each other. There's a huge degree of mutual respect between all members of the team, and it shows because we simply value each other's music and just value each other as human beings. I haven't had the chance to really communicate with Scrabble too much, but I did have the opportunity to peep the project he's about to drop. And yes, it's The Soul Dojo, so don't expect anything less.
You started making beats in 2009 yet you present the technical ability of a skilled veteran. Describe the difference between making beats in 2009 and making beats in 2011...
Oh man, I could keep writing and writing on this question. To keep it brief though, I actually started making beats on some program called Mixcraft. All you could do was just drag sounds in there and cutting stuff up is a huge pain in the ass. Then I started messin' with Ableton a bit, and it wasn't really my steez, although I did make "131 West 3rd Street" on it with the help of Record/Reason. In 2009, I was just making beats because making beats was the cool thing to do. Everyone and their third cousin is a beatmaker these days, and I just enjoyed making music as an escape from work. However, once I got my hands on Reason, I started watching a shitload of YouTube videos, which is also how I stumbled across Nefarious!. Then I really started to learn the program, and spent a lot of time messing around with it. In January and February 2011, I just took everything I knew and crafted a good majority of The Blue Note then. It ultimately boiled down to how serious I was about learning. If you're serious about it and you dedicate yourself to it, then you're gonna be dope at whatever you're aiming to do. That's universal shit right there. Oh, and I got a LONG way to go to become a skilled veteran, but thanks for the compliment!
Trebles and Blues - 131 West 3rd Street Beat Video from Nam Bui on Vimeo.
Reading your biography on your website I noticed that you graduated from UCLA and that you gave up the corporate lifestyle to pursue music. Being a full-time artist is difficult; what are some of the struggles that you deal with?
Being a full-time artist isn't the easiest thing, and for many reasons. People largely say it's largely due to a monetary issue, but it goes beyond that too. Music usually starts out as a hobby for people, and music can also be an escape from the everyday routine of life. Whenever you do something as an escape, it becomes easy to say you're passionate about it. However, if it becomes something that you're going to be doing with all your time, it's not an escape anymore; it's a rigorous path that you have chosen to embark on. So the challenge is also being inspired on a day-to-day basis to create music. However, you just gotta always tell yourself that this is the decision you've chosen to make, so man up and give it your all. Whether it's music, working in a cubicle, stripping, whatever, give it your all, or just don't do it period. Especially the stripping part. Give it your all ladies ;).
What are some of your interests outside of music?
I love playing basketball. I've done that ever since I was in junior high, and still love it to this day. I'm also a huge movie buff, especially gangster/mob films. They're just too gangsta. I also like to meditate, it does a great job keeping my mind clear of all the bullshit that could somehow sneak into the crevasses during the course of the week. For those that haven't meditated before, I strongly recommend it.
Describe the impact of your upbringing in regards to becoming a beat maker?
Well, I've been a fan of hip hop ever since I was 14 years old, when my brother and I went to buy our first CD, a Wu-Tang Killa Bees compilation album that was deep in the racks at Sam Goody. I noticed then how hard-hitting those beats were and how ridiculously brilliant the lyrics were as well. I played piano when I was young, but after 5 years, I couldn't take it anymore and just bounced. I guess I'm not a big fan of formalized training when it comes to music, but I thank my mom so dearly that she put me through those classes. One thing I gotta learn is how to make my future kids understand that piano lessons will benefit them in the long run, if you have any suggestions, let me know haha.
After a while of listening to hip hop, I began becoming more intrigued with the beats more than anything else. I use this analogy a lot, but I compare the intrigue of hip hop to the intrigue of a beautiful woman. If you look at a fine-ass girl, you're hooked in. Then you wanna get to know her personality, her substance, and all that other stuff. Same thing for a hip hop song in my mind. That physical attractiveness of a woman is like the beat, then the substance of that woman is the lyrics. If the beat doesn't get at me, it's gonna be tough for me to wanna get to know the message of the lyrics. Same can be said for women. Haha, I know you feel me. That's just my viewpoint of why I became so infatuated with the beats. They just always got to me first.
What are you currently working on?
I'm working on a variety of different things at this point. Ever since the release of The Blue Note, I've been able to get in touch with some phenomenal emcees to get the ball rollin' on some beats I've been making, but as of now, I'm gonna keep that under the wraps. Expect a lot of good things coming out of The Soul Dojo. Trust me. Other than just my own music, I have been fortunate enough to be involved with the Knocksteady team here in Los Angeles as a music production instructor for classes that we will be teaching this summer for kids in the LA area. I'm also working with a few homies on this initiative called The Forum of Music, which is a not-for-profit company that aims to provide a venue for live performance that serves artists within the underground scene in Los Angeles. So yeah, the plate's gettin' full!
Any Final Thoughts?
Shout out to Praverb for these interview questions. They were so well thought-out that he forced me to actually sit here and think about what to write hahaha. I just want to thank all the supporters that have helped The Blue Note get to where it is now, and also all the people that have backed the Kickstarter project to reach its goal! There is a lot of content about to come out on my end, so stay tuned! Peace to my beloved Yeo family. God is good.
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