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AK the Savior and Sagun on Bridging the Gap

Throughout time, humans have used dissent to bring ourselves closer despite our differences. By understanding and finding out we have more in common than we think, a beautiful thing called culture arises. Culture is the nexus of certain communities that are striving for something bigger than themselves. It isn't something that should be tainted by a selfish need for preservation, but something to be shared with the world. Because of that, for better or for worse, society has evolved thanks to culture.


AKTHESAVIOR and Sagun photographed by Rosie Matheson


Arts, fashion, and politics deviate from the classification of race and finances because there's an intrinsic yearning for unity. In that regard, it's quite superficial to use one's culture as a guideline for one's personality. That's how arguments about co-opting and a lack of respect for purity are in our day-to-day feeds. This observation becomes more accurate in modern times, where everyone wants to make a statement but isn't saying anything at all. Presently, we can communicate with whoever and whenever, however, we still feel alone.

Despite that, AK the Savior, a New York-born and now Los Angeles-based rapper and Nepal-based lo-fi producer Sagun, pulls you a seat at their table in their recent album titled "U R Not Alone." On this album, the duo navigates through musical genres while rapping about topics involving cultural politics and discovering where you belong, no matter where you're from. Comparable to the opposite ends they came from to create this album, the two also have a mutual understanding and respect for one another that is non-sequitur to music. They are building a model of self-confidence and staying true to what they believe in because culturally, that's what people want to be a part of.


AKTHESAVIOR and Sagun photographed by Jordan Smith

1. Do you think someone’s appearance is as important as their actual skill set when it comes to music?

Sagun: Personally, it does not matter, but like you said, it does play a big factor these days. But at the same time, if the music is good, no matter how good you look or dress, people will love you no matter what.

Ak: I agree with Sagun too. I think it's important, but not as important as it once was. It was way more important back in the day to look the part and to be a superstar. But nowadays some people are just super talented; uploading their videos or music where it speaks for itself in a sense.

2. One is from Nepal and one is from New York. How'd you guys meet and how'd this project come about?

AK: Sa, you want to tell him?

Sagun: Yeah, so I always wanted to make this kind of rap album, and I was talking to my manager about it to search for a rapper who could collaborate with me. My manager came up with the idea of having AK on this album and told me to send him beats and just see what happens. I just sent him beats one by one and it started from there through email.

AK: I just finished dropping an album called "Almost Home" and I was still in the zone creating music. I'm hands-on with my shit. After that, COVID hit and nothing was popping, but I love music, so I continued pursuing it through it. I dropped an album even though there weren't going to be any tours and I checked my email to see who's hitting me up. I kept networking, and Sagun's manager hit me up with this proposal about a lo-fi producer that would be a good match for me. He then sent me beat after beat and once I got the beats, I heard them and then instantly wrote the beats. It was an instant connection through Zoom calls and getting to know each other. Sagun then came to America for the first time; we met in person and that's when we started working on shit.

3. Do you think the most radical thing nowadays is just to be normal?

AK: Yeah. I agree with that. In today's world, music matters, but it's more about content. It's king right now. People are focused on ways to go viral. Within the fashion world, to go viral is to have shock value, so people might buy certain things that they may not necessarily like the Mario boots. They'll just wear that shit to go viral, but not like it.

Sagun: I agree. Some people just do anything and everything to go viral. I'm not mad at that though.

AK: Yeah, fuck it.

4. Talking about anime has been sort of taboo for minorities to talk about in recent years. Do you like that this conversation is more on the forefront or does it feel like just another opportunity to exploit another subculture?

AK: I think anime is for the world. Just because someone doesn't bring anime into the forefront of a conversation doesn't mean they're not about anime. I think what people are worried about now is that anime is getting super popular. It's becoming larger and larger and when things get big, more people just jump on the trend to be cool. Anime people are real gatekeepers and if someone's repping something that they know wasn't in it in the first place. Then it becomes "Nigga, you never liked that kind of shit before...". I think you just couldn't tell someone was into anime based on their music and image. You don't have to promote something to like it.

Sagun: Everyone around used to watch it, so I could never think or see people say they don't like anime.

AK: For instance, I always said I loved anime and made references in my music, but I feel like if those same people saw me out in New York with my homies looking like goons; they would think there's no way this guy watches anime. I got many anime tattoos and they're part of my life because they changed my life, so you can't judge someone based on how they look.

5. I know of the recent loss of the creator of Dragon Ball Z, Akira Toriyama. How did you feel about the sudden loss and how did his work influence you as an artist?

