Entering Their New Era: Emotional Oranges Interviewed

Reclusive alt-R&B pairing in conversation...

Emotional Oranges have gone from strength to strength in recent years. Since announcing themselves in the alt-R&B space back in 2019 with their funky, smooth debut ‘The Juice Vol.1’, they’ve only expanded and elevated their sound. Back then they used mystery to create allure – we weren’t told the names and faces of the two voices heard on ‘The Juice Vol.1’. Four years and five projects later, Azad and Vali are taking creative and business risks, all out in the open. Having let us in on their respective identities and backgrounds, the duo last year opted to drop their label and go the independent route – a decision that has only served to embolden their approach to music.

Their second independent release, ‘Still Emo’ dropped last month and it showed the extent of their evolution. With soul and R&B as central to their sound as ever, the eight-song project manages to incorporate sonics as varied as South Africa’s amapiano (‘Not Worthy’ featuring Nonso Amadi), dance sounds (‘Not Like This’ featuring ZHU) and there’s a strong Pharoah Monche influence on ‘Be Somebody’. Managing to create a cohesive fusion of worlds is a challenge enough for a single act, but as a duo whose lyrics delve into their individual stories and perspectives the task ought to be all the more difficult. Luckily, Emotional Oranges are blessed with a deftness of touch that allows them to pull many different worlds into their plane.

Emotional Oranges chopped it up with Clash magazine to talk ‘Still Emo’ their newly found independence-born freedom, home goods and candles. 

You’ve said that ‘Still Emo’ is the most fun you’ve had making a project. Why is that?

Vali: I really enjoyed making ‘Still Emo’! Especially watching the NBA finals during most of our sessions, felt like history was being made from many angles around us. Working with TK was also a huge highlight in the process for me! I’m always surrounded by nothin’ but bros in the studio, so it was fun to bring more femininity in the room. 

What is your favourite song off the album?

Vali: My personal favourite two songs (I won’t choose just one) are ‘Be Somebody’ and ‘Better Apart’ – can’t wait to crowd surf to these two soon. 

What was the most challenging thing about making ‘Still Emo’?

Vali: One of the challenges we faced working on ‘Still Emo’ was choosing which songs should live on Vol.1. We both had strong favourites but this definitely leaves room for the other volumes; we have enough songs for at least 10 more!

What’s the thing you’re most proud of about this project?

Vali: I’m very proud of my writing on this project. I took more risks by being vulnerable and holding down the female perspective in a more raw unfiltered approach. I’m proud of the woman I’m becoming during this ‘Still Emo’ era.

Was it difficult to make such an eclectic album still sound cohesive?

Azad: Arranging and sequencing the songs was a game of Tetris when it was all finished because of the different styles, but thematically, I love the story it tells. Almost all of the chords are rooted in R&B and Soul music, so I think that – along with the male/female perspectives – helps act as the glue that ties everything together.

With you both in different places in your respective love lives, is it difficult to make music that reflects you both in equal measure?

Vali: The great thing about the two of us is that we are so different. Two perspectives. Our lyrics sometimes tell completely opposite sides of the same story; like a ‘his and hers’ section. One thing we both feel deeply is love and all of its many layers and stages. Whether it’s channelling a past heartbreak or exploring a new relationship it’s not hard to make music that reflects both of our experiences in love and life.

The Amapiano influence is strong on ‘Not Worthy’ featuring Nonso Amadi. Was the song made while you were in SA?

Azad: I’ve been listening to Nonso since I heard ‘Radio’ back in 2017. The instrumental and my parts were written and recorded in Mykonos, but the actual production was finished after our trip to Cape Town and Johannesburg. My brother Gavin connected us and he loved the song and sent me his vocals back within a couple days!

How did the Pharoah Monche feeling in ‘Be Somebody’ come about?

Azad: I’ve just always fucked with the riot esque, mosh pit energy of that record. Wasn’t sure as to how to bring the EO sound and texture to it, but once Yoni (from Chiiild) laid the bassline, the hook kinda wrote itself. Also random, but Dante and I were listening to Freeway’s ‘Flipside’ while finishing it haha!

And what about the Zhu feature on ‘… Not Like This’?

Azad: Z and I have been friends since 2015. To me, he’s one of the best producers in dance and certainly the most fearless. This is the first of a few records we’ve worked on together. I never imagined our visions complimenting each other so well but it’s been dope to see it come to life.

Do you think that going independent has allowed you the room to be more experimental?

Azad: Being independent has honestly only made creating more exciting. There are no limits to how far we can push ourselves – both sonically and how we release and roll music out – and that alone is such a motivating feeling. Being partnered with Island Records was dope as we needed the support early on, and looking back on it, it also helped provide a structure that led to us organizing our business more efficiently. We wouldn’t have known [how to organise their business without it].

How does life as an independent act compare to what you expected?

Azad: It’s been the most productive year of my life. I can genuinely say I’ve never learned so much or made so many mistakes. I don’t want to speak too soon but I feel like we’ve found a flow that works well for us in regards to every vertical. In all honesty, we should pick this convo back up in a few months because we’ll have our Europe and Asia tour routing along with a couple more projects ready to release.

You’re on a hot streak now, having put out two projects in eight months. Will we get more EO before the year’s out?

Azad: Absolutely, it just might not be music lol. Nah but for real, I’ve been working on designing a tea that pays homage to my Iranian roots, a new home goods collection that features an organic room spray and candle, along with a brand new STILL EMO merch collection that’ll be rolling out this Fall.

‘STILL EMO’ is out now.

Words: Dwayne Wilks

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