An electric connection
Temple: Down beat electronica duo Black Eskimo set to launch their first album
Five years ago, when Ingrid Chavez and Marco Valentin, both of Temple, first started making music for their soon-to-be released album, “Deep and Heady,” they were on a roll, cranking out song after song, sometimes at the rate of one or two a day in a frenzy of creative energy that came from finding a complementary musical partner. They had also never met face-to-face.
Chavez and Valentin make up the duo known as Black Eskimo, with Chavez on vocals and melody, while Valentin programs the beats on an electronic mixer. Chavez first heard Valentin’s music while working in California with a mutual acquaintance. While working on some new music, their friend showed Chavez some tracks on MySpace.com, and she picked out a handful to work with. As it turned out, all the tracks she picked had been written by Valentin. Years later, Valentin decided to send Chavez some of his tracks to see if she’d be interested in a collaboration.
“It’s a funny thing,” said Chavez in an interview with the two musicians in the studio where they produce their music in Chavez’s Temple home. “People write to me all the time, and it’s not usually something I’m interested in. But even the second time I heard Marco’s stuff, I said, ‘I like this.’ I was naturally attracted to the beats and the melodies that he creates.”
The two have very different musical styles, said Chavez, with Chavez creating ethereal, poetic lyrics, set to Valentin’s urban beats, which creates a genre that’s a down-beat mix of pop, soul and electronica.
“Us coming together really created a sound people have a hard time defining,” said Chavez with a laugh. “But I like that we’re creating a sound that’s really unique.”
Chavez is no stranger to the music business. Her first album, “May 19, 1992,” was a spoken word album with music by Prince, who she collaborated with frequently in the late ’80s and early ’90s. Chavez even starred as Prince’s love interest in the 1990 film “Graffiti Bridge.” During that time, she also co-wrote Madonna’s “Justify My Love.” Chavez’s second album, “A Flutter and Some Words,” was another spoken word poetry album. Valentin, on the other hand, has been producing music with friends for years, but this will be his first professional release.
Almost all the songs that ended up on the duo’s CD, which is set to release on Nov. 25, came from an initial burst of song writing that happened after the two connected for the second time, and was done almost entirely via Internet, said Valentin.
“We wrote the record in something like six weeks,” said Valentin. “There was just a fuel of creative energy happening. Then it took a few years to refine,” he added with a laugh.
Chavez said Valentin would send her multiple songs a day during that period, and she would put them on in the car, driving around, until one would find a place inside her, and then she would write to that piece, sometimes scribbling lyrics as she drove. Most of the lyrics for the CD reflect her life during that time, she said.
“All my records read like a diary,” said Chavez of her lyrical process. “I don’t write unless I have something to write about. I don’t throw words together that don’t mean anything to me. This was a new challenge for me, because I really wanted my words to sit in Marco’s beat, so I really had to craft my words in a way I haven’t done before.”
After her last solo album, “A Flutter and Some Words,” which had a very light, beautiful tone, Chavez said she wanted to bring something different to the first Black Eskimo album.
“I wanted to go somewhere else and do something harder,” said Chavez. “I think that’s why when I opened the zip file and listened to Marco’s music, I knew this was something I wanted to do. When we started working together, we were so excited to be on this roll together. We’d be up all night talking on chat, and Marco would disappear for a few hours and come back and say, ‘I have a new song.’ Then I would disappear for a few hours and come back and say, ‘Okay, I have the lyrics for the song you sent yesterday.’ We just clicked.”
“That’s the beautiful thing about this record,” added Valentin. “Because it was written in this one brief moment of time, each song has these really strong, specific images attached to it for us. It’s very intimate.”
In 2011, Valentin made the move from Chicago to Temple, where Chavez has lived since 2000 with her two daughters, to continue the partnership. The partnership hasn’t always run completely smoothly, however. The duo faced a difficult period when a computer crash lost all of the music they had put together so far for the record, making them face the reality of trying to recreate it, or starting over from scratch. They started on a new record, but when Valentin returned to Chicago for the holidays, he called Chavez with an early Christmas present — a rough early version of the album they had lost, stored on an old computer of his. The two went back to work, mixing and mastering their original 12 songs, and the ordeal turned out to have a silver lining — Black Eskimo has nearly enough material to put out another record.
First, though, the duo will be touring and performing their debut album. They’ll work in new songs as they complete them, and will probably be ready to release their second album after they finish touring with the first, she said. The duo will be performing at FASHIONation’s Pre-Holiday Spectacular at the Third Floor Nightclub upstairs from the Portsmouth Gas Light Co., in Portsmouth on Friday. When their CD is released, the two will be focusing mostly on putting together a schedule of live performances.
Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or firstname.lastname@example.org. She’s on Twitter at @AshleySaari.