PillowTalk: A special seduction

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It’s hard to describe the sound PillowTalk makes. There’s the soulful vocals of Sammy D that take you back to the golden age of Motown. There’s piano house lines reminiscent of a Chicago warehouse party in the ‘80s. Then there’s thumping bass that takes you the dark depths of a techno club. While it may sound like a strange, eclectic mix, the three-piece from San Francisco have made the sound their own.

Sammy D, Ryan Williams and Michael Tello have been bringing their classic-yet-cutting-edge sounds to willing clubs since 2010. They’ve released a number of original productions on Visionquest, Life & Death and Wolf + Lamb, and their Soul Edits have become a staple on any disco dancefloor. They’ve proved popular among dance music alumni, remixing Kasper Bjorke, Baby Prince & Lonely C, with Soul Clap and Crazy P remixes incoming. The boys are making their Australian debut in November at Melbourne Music Week and a special Picnic-presented show in Sydney, so inthemix caught up with Michael Tello while he was in Berlin, partying the European summer away with the Wolf + Lamb crew.

One of the best descriptions I’ve heard of PillowTalk is: “A threesome that won’t ruin your relationship”. Would you recommend playing PillowTalk to seduce a girl?
We have been asked to serenade before and that’s kind of fun. But me playing it for a girl…I mean, they love it. There is a couple of songs that really speak to me, about something happening in my life, and then there are other songs that are really relevant to Sammy, and then Ryan wrote Soft and Far From Home, so I think each song has different parts that speak to us. Wake Me Up is a really beautiful song on the Deniz Kurtel album. If I was going to play a song for a girl it would be that one.

Deniz Kurtel, PillowTalk & Thugfucker – Wake Me Up

When it comes to PillowTalk’s songwriting there is a lot of stuff about ladies. It’s reminiscent of early Motown, but maybe a little less innocent. Why do the ladies inspire you?
Yeah, we’re all about wooing the ladies. All three of us are generally lovers; it’s in our nature. It’s nice, you know. It’s a nice message, to write a song about love. Some of our songs are sweet; some of our songs are a little bit more fun. The cool thing is the album has a lot of songs that go in the same direction. I don’t know if you heard The Outcast we did with DJ Tennis, but that’s going to be a really big track this year. That one is more political, with more of a message about coming together. Kind of Beatles-ish.

DJ Tennis feat. PillowTalk – The Outcast

You’ve released a few EPs over the past couple of years. Are there plans for a PillowTalk album soon?
Yes actually. Because we’ve been touring, I mean that’s pretty much our lives, whether we’re in Berlin or wherever we go it’s hard to focus. I mean, for an album you have to put 200 percent in. We have a good part of it sketched out and so we have a friend up in Portland who has a studio and a house we can stay at.

No working, no going out, no partying, we’re not taking any gigs, we’re just really going to vibe out, and Portland is a really good place to do that. We’re looking at finishing it in December and have it complete by the New Year. Well, that’s the plan.

And then as far as where to release it, it’s been talked about but we want to get it done first and once it’s there see what vibe it’s going to go, whether it’s dance-y or it’s going to be more soul. You know us; we’re all over the place with our productions so I think it will have a little bit for everyone.

How did PillowTalk first come about?
I was doing projects under Michael Tello, and had a few other projects I was working on before. Sammy was working with Justin Martin and we didn’t know when we first started if it would be Michael Tello and Sammy D, or is it going to be Ryan Williams. The names were too long. We like doo-op and we love soul music and PillowTalk seemed like a strong name with a hidden message. It left a lot open for any direction we wanted to go with our music. As opposed to, like, Metallica – you’re only going to be writing rock & roll music.

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