[INTERVIEW] Seven Lions Opens Up, Talks Inspiration And The “Deeper” Set

April 18th, 2015


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Jeff Montalvo, better known by his stage name Seven Lions, is one of the most down-to-earth acts I’ve ever met. How do I know this? I was lucky enough to sit down with him and pick his brain. I found out some interesting information about Jeff’s philosophy on music composition, as well as his personal musical influences and opinions of electronic music.



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Hey Jeff, how are you today?

Uh, not bad. Kind of under the weather, but not bad.

Oh no! Like a cold? Or something serious?

Yeah, it’s just a cold, nothing at all. Basically had a long weekend in Miami and had a photo shoot – well not a photo shoot, a video shoot – right after, and everybody at the shoot was sick, so I got sick.

Ah, that’s horrible news. Was Miami at least worth it?

Yeah, Miami was chill; playing with Above & Beyond was rad for sure, it’s always good playing with those guys.

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Interesting that you mention them – one of the first remixes that really thrust you into the spotlight was of their song “You’ve Got To Go.” It’s pretty clear that they’ve had an influence on your development as a person. Since then, you’ve remixed more of their tracks, you’ve dropped their songs in your sets like Satellite and On My Way To Heaven, and now you’re up to playing their AnjunaBeats party in Miami. So how does it feel to play alongside an artist that you’ve looked up to like this?

Oh, it’s awesome man. It’s one of the best parts about it for sure. Especially those guys, because they’ve always been very supportive of everything, and they’re actually just really chill people, so it’s awesome working with them, for sure.


Are there any other artists you’ve worked with that have been super influential to you as an artist, or that you’d really want to work with?

Tritonal, Myon & Shane 54, and Xilent have been the most [influential], as far as people who I’ve worked with recently, and stuff like that.


You just recently worked with Xilent, right? He’s one of my favorite artists, when I first saw that I freaked out a little bit.

Yeah. I mean, we’ve been talking for a while though, like we’ve been talking about that collab for like, forever, so we actually worked on that for quite a long time.



So, you’re coming to the Northeast AGAIN, and up here, people go nuts for you. I’m not sure if it’s your music, or your demeanor about music, or your background that makes your fans up here so loyal, but what do you think it is that makes your fans up here treat you like you’re one of the Beatles?

[laughs] I have no idea man, I couldn’t even guess. Hopefully because they like my music.

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You’ve already played a bunch of the venues up here, are there any that you haven’t played that you’ve heard about and want to hit?

Um, not really because I don’t know the venues; I don’t know them until I play them and then I’m like “Okay, that one’s cool.”


One of your next sets that’s coming up is your “Deeper” set at Prime in Boston. What can we expect out of you for a set like this?

Um, probably just a lot of music that I really like to listen to and dance to, and stuff that got me into electronic music. So, much more mellow, much more dance-y, no like, big room, no big drops, probably not even any dubstep or anything unless its like some more of the old school dubstep stuff. I mean like, I like a lot of David West, a lot of Inkfish, some of that older, progressive stuff. Not any of that big room, deep house stuff.


So we won’t be hearing any of the currently popular future or garage house?

I might play that, but not like the big drop stuff, you know what I mean?


Gotcha. It’s interesting though; your music traditionally has mixes of psytrance, dub, progressive, trance, all these different genres. It’s almost like you’re making a statement in unpredictability. So what influences your sound? is there anything that you can point to as a main source for the evolution of your sound?

I’d say it’s whatever I’m listening to at the moment. Whatever piques my interest, I go in that direction. It’s basically how I’m feeling that day, and I don’t have a whole lot of structure to it.


Kind of like a “flavor of the week” thing? Whatever track is rubbing you the right way at the time and it shows in your music?

Yeah, I get inspired by a song, it’s melodies, so I’ll sit down and write a song and go that way. It’s not like a process for me, it’s very organic.

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Gotcha. So let’s talk about Worlds Apart. It only had 5 tracks, but each one was great. With that album, you said that your focus was “more about songwriting than dance floor aggression.” What shifted your focus to songwriting and straying away from what everyone else is doing?

Because it’s like those songs get glossed over really quickly. Dance floor songs come and go, like, there’s no story behind it, so generally people who make really crazy dance floor music are constantly having to release stuff to stay relevant. People don’t really listen to those songs for a long time.


“I just wanted to make music that people will really connect to, that people can continually listen to and have that same connection that they first had, instead of “oh yeah, that was a really cool drop bro”.” 



Do you think that philosophy has carried over into The Throes of Winter?

Yeah, I think it’s gonna be like that from here on out. Like, the next EP I’m doing now has some more experimental like, dance floor songs; generally it’s gonna be all about song writing. Because I think that, even if I do write the songs that are nice to listen to, it can have so many remixes to it. It can become a big dance floor song if I want it to, you know? It has more value to me to write something that is listenable and people have to listen to for deeper meaning than just “heaviness”.

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Have you ever thought about doing a club mix to one of your own songs? Perfect example, Above & Beyond will make a really melodic, musical song for the album that it entirely about the songwriting, and then create a club mix of the same song. Do you think that’s something you would consider doing?

