Synead Talks "Tropicao", Activism, & Revisiting Her Roots
When Synead was tasked with bringing her breezy new single, “Tropicao”, to the visual spotlight, the answer was simple: go back to her roots. Inspiration practically landed at her feet the moment they touched the ground in Trinidad—between car rides with her cousin, island reunions, and beach vibes for days, the track (produced by our personal faves, Cabo Blanco and Matt FX), immediately came to life on screen.
Fast forward to 2017, and the video proves that Synead’s hunch was true: it’s Trinidadian gold. We sat down with the artist, activist (as the co-founder of Millions March NYC, she was named one to watch for Teen Vogue, amongst others), and self-care advocate for a chill AF heart-to-heart; check the “Tropicao” vid and full interview below.
Let’s start with your new single, “Tropicao”. Can you talk about the inspiration behind the song, and how it all came together? I know you worked with Matt FX on it.
Yeah! Actually I worked on this with Matt and my friend Cabo Blanco, I met him a long time ago but they were linking up together and then they thought I would be really good for the song, so we all got into the studio and we all just started working on it. It happened really fast to be honest. The song just kind of happened, it just kind of came out. We did it in a few weeks and shot the video not too long after, we shot in February of the 8th of the following year, and it was epic. We went to Trinidad, had like a week to make it happen and we had four days shoot. My cousin drove us around everywhere, it was amazing, it was me, Matt, two video guys, it was awesome. Everything just happened so amazingly I couldn’t of asked for a better situation.
So you grew up in Trinidad?
So I actually grew up here but I frequent Trinidad throughout life. I think my first time in Trinidad I was like six months old. I’ve been going back pretty frequently with my family because they are both from there. They immigrated to New York early 80s, early 90s. They always made it their mission to always back and see everyone to visit everyone and stay connected. I knew where I was from and to go back to my roots.
What is it like going back to your roots, creating art there, and bringing that art back to the U.S.?
That was really important for me. I was going through a lot of the time because I was doing a lot of activist work, a lot of community organizing and so at the end of that it was kind of the hype of all of that and I needed a moment to get myself together. This is what that song was really about on top of that going to Trinidad shooting this video with my cousin, him taking us around town, and hanging out with friends. It was the perfect, perfect moment to highlight what I’ve been about, what my family has been about, everything that my family has introduced to me in my life that I’ve carried along this way.
Along with being a musician, you’re also an activist. How do the two intersect?
Taking care of yourself is an act against society in itself because in the realm of life I was in at that time, self care is really important because you’re giving up yourself in so many ways with your time, your energy, with your emotions, you’re fully invested in literally making the world a better place. So if you’re not in a good place how can I expect the world to be a better place. So this music for me is my self care routine. It’s a highlight on everything that I am and everything that I can be, want to be, and it’s my chance to free myself out of that. To free myself from the heartache, the stress, and society’s pressures. It’s really my opportunity to say I’m okay and it’s also okay to just do you. A lot of people don’t allow that; they just take and pull as much as they can but you have to always make sure to take care of yourself. That’s an act of activism [laughs].
Yeah, and I feel like especially right now there is this huge sense of urgency that we can’t sit around and pause, but if you don’t pause every now and then you won’t be able to keep going.
Yeah! Exactly! You have to be able to refresh, reboot, and recycle; it’s important.
So I know you helped organize the Millions March NYC, it was a couple of years ago, right? What have you been working on since then in that realm?
Yes ma’am, it was 2014, well December 2014, early 2015. So for a while I was mostly working with kids, I was in youth programs, teaching kids dance and using my art in that way. I was facilitating talks with children, youth, the community, and trying to get them to understand their roles in society as youth black or minority children. How they can use that, use their identity to help relay what they go through in life, so whether you’re in their current situation or their environment how can they help relay that to the people around them. Then I took a break from that and really started focusing on my music.
Do you feel like artists such as yourself, with a platform, have an obligation to speak out?
I’m having a really hard time with that because everyone is still a person, everyone is still a human being. At least for me I come from a village-like family, it’s very community-oriented, I have little cousins and siblings and my mom often says, “you need to watch what you do because you have this person looking up to you.” I don’t want to say they’re obligated to, but it’s just more about being mindful. Everyone has to live their life. For a while I was living my life in accordance to what people wanted from me and how they wanted me to operate. I realized I couldn’t keep doing that and I had to take my life by my own hands and maneuver myself through it. The type of person I am, I don’t necessarily feel obligated, but I do feel that it’s important if I do have a platform to use it for something bigger than myself or something bigger than myself for something bigger than myself. I think it’s about being mindful of the power you do have—if you have 10 million dollars in the bank, are you going to buy a bunch of things with it or are you going to start a program for the community? It’s about how you use your power.
Totally. What kind of impact do you hope to have, with both your music and your activism?
Short term, I want people to obviously feel warmth and feel this surge of positivity of comfort the feeling of being very familiar. In regards to long term, I want to make a long-standing change within the community I want to do the things that people did for me and I want to be able to give back in that way. I grew up, again, in a very community-oriented lifestyle, even from joining a dance program which was an outreach program for inner city youth. All those people during that time really helped me shape who I was, helped shaped my ideologies as a young artists, no one ever told me “no,” no one ever told me I couldn’t do something, “can’t” was never in my vocabulary, and if it was they stripped it from my life. I want to be able to help facilitate that same nourishment, that same love of art and creation in the same community I came from and communities around the world. I think art is such a powerful tool to use that with you can look at a painting and be struck by it for an hour and find so many answers and or questions with in it. Within music, I’ve listened to artists like Wild Beast and Little Dragon, and their words, they are so much deeper than the rhythm and sound and all of that piles together. I want to be the same in that way but I want to make the world better in that way. I know it’s kind of of a cheesy thing to say but it’s for real.
So what’s coming up in 2017? Anything cool in the pipeline you can share?
2017, I have another single coming out it’s called “Lost in the Wild” so that should be really exciting. We may have an EP maybe, maybe not, so that’s something that’s in the works. We’ve got the video release this Friday for “Tropicao”, the editing for that has been so crazy, we got the footage and we had it for a year but we actually had to salvage a lot of it because when we got it back a lot of it was corrupted. So we spent the last year trying to salvage it but it came out real good and we are really excited to share it with everyone. I’m going to London in June to hang out and see what else I can do collaboratively, make some music, do some shows, and yeah. Hopefully more things. Trying to pack them all in and stay busy over the summer.
Images courtesy of Jae Kim
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