Local Artist Spotlight: Peace & Red Velvet

Local Artist Spotlight, Local Music
Dusty Henry

Every week, KEXP features a new local artist with an interview and suggested tracks for where to start. This week, we are featuring artists performing during Block Party at The Station, this Saturday, June 17 in Beacon Hill.

There have been plenty of couples making music together in the history of modern music, but it's hard to find a story that's as exuberant, joyful, and plot-twisting as the origins of Peace & Red Velvet. You could say the same things about their music, as well. Vocalist Acacia the Queen and rapper Whispah the Ruler's journey from mutual Facebook friends to collaborators and then to matrimony is exciting in itself, but that's not where the duo's adventures end. After releasing their swooning and eclectic debut EP, 366, they've become a powerful live act that fuels itself on its collaborators' kinetic energy. As we caught up with the duo, they recounted near death experiences, playing countless shows around town, and the drive to always perfect their music. As you'll be able to tell with their back-and-forth dialogue, they may just be the most invigorating people in the entire city.It sounds like you two were Facebook friends and mutually admirers of each other’s music before you became a couple. What drew you to each other’s sound and what were your long distance collaborations like?

Acacia the Queen: I thought James sounded like a perfect mix of Snoop Dogg and Andre 3000! His voice was very swaggy, yet soothing. I just thought he was really dope, but I never anticipated working with him other than giving him pointers on mixing tracks down for himself and our mutual friend in Georgia so I just gave him tips on that. We actually hadn't started collaborating until he moved up to Washington.

Whispah the Ruler: Originally I had no interest in r&b music at all when I first listened to Acacia's music. I never thought r&b to be honest and non-superficial, but after listening to the words and picking out the nuances, I found that this wasn't typical. It was art!

Acacia: Awwwww! Thanks!

Things really sound like they sped up once Whispah moved out to Washington from Georgia. What inspired the move and how did you go from friends/collaborators to a married musical duo? Do you feel like your romantic relationship has inspired your music or do you like to keep those two worlds separated?

Acacia: GREAT Question!

Whispah: Yeah that's a good question. First things first. I had to get the HELL outta Georgia! Georgia wasn't for me...

Acacia: Yeah, but why Washington? Even when he had hit me up about it, I was just like "Go to LA, there's nothing here."

Whispah: It's waaaayyyy too expensive in LA! Plus my only means of a living situation I'd have there was with my best friend in a van. Elegant as it may seem, I'm not the one to live in a van...

Acacia: So he was banking on living with me. It comes out now. The order of which things happened is, stranger-acquaintances, roommate, ultimate jam buds, music duo, BFFs, love interest, couple, married! From "stranger-acquaintance" to BFFs happened like within a month. We had our first photo shoot as a duo 10 days after he popped up here. It was that organic. At first I was very NOT attracted to him. Then after performing with him and being around him all the time, I couldn't find myself without him. I'd literally take him on dates I had with other people. I feel like he brainwashed me or something.

Whispah: I imagine me being at the date made the other guy uncomfortable, but I was chillin.

Acacia: I remember after a show in September I told him, "This is gonna sound weird, but I could just marry you right now." He kinda just shrugged it off. But really our music has nothing to do with our relationship other than on stage, we've always been super in tune with one another. We actually found it really hard to create our first love song, "Be Love", because we just don't write about love together! It's weird.

On the anniversary of your debut EP 366, you released a remastered version of the record called 366 the RE-P. What made you want to revisit these songs and reimagine them as well as changing around the track list (removing “War” and adding “Be Love”)?

Acacia: I was very not satisfied with our fist project, like at all! I did NOT feel proud of it and I did not feel like it represented us in the way we perform! Our goal is to give people the experience of magic and beauty and we do this very well on stage, but when people, sweaty and panting, after a show ask us "WHERE CAN I FIND YOUR MUSIC?!" my knee jerk response would be "Don't bother looking for it." But then of course I'd tell them instead of saying that. Changing the track list was merely a convenience issue. It would have taken WEEKS to record and mix "War" and we were coming up REALLY close on our deadline. "Be Love" was originally supposed to go on a future project, but we had to do SOMETHING about "War", so we just replaced it and are putting "War" in a future acoustic project.