Yeah, it might be cool to do that, but usually I spend so much time on my songs that when I’m done with it, I never want to touch it again. I’m on it for at least two months. And with Above & Beyond, there are three people who can kind of rework their own songs in a million different ways, and I just don’t think I have the patience for that [laughs].


What helps keep your creative juices flowing? Do you ever get hit with the “writers block” that some musicians run into?

Um…not really? I guess sometimes I feel like I need to take a break, which I’ll do that, but it’s not really a “writers block” kind of thing, it’s more just sometimes I need to just chill for a bit and listen to it with fresh ears which I guess all writers and musicians do. But no, I don’t think so. I guess just trying new things is what keeps it interesting. Like, if I just did what “the fans wanted” and just [made] melodic dubstep until my ears were bleeding, I would probably have a really, really short-lived career. I would be over it.

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Well, I think a lot of your fans appreciate the fact that you put so much time into your tracks instead of just making music that is going to sell well. Your music comes from your own heart, and I think that’s probably a big part of why your fans appreciate your music as much as they do.

Oh, I hope so, and I hope most people have an open mind to kind of, whatever, you know? Because sometimes i get kind of caught up in the fact that with the internet there’s like, the minority has a very loud mouth about their opinions. I hope there are more people who are just down for whatever, which is really cool.


It also helps that the stuff that you are making is incredibly catchy and sells well anyway. Alright let’s transition into some more off the wall stuff. I don’t want to call your hair “luscious,” but it’s pretty luscious. Is there a daily routine or anything special that you do to keep it so delightful and “flowing”?

[laughs] I guess I wash my hair like, every three or four days and that’s about it, that’s the only thing that I do. And then I like, brush it with a brush.

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Au naturale, I have to remember that. So. Let’s pretend like your career had never taken off and you weren’t making music at this level for a living. What do you think you’d be doing right now?

I’d definitely still be making music as a hobby, but I guess I’d like to be working for video games. Making sound design or scoring, like that would be the ideal dream job, but realistically I’d probably be working for my old audio-visual job, going to Burning Man, [and] being a hippie.


Ah, see you’ve talked about Burning Man being your favorite place to play before. Are there plans to return?

Oh, definitely plans to return, but I don’t think I’m gonna do like, a “show”. I think I would go just to have fun. I mean like, I would bring my stuff, and just maybe play some random places and do that, but I don’t think I’m gonna go and announce an “I’m playing Burning Man” kind of thing.


So what you’re telling me is that there’s a potential plan for you to go to the burn, and I might just stumble across some random area and find Seven Lions putting on a tiny, private little show?

Mmhmm. Yeah, but that happens a lot. I think you’d be surprised – all the time you walk around and see crazy DJs playing and you’re just like “woah, that’s nuts”. I mean, it’s less so than somewhere like Miami, but that’s Miami, so.


Burning Man is definitely one of my bucket list festivals, but that’s a commitment, man, I’m not sure if my body could take that kind of marathon. So this year I only have Forest and Mysteryland – which BY THE WAY, I am super salty about your choice to play EDC instead, but I respect it.

[laughs] I’m sorry! I mean like, I kind of have a soft spot for Insomniac, those were the first raves I went to when I was younger. I don’t know, I really like everything that they do and I’m always down to play for them. That’s why I always do.

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That’s understandable, I think’ I’m just acting like a whiny brat about it. But I swear, if I’m at Mysteryland and hear from friends that you played a deep set, I’ll lose my shit.

Well, I’m interested to see how the this Deep Set goes, like, if people understand that it won’t be my typical live show, and there probably won’t be head banging or more dance-y and stuff, but we’ll see. It should be interesting.


Would you consider it more like, a Kaskade Redux kind of show? Where people expect a certain thing from you and then you have this other musical side that you can play?

I don’t know, it’s more just for fun. It’s like the kind of stuff I would play for my friends like, “we’re gonna have a barbecue in our backyard on Saturday and I’ll probably be playing all the same tunes”. It’s just stuff that I really like to listen to, to dance to. I’ve done it in Santa Barbera a few times, and some people came up just to check it out and he was like “dude, you should like, do this other places”. So this won’t be my first time doing it outside of my hometown.


Well I hope it’s not the last, I love it when artists step outside what people expect from them and play something unique. Well thanks for talking with my today, I’ll see you in Boston man, feel better!

Thanks man, I’ll see you there!


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Seven Lions will be playing his Deeper set at Prime this Saturday, April 18th. As you can tell, he’s excited to finally bring the deeper set across the country for the first time. Being as this is a special experience, expect an intimate experience that may never come around again. Pick up your tickets below, and make sure you’re at Prime to bear witness to this once-in-a-lifetime show.



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Matt Reynolds is a music enthusiast on a mission to share his musical knowledge with the masses. Born and raised on the hard streets of suburban North Jersey, Matt was diagnosed with an irreversible addiction to electronic music in 2009. Since then, he’s pledged to discover and share his experiences with clubs, festivals, and the world of electronic music. Situated minutes from NYC, Matt has traveled from Massachusetts to Miami and everywhere between chasing music and making memories. When he isn’t writing for MASS EDMC, he’s either reading, writing fiction, or (most likely) booty-shaking on the dance floor.

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