Son of Greek immigrants, Steve Bigas grew up around Toronto, where his father worked in a factory all week and played the accordion at Greek weddings on weekends. His brothers blew up rock and his neighborhood vibrated with reggae and soca. He started playing guitar very early on and left school to work in a lighting and sound company.
“I had a really good fake Canadian ID,” Bigas, a 48-year-old gregarious man with a big beard, said via Zoom from his home in Willow Springs, just south of Raleigh.
In the dazzling 90s alt-rock, his band, King Clancy, took to Los Angeles. While looking to secure a recording deal, Bigas – a sidekick of sound design guru Daniel Lanois – honed his resume as a producer, engineer, and backing guitarist involved in legendary Grammy-winning projects. blues Taj Mahal and reggae dynasty Ziggy Marley.
Shortly before the turn of the millennium, the band’s Robbie Robertson signed King Clancy to DreamWorks Records, a subsidiary of the movie giant. Bigas was in his mid-twenties.
At the same time, but nationwide, Fal — just Fal, rhymes with “pal” —was born in North Carolina, where she mainly grew up in Garner. In a house filled with R&B and classic hip-hop, she was particularly drawn to neo-soul artists like Erykah Badu, although hearing Spin Doctors’ “Two Princes” on retro alt-rock radio was also an experience. trainer.
But it wasn’t until her mom brought home a Taylor Swift CD that she thought about playing it herself.
“I didn’t know who she was – I was in second grade,” Fal recalls. “I realized I wanted to play guitar and write songs. Taylor has this very structured verse-chorus-verse-bridge-chorus type layout, and I took inspiration from that.
On an eight a.m. Zoom call, the 22-year-old sits on an unmade bed with exactly the kind of serene calm you’d expect from someone teaching kids yoga, guitar and dance to day camps for a living.
After putting a few of his songs on SoundCloud over the past few years, Fal began performing in open mics shortly before the pandemic. At Imurj in Raleigh, she bonded with Nick Clarke, 24, who brought her to collaborate in a traditional studio. For months, she heard about Clarke’s mentor, Steve Bigas, and this studio he had in the countryside, which sounded more appealing than a recording booth.
One day Bigas showed up and played impromptu guitar, and they all decided to jam at “the barn,” which is actually a converted two-car garage stuffed with the fruits of decades of vintage farming.
Whoop’s first jam took place a year ago, in November 2020, with Fal on vocals, Bigas on guitar, Clarke on bass and Taha Arif on drums, though he left the band after the recording of his first album, Shout!, released on November 19. Clarke’s 30-year-old friend Will Perrone is the new drummer.
“It was like we got together on Friday night after my kids went to bed,” Bigas says. “It was very smooth at the first jam, very downtempo, lots of space. The first thing we ever played actually became the second to last song on the album. It was “Nash Park” (hi, Raleigh), an Eilish piano respite from the procession of dancing grooves. “We all looked at each other like next week we were all coming with firecrackers.”
The band have spent months jamming, Fal pulling her harsh but tender lyrics from the dozen newspapers she luggles around, then digging into the recordings for pieces to refine into songs.
The exuberant result combines the crunchy stampede of ’90s rock with the dynamic rebound of’ 90s R&B, mixed with distant Bigas influences – notice the reggae axis transforming the oiled riff of “What I Want” – and linked to structures of crispy typical Swiftian songs.
“I’m really proud of the album, but I think we’re better live,” Bigas says. “That’s how we recorded it. We took a few months to get to grips with these songs, and then it was literally Sunday morning for three hours to record, live on the floor, do two takes of each song, and that’s it. I’m the old man, so there is no better atmosphere for me.
Although Fal admits that leading a loud live band is new to her – and although it seems at odds with her introspective musical tendencies – she is an energetic and confident pop-rock singer and seems upbeat about making her debut in direct in Whoop’s live album release. concert on November 20.
“My friends describe my music as relaxing and with coffee vibes,” she says. “I never write anything that goes up to the level of hype we’re going to. I’ve always had that in me, but it’s always been just me and my guitar, playing a little something. But I have this itch to do it. Imagining that I’m a rock star character helps me, and the band builds my confidence.
“It’s natural,” Bigas adds. “There is a deep spirit there, an old soul, and finding someone who has such a talent for melody is difficult. All the reviews of the first single ”- which would be“ Cool, ”which is kind of like a loud garage rock from Breeders -“ say the same thing, “Just another band until she starts singing; if a brother had started singing brother stuff, I probably wouldn’t have listened to the song. ‘ What was the point.
Although King Clancy made three records for DreamWorks during their decade in Los Angeles, none of them ever released. Much of Bigas’ success comes from his time as chief engineer at The Mint, a unique hybrid of a recording studio and restaurant club in Los Angeles, where he recorded Taj Mahal. and began his long collaboration with Lanois.
After King Clancy, he and his wife lived in Canada for a few years before deciding they wanted to move to the east coast of the United States, where his wife was from. “We literally went like that and pointed at a map,” Bigas said, covering his eyes. “I think those are all the trees that sold us.”
Whoop is the first band he’s been in for years. If this represents new horizons for Fal, it’s a relaxed throwback to the old ones for him, and maybe this respective forward and backward movement explains how they cover the generation gap between themselves.
“I think ‘fun’ is the word that comes up the most when we talk about our music,” says Bigas. “Keep it fun, keep it dancing and singable. What’s beautiful to me is that it’s just bass, drums, guitar, and vocals, so the genre is just the part you play. It’s music, it’s all been done, so you always tend to play something based on something you’ve heard.
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