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Night Talks on New Music, Songwriting, and Haunted Houses

Photos by Steph Holt Kropp, courtesy of Big Hassle Media

 

Indie rock power trio Night Talks released single "Roll On" on June 7, 2023, signalling the start of their new musical era. Sneak peeks of upcoming track "Nights", which is set to be released later this week on July 12th, have built anticipation amongst eager fans. The group, true to its Los Angeles roots, will be playing an show at Resident on release night; get your tickets here.


Lifelong friends Soraya Sebghati (vocals), Jacob Butler (guitar, synth, vocals), and Josh Arteaga (bass, synth, vocals) became bandmates in 2010, with early formations of Night Talks in 2014. By February of 2017, the group put out its debut album, In Dreams, which was accompanied by a sold-out album release show at The Echo. The LP's lead single, "Green", landed on KROQ's Locals Only airwaves and hit #1, hinting at a promising future for the group.


The drop of sophomore album Same Time Tomorrow saw major delays due to COVID-19 pandemic complications. Night Talks made the most of the lockdown, however, and pooled resources for a camera to shoot music videos for all ten songs on the record. With every new piece of the project unveiled, the group strengthened their reputation as master creatives in a number of respects. "On and On", the album's second single, was honored as KROQ Locals Only's #1 song of 2022. In a stroke of indie rock deja vu, Same Time Tomorrow's release performance at the Troubadour sold-out. A string of music videos and tour dates along the East and West Coasts followed, with a residency at the Echo/Echoplex in November of 2022 attracting both new and returning fans.



Bouncy single "Roll On" will have you and any other spirits in your home boogying from start to finish. An uptempo electronic drum track introduces the song, leading listeners to a spirited, bass-driven verse. Sebghati brings individualistic flair with her entrancing vocal melodies witty lyricism. The concept combines feelings of restlessness with an eerie, mystic thrill only found in haunted houses. Smooth synths explode out with distorted guitars in the song's thrilling chorus. "Roll On" perfectly encapsulates an excitement that cannot be contained. Butler's twangy (yet melodic) post-chorus guitar solo fuels the seemingly boundless momentum of the song before the arrangement drops down to a dynamic build. Beyond the very clearly catchy, vivacious energy of the song, Night Talks brings a level of nuance to "Roll On" that makes it a standout track.



The band's attention to detail and outside the box thinking extends to their music video concept and delivery. What do poltergeists, roller skates, and retro furniture have in common? They can all be found in the "Roll On" music movie. The playfully avant-garde and imaginative visualizer draws inspiration from horror cult classics like The Evil Dead, Monster House, and House (Hausu). Every minutiae is impressively considered, from changing times on a kitchen clock to the family photo of Jacob and Josh mysteriously knocked off the wall at the start of the video. Whether you're a longtime listener like myself or a new fan, the bewitching "Roll On" is an automatic add to your playlist.


We spoke with Jacob Butler and Soraya Sebghati of Night Talks about their songwriting process, music videos, and new and upcoming music. Read the full interview and check out "Roll On" below. Let us know what you think.


 

How did you all meet?

Jacob: We actually met when we were around 13 or 14 years old. Soraya and I went to an after-school music program called School of Rock, and Josh’s brother, who used to be in the band, also went there. We realized we all liked the same stuff… Here we are years later still playing together!


When did you start making original music together?

Soraya: We started doing originals right at the outset. We got together and played a bunch of covers first, but then Jacob and our other former guitarist started writing songs together. I started contributing when I felt more comfortable later. Jacob grew up with a guitar in his hands, I’m pretty sure, but I had never tried writing music before and it was very new to me. We were 14, so we weren’t very good at the whole songwriting thing until pretty recently. It takes a long time for a lot of people to get the hang of it.


What was the first song you ever wrote?

