Age of miracles

18+2With their fractured visuals, hard-to-google name and barely there sound, visual artists and musicians 18+, aka Samia and Justin, held an enigmatic presence before making an affirmative mark on 2014’s musical landscape last month with the release of debut album Trust. A full-length crystallisation of a musical partnership that’s so far seen them release a series of mixtapes and one-offs as well as soundtracking Prada’s FW11 show, Trust stands out as one of this year’s most unique offerings.

The pair met while studying in Chicago and although going separate ways – Samia to LA and Justin to New York via Berlin – continued to work with each other from different seaboards to put together a collection of striking tracks that are tightly wrought, sexually charged and often accompanied by hypnotic videos that play on the idea of identity. In London for a series of shows, Glass sat down with Samia and Justin to piece together the puzzle so far.

How did 18+ begin?
Samia: It was two friends sharing something that they were both doing separately. It started very casually and we put it in a format to share in our social group and it got in the right hands. It generated so much attention so quickly that it encouraged us to make more. We were working “normal” desk jobs and this way we were able to do both and exist as musicians.

Was there a tipping point that made you decide to do this full time?
Justin: Maybe really recently but it constantly feels like there’s a tipping point and then it tips back and feels like it’s not going to work out again.
S: There are reminders about not wanting to go back to reality; when we quit those desk jobs, 18+ affected us more directly.

Trust is a very unique body of work: how did you approach it?
J: Making an album wasn’t necessarily our idea; it’s a convention to monetise a music project. Now someone wants to invest in us we had to ask ourselves, how do we go about it? We decided to take our past and formulate a package by which you could quickly get to know us.
S: We drew upon all the stuff we’d previously made – it’s interesting for us as it feels like a retrospective even though we’re just coming out to a new audience. We could also invent something new.

How easy is a long-distance musical relationship?
J: We’ve developed a continual editing process so there’s no room for ambiguous opinions – whether we’re making a sound, image or a shirt design, this back-and-forth process works really well
S: What interests me is that with this approach there’s less talking and more acting and throwing it back to the other person.

Identity plays a strong part in your work. How have you found your own identities change?
J: It’s a shift that’s actually happening within the videos. In our early videos we used CGI footage and avatars as stand-ins for humans and for us. As we organically started integrating our bodies – through live performances and interviews like this – we’ve started putting ourselves into it. We’re now the face of it.

How important are visuals to you?
J: Visuals seem to run side by side with the music. We never make a video before a song’s done but there’s always a collection of footage from daily life and a lot of the video is archive content. We constantly draw from that. We can’t just be summed up in sound; we’re interested in creating a more enveloping world.
S: The visuals are something that people have seen us evolve through. Instead of attaching themselves to a sound, people are interested in what we look like.

How do you translate your recordings to a live performance?
J: Logistically it’s the two of us singing in front of people with instrumentation and video playing behind us. But conceptually there is this extreme intimacy where we’re saying stuff that we’ve recorded separately from each other. Re-performing these creates a palpable tension that feels really raw and it’s the thing about the performance that works the best.

When are you happiest – writing, recording, performing, touring?
S: I personally really enjoy the recording part as it’s completely new and the place where we can keep growing in.
J: We’re working on new music right now and we have to re-figure out who we are. We’ve been so busy doing bureaucratic things that surround making music that it stops anything else, but now that’s alleviated.

What does social media add to the 18+ project?
J: Social media is a thing unto itself – we never had a product to sell before but now it becomes an arena for us to perform 18+ in a different way.
S: It gives us the room to play with the 18+ personality and we can ask what else we can share with people.

What’s next for 18+?
J: The goal is definitely to release a new album in October. We also plan to make more visual and object accompaniments and go out on tour.

by Ben Olsen

Trust is out now.

See 18+ live when their European tour starts at London’s Corsica Studios on January 28

Watch the video to Crow here:

About The Author

Glass Online music editor

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