Vocalist and producer Norvis Junior’s “space gospel” stretches the boundaries of rhythm
Beat conductor and Dallas native Norvis Junior exploded onto the global electro scene in 2013 with his first EP, Coming Down. Tonight in Brooklyn at 2:30 AM, he’s on a smoked-out stage—sweaty and tranced, working the half-lit buttons of an Akai MPK like he’s time traveling from the cockpit of a Vulcan starship. A sea of dedicated heads nod in the pitch-black-purple space to his array of complex beats. An hour later, we walk to the train station as Norvis discussed process, faith, and his new album, Pyrrhic Victory.
Genre-wise, your new joints are hard to categorize. The sounds are complex, like electro got high, met Sam Cooke, and flew him to Pluto for a date.
[laughs] Wave. I was always inspired by R&B break-up-to-make-up songs.
You drop a lot of tracks. How many unreleased albums do you have total?
Probably like twenty-one to twenty-four.
How do you decide which ones to put out?
Those twenty-four albums are continuous. They’re never finished. So I may make a song today but categorize it with an album I did a year ago. I might have seventy-five songs on that album. Then I just choose the tracks that say what I want to say in the present. That might be just seven songs. That’ll be the album. Other songs I post on my [Soundcloud] page, I might just be feeling a groove. But it’s not a song; it’s just a groove.
Did your sound develop more when you moved to Brooklyn, or was it established at home in Dallas?
Brooklyn definitely had an effect on my sound, but it was more so the people in Brooklyn—Shawn [Peters], my brother Terence [Nance], who gave me the structure to understand the mechanics of beatmaking. I was mostly into rhythms.
What’s wrong with rhythms?
In my head, I either hear no sound, or ones that sound like they’re falling apart.
Right. They call your tunes “space gospel.”
Well, I have a vocal-performance background from high school, opera, and jazz. I was always in church choir and also was a part of a few African drum and dance ensembles, and that brought in a lot of tonality in terms of rhythm and percussion to me at an early stage. Put the two together…
How have your beliefs and spiritual experiences influenced your music?
I think folks should take a path where they find their own spirituality. If any type of spiritual experience deeply affects you—religion or whatever it may be—put it into your art. My religion is a mix of anime, Rastafarianism, Hindu, Christianity, Buddhism, and, like, Hitchhiker’s Guide [to the Galaxy]. So when I’m creating sounds, I feel like I’m jumping into a level of ether.
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