Pieces of Schema by Seph(ra)
Just hold onto yourself for a little while as you read this Tuesday Treat Q&A session with Seph(ra) about the new album, Pieces of Schema. Seph(ra) talks about this antithesis of a concept album, musical influences, who to take to Paris, and more.
How do you describe yourself and your music?
I don’t think that people and music can quite be described by words, but I’ll give it my best shot. I’ve taken to describing my music as a combination of the spirit of punk and the spirit of jazz. What I mean by that is that it can be both bold and intimate at the same time. A song may have complex chords, but they may have come about through messiness rather than intention. Jazz and punk also share some things in common, including that they both value independent thought over how things are “supposed to be done.” I describe myself as a follower of Christ above anything else, but I think that the description I gave of my music also gives a pretty good idea of who I am as a person.
What got you interested in music and sharing it with others?
I don’t remember a time when music wasn’t a major part of my life. The first time I performed in front of people I think I was 3, and I sang at a talent show. I grew up singing a cappella music in church (and still do), and I sang barbershop professionally and competitively during middle school and high school. I suppose that’s what got it started, but I’m not sure. My parents always encouraged me to grow and share musically. I started playing my own songs at an open mic night during college and developed a bit of a following at a little hookah bar called The Grind, and the encouragement I received there from the community and a little record label called Cuckoo Recordings (where I recorded my first solo EP) helped me to see that people found value in my music.
Who are some of your musical influences?
My history in a cappella music has had a major impact on the music I write, especially in how I use my voice and how I write harmonies. Other than that, the music that has had the most influence on what I write has been a conglomeration of jazz, punk, pop, and alternative music. Some of the most influential have been Ella Fitzgerald, Regina Spektor (especially 11:11 and Soviet Kitsch), Fiona Apple, Calibretto 13, St. Vincent, Thao & The Get Down Stay Down, Dirty Projectors, and Son Lux. There have really been far too many to mention, but those are a few.
Use only seven words to describe your album, Pieces of Schema.
My view of the world, in song.
What was the greatest challenge you had when making the album?
“These songs are not all about my own personal experiences, but the thoughts and emotions are intimate and can be uncomfortable to share.”The biggest challenge I faced was probably the courage to put these songs out. While I certainly don’t have anything on this album that would lead to an “explicit” label, there are several songs that address uncomfortable realities. I think it is important that we talk about these things rather than ignoring them. These songs are not all about my own personal experiences, but the thoughts and emotions are intimate and can be uncomfortable to share. Thankfully, there are people who understand what I’m trying to do and tell me so. That’s always encouraging.
If you could take anyone, dead or alive, to Paris, who would you take?
My selfish instinct would suggest that I take someone who I’d like to spend time with, but I think that it would be great to take someone who I think would get the most benefit out of that trip. I think that would be someone who has never experienced a culture other than the one in which they grew up. Travel can help us to see the truth of how much our culture may influence our view of the world, which can help us to be more open to the perspectives of others from backgrounds different than our own.
Love isn’t just infatuation, but it may include infatuation. In any case, “I know what it is,” and I’m not telling. Ha!
What makes you weary?
Grad school! Just kidding (sort of). Really, what often makes me weary is the growth process. It takes a lot of work to continually pursue growth, but it is worth the difficulty. Life here is short, so we have to give it our all, even when it’s difficult to keep going!
Anything else you want to say or let people know?
Music can be used for entertainment, but there are other things it can do. I encourage you to sit with these songs (or any other songs for that matter), and really listen and reflect. Use music to help you learn and grow.