Slay Spotlight: Distant Cousins - Slay Sonics

Slay Spotlight: Distant Cousins

Our friends, LA-based folk-pop trio Distant Cousins, seem to land their music in every week! Their original music reflects a fluid collaboration of three distinct songwriters, producers, and performers. In the studio, the cousins share various roles as producers, writers and musicians. At their live shows, however, roles are more delineated; Ami sings, plays bass, and handles looping responsibilities, Dov sings, plays drums, and acoustic guitar, and Duvid sings and is the maestro of a myriad of stringed instruments. Onstage, the band also augments its sound with “honorary cousins” as guest musicians.

Each cousin brings his unique background to the group. Each cousin brings his unique background to the group. And they Slay the placement world with their original songs in Macy’s commercials, in films like This Is Where I Leave You, trailers such as Daddy’s Home 2 and How To Train Your Dragon 3, and on shows like The Voice. Duvid grew up in the Middle East, on a small musical commune in Israel full of hippies and gypsies – owning only record players as appliances. Ami and Dov grew up on the East Coast, attending the same high school in New Jersey a few years apart. Ami is formally trained from Berklee and is forever a fan and student of bold and modern production values. Dov and Duvid come from the organic perspective of stripping a song down to its essentials—guitar and voice—to test its mettle. The blend of these two vantage points—cutting edge pop sonics with classic song-craft—is a thorough line that runs deeply through the Distant Cousins song catalog.

Up next, the guys in Distant Cousins are planning a national tour and crafting more indie-pop masterpieces. Mulling over the meaning of this familial journey in music, Ami says: “In this business, you can get lost in the grind. Music can become a service rather than an art. With Distant Cousins, we bring all the skills we’ve acquired in the grind back to being art. And that’s because of our connection as a trio—it’s truly a blessing.”

We sat down with Distant Cousins to chat about his production and writing process and share some tips for up and coming producers!

What are some pros/cons of writing songs as a band?

AK: You have to be patient, leave your ego at the door and always remember that it’s about what’s best for the SONG, not you. Ultimately, successful collaboration comes down to trust and respect. As long as you trust the instincts of your co-writers, then you’ll have a much easier letting things flow and develop without being too precious and digging your heels in the ground. The end result is always stronger out of that process. I suppose a pro of writing solo is efficiency, since there are no decisions made by committee which can slow things down at times. Still, writing as a group is way more fun.

What are some challenges you face when writing for a specific film or show?

AK: Sometimes, you can get caught up and distracted by all the direction and forget that in the end, it’s just about writing a great song. Hitting the nail too much on the head can sometimes work against you, so you have to remember that it’s a balance.

How do you deal with tight deadlines for placements?

What are some tips you might have for artists looking to get their music licensed?
AK: Learn how to self produce so you can get your ideas fleshed out and delivered quickly. Form real relationships with people in the areas of the industry that deal with music placement – Licensing companies, music supervisors, and also directors and producers. Find out what they need creatively and experiment with styles, genres and musical approaches that might appeal to them. Once the relationship grows, and trust and confidence builds on both ends, it gets easier to be more creative and push the boundaries to better form your own style. You don’t have to think about every musical decision so consciously once you’ve sharpened your sensibilities as to what ‘works’.

How did you guys meet and how did the band come together?

How do you approach song-writing? (music or lyrics) (i.e. do you prefer playing your own instruments, or writing to an instrumental that already made?)

What’s a defining moment in your career thus far?

DR: When our song “Are You Ready” was used as the end credit song for the film ‘This Is Where I Leave You,” it gave us the confidence boost – and income – to keep pushing forward with our project. It’s still exciting to see a song you developed and recorded in your own home studio end up on the big screen, reaching millions of people!

How do you know when a song is done?

DR: We don’t, really. In a way, the song is never done, you just have to let go of it at a certain point. We could debate endlessly over a lyric, a production idea, a mix note, etc. But we all vote and move on.

How do you stay focused and productive?

DR: It helps to be in a trio b/c we all keep each other focused and on track. We set goals for each week and also take some time to discuss long term goals as well. We try to just keep getting together to work and churn out songs and tracks as often as possible.

What are you listening to right now?

DR: Whatever is played on 88.5 KCSN and 89.9 KCRW, love those stations.

What’s a crazy experience you’ve had in the industry or a writing session?

DR: We once had a singer/songwriter over at our studio and after about 20 minutes of small talk and getting to know each other a bit, we dug into the songwriting process and got some awesome ideas going really quickly. A few minutes into that, she jumped up out of her chair and said, “Oh my god, I’m so sorry, I have to go!” Then she bolted. That was it. We all just looked at each other, somewhat stunned, and to this day we have no idea what happened. Shame, too, b/c it was on its way to being a really cool song!

Who would you want to collaborate with that you haven’t already?

DR: Pharell
AK:Ryan Tedder
DS: Rick Rubin

Some of Distant Cousins credits include:
“Are You Ready” in new trailer for How To Train Your Dragon 3 (6M + views)
“On My Way” in Macy’s commercial
“Are You Ready” in This Is Where I Leave You film as end credits song
“Burning Up” in Daddy’s Home 2 trailer
“Get It To Me” in promo for The Voice
New single “Lights On,” played on 88.5 KCSN