[Interview] Seven Lions Roars at the Tabby
The Seven Lions show at the Tabernacle was incredible. Jeff Montalvo, the California native behind Seven Lions, caught up with Bullet Music on his tour "The Journey." The young producer has an intricate style that combines multiple genres like deep house, electro, and trance, to name a few. He combines hard hitting EDM with ambient vocals and a visual performance that transports the viewer to through a journey into different corners of time and space.
I’m not going to share too much about the visuals, but you know those movies that touch your soul through their sheer beauty? Movies like Avatar or The Fountain, that floor you with stunning cinematography. This was that kind of art. But don’t worry, there was also plenty of psychedelic geometry and even some occult symbolism and lasers for everyone.
Seven Lions shared the stage with Grum, Unlike Pluto and Pegboard Nerds. I found it heartwarming that one dollar from each ticket sold on the tour is going to F Cancer, a Canadian nonprofit dedicated to cancer prevention, early detection, and support for patients.
How did you enjoy playing in Atlanta?
Atlanta was good! It wasn’t the craziest crowd I’ve ever seen, but it was fun. My parents were there, which was nice. They live in Florida and we didn’t have any shows in Florida so they came to the Atlanta show to see the stage design because they hadn’t seen it yet.
How has the current socio/political climate affected your art?
I usually try not to be too political and get into that with my music specifically. My music is very fantasy based, more timeless. I never got into political revolution music because I don’t like how current or modern it is. I like my music to be about escapism, so I try not to let those two things cross.
You seem quite inspired by literature. Are you an avid reader?
I used to be. Big fantasy nerd. I used to read a lot of fantasy novels, but I haven’t had too much time to do that lately. The last book I read was this trilogy called Red Rising, it’s pretty good. So, yeah, definitely.
What books have left a strong impression on you?
Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan was one of those that I got really into as a kid. All the stuff from R. A. Salvatore, I read all of that as a kid. I think that had a big impact on me for sure.
Your production process strikes me as being similar to how authors write books. Have you ever written yourself?
It’s the one thing I don’t do. Not even lyrics unless it’s small changes. I’m not really good at writing. I let other people do that.
Do you express yourself in other creative outlets?
I used to be into drawing quite a bit, but not so much anymore. Music really does take all of my time. If it’s not producing, it’s working on DJ sets, it’s very much my main focus.
Is "The Journey" purely an external idea or is it an internal one as well?
I think it’s a mix of both. When I think of the journey its when you get a bunch of your friends together and you go to a festival or a show and you do cool stuff along the way. I think about going to Burning Man or EC back in the day or when you get people together and pile into a car and go to a show, it’s like a big adventure.
How does it feel to have be such an influential person?
I don’t really think about it like that too much. I don’t try to use my influence in any certain kind of way, I just like to make music be a nice person.
What does your wife do?
She travels with everywhere and takes over the tour management responsibilities when we are flying. So she’s scheduling everything and usually handling the interview stuff. She’s got quite a big job, and the thing is, she never had any interest in doing it. She just stepped up when the opportunity arose, she crushes it. I’m really proud the fact that she just took on all this responsibility and is doing such a good job.
How does your relationship with her impact your music?
When I’m writing a song, if we’re having a crappy day, it will definitely come out in the instrumental part of my music. I think how we are doing that day is definitely influential.
Give us an idea of the work that goes into putting on such a detailed and striking performance.
That has a lot to do with Ian, our visual guy, and us working on concepts for the past year and a half. We hired this company out of Oregon to do cinematic visuals then recently we hired this company out of Toronto to do motion graphics stuff. Ian came up with the stage design for this tour earlier this year. We just worked on it with a few different designers and got it all handled and turned it into what it is. It’s been a long process, but it’s been cool to work with so many really talented people to get the vision across. It’s really hard to get such a cohesive show together, but I think it’s worked out really well.
Photos by Ryan Purcell for Bullet Music