Ahead of their live set at Loft Studios at the Crew Love party this Friday,
we caught up with the San Fransiscan three piece to chat about being a part of Wolf + Lamb, doo wop and how they approach writing music…
Hi Guys! First off, would you mind just introducing yourselves and telling us how you all came together to form PillowTalk?
Hi we are: Sammy Doyle, Ryan Williams and Michael Tello. We have all been around the dance music scene in San Francisco for better part of the past 12 years. That’s how we met and became friends, hanging out in the same circles.
What’s life like within the Wolf and Lamb collective, from the outside looking in it appears to be one of the tightest crews in showbusiness?!
Well hello Dolly! It’s fantastic. First and foremost we believe in the direction of the label and really enjoy being part of what Gadi & Zev have built. They allow the freedom to be creative with the music and it makes for more interesting releases, in our opinion.
Your hometown, San Francisco, played an important part in the development of electronic music, with Patrick Cowley and Sylvester pushing the boundaries of disco into hi nrg. Do you feel a continuing part of that heritage – is it celebrated within San Francisco these days?
This is a really sweet question. Patrick Cowley is a legend in San Francisco but sometimes goes unnoticed by many in the scene. He produced so many hits along with Sylvester, but sadly died in his prime. I still hear “Manergy” and “MegatronMan” played at some of the gay clubs in SF. I have never drawn a line from us back to them but their are some in SF like Bus Station John and his Aunt Charlies’ parties, Honey Soundsystem, No Way Back and The Stud that are definitely continuing that heritage.
On the subject of Sylvester, I hear that the name PillowTalk derives from Sammy’s drag alter ego Raven PillowTalk. Is that true and do you all have your own drag personas?
Yes it’s true. No just Sammy, although Halloween is around the corner and Too Wong Foo may be taking the stage:) ha…
What’s the current music scene like in San Francisco? I follow the blog Beat Electric and it appears that there’s quite a strong boogie/eighties funk scene going on?
The music scene is really strong at the moment. There are some super knowledgeable promoters in the scene that are consistently bringing outstanding talent to SF. Lights Down Low, Sweater Funk, Pacific Sound, As You Like It, No Way Back, Forward, Green Gorilla, Blow Up, Housepitality, Honey Soundsystem and Aunt Charlies are keeping the city out late and on their toes.
You’ve released on Visionquest, Life and Death and, of course, Wolf & Lamb – is the plan for the future to keep steadily putting out releases across a number of labels or are you focussing on one more than the others?
We really try not to focus on labels but music first. We figure out what label works best after we have a finished product. At least that’s how it’s been so far. We are working on an album in December and have some ideas for it.
There’s a strong thread of classic old soul influence throughout a lot of your own music, with an emphasis on harmonic structure and strong vocal lines – were you weened on a lot of soul music as you were growing up?
Yes for sure. Our parents were huge influences on us. Sammy’s dad was a doo-whop vocalist and always had Sam Cooke, Stax and Motown Records. We all discovered our like minded love for classic soul from after parties. We would get tired of listening to dance music and always change it up when the sun came up. Before you know knew it the place would turn into a sock-hop.
You’re playing in London at Loft Studios at the Crew Love party this Friday, have you spent much time over in the city and, if so, what do you make of it?
We have not spent too much time in London. We played Fabric early in the summer and Sammy played a street party in Shoreditch last year. Both shows were amazing and we are looking forward to coming back. We have a nice group of friends in London and that always makes it nice.
You’ll be playing live, can’t wait to see the show – who does what in the live set up?
Sammy is on lead vocals. Mikey is on beats and keys. Ryan is on lead keys and guitar.
Both Ryan and Mikey also provide back-up vocals.
Do you play all your own material in your live shows, or do you include the occasional cover/rework such as your version of the soul classic Sunny?
We pretty much play our original music in our live shows except for the occasional colab tune like “The Outcast” w/Tennis or “Real Love” w/ W+L. We also DJ quite a bit after our live sets and tend to drop more of our edits and remixes then.
What’s the composition/production process when your putting together a piece of music, I’ve heard you reference the Arthur Russell idea of ‘first thought, best thought’, going with intuition – I’d be interested to know if your processes are changing as you become more and more experienced in the craft?
We seem to always start with a melody first or a vocal hook. On occasion we will have the beat going first. Then it’s just like putting puzzle pieces together. You find the right bassline that fits, start tightening the drums and before you know you got three heads bobbing. I’m sure the process will change with time and experience. We are really excited to grow as a band and create new ways of processing ideas for music.
Following on from that, who do you most look up to and glean influence from in terms of the songwriting craft?
We have so many influences when it comes to writing. I think currently in the electronic scene it’s people like James Blake, Junior Boys, Bicep, Dave Aju, Tanner Ross, Kindness,
Poolside are killing it for us.
PillowTalk play alongside Wolf + Lamb, No Regular Play, A&A of Love Fever & Slow Hands at Loft Studios this Friday. Tickets/Further info.