&friends is the musical concept and brainchild of New York based Sean Thomas. Drawing the breadth of his inspiration for these musical works from the global cultures, Sean had a vision to create a project embodying tradition, culture and community culminating in the coining of &friends.
Most recently, they released their debut 2-track ‘Ominira’ EP via their own imprint Hidden Hands. The Amapiano Edit ‘Ode Ireti’ (o-le-le) was released on Moblack Records, and held #1 chart placement on Beatport’s Amapiano Charts for weeks following its release. Receiving massive radio and touring support from top names in the space, the infectious chorus “o-le-le” has become a staple in the sets of many titans of dance music. Since launch in mid 2022, &friends already boasts more than 3M Spotify streams and nearly 180,000 monthly listeners across their early catalogue. The project also made its Armada Music debut this year with the release of an official cover of Armin Van Buuren’s ‘This Is What it Feels Like’.
From New York, to Miami, Marrakech, Madrid, Mexico City – Tulum to Toronto and beyond, &friends is already making their mark on dance floors around the world. DMCWORLD checks in as new release ‘Duro’ spins out…
Sean, a huge Welcome to DMCWORLD! What led you to first begin your journey as an artist?
Thank you for inviting me to DMC! Well, I embarked on my artistic journey in 2007, initially diving into music production with a focus on producing hip-hop beats that complemented my passion for flowing and writing poetry. However, it was in 2008, after attending my first underground rave, that I underwent a transformative experience. The allure of dance music gripped me entirely – the sweeping melodies that resonated deeply within, coupled with the rhythmic percussion that set bodies into motion. That pivotal event ignited a profound love within me, compelling me to be an integral part of the extraordinary industry that is electronic music.
Did you have any figures who inspired you to become an artist? Any artists you find are similar to your sound?
I’ve always had a deep passion for hip-hop and soul music, which is what lead me to falling in love with Afrohouse. Everyone is always a bit shocked when I say this, but my biggest influences are in hip hop. Dre and Diddy are two guys I have admired since I was young. They are trailblazers who have shaped the landscape of hip-hop and beyond. When I first heard their music, I was captivated by their artistry and inspired by their unwavering commitment to excellence. These two extraordinary individuals have shattered glass ceilings and built skyscrapers of success while staying true to themselves and their unique vision. They have shown us that greatness knows no limits and that we can break down every barrier standing in our way with determination and authenticity. Their stories serve as a constant reminder that our dreams are within reach if we dare to believe in ourselves and push the boundaries of what is possible. Dr. Dre and Diddy are living proof that success comes to those who are willing to work tirelessly, defy expectations, and leave an indelible mark on the world through their passion and artistry. Another massive influence for me and all of us at &friends is the Nigerian Legend. Fela Kuti, the legendary pioneer of Afrobeat music, left an indelible mark on the world through his influential and infectious sound. His music served as a vehicle for social and political commentary, challenging the status quo and sparking conversations about injustice and corruption. Fela’s Afrobeat rhythms blended traditional African sounds with elements of funk, jazz, and soul, creating a genre that resonated globally and inspired countless musicians across generations. His fearless spirit and unwavering dedication to speaking truth to power continue to inspire and ignite movements for change around the world.
How would you describe the style of your music?
I really dislike labeling things as I like to think of our music as weaving worlds and cultures that takes a little sweet sauce from many different genres. Our music to me is like if afrohouse, afrobeats, soul, and house music had a baby. We put heavy emphasis on creating stories with powerful and moving lyrics backed by beautiful melodies and rhythmic percussion that ignites a feeling that you havent yet felt, but feels familiar at the same time.
What inspired you to create this release? Are there any collaborations within the release that you think should be mentioned?
Categorizing our music into a specific style always feels limiting, as I view it as an intricate tapestry that interlaces various worlds and cultures, drawing inspiration from a diverse range of genres. Our musical creation resembles a fusion, akin to the harmonious convergence of afrohouse, afrobeats, soul, and house music. Our foremost focus lies in crafting narratives through potent and emotive lyrics, complemented by beautiful melodies and vibrant percussive rhythms. This amalgamation evokes a novel sensation, simultaneously unfamiliar yet resonant, forging a unique musical experience.
Do you have a process you follow when it comes to creating/writing a track?
Our approach to creating and writing a track doesn’t adhere to a rigid formula. Inspiration can stem from various sources – it might be sparked by a vocal fragment from another track or triggered by an intriguing instrumental arrangement. Personally, I draw immense inspiration from classical compositions, as they often kindle a wealth of melodic ideas. Once a foundational melody takes shape, whether through vocals or instruments, the creative momentum begins to surge. Additionally, our collaborative efforts are enriched by the contributions of exceptional musicians skilled in live percussion and brass instruments. The magic of collaboration is truly unparalleled in our creative process!
Do you currently have any favourite tracks or artists that you’d like to mention?
There are a couple of beautiful records in my current rotation, and what’s intriguing is that they’re still unreleased. Let me start with Alex Wann’s remix of our track Halele, set to be released by the end of October. Without a doubt, Alex is on an absolute rampage right now, and mark my words, he’s destined for stardom. Another hidden gem is the collaboration between Pablo Fierro and Atmos Blaq titled Kababo. I can’t wait for them to release this one, so beautiful. Last but not least, I’m deeply enamored with DSF’s remix of our track Ineko, also scheduled for release at the end of October. The excitement for these upcoming releases is off the charts.
What are your thoughts on performing live? Do you have a track that you really enjoy performing live?
What a magical first live show we just had in Egypt in front of 2,000 souls. Seeing the &friends family singling live, rocking out and controlling the crowd, weaving so many emotions was a dream come true. It felt like we had been doing this for years and is still so wild to me that was our first time performing together. We played 2 1/2 hours of all original music, mostly unreleased, so there’s too many favorites to choose from. But a couple highlights were Phina Asa singing our new record “I’m Alive” and “Love Somebody” Young Dotun singing our new single “Duro” and Oluwadamvic and El-Jay jamming out to “Gbayi” all of which are unreleased besides Duro.
What do your plans look like moving forward after this release? Do you have specific goals?
We have an exciting roadmap ahead following this release, complete with well-defined objectives. Our musical journey is rich and abundant, extending seamlessly into 2025 with an array of scheduled releases.These forthcoming releases encompass spectacular collaborations and remixes involving some of the global music industry’s most renowned artists (it’s quite the dream). But the main goal and what we’re planning is the Live Tour. Egypt was just the beginning, and now we’re about to take the full live show around the world with not only the &friends family singing, but backed with a full band: percussion, keys, trumpet, guitar and a choir. 2024 is going to be a massive year for us and I couldn’t be more excited.