Jacob: There’s a dividing line between our first band and how we transformed into the current Night Talks. One of the first songs we wrote ended up on the first album, In Dreams. “4 X 4” was the first Night Talks song where we were like, “wow, this is really our sound”. Every album has a song that acts as a catalyst for the following era, or the next few years. “4 X 4” was that song for our first record and “Overcome” was it for the last one… it’s usually whatever the first song on the record is. “Roll On”, which we just put out, kickstarted the next few years of songs we have written and recorded.


Have your influences as a group changed over time?

Soraya: Some stuff is definitely lifelong touchstone music for us, but there are always new things that we find to help shape our next era. I think the older we get, the more we diversify what we listen to, which really helps with the songwriting process.


Jacob: It’s a lot of Tom Waits for me and I think I’m about 20 years away from prime Bruce Springsteen age. It’s starting to click for me where I’m thinking, “this dude’s the best!” I’ve also been listening to a lot of older country stuff.


"I think the older we get, the more we diversify what we listen to, which really helps with the songwriting process."

Tell us about “Roll On” and its concept.

Soraya: I hate to be still talking about the pandemic, but it just kind of came out of that. I don’t think it’s limited to the sphere of being stuck in the house during the pandemic but it was a great metaphor to view what our feelings were at the time.


Jacob: I was so restless in the house, as a lot of people were, and I put together this super fast drum machine patch. That ended up being the intro to the song. I put a bass line to it, but it was originally way faster, so I slowed it down a bit. It’s still uptempo–we wanted to capture that “bouncing off the walls in your house” energy, which eventually became a lyric in the song. We didn’t want to be talking about the pandemic this many years later, but as an indie band with zero real infrastructure, we’re still just doing it all ourselves. We put a lot of time and a lot of ourselves into our music, so we didn’t want to just let it out into the void. We wanted to feel like we were in a place to put it out and have people hear it and relate to it.


Soraya: Everybody lost a few years due to the lockdown, but as a band without that infrastructure and heavy label support, some people were better off than others in terms of being able to stay on track with their original timelines. We were going to put out an album and all this cool stuff was going to happen, but we weren’t sure if we’d ever get to play a show again because we had no idea what was going on. It was a weird time and we felt like we were laying dormant for a while. It was a period of a lot of change and growth for Night Talks, and it was all for the better.


"...we wanted to capture that “bouncing off the walls in your house” energy, which eventually became a lyric in the song."

Walk us through your songwriting process.

Jacob: The band’s very bass-heavy and sometimes Josh will come to me with a really cool riff or idea. The whole group basically works around Soraya running across the stage and Josh laying down the foundation while I’m in the corner making crazy noises. We start with Josh’s bass lines a lot or if I have a cool drum beat idea, that can jumpstart things. I’ll make up silly words and sounds and Soraya grabs onto phrases or themes and makes magic. With “Roll On”, I was singing about bouncing off the walls of the house on our scratch demo. Soraya kept that idea and built the whole song around a phrase that initially meant nothing to me. We have some songs where I’ll say something and she wants to know what it means but I just have no idea.


Soraya: It’s a fun assignment for me. I like to have a little something to go off of, but it’s different every time. Our songwriting process is very fluid and if we’re lucky enough to find something we really like, it’s awesome. 99% of the songs you’ll write will be really bad but the other 1% could be really special.


What film influences went into the “Roll On” music video?

Soraya: I have a close friend who I met a few years ago named Julianne Fox. She went to film school and wanted to direct a music video for us. Jacob was also really exhausted from directing out videos after doing nine out of ten of them for our last album, so he was happy to hear that she wanted to step in and do something. During COVID, we had all been so bored that we pitched in to buy a camera.


Jacob: Then, I shot, directed, and edited all the videos for our last album. I was completely winging it and was definitely a student at YouTube University for a while. I’m a big movie buff, so I based a lot of the videos off of shots in movies and music videos I love. I want every video we make to be super fun and interesting… The budget gets away from me sometimes, but it’s a great time.


