Channel Pyro Balances Music and Love On and Off the Courts [Interview]
Written and Photographed By: Chantal Gainous // IG: @planetchachi
It's been raining for days in Tallahassee. My back right tire is on a doughnut, I'm juggling a foggy head from that nap I shouldn't have taken, all the camera equipment I shouldn't have brought, and climbing too many stairs for this out-of-shape girl to the front door of song-writing duo, ChannelPyro.
Warm, and always calming energy, envelops me as I cross the threshold into their tiki hut-like apartment. Rob immediately greets me, although I'm still thinking about the interview notes I left back at my own apartment. I let it go. We'll have to wing this, and how hard could it be? I've been following these two around to shows, listening to their old, original music for years, even before I knew them personally. Hundreds of photos and videos of their performances sit in my Google Drive with no where to go, but the past is the past. Today, it's all about the new collaboration dropped together - AfroPyro: A Love Story.
Anala Tefnut, or Angelica as I call her, comes out of her room and sits on the couch with a poise that's both stoic and energetic. I know she's ready, always for a deep conversation. Rob, though, seems somewhat sluggish. Very understandable, since as soon as this project dropped, he's already creatively moved on to another, this time his collective's - CAP 6. In fact, after the interview, Rob and I would head to the Stu, a.k.a. the Castle, meeting up with the rest of the crew, to continue laying down tracks.
Why aren't there any CAP 6 features on the mixtape?
Anala Tefnut: It never really crossed our minds, honestly. You're mentioning it now and I'm, like, oh - it never occurred to me to have them!
Rob Ohtis: Yeah, we were just feeding off of each others energy. It was just about us.
What brought the AfroPyro mixtape into the fruition?
AT: It wasn't really a concept, it was just music that we were making. After the first few songs, we have something here. *laughs*
RO: The album actually took about 9 months to make. It's really symbolic for us because it takes nine months to birth a baby and we've been in the relationship for the same amount of time.
AT: It was a manifestation of us.
So, what became the theme for the album after those first few songs?
AT: This album was about freeing yourself. Just having unity within yourself and your culture. It was really for the culture - we made a conscious decision to put out good music that is not only cool to listen to, but is also digestible. AfroPyro is a passionate flame that grows to involve it's community.
The mixtape got very political with the track "A Song For Passion." Can you explain the importance of that track?
RO: The Song for Passion was definitely a political song. It played a special part in the album - it was totally left field from the other songs. We arranged it to be near the front of the album just so people would know - this isn't going to be what you thought it was. It's just a song for those who can't express themselves in a certain way. Like, I'm angry about racism and slavery, but it's not coming from a place of hatred. I'd rather express my anger through a song.
What is the genre of this album? It's a pretty eclectic mix of sounds.
RO: I feel like album is ahead of it's time. A crucial part of hip hop is missing - the love. The album fills that gap. But, in general, this is jazz-infused hip hop. It does have many different sounds on it. The prologue is spacey, 'Black Love' is so hip hop. And then you have 'Pyrite'- this high frequency hip hop. Footsteps is trippier, Sundance is very melodious and slow...
What is your favorite song on the mixtape?
RO: Definitely 'Strength.' I just like beats like that. It gave me the opportunity to say what I wanted to say. We as black people are strong people who have survived. We can influence culture with the drop of a song. It was the song I've always wanted to make.
AT: It was something about the [interlude] poems that really resonated. "Time is Like a Grain of Sand" is my favorite, specifically.
I loved 'Pyrite' personally. What was the decision in making that song?
AT: It was the first song we made! We just wanted to make something fun and wrote it in, like, 30 minutes.
So, where does the name ChannelPyro come from?
RO: Originally, we were supposed to be the Gems, but after some time we let the mixtape influence us and became ChannelPyro. We actually came up with the name [of the project] before we came up a name for ourselves.
AT: It's about channeling that inner energy, that inner spiritual fire. We're both Fire signs.
RO: I still don't want to call this a mixtape, I want to call it an album! It felt much more full than a mixtape.
The "album" is ChannelPyro's only project, but the two assure that there is more to come.
RO: We're definitely going to keep it going. We have plans.
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Rob will be performing with collective CAP 6 at The Wilbury on July 1.