words by Liz | photos by Emma
Is anyone else constantly amazed at the talent that seems to pop up around you? That is exactly what I was thinking after listening an EP that some of my fellow classmates released in February. They make the type of music where you literally (literally!) ask yourself "So, why aren't they famous yet?" The Ivy is an indie synth-pop duo made up of Shawn Abhari and Wyatt Clem who are both production majors and met in class at ACM@UCO. Shawn originally started the project, but recruited Wyatt as a vocalist and guitar player. They played together for the first time last year, and since then have been working on new music and building up their band.
We recently chatted outside a coffee shop in the city before heading to see their live set at Open Streets OKC, so read below to get to know the guys a little bit!
You have a great EP out that you released a few months back. What is writing like for you?
Shawn: Every song is different, but the three that are most similar are the ones where we sat down and wrote together, whereas Breath, Wyatt had the lyrics and almost the entire core of it made so then I kinda just came in at the end and mixed it. Forever was something I made in like two hours.
Wyatt: I would say half of our songs is like one of us has the idea and the other helps finish it, and then the other half of our songs are mostly written when we sit together with a goal of writing and finishing a song.
Did you guys record and produce everything on your own?
Wyatt: We recorded and mixed it all by ourselves, but of course we had someone master it.
Shawn: Kevin Lively at our school mastered it! He’s has gold records on his wall from TLC and Pink! He’s obviously an incredible guy so we sent him our songs.
Wyatt: We would not have made it sound like that on our own.
What’s your favorite thing about doing music while going to a school like ACM where you can get help and feedback from other students as well as people who have a lot of experience in the music industry?
Shawn: One thing that I also think of, and feel blessed to have, is access to the facilities there. It would suck to do it all in a garage so actually having high dollar spaces and set ups is awesome.
Wyatt: We wouldn’t have a space to practice in if it weren’t for ACM. Also, I’ve learned a lot about production that I think has helped us a lot. With our song Breath, I used a lot of stuff I learned from teachers and new techniques. We wouldn’t be in the same place if it weren’t for ACM. It’s cool to have these people at our disposal who have all this knowledge that I will probably never have.
Was there any specific point in your life where you had the realization that you wanted to do music?
Shawn: It’s funny because I’ve always known I’m good at music. I got a good scholarship for bass and took music theory and stuff but school was always number one. Music second, school first. But, when I was in college I was thinking “Well, what’s after college?” And it’s kind of sad, but one of my friends passed away at a young age and that really struck a chord with me. He was 24 and his life was over. After that, I started way overthinking my life- a quarter life crisis in a sense. I was like “Music makes me happy, and that’s what I want to do.” When I took a semester off of school, it wasn’t all necessarily music that I was putting time aside for, but I was exploring in California and New York and that entire experience is where I realized I wanted to do this. That adventure is also where the name The Ivy came from because I got poison ivy four times that summer!
Wyatt: I think for me, music was always an afterthought until I started going to ACM. At that time, I started going to so many concerts and I saw how much fun people were having on stage. I had always been told to find something you love and then find a way to make money doing it, and this is all I could see myself doing. So hopefully it works out!
Any particular artists you draw a lot of influence from?
Shawn: Bon Iver’s new album inspired us in the production aspect.
Wyatt: For sure. I really like Radiohead. We don’t necessarily sound like them at all, but they’re my favorite. The 1975 is a huge influence for us.
Shawn: Yeah, the Japanese House is a big inspiration too. I found them after their song Still came out.
Wyatt: I went through a phase were I listened to nothing but Washed Out and it was such a big “oh I just want to make ambient psychedelic music” phase, but that was a big inspiration as well.
Would you ever branch off and start incorporating other genres into your music?
Shawn: I like the idea of pulling influences from other genres. There’s one band who opened for Porter Robinson, a huge influence of mine, and he’s called Giraffage. Wyatt found a band who opened for M83 called Tennyson and they have a very jazzy and electronic sound which we love.
Wyatt: After I saw Tennyson I just wanted to make electronic jazz.
Do you guys have any songs in particular that you wrote and really love?
Shawn: I think we can both agree that we really love Bolder Feelings- and we recently made that. It’s where we want our music to be. Also, I love how different sounding I Don’t Wanna is. We wrote it this summer when we were canoeing the Arkansas River and going on these crazy weird adventures, we were really inspired by Petite Biscuit.
How important is having a certain image or aesthetic for the band?
Shawn: Aesthetic is huge thing!
Wyatt: Shawn helped me appreciate aesthetics, but our main thing is trying to be consistent. Sometimes I don’t like when bands come out with one album and then completely change everything for the next album.
When working on new music, how do you stay consistent with your sound but not make the new tunes sound identical to the last?
Wyatt: I think we have a pretty consistent bank of sounds and we try to use that to pull from and make new music.
Shawn: What’s interesting in my head- and what’s probably different for people who listen to them together- is She and Forever. To me, they’re quite different. The last songs we wrote were Breath and Bolder Feelings, which are quite opposite, yet they still blend together and fit well in the EP. Those were written a year apart and across that year span we listened to a lot of artists, so that really shows in our music. Ultimately, who we listen to will influence, but we still stay with our core sound. It’s interesting to look at The 1975’s first and second album because it goes back to the whole aesthetic thing. Them changing their album cover and just changing the look of everything from black and white to pink made me listen to and hear the songs differently. If they were to release She’s American and If I Believe You on the first album, it would’ve fit in my head, so having an aesthetic can make a huge difference.
We're so excited to see where these guys go with their music! As always, be sure to support local music whenever you can! Go to shows, buy on iTunes, and spread the word.
Check out their EP "Next Stop" on Spotify and follow them on Instagram @wearetheivy
see photos from their live set here.