Last weekend, Baltimore artists Butch Dawson and :3lON released their joint EP, PVRVLLELS. Dawson's been a staple in the city's downtown scene over the past two years with his kick-back rap style and seemingly interchangeable production skills--easily adapting and meshing to whatever artist he works with. :3lON on the other hand, has made a hell of an introduction to the scene over the past eight months since he dropped his track "Portraits" on SoundCloud, showcasing his dreamy production and almost-extinct forceful singing voice. Just before the project released, I met with the two in Butch's home studio and learned what it took for them to complete the project.
Neither of you really go outside of yourselves for production so how was a balance achieved throughout this process? Who had to compromise the most?
Butch: Initially I wanted to hear Elon’s vocals over my production and when we came together to do the project we decided that he would add a track that he produced. We got to a middle ground as far as experimenting. It was chill.
:3lON: Teklon did a beat too.
What do you learn from each other artistically and otherwise?
3lON: (To Butch) For instance, when you made “Record” your approach to making the sound was pretty interesting and you used this one synth that I immediately thought wouldn’t have been the first option for me but then once you started playing with the melodies I was like, “Okay”. It ended up bringing everything together. It’s really interesting studying other people’s approaches to making beats.
Butch: What’s interesting to me is that within the process of making a masterpiece, it doesn’t even have to be that long. You just gotta be around those people who are really talented and who do this shit; It’s in their blood. When I’m in the studio with 3lON, he’s not writing. I’ve probably seen him write some shit like once. He just goes in and has fun. Basically freestyling. I’m watching like, “What? You freestyling all this R&B shit?!”
3lON: That’s the thing: I can only do that if I feel super comfortable so I definitely felt like it was a kindred spirit here.
Butch: Definitely. When I’m by myself I’m most comfortable recording or maybe with like two or three people. More than that would be too much going on for me to focus. Working with 3lON and having a creative goal, it’s good to know that the other person is capable of doing that.
3lON: We were just vibing out for real.
How much of this was hands on? Was it always recorded as a team or was it a lot of emailing back and forth?
Butch: He was always here. I’d either have beats and tell him that he needed to hop on them or we’d sit and make shit.
Were there any roadblocks throughout the creative process here? If so, what were they?
:3lON: Not that I can remember (laughs). It was just real chill. We knew we wanted to do this shit so we did what we do. Make songs all day and package it.
Butch: More than any other artist in Baltimore, me and 3lON see eye-to-eye without having to say anything. You just know. Even when I’m joking around with a few bars he’ll finish that shit.
:3lON, most of your music is solo. Do you feel encouraged to collaborate more now that you’ve done this project?
:3LON: That was my objective from the beginning. To collaborate with as many people as possible. That’s how you learn--doing shit and making music with other people.
What song was the most fun recording?
Butch: I would say “Storms”.
3lON: “Record” is mine.
Both of you have been making your rounds in Baltimore. Why haven't you traveled more?
:3lON: That’s the objective for this summer. I plan on touring a lot. We have two tours we’re working on together for the summer then I’m gonna go on tour with Chiffon later in the year which will be a lot of dates. So hopefully by the end of the year I can say I’ve seen some shit.
Butch: Yeah like 3lON said, we’re doing two tours. From that I’m trying to head overseas.
As Baltimore artists, what would you say holds people back. Or why do you think it's difficult for people to propel themselves to the masses?
Butch: I think some people are still trying to establish themselves then go from there. Sometimes I just think it’s trying to maintain living in Baltimore. Not just shit like getting a job or making money; it’s situations where some people feel stuck but are still trying to do this music shit. Those situations can hold them back.
3lON: Once you have the basic shit taken care of, it’s up to you to push yourself. I feel like anybody from Baltimore can do it. It kinda confuses me that more people from here don’t. You shouldn’t let anything hold you back. It’s people who were really poor and started making beats or found ways to make music. So for you to sit around and use your surroundings as an excuse is kinda like…
Butch: You just gotta extra grind.
Do you think it’s really excuses or is it that Baltimore is a very unique place, socially? A lot of people here are struggling for life’s necessities and that’s deeply ingrained. It could be more of a struggle with feeling discouraged more than it is making excuses.
3lON: But it is people out there that believe that there’s nothing they can do but trap. Like that’s the only thing that could ever do. Why?
Well, how do you feel as an R&B singer in Baltimore’s music scene? How do you fit in?
3lON: I don’t really consider myself an R&B artist but because I sing the way I do, people say that I am.
What do you consider yourself to be then?
3lON: I try to experiment with different things. There are a whole lot of singers in Baltimore but it’s rare to see a show full of them because they want to do other shit. They either do choir or sing for their YouTube channel. I like performing, though. I started with doing open mics because it’s hella singers in that scene too but once I started having to pay to participate in open mics, I didn’t want to do it anymore.
To both of you, what would make Pvrvllels a successful project?
Butch: It’s already a successful project to me because initially I wanted to do it so I could hear 3lON on my beats. A lot of people that listen to me in Europe fuck with my “Helium” song we did together and it made me want to do this.
Listen to PVRVLLELS on SoundCloud.