Soraya: Jacob and Julianne kind of collaborated and fleshed out the ideas for this one. Jacob really loves The Evil Dead, too, so he wanted to capture that vibe. Julianne mentioned a movie they both like called Monster House and there’s another silly, awesome Japanese experimental movie called House (Hausu) about these girls who go on a summer trip to a haunted house that inspired us. The concept of that one came from the director asking his ten-year-old daughter to tell him stories about weird things she thinks could happen. That one and The Evil Dead 2 bring this sort of zaniness to the music video.


There’s this one shot in the “Roll On” video where I’m supposed to be flying down a hallway. We had to try a few different things and luckily, I roller skate. I strapped on some skates and Jacob was basically on a skateboard on the ground behind me pulling a strap that was tied to my pants. We had a friend controlling a fan to make it look like I was being blown backwards very forcefully through this hallway.


What was the most challenging part of filming “Roll On”?

Jacob: We ended up having a 13-hour day. We’ll have these really big ideas and are usually able to pull them off on a pretty limited budget. For example, In one video, we went to space. We book a place to shoot for 12 hours and you’d think that’s plenty of time, but it’s always surprising when you get there how quickly things need to move. We don’t have a huge crew, so there’s a lot for everyone to do.


Soraya: The last few videos have been almost entirely me onscreen, so there’s no real break time or rest. There was a point in the most recent one where a fan was blowing at me and people were throwing ripped up newspaper, confetti, and various debris and dust at me. I was basically battling my way through the house and my poor contact lenses were fighting for their little lives in my eyes.


"There was a point in the most recent one where a fan was blowing at me and people were throwing ripped up newspaper, confetti, and various debris and dust at me. I was basically battling my way through the house and my poor contact lenses were fighting for their little lives in my eyes."

What advice do you have for new indie artists or bands hoping to get started in the music industry?

Jacob: It really starts at finding the right people to play with and who are fully committed to being a part of the project. It’s really hard at times, but it’s worth it. It seems like overused advice, but no matter how difficult it can get, if it’s something that you really want to do, you just have to stick with it and be patient. Also, write good songs. You could work hard, but if your music isn’t good, you’re at a big disadvantage.


What’s next for Night Talks?

Soraya: We have a new song and video coming out on July 12th, called “Nights”. It’s the best video we’ve ever made and I’m very excited to put it out. It’s all about being unable to fall asleep. It’s the pseudo-sleep paralysis and the power of the witching hour (1AM-3AM) where everything feels kind of weird and creepy. The video is shot in black and white and we have a friend who did some serious FX makeup to turn us into monsters. There’s one lyric, “I thought I saw a face upon my chair”, that I love. We also have a show that evening, so if anyone is reading this interview from LA, they should come out on the 12th. It’s at Resident in downtown! After that, we’re going to San Francisco for a few smaller shows, and then we’ll be putting out some singles for a while.


Is there anything else you’d like people to know about you or your music?

Soraya: We’ve got a big greyhound named Sheriff! In terms of our music, we’ve got a lot of good ones coming and it’s very exciting. I definitely want people to know how hard we work on our songs and our videos.


Jacob: When someone hears us for the first time and thinks we’re cool, it’s so awesome when they tell someone else about us or even just share our music on their Instagram stories. Word of mouth is a really awesome and free way to support emerging acts.


Who are three other artists, bands, or industry professionals that you’d like to see on Enharmonic Magazine next?

Soraya: Our friend Molly has a project called Goblynne and they are so talented. We grew up with them and just played an LA show with them… they just put out an album and it’s awesome.


Jacob: As a songwriter, one of my favorite artists in town is this artist named Talker. She played at our residency at the Echo in November and I’m a big fan. It’s so hard to pick just three artists. There’s a great country americana act in town called Sean Fleming who is really amazing and his band is super talented and chill.


Soraya: We also love the bands The Dumes and Polyplastic; I don’t know if I’m allowed to curse in this interview, but they fucking rock.


 



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