It seems like you’re always showing up on lineups around town and have eight shows in June alone. Do you think playing so consistently and frequently has helped you as artists? If so, what have been your biggest takeaways?

Whispah: I would say it's more where we play rather than how much we play. Because when we're put into unfamiliar territory, like we're doing a lot of festivals this year and that's new for us and it's new for people who don't expect us. The opportunity to touch different hearts, to make impressions on new faces, that's what's helped us the most.

Acacia: Yeah, I think performing so often has really sharpened our sound! The way we attack the songs now that we've had more practice has improved the way we record those same songs so that you get a similar reaction listening to the track to listening at a show. It's noticeable in comparing the two 366s, not in just sound quality but confidence. It really gives our sound the boost. Plus performing for new audiences keeps it fresh, cuz sometimes, you never know what you're going to get back from the people after you give them what you've been working on.

You’re part of a new collective called FLUX FAM alongside Call, Falon Sierra, and Rocket tha Prophet. What was the idea behind the collective? I hear there was a near death experience involved in its inception — care to elaborate on what that was?

Acacia+Whispah: *nostalgic laughter*

Whispah: Yeahhhh... we almost died. It was great... Except I was freaking out.

Acacia: Yeah it was all bad. So we booked a show in San Jose in MARCH! Didn't know that would be a bad idea.

Whispah: That was a terrible time for travel by van...

Acacia: So on the way back up, the snow was AWFUL by Shasta.

Whispah: Everything North of Dunsmuir was snowed up!

Acacia: Just a bit South of Weed. On the way to San Jose was pretty scary, but on the way back up we were stopped at a checkpoint and couldn't pass until we got snow chains on the tires. By this time, we were quite broke and almost spent our last on these things at a local WalMart. Then we spent two hours in the snow at a closed gas station in the middle of the night trying to figure out how to put the darn things on only to take off and spin out at the very next freeway entrance ramp!

Whispah: We didn't even make it three miles!

Acacia: Cool thing was, everybody was pretty chill. Everybody except Whispah that is. I think he had a flashback. But we made it! FLUXFAM all started with CALL and Falon Sierra. CALL gave us his latest mixtape last summer at the Beacon Hill block party and we bumped it ALL YEAR LONG!! We were such fangirls for these guys. When Whispah was thinking about creating a collective of dope artists, CALL and Falon were first on the list. We were such fans. Rocket tha Prophet without fail always stuck out to us, he got the crowd hype, he has such a variety in his sound, and puts the most heart onto the stage that I have ever seen. He played at the Substation last month and literally had us IN TEARS like REAL TEARS! He's a real live angel and we had to get him on board!

Whispah: FLUXFAM is a small militia of like-minded artists. The BETA for FLUXFAM was a thing I was creating called "The Magnificent Seven" which included all of FluxFam and Donormaal and Raven Matthews

Acacia: We are also their super fans.

Whispah: I was testing it out to see who we could actually bring in to have a team, because I feel that everybody has something that they can bring to a table, and I feel that we all have something different to bring to the table and we can all either stand alone or collab with one another and equally flourish

What’s next for Peace & Red Velvet? Is there an album in the works? Are either of you doing any solo work as well?

Acacia: YES! We had to knock out the RE-P before moving forward, for my own sanity. In the background, we've been working on many things: a new Peace & Red Velvet full-length album, Whispah's many beat tapes, I'm working with Rocket on my own solo EP, and collab EPs with Whispah and Rocket as well as CALL and Peace & Red Velvet. I would also like to get in the studio with Falon really soon! She's been doin' her thug thizzle.

Whispah: Expect the EP with Rocket to come out really soon!

For newcomers to your music, what can they expect from your Block Party at The Station set?

Whispah: DANCING. In a word. If you don't, you're a robot.

Acacia: Definitely! High Energy! Positive Vibes! Entrancing Beats! Lots of Love!

Be sure to catch Peace & Red Velvet at Block Party at The Station on June 17, at 5:10 PM as a part of DoNormaal's set. This event is FREE and open to the public. Music starts at 12 PM and continues through 8 PM.



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