A Conversation With Synead
New York's Synead is the epitome of multi-hyphenate. The singer, dancer, and “artivist” recently returned from a summer in London, but we had time to talk with her about her craft, and the amazing video for “Tropicao” (that makes us miss the summer already). As eventful as her summer was, she's still charging forward, recently releasing the sleek-yet-gritty “Lost In The Wild” single on Noon Pacific Records.
“I'm an animal, I'm dangerous,” she affirms on the new single, which was produced by frequent collaborators Richie Quake and Matt FX. She's also amazing. Take a look below as she also dishes on her perceived responsibilities as an activist, her upcoming music project, and how her Caribbean roots have influenced her music.
Cypher League: As co-founder of Millions March NYC before, how has the break from activism helped you to create more music?
It gave me space. It allowed me to create time for myself to move beyond my boundaries or anything I could imagine. I also needed to figure out where I stood with myself in life and gaining clarity on this was very important because I can’t gain clarity if I’m in a constant emotional and psychological flux, ya know? I have been very focused on challenging my sense and methods of expression. It’s a process for sure, but worthwhile.
After taking a hiatus from the world of activism you ventured off to London, what motivated the move?
Well, I applied to a summer theatre program at RADA (Royal Academy of the Dramatic Arts). It was nerve racking waiting to hear, but then I got accepted and it was an amazing experience. I had the opportunity of coming together with a really talented group of people (The Baker’s Dozen <3!) and some really great work came out of it. I was supposed to come back to New York at the end of August, but I ended up staying almost half the year with my family in Croydon. I took that time to dedicate myself to creating work every day. I told my homegirl, Bridget Perez, that this was a “four beats, one autumn” kind of era for me.
Artists like James Baldwin and Josephine Baker left the states and found a home in Europe because of the undeniable racist climate during the 60’s. Do you feel that your time in London has brought you a different perspective in terms of how you’re viewed as a Black woman?
I have been fortunate enough to live in very diverse; metropolitan cities. Spending time in London has just reminded me that there’s so much more opportunity out here in the world and I shouldn’t feel obligated or tied to staying in the United States to attain some level of happiness. It’s an easy outlet to the rest of the world- a lifetime worth of experiences. Something I always keep in mind is that racism is a radicalized worldwide view and there are so many facets in which it plays in. I’m sometimes fetishized in the USA or exoticized in Europe, but it’s not always the case. I focus much more on exploring the openness and freedom that I don’t get when I’m back home.
Nina Simone said that an “An artist’s duty as far as I’m concerned, is to reflect the times.” Although you took a break from activism do you believe that as an artist it’s your duty to make sure your music reflects our current political climate? If so, in what ways will your new project do that?
Well, the political climate of the United States is ever-changing. I believe it’s important to be socially aware of what’s happening in your community/world and address it especially when you have a platform. However, I also believe that there are varying ways to express these opinions. My new project highlights the period of my life right when I decided to really take charge and figure out who I am and where I stand in the world- the early stages of my journey of self-exploration.
In what ways does being a Trini-American influence your musical sound on tracks like "Tropicao" and your overall project?
Growing up in a Caribbean household and right around the corner from a really popular roti shop, there was always a man outside selling CDs of soca mixes and reggae mixes. This led to me find out about the very diverse nature of the Caribbean and its heavy African and Asian influences with. The tenacity of vocal runs, percussion, melodic flair… it was all very appealing to me. Who knows? You might just hear some of that...
The video for "Tropicao" is amazing. What was the experience like shooting this video?
HELLA FUN. We landed really early in the morning and everyone was coming from jouvert so everyone looked a hot mess covered in baby powder, paint, the works. My cousin picked myself and the squad up, we dropped some stuff off at my Uncle Wayne’s house then we mobbed out and starting shooting. We got to Lady Young Lookout then made our way to the road and just kept hopping in and out of the people and bands. Four days of madness and of my cousin driving us around from location to location. We did it on such short notice as well. It was all happening really fast, but it was all happening really right.
What are your thoughts on pop music/electronic exploring Dancehall, Soca & other Caribbean sounds?
The greatest thing about pop music is that it stands for “popular music” and all these genres have always been very prominent in my life. Others get to experience a taste of the culture, music, and nuances I’ve grown up with. It’s great for me as well because it’s a genre of music I’m familiar with so it’s all very inherent to me. It comes very easily. I just worry about the long-running problem that is the exploitation of all things black culture and the exclusion of actual black people partaking in it. I don’t want that to be the case with this exploration, hence I’m going to hop in the mix.
When should we expect to hear more music from this project?
Keep a look out. There’s something coming soon. You ‘gon like it. *cue Kimmi Parker laugh*