The latest EP from Jeff Montalvo (a.k.a. Seven Lions) embodies a six-track narrative with the full-bodied “Intro” wrapping with the orchestral “Outro” and some blends of introspective, halcyon and spirited in between. He demonstrates his attention to detail, amassing exemplary vocalists and finally delivering new music only when he’s determined that his cultured product is at its prime.
Montalvo is not one to compromise on quality, and his latest release is no exception. “The Throes Of Winter” demonstrates the feel, mood and the distinction that fans will identify while it also manages to pleasingly convey the refined, aesthetic and significant reach of this dynamic artist.
We spoke with the rising star about his influences, relationship with Skrillex and Viking metal (!) before his set at the Beatgasm party during Miami Music Week.
If Wikipedia is correct at age 7 your father came home with a Mac computer and a keyboard. You started out as a metal and punk inspired drummer. Who were your influences early on?
Jeff Montalvo: Early on I guess I just listened to the radio. I listened to Toad The Wet Sprocket and Blues Traveler. The Offspring is when I kind of started getting into punk and Sepultura later on.
In the past you provided production tips. How did you learn to master monitoring, equalization and other points necessary for a good mix?
Lots and lots of practice and just experimenting and doing a lot of research online. There’s a few forums — KVR Audio is really good and Gearslutz is really good. There’s a ton of good resources online for learning that kind of stuff like the technical aspect at least.
It was your own self-ambition to do this. You found it. You loved it. You wanted to learn more.
Yeah, for sure.
I have read that you used FruityLoops in your first productions. What do you primarily use today?
I still use FL Studio. Yeah, FruityLoops, 100%.
Do you normally start your song creation with a melody? If so, have you ever started the creation of a track without a melody in mind?
Yeah, I think “Tyven” I started with just the drumbeat and then kind of worked from there so it depends on the song really.
Do you still enjoy remixing or is your main interest in new song production?
[My] main interest is new song production because now that I’m working with a major label I can work with really top quality vocalists when before I was kind of remixing just to have the opportunity to work with vocals. I didn’t have the resources to get really good vocals when I was first starting out. So now I do so now I’m doing a lot of originals, basically.
You often appear in public with your wife who is a nice complement to your style and support to what you do. How did this powerhouse couple come together?
I met her on the bus to middle school when I was 14, I think. And then we started dating in high school.
And what’s your relationship like with Skrillex?
He’s a cool dude. He was really interested in my EP Days To Come and they signed me for that. And yeah, I really appreciate them giving me a shot back then, for sure. They’re really cool guys. I don’t really go down to LA and hang out a lot, but yeah, nice dude.
Which artist or artists are you currently enjoying or even inspired by?
I’ve been listening to a lot of psy-trance lately. Ghost Rider has been really cool. I always like Xilent. He’s really sick. Tritonal’s always really good and, of course, Above & Beyond are like always the number one inspiration because they’re just amazing.
I’m going to jump to that topic for a minute. I understand you entered an Above & Beyond contest for “You Got To Go” which is how some of this started for you. Can you tell me a bit about that history?
There was a remix competition on Beatport, and I really wanted the vocals so I downloaded it. I wasn’t planning on entering the competition; I just wanted to use the vocal to make a song. I ended up finishing it in time to submit it not thinking that it was going to go anywhere and it ended up winning. That is what kind of started the whole career.
Congratulations…a little late, but still.
For those of us who don’t know, can you explain Viking metal?
Yeah! It’s like folk metal. It’s melodic folk metal that generally has to do with slaying dragons and like really epic Viking shit. It’s like fantasy metal. It’s kind of like my music is fantasy, more EDM as far as the artwork and stuff goes.
That makes sense because your music has that unique quality and that explains it perfectly. You nailed it. If I could picture your music, I picture it as you just described it. When you’re not doing anything music related, what do you do in your free time?
I barbecue and hike and go to the beach a lot and just hang out with my wife and my dog and do a bit of rock climbing. And recently I started playing video games again which is cool.
You’ve been known to host these fans meet-n-greet beer events in various cities. How did this get started and what does one have to do to get on board?
Basically you have to submit a picture that’s interesting or funny and related to Seven Lions or beer. We basically try to pick the most creative submissions, and there’s been some really creative ones. And it doesn’t have to do with drinking necessarily, just any picture that’s creative, funny or interesting.
On “Days To Come” you’ve used Fiora Cutler on vocals, “Worlds Apart” was Kerli, “Don’t Leave” has Ellie Goulding. They’re vocalists from all over the world. How do you find these artists and select them and collaborate with them?
It’s always different. With Fiora, my old management had worked with her before and they we like, We have this great person… [to work on this song that I’d already done]. They had her write a topline over it. For Ellie Goulding, she hit me up on Twitter and was like, Hey, you want to do a song? I was like, Okay, hell yeah. That’s how that one went. It’s always different. Now I work a lot with my label to find good vocalists. I’ll finish a song and then hit them up and be like, I have this instrumental. Let’s find a cool vocalist. Then they reach out to a bunch of different people.
Just these collaborations alone all work so perfect. They’re such a perfect fit to the track itself.
Well, we spend a lot of time on it. “December” with Davey Havok, that song I started in 2012. It got released in 2015 because that’s how long it to find the right vocal for it.
So you don’t rush it. You want to find just want you want.
Yeah, for sure. There’s no reason to rush putting out music. I feel like a lot of people have to do it to kind of stay relevant. I don’t want my legacy to be like just throwing out a bunch of shit at the wall to see what sticks.
So it’s the quality over quantity kind of thing?
If you weren’t doing the DJ producing gig what do you see yourself doing as an alternative?
I would probably be doing something like sound design for video games, ideally. Or scoring movies or something like that. Something audio related but probably working with a team. I wouldn’t be in front of people doing the artist thing, that’s for sure.
Good luck with what you do. You do it very well, perfecting your craft to give us this beautiful product in the end.
Right on. Thank you. I appreciate it.
Images by Kathy Vitkus