IN CONVERSATION WITH TENDAI – three.two, his approach to creation & more

IN CONVERSATION WITH TENDAI – three.two, his approach to creation & more

If you haven’t heard of 22 year old musical polymath tendai – then you haven’t fully opened your ears to the sonics the UK has to offer. Just 5 timeless singles and one spotless EP deep, The genre redefining artist has rightfully been growing from strength to strength – featuring on Stormzy’s latest album, nominated for an IVOR Novello award, and gearing up to release his album. We sat down with him to pick the beautifully complex mind of tendai.

Kat: What about the three tracks on made you decide to release them  together in an EP?

tendai: I think the thing that made me think that they were all together is the sonic is quite similar – the sound is the same and I think narratively as well, they’re all about similar things. They follow that “end of an era”, “end of a relationship” kind of thing, so it just made sense to me to contextualize it together.

Kat: The video for Ughh Parents Evening is quite narrative heavy, what inspired the vision for the video and how did you execute it?

tendai: A year’s worth of back and forth, random ideas between myself and Ethan and Tom and our favourite films. Ethan specifically really, really loved that record and we was just like, “Ah, we’d love to do a video in a school,” and it tells a story of the different subcultures, you know – like the jocks and then the cool kids and then the not so cool kids [and] whatnot, so that’s what inspired the genesis of wanting to do it. When we realised that we had a record that we could do it with, that’s when we got a little bit more excited and the process behind actually doing it was again – it took us time because we had to find the right place. We had to find [the] right cast and yeah, it kind of just happened.

Kat: I really liked the music video, it was really cool. I’ve read that you’re inspired by film – what are some films you’re inspired by and how do you translate that into your music?

tendai: Some films I’m inspired by would be Justin Kerrigan’s Human Traffic, or Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas, or Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox. [it’s] just [the] ways that you can tell a story so visually which is what those three films do. A lot of those films, they come in and out of time – sometimes it’s a flashback, sometimes it’s a flash forward – the way that those three films tell [the] story – it’s never a linear thing and that’s sometimes how I write. You know, sometimes I’ll make a record and it doesn’t reflect life just yet because sometimes with music it can be quite prophetic, you write a song and then your life catches up with it, so I think that’s how I’m inspired, [by] the ability to tell stories in a non-linear way. 

Kat: You have quite a unique voice, who were the artists you listened to that shaped your voice?

tendai: The artists that I listened to that shaped my voice – it’s funny people say it more than I say it – Michael Jackson which is funny ’cause on ‘three.two’, the next one we have coming out, that’s potentially where people are going to hear that side of myself a little bit more. It’s funny ’cause it’s Michael Jackson sort of, it’s also very James Brown and it’s very like almost Brian Adams in terms of what that vocal is doing. There’s probably some more, but I can’t remember them right now. 

Kat: What was it like working with Stormzy on ‘This Is What I Mean’?

tendai: It was a long process of trying to figure out what is the best way to contextualise what he wanted to give to the world. It was an amazing process of learning what it can look like to make music at some of the heights of the world in terms of him as an artist in the world. He’s quite high up there and I was in a certain place in my career when I started it. So it was funny him being on album three and me working on it when I hadn’t even released a song, so I got to learn a lot about what’s expected of you. 

Kat: Was there anything that you learned in that experience that you’re now applying to your own creative processes and your own music? 

tendai: I’d say so – I think what I learned from the way he approaches music is he makes sure that God’s in the room, he’ll pray before a session starts, or he’ll just do something to make sure that he’s guided, so that’s something that I definitely took on after that, not immediately, but towards the end of last year and up until now – the ability to be like, “Oh, let this be led,” and it’s allowed me to understand that  I don’t make music. I receive music. 

Kat: You mentioned on Instagram how is part one of a story, what can we expect in the forthcoming parts?

tendai: The next one we can expect is three.two, and this part of the story, if was the end of an era or end of a relationship, three.two tells a story – I guess it’s a little bit more romantic and it’s a little bit more energetic. In, there was a lot of restraint in terms of [that] I only realised the other day there’s only five lines in ‘want u bck :*’ and there’s only eight lines in ‘Ughh Parents Evening’, and then there’s one chorus on three.two,  just because at that time the way I was creating was quite restrained – but three.two, ’cause I had broken the chains of what was restraining me, with three.two, there’s a lot more energy in terms of a lot more choruses and a lot more things to say and, a lot more romance in that. The sounds are of something brewing and it’s funny – we shot a video for the main single the other day and it made me think about self-indulgence and narcissism because I guess after I shared that relationship in, I went on a journey of a lot of self-indulgence, a lot of narcissism because when you feel held down and you break out that all of a sudden it’s like, “Everyone needs to know it’s me,” and you become quite loud until you eventually settle up, but three.two is I guess the beginnings of the volume increase on my life. 

Kat: I feel like your music defies genre, how do you like pull from different genres? What is it about different types of music that you pull from to create together that you think will compliment each other? 

tendai: I can’t view music as genre. I really have to view it as colour or emotion and because of that, I understand that music has to be as nuanced as emotion. You can be confused and embarrassed or you can be angry and emotional or you can be angry and crying at the same time and those nuances make me think, “Okay, if I was to use the titles, the genre, I can make a punk soul record that also feels like rock and while I’m doing that, I can have a vocal that is in the indie world because I think music to me is supposed to be free. It’s like what I said earlier about the difference between making music and receiving music. I think thoughts are formless, so if you receive thoughts you can’t think in a genre, you know what I mean? There’s not a genre of thought, it’s just what comes to your mind, right? So it’s like when we start making music, that’s when it’s like, “Yes, I’m gonna get in the studio and make a drill song today,” or “I’m gonna come in the studio and make [a] whatever the f**k pop song.” The difference between that and receiving is whatever that idea is, I’m gonna be in service of that idea and make it sound exactly how it came to me instead of being like, “Oh, it came to me like that, but they might not understand that,” so I’m gonna compromise and put it here. That’s when you get involved, but I’m just allowing it to be exactly what it is.

Kat: Are there any lyrics that you’ve written that you’ve been so proud of that have just stuck with you for a long time? Whether that’s released or unreleased – what are they and why? 

tendai: I think the obvious one would be “We had a time of our lives for a time in our lives,” I like that one, that stuck with me. I know a lot of people like that lyric. There’s a record on [three.two] called ‘Champion Lover’, and [in] the second verse I say, “You say “On the other side, it looks so easy” / Well, sometimes you sound so greedy.” It’s talking about [when] you’re in a relationship – you look around in the world and you’re like, “Oh, there’s a girl there. She’s also cute,” And you say “on the other side, it looks so easy,” and then “Sometimes you sounds so greedy.” That’s that stuck with me. There’s a couple, man.

watch the latest video for ‘why can’t I’ from ‘three.two’ below:

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