An Interview With The Hybird Jazz Soul Pop Group, SUM!
Posted On 26 Oct 2018
Get to know the NYC-based group, SUM, who bring together jazz and soul in an unique uplifting sound. They released their music video “It’s Alright To Be Me” with an exclusive premiere on GroundSounds. They have previously gained successful placements like Lost In E Minor, hhhhappy, Eclectic Music Lover, Broadway World, and California Music Channel.
On September 28th, they released their debut album with a release show at Rockwood Music Hall.
SUM was created by Steve Belvilus, a multi-talented musician (Les Nubians, Hamilton: an American Musical, Natalie Cole, Hezekiah Walker), with vocals performed by the amazing singer, and New York actress, Patryce Williams. The purpose was to create a band that reach the audience in a way that was more personal than that of other jazz groups. They present themselves through a logo that captures their energy and are driven by their mission to promote freedom of self. SUM has performed all across New York City, playing at some of the most notable venues such as B.B. King, Rockwood Music Hall, and Pianos.
Learn more about SUM in the following All Access interview:
Thanks for your time! What is on tap for the rest of your day?
(Steve) At the moment that we are writing this, we are currently at a gig!
Since we are now at the back-end of 2018, how has this year treated this band? What is one musical goal that you have had for this year? How close are you to reaching it?
(Steve) This year has been a pretty good year for the band. We did not play as much this year because I needed to finish this album and release it this year. The album release day kept being pushed, I thought it would never come out. I am glad it is finally out. That was my main goal this year: to release the record, and Patryce and I did it!
Can you recall the moment when you thought you could be in this group together? Was it hard to think of a name that you could agree on?
(Steve) SUM is not the type of group that you are referring to in your question. I created the group and gave it a name. I write, arrange, produce all of the music. Patryce and I are the executive producers. Patryce is the lead vocalist and helps me manage the group as well. We are just fortunate to have an amazing group of musicians who helps to bring our musical vision to life when we are on stage. The musicians, who play with SUM, support us – without them the band could not exist. I am so grateful for them.
(Patryce) It was pretty organic how everything came together. There wasn’t any grand discussion about it. We all respected Steve as a leader and we collectively went with the flow. At first we went by the name The Rebirth Project. Then as Steve got deeper in figuring out everything he told us we where now SUM and that was that.
How do you think your hometowns have influenced the sound and how you all carry yourselves in this group?
(Patryce) I’m originally from CT. Growing up there was always music. My father is a musician himself and was involved in production in the early 90s right at the birth of New Jack Swing. Everything that was happening in New York had a direct influence in Bridgeport. So R&B infused with the New Jack Swing sound is deep and I think has some influence on how I approach a vocal.
Let’s talk about your newest song and accompanying video for “It’s Alright To Be Me.” What was the inspiration for this track?
(Steve) I wrote this song because I wanted to have a song that explains clearly to the public what the word “sum” means, the philosophy of my band and my musical influences. You can see and hear all of that in that particular track.
How do you think this track compares to the other songs on your debut self-titled album?
(Patryce) I’d say it’s the pop track, but it’s still just as musical as the other tracks.
How creatively involved were you all with making the music video for “It’s Alright To Be Me”?
(Patryce) We were completely hands on. As far as the concept Steve and I worked on the story together. He found our locations and I rounded up the actors and extras. We communicated with our amazing Director and DP, Martin Loper, on how we wanted it to look and it just came together really nicely!
What did it feel like recently putting out your debut album? What was the process like? Did anything surprise you about the overall process? Were there any unexpected challenges?
(Steve) I was just pretty happy that it was finally done. The fun part of the process was the recording part even though we had some great challenges. I was trying to record an album and at the same time making a music video. We did not have enough time to do both comfortably. There was part of the recording that was really, really stressful because we had to do so much in a short window of time.
Can you talk about a few other songs on the album and the inspirations behind them?
(Patryce) Sure thing! “Power Anthem”, the second track on the album is one of my favorites. Steve gave me the music and asked me to write something in line with the SUM message. It had a very epic feel to it and I just kept hearing the word power. I found myself just saying words to encourage myself. And the lyrics just fell into place. My hope is that I am able to help someone feel encouraged as I was encouraging myself.
“Sinking Sand” is a fan favorite. It originally had lyrics that Steve wrote and it was then called “$150”. One day he tells me to come up with anything because his lyrics sucked. I completely changed the concept and wrote the first version of “Sinking Sand”. It was pretty political and dark. Steve felt it was a bit much due to the current climate we are in. I was stuck on the name but reworked it to talk about a relationship and that is what we hear on the record.
Where do you think you are all happiest- in the studio recording new music, on stage performing or elsewhere?
(Patryce) Oh gosh! I can honestly say that I love both equally. I love creating and the process of putting things together. Even if it’s something that’s difficult, there’s a certain satisfaction that I get once it’s all done! And then I get to share that thing with people!?!? It’s incredible. I love it all!
Do you have any upcoming fall or winter tours planned? Where can fans see you perform next?
(Steve) Right now we are going to Europe in a couple of days. After that, I will try to put some shows for next year.
Do you find that all of social media and keeping up with your fans has gotten so overwhelming? OR do you rely heavily on others to take care of that for the band? Which platform would you say that you enjoy engaging with the most?
(Steve) I don’t like social media at all but I do post shows and updates when I have to. I have found Facebook efficient for a band like ours because you can upload different types of content without too much restrictions. It’s time consuming and I hate it for that. I rather use that time to relax or write music or hang with my friends in real life.
(Patryce) I find social media overwhelming because I’m trying to increase our followers! I handle our Twitter account. It’s tough because I want to engage more but I’m still trying to figure out the balance.
We are currently living through a very trying and politically charged time right now so I am curious to know how you all think being musicians and in this band still gives you the most joy in life today. Do you find that your music is an escape to all the current events?
(Patryce) It absolutely gives me joy. It’s a privilege to have a gift and the gift is meant to be shared. The music is absolutely an escape. During our set you receive the message that you are enough.
What musicians would you love to work with in the future? What artists have really been inspiring this group and your music since day 1?
(Steve) Musicians that have inspired me: RH factor of Roy Hargrove, Jill Scott, D’Angelo, Kirk Franklin. Currently I am obsessed with Unknown Mortal Orchestra and this band from Chicago named “Noname”
(Patryce) I’d love to work with Quincy Jones. My first solo in church was a song from his Back on the Block album called “Tomorrow (A Better You, Better Me)”.
What do you hope is the message of your music? What do you hope people continue to take away from your songs?
(Patryce) I hope that people will receive that they are the standard. Your uniqueness is enough.
Would you like to share anything else about your music or the history of this band to our readers?
(Patryce) Compared to some other bands out there, we haven’t played together very long. But I believe that we are a great example of if you have strong leadership and faith, the possibilities are endless.
(all photography provided by EMPKT PR)