Electronic Duo On The Eve of First Full-Band NYC Show & Debut Album Release
LA-based duo MAKO will head to New York’s Mercury Lounge December 6 for a first-ever live show with a full band, just days before the release of their debut album “Hourglass” hits the streets (12/9).
The electronic outfit comprised of singer-songwriter and Juilliard-trained Alex Seaver and electronic visionary producer/songwriter Logan Light broke in with the song “Beam” in 2013 but it wasn’t until 2015’s summer smash “Smoke Filled Room” that the guys of MAKO really started to make a name for themselves. The guys of MAKO have worked with various artists like Steve Angello, Sander van Doorn, Madison Beer, touring alongside major players and booking top festivals around the U.S., and the duo is poised for pop domination, with an album of mostly electronic songs that cross over into folk, alternative rock and soul.
Alex Seaver spoke with New York City Monthly on the eve of their first set with a band about their risky departure from the norm in electronic music, why they named their beautiful ballad “North Dakota” and the reason New York is the place they chose to launch their new sound.
So MAKO, you must have been going for a predator-like name in the vein of a shark or the newest trendy neighborhood in Manhattan. Close?
It’s actually a video game element from the Final Fantasy games. It was for Logan’s love for the game, but it also means “magical light” and it goes well with his last name.
You attended Juilliard, it sounds like you are classically trained, is this correct?
My college experience kind of informed everything. I actually went there as a french horn player. The experience was incredible, that school is a bizarre kind of place, a really magical place. I always had a real love for movie music. My dream was to write and perform film scores. I always wrote these big orchestra scores, orchestra-sounding film music, invited my friends over to listen and bought them pizza and I used those pieces to get myself out to Los Angeles after college. I met Logan out there after a month of living there and he pulled the veil on electronic music which I didn’t know anything about.
You are a songwriter and singer and Logan is a songwriter and producer. Your fathers were college roommates at Syracuse and you paired up once you moved to LA. How did you figure out that your talents would work to form MAKO?
They went to Syracuse 300 years ago. I never met Logan. I lived at 125th and Broadway while he was at Columbia and we didn’t meet until we were both out of college. Logan’s dad works in the music industry and I had dinner with him and he brought his son. Logan knew some places in LA, but I was so ignorant about electronic music and he emailed me a week after and invited me to Electric Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas with him. Within moments of getting there we walked up to this titan of a stage with Tiesto playing. He saw Daft Punk at Coachella in 2007. He had introduced the whole city of Ann Arbor to electronic music, he had the jump on Zedd and Avicii and Calvin Harris, promoting and getting them to play shows right when it [electronic music] was getting big. He always said you can’t get to that next level unless you produce music. That’s where our partnership made the most sense is he taught me how to DJ but he did everything during the live show but he’d leave me alone in the studio to make music. I do all of the music, and he is like a business guy and helps with all of our live shows.
Your debut album is called “Hourglass” set for release December 9, just a few days after your December 6 show at Mercury Lounge. It’s your first-ever live show with a band. What does it feel like leading up to this moment?
It feels really scary in all the right ways. The best way to describe it is when you’re trying to do a creative thing, you never want to be too comfortable or too cozy cause then you’re not reaching for those weirder, creative spots. We started to get a little fatigued with the dance music in general and started to see our songs being shaped in a different way. We took a step back and said this isn’t a DJ set, this really needs a band, a guitarist, a live drummer and lets put this together in small rooms and I’m terrified of the the entire endeavor but I’d much rather take a risk like this than not at all. We are preparing our ass off for this and it’s a lot of brand new things at once.
The opening track “Let Go Of The Wheel” is a metaphor for being free, living spontaneously. What’s something you and Logan did that was in a sense letting go of the wheel?
I think the album for us is the best metaphor. I don’t know how apparent it is from the outside looking in, but electronic music is really restricting with the music and the industry. What we wanted to try with “Hourglass” is let’s ignore that we make dance music and make whatever it is we want to make. There is a fearless quality to the artists we love. That moment letting go of any wheel is forget about it and just do whatever feels right. It was the first song we made that wasn’t a dance song that we said we can do this, and the album started with this one. I feel great about getting a song like that out there.
