It all started in high school Latin class. That’s where Jordan and Lauren met and their friendship began, growing over the years into the musical partnership SALES. The band didn’t seriously form until a few years, some trips to Taco Bell, and a couple of odd jobs later. That was 2014. Now it’s nearing 2017 and this Orlando-based duo has already been featured on popular Vines, YouTube channels, Spotify featured playlists, and have released both an EP and an LP with tracks incorporating both pleasant melodies and hip-hop undercurrents. Last week What The Sound sat down with Jordan Shih, Lauren Morgan, and their drummer Joy Cyr at Detroit’s El Club and discussed all things ranging from Lauren’s vocalist idols, tour song inspirations, weird sounds that may or may not have found their way into some recordings, and much more. Read our chat below and check out Florida’s hottest bedroom-pop duo, but also, turn up the volume and hear their for-real sound.
What The Sound: In 3 words, each, can you describe your music?
Lauren: I would say our music is for real…
Jordan: “for real” is two words.
L: ...for real, fun, and dynamic.
J: Yeah, melodic, gritty, romantic.
WTS: Do you have an on-the-road anthem you have been bumping from city to city or before a show?
L: You got to play Jay-Z and Ja Rule while you go into Brooklyn.
J: Daft Punk
WTS: Do you have any pre-show ritual?
L: We're really not that athletic.
J: One time we did a huddle.
L: I've never been one for rituals or luck, I lose things sometimes... You know, it's so cool, the locker room. Like a lucky sock that you never wash.
J: I put my pick in the same pocket, that's lucky.
L: We mostly just try to chill out and drink water
WTS: Nice, stay hydrated.
L: Yeah, but I mixed it up the other day. Could have been detrimental. I had beer and fried chicken.
WTS: As for SALES, why is Pope a rockstar?
L: It's funny because I was a cashier at Whole Foods, one of my many weird jobs before we took this on full time, and the Pope was in the States. So, this woman comes by my register and is like 'oh my God, the Pope [on Time Magazine], he's a rockstar!' I thought it was so funny... I was like 'I'm a rockstar'... ‘I'm a rockstar lady!’ I went to Jordan's house after to record, that was the time when I was pulling doubles to go to work so we could meet a ridiculous album release deadline we had set (4/20). So, I went to Jordan and was like 'this is great'.
J: Yeah, the phrase is perfect.
WTS: Is there an instrument that you haven't used on any track that you want to use?
J: Analog synthesizer.
WTS: Jordan, when SALES began you were really into electronic music, right?
J: Yeah. At one point, I thought it was the genre. I still do. Well, hip-hop is a genre now. That's the good stuff.
WTS: So, when is SALES going to make some hip-hop?
L: Well that's the funny thing. I think "best times" is kind of a hip-hop song.
J: Yeah, we really pulled out some Drake vibes, out there. Killed it.
L: I like... really like Drake. Like everyone else. The minimalism that's coming out in rap, in hip-hop is really cool. In a way it's picking up electronic music, but just taking the good parts. You know, I didn't like electronic music. I always thought it was stupid. So if you can imagine working together, was kind of difficult at first because I was like "I like The Clash!" and Jordan was like "here, listen to this, remix".
WTS: Did Drake make an appearance at your Toronto show the other night?
J: No, but we played at The Drake Hotel. Fun fact, he had a username on a forum called Drake Hotel.
WTS: Jordan was into electronic music and then Lauren, you were into rock?
L: Yeah. Punk rock, classic rock.
WTS: I'm curious about your sound and how it came about. Was it the first variation of SALES where you came up with this overly unique sound?
L: Well we went in a really bad direction when I got really into Animal Collective, and Jordan was too. We were both into it. That was Merriweather Post Pavillion time and I was like, Jordan, we need to go outside and hit rocks in the quarry... That was a disaster. We've never sounded good when we're emulating someone. That's just a great example. I think the SALES sound really came together when we were working on a couple things, like "be my baby" which we were working on before "renee" but with "renee", it started with the guitar riffs. We were both playing guitar, like jamming a bit, and Jordan was like 'that's it, that's the riff', then we recorded the vocals, and Jordan put down a beat.
