A heady blend of Arabian garage and R&B vocals typify producer Santell's post-internet sound. Delving into his imagination's wildest chasms to reinvent a non-binary genre—free from the influence of trend or the charts—LA's Santell works exclusively with friends. Teaming up with Major Lazer and Kehlani producers, the infamous Picard Brothers, new release "Do Dat" is a beauty of a dancefloor blazer.
Comparable to a '90s garage instrumental, layered with a vintage Jamiroquai vocal, key references throughout the new music's aesthetic feels old school—juxtaposed by deep production levels, the ambitious vibe of the soon-to-be released project, Pressure, feels distinctly futuristic. As well as premiering the video for "Do Dat" (above), Complex UK caught up with Santell to discuss his latest work.
How do you maintain your sound? Do you struggle to keep the aesthetic of the music pure and unaffected from the influence of other artists you collaborate and produce?
It's always fun working with someone new because they're always expecting something different. Then I play them some club track I'm on, or some techno song I just made, and they're all turned around. It's become a joke amongst friends because every time they see me, I've gone deeper and deeper. A lot of the times when I'm writing for other artists, they end up wanting to make something similar to what I just showed them depending on how deep it is.
What are the key elements of the music which define you as an artist?
As of now, I think what most people would say defines my music is my voice, or the R&B aspect of the songs. But this is all based on songs that have been collaborations or features. It's been easy to put me in a box of ordinary R&B from what's been released, but this being my first solo release, I think people's idea of me will begin to shift. I love pairing melody with interesting beats to create something unusual.
How does the collaboration process work for you? Do you initiate meetings with talents you admire, or are those around you more instrumental in facilitating pairings?
Most of my collaborations are with friends. It's hard being thrown in a room with somebody new and expect to make something of substance. The majority of my upcoming songs I've done with my friends, the Picard Brothers, who actually produced "Do Dat" with me. Beyond the music, we're just homies who share a lot of the same interests. I think this sort of relationship is instrumental in making good music.
Does chart music inspire you at all?
I think pop music right now is dope. Some people might think it's whack but you gotta take it for what it is. A song is a song and if it's good, you can't really deny it. That being said, there is a lot of trash music out there though. Ozuna is one of my favorites. Shawn Mendez is also a guilty pleasure.
Would you like to explore other genres of music in the future? Also, which genres do you think are progressing the most prolifically right now?
I never box myself into one genre; I tend to just make whatever I feel like making. I've been making a lot of Latin music on the low, just for fun. Ironically, it comes really natural for me having grown up in LA.
Talk me through the process of how the video for "Do Dat" came together, from the initial conception of the treatment to the day of shooting.
I've been obsessed with these Arab Instagram car accounts, where they drift in the desert. My roommate and I would end up falling into these YouTube black holes of motorsport videos and he introduced me to his friends in this MX crew called Motowhips. I wanted to create a visual that complemented the intensity of the song but also was just us having a good time. The boys at Motowhips really made this shoot possible. We also spent another day with some jet-skis and atvs. That was fun, despite eating shit a few times.