7 w/ Mei Semones

Friday, May 24, 2024

This is the start of an ongoing series called “7” which I’ll be conducting casually to artists that I love. These questions were answered by Mei Semones.

Arthur: First of all thank you for making time to answer these questions Mei. I’m happy that the algorithm had led me to your playing and have been enjoying what you’ve released so far.

Mei: Hi Arthur,
Thanks so much for your email and for this interview! I'm glad to hear you've been enjoying the music.
1. On your newest record the first thing that starts is a guitar arpeggiation leading to a Bossonova rhythm. As a guitar nerd my ear immediately went for your guitar tone and had me reflect on a French guitarist I used to listen to religiously Rene Thomas. What does your gear look like these days and how long will you keep the integrity of this sound as you grow as an artist?
My gear is pretty minimal. I have a PRS McCarty 594 and a JC-Roland 40 amp. That's pretty much all that was used for the main guitar on the Kabutomushi EP. The guitar overdubs / layers have some different effects like distortion that were added during mixing. I've recently been playing more acoustic guitar and writing more on the acoustic guitar so I think that will be a bigger part of my sound moving forward.
2. I saw on a recent Red Couch interview that you were asked about collaborations which got me curious. Recently I saw that you had done vocals for an upcoming Orchid.Mantis project (this project is freaking exciting based on the concept by the way) and for some reason wanted me to ask this: Aside from the musicians that you play with currently name three other artists that you would want to create a supergroup with?
No one in particular comes to mind, I think the musicians in my band are already the ultimate supergroup! Someone I collaborate with frequently that isn't in my band is John Roseboro and his band, and I think they are their own supergroup too.
3. Aside from music what other types of art are you currently involved with? And if you’re not currently involved in other mediums what would be the medium you would want to dive into?
I don't really have any other interests. I used to read a lot though, and would love to get back into it when I have some more time.
4. What subject/subjects interests you when writing songs? Does the guitar start first or the lyrics?
The guitar always comes first, then melody, then lyrics. In terms of the subject for the lyrics, it's basically just whatever pops into my head -- a reflection of what I'm thinking about and how I'm feeling at that moment.
5. As an Asian artist myself I’m thrilled to see more representation be put on my screen. Growing up it was hard to keep an identity for myself as a Filipino knowing that the music I listened to doesn’t have much of an asian representation here in the states. Who were artists that you sought refuge as influence growing asian in America?
I think my biggest influences have been jazz musicians like John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, Bud Powell, Jim Hall, Wes Mongtomery, etc. I was also really into Nirvana and The Smashing Pumpkins when I was younger. Being Japanese-American / multicultural has been a big part of my songwriting and finding my own voice, so I hope my music encourages other people to embrace their own identities and backgrounds too.
6. What was your first guitar? And what was the first thing you learned starting guitar?
My first guitar was a nylon string guitar that my dad bought for me when I started taking lessons. I think the first song I learned was twinkle twinkle little star or mary had a little lamb, because it was Suzuki-style classical guitar lessons.
7. What was the best advice you received from someone that sticks with you to this day?
My parents have always encouraged me to do what I love, and I think that has been really impactful in my life.

Thank you Mei again for your time to answer these questions. This series is going to be fun to do considering I have only 7 I can ask. I'll be continuing on with some artist in the very near future so stay tuned!

- Arthur