J: I got disenchanted with electronic music because everyone was so good. It's like the producers age, so I picked up guitar pretty recently. I think it’s how Lauren plays and the chord shapes she uses, that kind of gravitated to our sounds.
L: We would just start playing guitar a lot together. Jordan would make a pretty quick and minimal beat. So we would riff to this beat that he would arrange on Ableton and that's how a lot of the songs started off, even "chinese new year", the guitar riff and the really simple drum riff and then I would improvise some vocals on it and then we would go from there. A lot of post-stuff too. The ideas come really fast and we work on them if it's worth it. "getting it on" was a huge labor of love.
J: I was inspired by a Young Money song actually. "Bed Rock". The songs that I get inspired from are absolutely not near what I end up doing.
L: It's like... I'll never be Drake and I'm okay with that. But I enjoy some of the annunciation, the delivery, and the attitude in hip-hop. I don't think I'll ever emulate it but I'll always be inspired by it.
WTS: Lauren, do you have any particular vocalists that you have grown up listening to? You have a really particular, entrancing sound.
L: Thanks! I'm really into Billie Holiday. She was everything to me for a while. Janis Joplin, I really like how she would scream in tune. Patti Smith, awesome, very expressive and rhythmic. Victoria Legrand (Beach House) too.
WTS: Who are some bands that are up-and-coming who you really dig who you don't think we know about?
L: You know, everyone we know is doing pretty well. I remember playing our show at Baby's All Right and Mitski opened for us and it was her first show. She was telling us how the last show she played was on a piano and no one was there. It was just her at this show and I was like "Wow, that was fucking amazing!" and you're just a woman on stage with an acoustic guitar... So good. I was obsessed with that album, it gave me a lot of feelings. She deserves the success.
J: Alex G [WTS was wearing an Alex G t-shirt], I think he's someone, even though a lot know about him.
WTS: Did the Orlando scene help you grow or was it through touring or the internet?
J/L: Internet for sure.
L: We've actually been kind of burned by Orlando because we don't play the area much but the area is so small. People are always moving to Brooklyn or L.A. No bands stay. You can get over-saturated. There are a few bands who are still there though, shout-out to FIONA, he's a rapper, TEDD.GIF too.
J: He does trap music. There's a lot of hip-hop going on.
L: We've been playing with hip-hop artists.
J: Laney Jones and the Spirits. They're from right around Orlando. Everyone is from around Orlando. She's from Mount Dora. Really good bluegrass/folk.
L: There's a bunch of young adults (19-21) who are just starting and coming to Orlando, people are definitely trying to cultivate some solidarity in the DIY scene. We'll see what happens.
WTS: Was there an internet shout-out from any famous figure that was overwhelmingly awesome all at once?
J: The most known personality was probably this Viner, Matt Post. He used "chinese new year" in a Vine, and it went Vine-viral.
L: The internet is building momentum, all the smaller blogs just pick this up. Together, the DIY internet scene is really influential.
J: People like yourself make it happen.
WTS: Who are Roz and The Ricecakes [Jordan's t-shirt]?
J: Super nice, super sweet, super talented.
L: They're based out of Providence. Roz, the lead, she designs all the shirts.
WTS: Lastly, where have you recorded all your music?
L/J: In a bedroom.
L: Different bedrooms.
J: I've never been in a real studio.
L: It's literally "bedroom pop". You can hear the lake outside my house in "renee" - these crickets and frogs making their noises. We recorded a track the other day, and we played it back and were like what's that sound? Jordan was like "oh shit, it's a lawnmower". Or like, "oh my god! It's the A/C."
J: Very Florida elements. Lawnmowers, A/C, crickets. Unintentional.
L: I think in a song we released you can hear Jordan's cell phone ringing.
J: Oh yeah, actually "toto" if you hear it, there might be a little cell phone ringing. My cell phone was ringing nonstop at one point. Shout-out to Kevin Gates, two phones! I only have one phone though.