Brooklyn-based duo Sepalcure materialized after Travis Stewart became Praveen Sharma’s stand-in girlfriend. “That’s essentially what happened,” Stewart laughs. “Praveen’s girlfriend—Sougwen [Chung], who does all of our artwork—was gone for a couple of months, and I just [pauses] seized the moment, you know?” The two producers, who individually had already amassed a firm discography (Stewart is more widely known as Machinedrum, and Sharma generally releases under his first name), turned their eight-year friendship into a working relationship of sorts. They began making bass-heavy yet melodically focused music (traditionally best understood within a European climate) as a productive alternative to playing video games, but the casualness of the merger has since blossomed into a partnership of increasing weight.
Since its formation just over a year ago, Sepalcure has accomplished a considerable amount for a duo that makes what it has playfully deemed “lovestep” music. Stewart and Sharma have toured Europe, produced two EPs—the marvelously received Love Pressure and Fleur, released earlier this year on the esteemed Hotflush label run by U.K. producer Scuba—and contributed to the music in Darren Aronofsky’s psychological thriller/Natalie Portman Oscar-winner, Black Swan. A remix EP of Sepalcure’s work is also set for this summer, featuring reinterpretations from friends including CMJ New Music Report pin-up Daedelus, Brooklyn dubstep champ FaltyDL, one half of Lazer Sword in Lando Kal and Canadian producer XI.
While Stewart has been making music full time for a number of years, Sepalcure is now pushing Sharma to follow a similar incline.
You both individually have covered so many musical bases. Do you feel like you purposely decided not to have a single direction and just go with it?
Travis Stewart: Yeah, I’m happy that that’s happening. It’s only natural, I guess, because my tastes are so broad. If anybody asked what my favorite music is I would just answer “music,” you know?
How did you reconcile everything that you were listening to?
Stewart: I think it was natural once again. It was less preplanned and maybe just like a spur of the moment kind of thing.
Praveen Sharma: Yeah, it wasn’t planned out at all. It was one of those sessions where like we were just having fun, but obviously we were both very influenced by a lot of the stuff coming out of the U.K. at the time.
Stewart: I think we were listening to a lot of Hotflush, and it was just funny how that worked out. Completely unexpected.
Sharma: Totally unexpected. We didn’t even expect to release it.
Can you tell me the story of exactly how the tracks got into Scuba’s hands?
Sharma: I mean, it was pretty funny because we were going to the Dub War night, and we were friends with Dave [Q] and Alex [a.k.a Incyde], who were some of the heads of that night. I would see Dave on the subway a lot because we live close to each other—like a block away—and I was like, “You know we’re making some dance music now. I’ll send you some.” So I sent it over to him, and he sent it to Alex. We had no idea but Alex was actually doing A&R for Hotflush, and Alex hits us up and he’s like, “I think Paul [Rose, aka Scuba] would really like this. Do you mind if I send it over?” And I was like, “No, no. This is like a joke, this is not finished. We’ll finish it and then you can send it.” But Dave didn’t ask and ended up just sending it anyway. And the next we knew Paul was hittin’ us up on AIM so…
Who do you see as your peers in terms of doing similar stuff in New York?
Stewart: There’s not very many, but people that I can think of offhand are Drew (FaltyDL), Mike Slott—
He’s from Ireland.
Stewart: Right, that doesn’t really count. Brenmar is from Brooklyn, right? Kingdom was in Brooklyn, but I think he now lives in L.A. He was kind of on that same tip. Maybe Matt Shadetek.
Sharma: Yeah, Matt’s been a friend of ours for ages. He was actually the first guest on Percussion Lab maybe six years ago. I think as part of a family or a group of people, there’s sort of an umbrella around these people that I try to bring together under Percussion Lab radio to get together and meet. There’s so many good producers in NYC that just don’t even know each other. You have Mux Mool, Shigeto of the Ghostly crew and then you have Ezekiel Honig of the Anticipate/Microcosm crew. All these different people.
So you took your name from one of Sougwen’s art pieces. Is this a relationship that you want to continue for the life of the project?
Stewart: At first we weren’t thinking really anything but—
Sharma: Then she started making live drawings for the tracks and she did the EP artwork, and it just made so much sense to work in that way. It just happened to be that we got the name for one of the pieces that we really liked, and I guess it was natural that she started working more with us. So we’d definitely like to continue that.
Is Sepalcure going to be your main focus now?
Stewart: I’m not really sure what a main focus is at this point [laughs]. Especially, when you’re doing music full time—the way that can even work is sort of being involved in so many projects. It’s sort of like a couple of months are our main focus for one thing, and then in a couple of months focus shifts for another project. That’s how it works for me.
Sharma: Yeah, that’s how it works for me. I actually think it works out. All the different projects that we’re both working on our own time—we come back together on Sepalcure and we’re like, “Oh shit, I’ve learned some of this and I was doing some of that.” It really works out.
Sepalcure – Fleur:
Sepalcure plays alongside Kode9, Appleblim, Lone and more as part of Unsound Festival on April 8 at Public Assembly, Brooklyn.