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Loq Interviews Royal Sapien

Why did Royal Sapien cover Miley Cyrus's track "Adore You"?
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Inspiration board for Adore You cover art.

Ben took the cover art process pretty seriously.

We sent Royal Sapien (Ben Mautner) some questions about his new cover of the Miley Cyrus track Adore You ...

How long have you been a Miley Cyrus fan?

Before “We Can’t Stop” came out, I couldn’t have picked her out of a line-up. I didn’t know who Hannah Montana was because I’m 31 and cool. I thought the video was bizarre and kind of dumb, but when I realized that was Miley’s direction to director Diane Martel, it made sense. I also didn’t like the song very much at first because I hadn’t heard anything like it, but now it will always be my summer song of 2013.

Since then, I’ve been following her as a fan. She’s brave and unconventionally brilliant. She’s one of the best marketers on the planet. She really does come up with her own ideas. She fired her machine. She’s reinvented herself twice and been cartoonishly successful with every endeavor, and she’s only 21. She’s also weird as shit and doesn’t give a fuck what anyone thinks. Miley Cyrus replaced Ke$ha as my spirit animal.

When Bangerz came out, I was floored. It’s much smarter than I expected it to be. Wonderfully written and impeccably produced, mixed, and engineered. I listen to it a couple times a week and still learn from it. Mike Will and Pharrell put a lot of work into the album and it shows, plus the Dr. Luke and Cirkut joint “Wrecking Ball” is phenomenal. I think Miley’s personality alienated Grammy voters, which is why Bangerz didn’t get a single nomination, but I probably care more than she does.

What inspired you to cover “Adore You”?

For the opening of a bass-heavy ass-shaking album, “Adore You” surprised me, but I fell in love with it immediately. I just think it’s gorgeous. When I read the liner notes and found out that the producer, Oren Yoel, was essentially unknown in the industry and only had 1,400 Twitter followers, not only was I impressed that he produced and co-wrote (with Stacy Barthe) the song, but especially that somehow Miley found him or he found Miley. I hope they work more together.

I decided to cover a song on the album, just to see if I could, and thought “Adore You” might get the attention of someone like Oren Yoel compared to covering “Wrecking Ball,” which would never reach Dr. Luke. I also felt it was the only song on the album that I could convert to a beat-focused jam since all the rest are already jams. I’ll let pianists and guitarists on YouTube do the subdued, acoustic covers.

What was involved in producing the track?

It was a lot more complicated than it sounds on the record. I actually challenged myself to get it done, start to finish, in a week because usually I spend far too long on songs and drain the life out of them. The basic beat came first, then I recorded some demo vocals and started building around them. The beat had to be structured just right because there are only a few synths used in the track. Everything centers around the beat, that low bassline, and the vocals. Getting the clap right was arduous but the vocals were by far the hardest part. I hadn’t done vocal engineering like that before so I had to learn a lot. My friend and sometimes co-producer Nick Stoynoff was a big help. He helped me realize that access to an 1176 and an LA2A could change my life.

How many takes to get the vocals right?

However long a piece of string is. There were several sessions over three days with perhaps five takes each before my voice started hurting. Miley’s version of “Adore You” sounds effortless but it turns out it’s a really challenging song to sing. It’s the only song she seems to have trouble with live, and she’s a really good singer, so imagine this dumb dumb singing it.

Fortunately, I was able to use some of the extra takes for doubling, then I added harmonies and accents. There are a total of 32 channels of the mix just for vocals with a little to a lot of processing on each one. I won’t be singing this live anytime soon.

The song’s lyrics touch on marriage. Did you cover the track in support of gay marriage? Or were you just singing the lyrics as written?

That’s funny. I hadn’t thought about that until you asked. I just thought the song was pretty.

I did think that people would maybe perceive it as a gay song, which is fine, but artists cover other artists’ songs all the time and don’t change the genders. If Beyonce sang “The Girl Is Mine,” no one would think that it’s a song about lesbians.

The only thing I changed was the pronoun of God from “He” to “She.” I’m not a God person, but I believe that if God is a generous, caring giver of life, she is probably an awesome southern black woman who raised her kids right and loves them to bits but now that the they have moved away, she can only do so much to help them through the rest of their lives.

You did the cover art as well. Tell us about your process.

I did! Part of my deal with any label is that I design my original covers. Design is my day job, night job, and general life, so I like to control how I appear visually to the world, even if it’s always different. I have no say on the covers of tracks I co-write with other people, so I cherish my originals.

The cover art for “Adore You” started out with a bunch of sketches based on classic 80s designs. A lot of stills from 80s TV show commercials. I like the cover to Bangerz a lot and wanted to use a similar color scheme, but do something funky with a shape. The “A” and the “Y” seemed to fit together and I started arting from there.

You're more known for dance music and left-field electronica. So Miley Cyrus might seem like a disconnect to some of your fans. What would you say to them?

I’ve changed my musical style so much in the last 2 years that I think the fans that I’ve got are along for the ride. A couple years ago, I was still making and playing progressive house after years of doing it. I got bored, cancelled one radio show and renamed another, and started my label Conquer, where I could experiment with new sounds that I’d never done. Now I make whatever inspires me on the day and hope people like it. Breaks and bass mostly, for now. If anyone doesn’t like it, there’s really nothing I can do. I make what I make.

Have you sent it to Miley Cyrus, or to Stacy Barthe and Oren Yoel Kleinman (who wrote the song)?

When I first posted the song to my Soundcloud, I sent both of the songwriters a link on Twitter. A few days earlier, I had tweeted them congratulations on getting the record on Bangerz. I should bother them now that the song is out.

I would send it to Miley but I hope that if the songwriters like it, that’s a more efficient way to get it to her. She doesn’t read social media responses or messages because she doesn’t care. If somehow, over the next year, it makes its way to her ears, the best case scenario is that I could produce a track on her next album. But I would die if that happened, so I’d likely miss the deadline.

More pop covers in your future?

Absolutely. And some originals coming in 2014 as well. I’m flexing my songwriting muscles. I would love more than anything to make pop music.

Royal Sapien - Adore You is available on iTunes and also on Beatport


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