SUDAN ARCHIVES: IT’S ALL SO SIMPLE
photography by theo jemison
Sudan Archives: I made most of them in GarageBand. I like their drums. They sound kinda bad in a good way—I don’t know if that makes sense. I used that and made my own percussion just in the microphone with my fingers. ‘Golden City’ is just me stomping on the ground and we made the beat. I was just hitting the ground and clapping and then I added the GarageBand drums to pump it up. It’s a mixture of what I can find in my bedroom that makes a cool sound and making cheap drum sounds fit in where they can. I really like those sounds. It gives me a 90s sound. It would be cool to get a vintage drum machine though.
Or an app?
Sudan Archives: I bet there is an app. I love apps. I feel like I’ve run through all the apps. I want to try to step it up and get gear so I can play it live.
Has technology ever failed you live?
Sudan Archives: I used to perform with my acoustic violin a lot more but sometimes the vibrations cause feedback. One time there was this loud sound and I didn’t know where it was coming from and it was so stressful. You don’t want to stop and say ‘Cut the music, I’m done.’ I just went through and finished the set. But this type of thing also was an inspiration to my music production. On ‘Paid’ it sounds like the aux cord is fucking up but it’s purposely done because I like the way it sounds. I’m trying to embrace that and maybe make it a good thing.
Was there a learning curve figuring out your performance setup?
Sudan Archives: Sometimes I wish I could multiply myself and cue my tracks from the SP and make them sound the way I want to and have another person sing and have another person play the violin. But I’m figuring out the method and how to achieve it in a small room or in a big room. In a small room I would do live looping with violin. But in a place like Low End Theory I would play my tracks because I know they’re going to bang, you know?
Where did the name Sudan come from?
Sudan Archives: I was always interested in African history and clothing. My mom thought Sudan was just a pretty sounding name. She called me her hippie child and said, ‘How about instead of calling yourself Tokyo Moon, you call yourself Sudan Moon?’ Because I was going to call myself Tokyo Moon. I just really wanted to go to Tokyo.
Instead you got to go to Africa and film a video.
Sudan Archives: That was a dream come true. To be able to go there and also to teach children what I do—how to make music—and then shoot a music video … it was too much goodness in one thing. Teaching was a main point of the trip and we shot footage and we’re going to make a documentary about the whole experience. I’ve been volunteering for Taiwo Fund for a few years. It’s a non-profit that provides education to low-income families. Our first project was to get a bus for this school in Ghana. For a donation perk I made a collaboration CD of the kids playing music with Los Angeles artists. For the second opportunity I was given the chance to do a workshop, and wanted to do a three-day electronic music production class. We raised money, flew out there, and Stones Throw flew out Eric Coleman to shoot the whole thing and do a video. I loved it there. It was my first trip out of the country trip too. It was so much goodness.
What did you take away from that experience?
Sudan Archives: Stay true to you. Staying true means keep it simple and stay rooted. It was inspiring to see the way people live out there. Traffic is so cool because even though you have to wait a long time to get to where you wanna go, there’s people walking around with stuff on their heads so you can go shopping and be in traffic at the same time. Waking up and hearing someone sing a melodic word that’s supposed to mean something. It’s all so simple. Life doesn’t have to be complicated.
How does simplicity apply to your music?
Sudan Archives: When it comes to writing, I just journal and don’t think about it becoming a song. Then I make a beat, I just take my notes, start singing and press record. If I like it, I keep it. I won’t try to make it ‘more’ anything. Also when it comes to hooks I like repeating things—it’s a style, and I stay true to that. It’s how I feel. I repeat something until it becomes a trance or meditative state feeling. When I moved to L.A. I started researching music from Sudan and Ghana. In northern Ghana they play this one-stringed violin that goes back to stone-age time. The fact that they just picked up a gourd, snake skin, covered it, nailed it, attached horse hair and then made a bow of horse hair all by themselves really inspired me to complete an album by myself. They just used the tools they had to make instruments and play them. I can do the same thing with what I have. Sometimes we don’t feel like we have enough. But you can use whatever is around you.
Where did electronics and beat music come into the picture?
Sudan Archives: I remember in Ohio going to a bar in Clifton and seeing people with SP-404s and playing their beats. That sparked me getting one myself. Francis Bebey really inspired me to incorporate the electronic music and violin. There’s this song ‘Forest Nativity’ that’s really chill and meditative and calms you down by what he’s saying. He fuses West African instruments and electronic music and I thought I could do my take on that. He’s also an ethnomusicologist and he wrote a whole book about African string instruments and learned a lot from that. He was a pioneer to African electronic music. That definitely affected my production style.
How do electronic sounds relate to the natural world?
Sudan Archives: I think it just depends on who is manipulating the sound. Some electronic music, you’re not supposed to feel ‘in a natural element’ … you’re just supposed to fucking bang your head and go crazy or some shit. Like EDM, that’s very it’s-own-lane. But if you’re trying to make textured, natural electronic music, it just depends on the manipulator. It’s more of an approach.
Did you find what you were looking for when you came to L.A.?
Sudan Archives: Now I feel more responsible and mature. That’s kind of what I wanted out of the whole thing. So I’m happy.
SUDAN ARCHIVES WITH MOSES SUMNEY ON SAT., OCT. 21, AT THE EL REY, 5515 WILSHIRE BLVD., LOS ANGELES. 9 PM / $25 / ALL AGES. GET TICKETS HERE! SUDAN ARCHIVES’ SELF-TITLED EP IS AVAILABLE NOW FROM STONES THROW. VISIT SUDAN ARCHIVES AT SUDANARCHIVES.BANDCAMP.COM.