Ak: That shit fucked me up. Dragon Ball Z changed my entire life. As I grew up on it, I realized there were a lot of subliminal messages within the show. Some people may just see it as a cartoon, but Ki is a real thing. It's not just energy blasts and shit. Ki is the real energy we all have. Akira took that concept and made it playful, but we all have energy within us.

Sagun: I feel the same when I watch the Vineland Saga. It teaches you how to control yourself, your people, and the environment around you. You guys should check it out. I love that one.

AK: In the anime, there are so many gems that are dropping that apply to real-life men. People sleep on it! I encourage anyone reading this to watch anime because it'll change your life. And if you don't like fighting or energy balls and shit, watch Death Note (laughs). That's a great warm-up.


AKTHESAVIOR and Sagun photographed by Brayton Bowers


AKTHESAVIOR and Sagun photographed by Rosie Matheson


6. I know fashion and music go hand in hand, but it can sometimes be an obviously desperate opportunity for an artist to capitalize on it as a "business venture". What other ventures do you think we need more of from our current and future artists?

AK: For me, I'm one of those artists who are already venturing into different things. I'm into fashion, so that's not farfetched as something I could get into. I have friends in the fashion world too and I see how hard that shit is. It's some shit that's easy to tap into unless you're the type of artist who'll drop anything and people are going to follow it. I don't think I would get into it like that, but I don't want to cap myself either.

IR: You're also an actual artist.

AK: Yeah, so a couple of business ventures that I do include a jewelry company called "Florescent Treasures" and I even wrote my own manga called Nakaomiru, which means look inside. I also do paintings now and then because I'm the type of person who, whatever resonates with me at the moment; I'm going to tap into.

Sagun: I'm getting more into videography and photographing. I like how videos are done and if I'm not into that, I would get into coding. I love coding.

7. How much does your art correlate to your music, and vice versa?

AK: After I linked up with Sagun after recording "You Are Not Alone" almost 2 and a half years ago. I started painting a lot during our time recording it. I wanted to make new shit and thought, "How do I make this shit correlate to my music?" because niggas is not going to just accept a painting, so I had to make it make sense. All the cover art and single art was me painting. I had a project called "Tracing Patterns" where I wanted to connect my paintings with my music. I wanted to make something for what it is and I hope people don't get too judgmental about it.




8. Given your start in the rap group Underachievers and being part of this psychedelic rap that rappers such as the Flatbush Zombies, Asap Rocky, Danny Brown, and yourselves brought to the generation. Do you think drugs were the bigger inspiration or what role did psychedelic drugs play in this exploration for you?

AK: I think psychedelics played a huge role like you said, and people were connected to us through psychedelics. But I feel like I was speaking on more experiences I had when I was younger. The Underachievers were taking psychedelics when we were younger when we created "Indigoism" and things like that, but people got the misconception that we were tripping every single day. We weren't tripping every single day. Four times a year I would trip, but I can only speak for myself. Now I only take psychedelics once or twice a year when I need that spiritual push or boost of inspiration. Psychedelics is something you shouldn't abuse because if you do, that's how you lose yourself.

IR: I mean, that's how people become Deadheads into their 70's.

AK: Yeah(laughs). There's nothing wrong with being a fan and taking psychedelics. But if you let that shit just take over your life, you remove the balance and become lost. I love psychedelics because they changed my life, but you don't need them. I think I never needed it. It's here on earth for us to use and work together, but you don't need that for the spiritual growth that I've gotten. You just need to work to be the best version of yourself by reading books and enhancing your knowledge to bring enlightenment to your life. Drugs don't enlighten your life. That doesn't work and it doesn't fix your problems. It's just you and the journey you choose to go on.


AKTHESAVIOR and Sagun photographed by Brayten Bowers


AKTHESAVIOR and Sagun photographed by Rosie Matheson


9. You come from a multicultural background, which is one of the themes of your upcoming project. You are not alone. Growing up, did you feel out of place as someone who's multicultural and what helped you feel more included?

Sagun: I would never be who I am if I didn't grow up in my environment, so no. I never felt that I was in the wrong place or at the wrong time. That's totally who I am and I've always accepted it.

AK: I feel you 100 percent. I'm thankful to be from the Caribbean Islands and get the influences from the music to the food. It makes us who we are. When I was a kid, I went to school in Harlem from elementary to junior high school, bro. At that time, growing up, Spanish and black people were being. Oh, my god. As a kid, I was like, Why, and kids would try to fight me? It was just so weird because even other black people were fucking with me because they thought I was Spanish.

