New Friends: Saint Pepsi Interview And Playlist
Young Long Island producer Ryan DeRobertis—aka Saint Pepsi—smiles behind an enviable nerdy cool. Save for the moments when he rattles off about the underground music scene of the 70s and 80s, DeRobertis is a man born, raised, and influenced by the internet. Teeming with a carefree love of pop music that keeps audiences crowding for more, his remixes, and recent original work, have ignited a fan base whose loyalty isn't dying out anytime soon. We had the chance to kick back and chat with the producer about his new music, love of top 40 pop, finding himself at a socialist houseparty with Painted Palms, and his dream of djing a high school prom.
New Friends: Saint Pepsi Playlist
On your new single Fiona Coyne, you sing (!) something you haven't done on songs before. What gave you the push to dip your toes into the world of singing?
I wanted to start singing as Saint Pepsi a few months after starting the project, but I'm really glad I took my time to build up to that. The first real "song" I wrote for the project was actually "Fall Harder", the b-side to "Fiona Coyne". It exists in demo form, somewhere within the vast depths of the internet, but the push came when I signed to Carpark Records. When I realized I had their support in releasing an album that a large audience could hear and love, it brought a new artist out of me!
The name Fiona Coyne is pulled from a Degrassi character that showed up in season 9 (two seasons after Drake's departure for those keeping track). Is this the most obscure reference you've put into one of your songs? What are some of your favorite songs with obscure references?
One of the first songs I made as Saint Pepsi sampled a song called "Dance Baby" by Alfonso Ribiero, who you may know as Carlton Banks from The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. I'd say that's my most obscure reference thus far, but I'm super into that kind of stuff. My favorite band Prefab Sprout used to sprinkle their songs with references to literature and pop culture, and I always got excited when I uncovered one.
Photo by Faith Silva
Who did you listen to when you were 16? Did you record any music when you were that age?
I turned 16 in 2009...wow. That was a pivotal year for me, musically. 2009 was the year that I started to have serious aspirations about making a career of music, actually. It was all downhill from there. (I decided to have fun with this and utilize my Facebook timeline and Last.FM charts) I made a "Best of 2009 So Far" list in March and it reads as follows:
Animal Collective "Merriweather Post Pavillion"
Phoenix "Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix"
The Whitest Boy Alive "Rules"
Franz Ferdinand "Tonight"
If you were asked to DJ a high school prom, who would you spin?
I would kill for this opportunity. If anybody reading this is in need of a prom DJ, don't hesitate to get in contact. I would play a lot of Jamiroquai and a lot of Drake, Fatboy Slim—all on top of each other. It would be sick.
How did you get involved with Keats Collective?
Keats is the fam! I've been a really big fan of Dinosaurus Rex for a few years and the man behind that project runs Keats. He heard a few jams on my Soundcloud in April 2013 and approached me about putting a record out through them, so I busted my ass making "Hit Vibes" in that month. It's still something I'm super proud of and I'll always consider myself a member of the Keats family.
You've just finished up tours with Jessy Lanza and Painted Palms. Any good stories from the road?
My favorite story involves trying to find a place to crash in Indianapolis. We ended up finding a place to stay through a couch surfing website. When we got there it was a bunch of socialists throwing a party. They were actually socialists! It was awesome. I told them I wrote the song "Drops of Jupiter" by Train (which came out when I was eight) and they believed me, which was cool. You don't even need to know a song's lyrics to convince someone you wrote it.
Saint Pepsi with Painted Palms
Your remixes of Carly Rae Jepsen and Justin Bieber are two of your most popular songs. It seems like you have a pretty deep, unironic love of pop music – who from the top 40 pop world are you listening to? Any plans to remix them soon?
Bieber is one of my favorites, and Carly Rae's album was great, too! I'd say as a whole I'm a bigger fan of pop songs than pop artists. I love Ariana Grande, but so does everybody else. I had a really great dream the other night where I was in the studio with Lorde and she was giving me this amazing advice on conquering writer's block and anxiety. Maybe that will happen someday!
What was the music scene like for you growing up in Long Island?
My experience with the Long Island music scene was pretty limited to a Battle of the Bands held annually by my local library. I don't know if "scene kids" were a huge thing nationwide but they were HUGE on Long Island while I was growing up. There were a ton of bands doing that crabcore thing (video proof) and I think there was a ska band, too. My friends played in a band called The Funeral Drums and they were really influential to me because they were a couple of years older than I was at the time. I looked up to them a lot- they ended up letting me "produce" their album which was really cool to my 13-year-old self.
What bands do you keep pushing your friends to get into?
You're probably super down with iLoveMakonnen now, and so am I, but two years ago I found an album on Spotify called "Tribute to Kanye West and Jay-Z" by the artist Clique. I memorized every song on that album. I tried to get all my friends into it because I thought Clique was a genius; turns out, the album was just a bunch of Makonnen songs under different names. I didn't even figure out who he was until my friend caught the similarities when "Club Going Up On A Tuesday" came out.
What bands were you listening to when you were last in the studio? (Either recording for an upcoming LP or during the recording of the Fiona Coyne single)
Lately I've been on a huge Cocteau Twins kick, and I also heard Turn On the Bright Lights [by Interpol] in full for the first time the other week and loved it. I've been listening to an album called From Langley Park to Memphis by Prefab Sprout, my favorite band of all time, but listening to it with a producer's ears has really changed the experience for me. It's my ideal pop record; melodically infectious and meticulously arranged. It's a digital symphony and Paddy McAloon is every bit as good as Brian Wilson [from The Beach Boys] in my book.