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Name: Adam Bernard
Home: Fairfield, Connecticut, United States
About Me: Veteran music journalist with 20+ years of experience. Supporter of indie artists. Lover of day baseball, & B-movies. Part time ninja. Kicked cancer’s ass. My memoir, ChemBro, is out now!
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Artist Of The Week - Navegante
Monday, August 30, 2010

Hearing a Latin infused version of the Depeche Mode classic “Personal Jesus” is the kind of thing that perks my ears up and makes me take notice. The two man band that was providing the tune was Navegante, and they were opening for last week’s Artist Of The Week, Hank & Cupcakes. I started paying close attention to their set, which was heavy with thumping bass lines that moved the crowd. I was really impressed and left with their latest EP, which is self-titled. This week I caught up with both men of Navegante, Jean Shepherd and Washington Duke (pictured L to R), to find out more about their music, their migration to being unclassifiable genre-wise, and what they’ve learned after experiencing more than their fair share of industry shadiness.

Adam Bernard: You’re a two man group. Did you ever consider adding another member?
Washington Duke: Well, this band has had lots of different formats, and as many as five members at one point. We evolved into a duo last December and haven't looked back. If we were to add another member that person would have to be pretty special. I think if someone pops up that wants the gig we might take a look at him/her, but it would have to be a perfect situation, and he/she would have to bring something to the table that neither of us could. For now we're loving the duo format, though. It constantly pushes us to be creative and to learn things we might not have taken the time to learn if there was someone else there to handle it. 

Adam Bernard: I’m a little rusty on my Spanish, and by “a little rusty” I mean I haven’t taken a Spanish class since the early 90’s and I still have no idea what my Latin friends are saying around me. What does Navegante mean, and how does that name represent you and the music you’re making?
Jean Shepherd: Navegante means “Navigator.” I don't read or write music, but I have made my own way of making music that moves me and hopefully moves others, too. I've been given some of the greatest advice by some of the most amazing musicians I know and they all have told me the secret isn't playing a million notes that don't mean anything, but molding your sound and perfecting your tone until it penetrates people. We are navigating our way though the oceans of modulating frequencies and oscillating sound-waves. I got a bit poetic with that answer.

Adam Bernard: When I first heard the name Navegante I expected some traditional Latin music. Where does your electronic influence come from?
Jean Shepherd: I've been working on the production end for years, but I never incorporated it into my live set until now. This was the right time to do that. We are creating music that maintains the live feel when we play. It is not stiff and restricted. We work hard at this to make sure the music breathes and moves. It has givin us much more flexibility. Big thanks to our sponsor Ableton Live!

Adam Bernard: Do you consider what you do to fall under the heading “Latin Music?”
Washington Duke: Falling under the heading “Latin Music” is not something we necessarily considered as a goal. Both of us have Hispanic backgrounds. Jean is part Puerto Rican, part Peruvian, and grew up in Miami, and my mother is Cuban. She moved to Miami with her family when she was 15. Both Jean and I grew up with Latin music and it became part of our sensibility and therefore comes out in how we play and write. Our first album is all in Spanish, so that pretty much categorizes it under “Latin music,” but there are so many other influences at work there, like hip-hop, rock, electronic music, and so on. This new album is all in English, but I think all of our influences are still there, including our Latin influences. This upcoming album, however, is difficult to classify under one genre. It's not one thing. It's got everything. It's totally new and different. That's what we love about it. You can't really give it a name. It's just Navegante. It's for everyone.

Adam Bernard: I don’t know if this was a one time thing, but at the last show you were giving away your EP. What went into your decision to do this?
Jean Shepherd: We are in the process of finishing our full length album and we wanted to get people hyped up on what is coming. We are kind of like drug dealers. We give the kids a lil’ taste and them get them hooked.

Adam Bernard: Staying with the EP, what do you hope people feel when they spin the album?
Jean Shepherd: We want them to turn it way up and enjoy that shit! We realize that once the music is out there, it's out there, so we encourage people to remix it, share it, mash it up, talk about it, criticize it, whatever. We make music to uplift the people, so if it does that we are happy.

Adam Bernard: Jean, I know you were in another group, Radio Mundial, before this. What led you to go from that project to starting this one, and how did you and Washington link up?
Jean Shepherd: I decided to start this group after Radio Mundial because the label I was working with at the time, Palm Pictures, which is Chris Blackwell’s new venture, totally shitted on the release of our second record and Blackwell himself stepped in and wanted my first born in exchange for a release from the contract. We couldn't survive it and I decided to move on and start something new and completely different.

Adam Bernard: As people who’ve experienced a lot in the industry, what lessons have you come away with that you’d like to pass on to other artists?
Washington Duke: Build strong relationships with focused, driven, talented and trustworthy people. Don't sign a contract with ANYONE until you can trust them. Everyone will promise you that they will do this and they will do that. From my experience the proof is in the action not the words. If they don't want to show you what they can do then that usually means they can't do shit. I've had my most lucrative business relationships solidified by a handshake, and those lasted for many years and we are still on good terms and talk regularly. And no matter what you do - get a good lawyer to negotiate your contracts!

Related Links

Website: navegantemusic.com
Facebook: facebook.com/naveganteNYC
Twitter: twitter.com/naveganteNYC
MySpace: myspace.com/navegantemusic


posted by Adam Bernard @ 7:42 AM  
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