IR: Given how you look, I was going to say that! Was it a Dominican trying to fight you even though you guys are the same color? (laughs)

AK: BROOOOOO!!! I always questioned it. Why, why, why? Then I went to school from Manhattan to Brooklyn as I got older with more black people and Caribbean culture. In Harlem, niggas used to make fun of me and shit. Saying, "You got big ass lips, bro!". They said mad funny shit that made me feel like I'm not shit. But when I got to Brooklyn, I was the most popular dude in the school. I was just confused during that time, but all that shit happened for a reason and I'm grateful for it.



10. How do you think racial and cultural issues will change in the future as society continues to blend?

AK: I have high hopes for the future. The issue we have today is that the people who created these ways of thinking and ways of life through racism, etc. are still in power. If they're not directly connected to it, their sons and daughters are now in power. As we grow older and new generations come, there's going to be an understanding that we're all together as a human race. This skin color sh*t is stupid now.

Sagun: Totally.

AK: They've even shown now on certain websites what the future people are going to look like if we blend.

IR: Yeah, everyone's going to look like The Rock.

AK and Sagun: (laughs).

AK: I don't want everyone to look the same. That's boring, but if we all look the same, how are you going to judge me? Like on this album, "You Are Not Alone" ,we want you to feel like we're different from you. We are all humans with similar and different experiences, but the bottom line is that this is life. These are things that we go through and we're just sharing life as you are too.


AKTHESAVIOR and Sagun photographed by Rosie Matheson

11. What would you say to someone dealing with these types of issues when trying to find their voice?

AK: Follow your heart and whatever resonates with you. Do what matters and if you feel a certain way, express yourself. Don't bottle it up. When someone says no one understands me, it's like, of course, no one understands you because you didn't express yourself. If no one is truly listening; go out and find the person who's going to listen. You are not alone.

Sagun: If you think you're going to fail, keep trying.



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Elderbrook Talks Fatherhood and Going Deep on New EP Innerlight

Alexander Kotz, also known under his DJ/producer name Elderbrook, has quite a lot going on right now. He became a father in December of 2020 shortly after releasing his debut album Why Do We Shake In The Cold?, has just released his new EP, Innerlight, and finishing up his North America tour before going on to perform across more than 13 countries across Europe. We were lucky enough to sit down with him before his concert at The Novo Theatre in Los Angeles.

First of all, congratulations on having your first child!

Yeah, at the end of last year I had a little baby girl! I just dropped them off at the airport. They were with me for the first half of the tour.

I also wanted to congratulate you on releasing your new EP, Innerlight! What was the inspiration behind the EP? Has becoming a father influenced your art in any way?

It's hard to say because I had a child during COVID-19 so it's difficult to know what was different about my life because of having a kid and what was different because the whole world was shut down.

As for Innerlight, I think having a little baby girl definitely influenced the lyrics. For example, when I was writing my song “Domino”, I kind of saw it as a way for me to talk to her about these ideas of ‘just take a step back, don't worry about it, everything’s gonna be okay.’ Almost like I was teaching her a life lesson. But at the same time, it’s something that I often have to remind myself about. Having a little baby girl really made me want to talk about that and just gave me a lot of new perspectives and different kinds of things to write about because I'm not just writing about myself anymore. I want to write about my daughter.

Innerlight has some amazing features on it, including Louis The Child, Bob Moses and Emmitt Fenn. How did those come to be?

Well, because everyone was locked down I wasn't doing sessions with anyone so everything was being done online. So because it was online, you know, might as well work with people from America or people from… (laughs) I guess yeah, it was all American people! It just meant that everyone was more up for doing stuff online more so than before. But I mean, Zoom sessions aren't the most vibey so I really missed being in the room but you know, we're back!

What I really love about Innerlight is how you pair these highly emotive and moody melodies and deep lyricism with rhythms that would be impossible to listen to sitting still.  What do you feel is the best way to listen to the album to the EP?

Me personally, I like to listen to music while I'm driving alone. It gives you a chance to bop around a bit and, you know, maybe no one's watching and you can just do whatever you want and it gives you a chance to properly listen as well.

"Just take a step back, don't worry about it, everything’s gonna be okay."

Elderbrook at The Novo in Los Angeles

Why Do We Shake in the Cold was one of my favorite albums to come out last year. It certainly had a more indie feel to it and thematically was rooted in human connection, whereas Innerlight is more electronic/dance and about the self. Was that juxtaposition intentional?

I guess it wasn't intentional, but because obviously, I was by myself (in lockdown) it made me want to explore that and explore what that means for me and what that does to me. And yeah, I guess that's what Innerlight ended up being. “Broken Mirror,” for example, was an extremely personal song to write because I’ve not found it easy to be that honest with my lyrics before. I've been honest but I really felt like I delved quite deep with that one.