You have played major festivals like Coachella, Lollapalooza, EDC Vegas, TomorrowWorld, Electric Forest and Electric Zoo. What’s different about your sets from these fests vs. what you are planning to do with a live band?
Having the opportunity to play festivals like those is one of those unforgettable experiences, the spectacle of 20,000 people, it’s amazing. It goes by in an instant. Bizarrely, we are turning our back to that for these shows. We are pretending we have never played shows that big, to 250-capped rooms, almost trying to hit the restart button with good fans that want to come hear us and rebuilding there. We are not selling out stadiums on our own, it’s just one of those things, you gotta cherish it when it comes. But we want to build something sincere and complement it.
Your voice is really pleasant, there’s something cinematic about it. On a song like “North Dakota,” what is this ballad even about?
I never thought of myself as a singer. But if that’s one way we can set ourselves apart and you hear my voice and you know it’s a MAKO song that’s a good direction for us. I love when I listen to songwriters that I like, I like the songwriting presence in a lot of folk writers, and imaginative pop guys. It’s about real life, living in Los Angeles being flipped up in everything, and the romance of something else, seeing the mountain in North Dakota in a magazine and weaving that real life thought into a song. I wrote it with another amazing songwriter named Romeo Testa.
So, then who are some of the folky and songwriter types you and Logan are inspired by?
Logan and I are obsessed with Radiohead, they are throwing so many dimensions into their music. I remember when we started the album, I was listening to a lot of James Bay, I was listening production wise to a lot of M83. Ed Sheeran, Ryan Tedder from OneRepublic, and bands like Coldplay, there’s a pop sensibility but there’s sweet honesty and personality in their writing. When that 21 Pilots album came out, there was something really freeing about you can sing about anything you want as long as you believe what you are saying. I have no idea what they are singing about and that opened a lot of doors for me.
Your hit “Smoke Filled Room” really captures the essence of nightlife and the thrill (good or bad) that comes with bumping into someone familiar. During your years studying in, partying in and visiting New York, what has the city meant to you as a nightlife capital of the world and is there a reason this is the first place for your full band show?
I know for me it’s like a really poignant and emotional place in my heart ’cause when I went there for college I had never been there, it was my first time other than my audition. There’s a romance and a danger to it, I haven’t had that experience anywhere else. I think the big shifting-into-adulthood happened to me in New York City, all alone, it’s hard to describe it but it’s a potent place for me, bartending in Harlem, parties at school or going down to the Village. There’s no place like it, you’re up to 5 or 6 in the morning going on these benders, it’s the shit. “Smoke Filled Room” is where I get a lot of the imagery for it, this dark and forgiving place all at once.
What’s your go-to activity to do in New York while you are visiting, something where you can completely relax and not have to worry about work?
Yeah for me it’s kind of like seeing my old haunts a little bit. This is a bit nerdy, but we like to go to Carnegie Hall to catch a show. We like going to Dinosaur Bar-B-Que at 125 and Broadway, so any chance we have to drink and eat, there’s a special place in my heart. Logan has this whole bevy of spots down by NYU. We would go by McSorley’s and Continental, and that was kind of our scene, it was kind of a college-y thing but it’s fun to relive.
What’s your take on the term tropical house, would you say MAKO is part of this subgenre?
It’s one of those things that I don’t feel part of the tropical house scene, when you mention guys like Kygo, I hear it. It undoubtedly is influenced by some of those tropical flavors. “Into The Sunset” and “Smoke Filled Room.” There’s definitely some soul-fusion like “Run For Your Life,” future stuff like on “Paradise Lost,” alt-rock like “Let Go of The Wheel,” “North Dakota.” Like a Katy Perry record, it’s a very poppy or trap record. I try not to tie us down to any genre. I don’t think of ourselves as a one-genre artist. The best I can do is make music and kind of be inspired. It definitely doesn’t offend me when people start to call us something, if people start calling it a certain thing it’s just titles. So many people are fusing styles, which wasn’t that common before electronica came into play.
If you could MAKO wish for the New Year, for 2017, what would it be?
I would love to meet more of our fans, we have spent so much of the past year shut away, I would like to get out there and give back a bit and hang out with them and actually get in touch with people personally.