"I'm not just writing about myself anymore. I want to write about my daughter."

Haley Killam Photography

What has it been like performing such a personal song to a live audience?

I really, really loved it. And I think every single time I play it live it really just takes me back to where I was when I was writing it and I kind of get that lump in my throat. But then, you know, there's that big release on the drop and it’s been going down really well. And everyone's been really kind to me (laughs).

It really is a great track. And I kind of love how it's the only track on the EP that is just you without a feature. What made you feel like you were at a point in your life where you were ready to write that song?

I actually wrote it with a writer called Cass Lowe. He was one that really forced me to kind of dig deep and write something personal. And personal to me, again, is not something that… I don't love talking about that (laughs). It’s very British of me! But yeah, he kind of pulled it out on me.

I absolutely love your live shows. You’re known for having amazing live performances. As a singer and a DJ, that’s a lot to be juggling on stage. What’s the most challenging part of performing, and what is your favorite part about being back in front of an audience?

I've gone through phases of different things being harder than others,. For example, singing is the thing that comes most naturally to me so I've been okay with that. But at the very beginning, I was very still on stage. I didn't want to do anything, I just wanted to focus on singing. Then eventually I got more comfortable and started doing weird and crazy dance moves.

I think I speak for everyone that’s seen you live that we love the dance moves.

Thank you! And also at the beginning, I found it hard to figure out what exactly I was going to do live because I did all the production myself and there are like 100 different things that I'm doing one by one when I'm layering in the studio. Figuring out how to do that live was difficult but hopefully, it’s all kind of coming together!

Haley Killam Photography

Interview by Haley Killam

You can listen to "Innerlight" here -

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Interview with HONNE: ‘No Song Without You’, Baba Ganoush and Escapism Through Their New Sound

It's 2020. You don't remember what the sun looks like. You don't know what day it is. You probably need a hug.

Insert HONNE's new mixtape, 'No Song Without You'. Although the critically-acclaimed electro-soul duo has collaborated with the likes of Ty Dolla $ign, SG Lewis, and Whethan, this latest release sees them strip it back with acoustic guitars and a soft psychedelic sound. The result is a deeply intimate yet effortlessly carefree collection of 14 songs that offer a much-needed dose of blissful nostalgia and soulful optimism.


By Haley Killam

NSWY is the latest release by Honne

How has it been releasing a record during quarantine?

Andy: It’s been interesting. We’re just trying to navigate our lives through everything that’s going on. We take it one day at a time. It’s probably made us think more creatively in many ways to get our music out there because we can’t tour obviously.

James: It feels like more than ever we’ve been interacting with our fan base online. Really different from the previous albums in that. On the previous albums, we spoke online to promote and then went and did gigs to interact. There’s been a real focus on interacting with people properly rather than asking them to listen to stuff. It’s been really fun because of that.


Your past collaborations and remixes range from artists like BTS and Whethan to Tom Misch and Temper Trap. No Song Without You has a more acoustic and intimate sound than your past records. What inspired you to strip it back on the NSWY mixtape?

Andy: Our first album, Warm On a Cold Night was a bit more chilled out and then when we wrote Love Me|Love Me Not we wanted to pick it all up and make the drums more, not in your face, but more upbeat and I think I, not missed the previous sound, but there was somewhere in the middle that we hadn’t yet explored. I think its mixture of that but we always want to try a more Beatles-y style of music because we grew up from what our parents listened to like The Beatles and Led Zeppelin.

James: Yeah, we’re both guitarists to start with, that’s our main instrument even though Honne is very synth-led. 

Andy: Yeah so that’s never really come up before and we wanted to show that. Then with everything going on, the fact that we had to finish the mixtape separately under quarantine affected the music and how it came out. Maybe that’s why it’s slightly more chilled out than the last record.


Your last album, “Love Me/Love Me Not”, had a heavy hip hop influence and saw you working with producers like Nana Rogues (Drake, Passionfruit). What were your influences on “No Song Without You?

James: It’s partly a change in the kind of music we were listening to. We were listening to a lot of Whitney, Clairo, Beabadoobee… stuff that has more raw elements to it. Did I answer that?

Andy: Yeah, nothing to add.


How did you come to work with Pomo (Anderson Paak, Mac Miller)?

Andy: We’ve always been aware of Pomo and knew he was a great producer and wanted to work with him just off the back of what he’s done previously. We met him for the first time in Indonesia while we were playing the same festival there so we had a chat but nothing really came of that. Then by coincidence, we were in LA in January and had a session with Dame Funk and he popped out to go somewhere, maybe the toilet, I don’t know, and he came back into our studio and said, “Oh Pomo is out there!” And we were like “Ohh, is he really?” So by complete coincidence, we ran into him and on that day we had a chat with him and asked if he wanted to get in a room and write some music and he said yes! And we’re so glad it came up. We wrote “No Song Without You” with him and it’s probably one of my favorite sessions we’ve ever had.

James: Yeah, definitely.

Andy: It was so natural and everything just came really easy.

James: He’s very funny as well!



You’ve described your 1st album “Warm On A Cold Night” as "daytime” and 2nd album “Love Me|Love Me Not” as “nighttime”. How do you want fans to ingest this album?

James: Ha, in lockdown! 

Andy: Yeah, lockdown really.

James: Rather than day or night, it’s kind of come at the right time for people who need a bit of comfort and some escapism and time to take their mind out to stop them from thinking about what’s going on. It’s been an intense few months for everyone I think. A lot of people have said they’ve listened to a lot of the music before going to bed and it helps them calm down so that’s nice to hear. Particularly a song called “Smile More Smile More Smile More”, it’s kind of like a mantra of good advice that we’ve written for ourselves to… I don’t know what I’m saying anymore… advice for ourselves to live a good life?

Andy: Yeah.


This concept of duality permeates through not only your music but your identity has a band. What does this mean to you guys and how does it influence your music? Where does NSWY fit into that?

Andy: It all stemmed from “Honne” which comes from a Japanese word that means “true feelings” and when we started releasing music we did it through Tatemae Recordings which was the other half of that Japanese word which means what you show out to, yeah, to Honne… I’m not explaining this well at all…

James: You’ll get there, come on.

Andy: “Honne” is what you keep on the inside and Tatemae is what you actually give out to the world even though you might feel differently on the inside. So we’ve always had that aspect of 2 halves I guess. And then Love Me|Love Me Not was an album of 2 halves.

James: With No Song Without You, I think it’s more personal than ever before. Part of the reason we wanted it to be a mixtape, although it’s basically an album, let’s be real, is that it feels like a mixtape that when you’re young and have a crush on a girl, you’d made a little CD or cassette and put loads of songs that make you think about them on it and that’s what this felt like to us. The first track is called “Dear P” which is what Andy’s recent wife… wait no, that makes it sound like she’s dead… haha! But that song is dedicated to her.

Andy: I think the last mixtape I made actually was for her about 12 years ago so this is the next one.

How did you show her that song for the first time?

Andy: So “Dear P” was kind of a prelude to “No Song Without You” so I sent her that whilst we were out in LA a few days after we had written it. She responded very positively.

While we’re on the topic of romance… describe your perfect quarantine date.

James: Ohh… gin and tonic.

Andy: Nice!

James: With slices of grapefruit.

Andy: Oh! Interesting.

James: It’s good guys.

Andy: Oh, a little tip for gin and tonic! I normally use lemon. A lot of people use lime but no, I use lemon. Rub the lemon around the rim of the drink. 

James: Okay!

Wow, this is really fancy.

Andy: Then squeeze the lemon in as well. Anyway, sorry James.

James: And I think, cooking some food while we’re in lockdown. We’re making a flatbread with some hummus and what’s that stuff?

Andy: Baba Ganoush?

James: Baba Ganoush! We’ll have a salad with lime and cumin and that’s all you need. And falafel.

Andy: And we’ll be sitting at the dinner table, not in front of the TV, no phones allowed. Sorry, this sounds very strict!

Okay, wait so are you guys on this date together? Is that what’s happening?

Andy and James: Yes! 

James: The girlfriends are busy. Perfect night!


What’s your desert island record?

Andy: I’m going to say Bon Iver, the self-titled album.

James: Mine would probably be Emma, Forever Ago. Or just the longest Motown compilation album you could find. A 40-track Motown compilation.


Okay, this is my last obscure question. If you could describe the mixtape as a color, what color would it be?

Andy: Oh! On the cover, there’s quite a lot of… I was going to say pastel-y but…it’s not is it?

James: No, it isn’t… but it does feel a bit pastel-y doesn’t it? All pastel colors. Can we say that?


Once concerts resume, what song off the mixtape are you most excited to play live?

Andy: I just can’t wait to play NSWY and Free Love.

James: Free Love, yeah.


What can we expect from you next?

Andy: We’re actually back in the studio finishing up a few loose ends.

James: Some acoustic versions and that kind of stuff as well. We also have a few songs from when we are in LA that didn’t quite fit with NSWY so we’ve kind of already determined where we might go for the next vibe so that’s a nice position to be in. Usually, there's year-long experimenting and pain where you’re like, what’s this going to be? What does this sound like? But we’re lucky we’ve got a starting point.