Duo Samurai Champs write future-hip hop/RnB, drawing influence from their Southeast Asian heritage while taking pride in their urban-Canadian identity. We caught up with new-wave rapper Jeah and dark-RnB/soul singer Merv xx Gotti to find out more about their influences and new single ‘Cabernet Sauvignon’.
‘Cabernet Sauvignon’ is not so much a sad song but a real song. In the way that it speaks about a love that two people fight to have but comes to an inevitable end.
First up, tell us bit about yourselves - what led you teaming up as Samurai Champs?
Jeah is Cambodian, born in a refugee camp in Thailand. Growing up to a lot of hiphop and RnB. His style caters to those genres effortlessly. Merv xx Gotti is half Thai and half Chinese. His style coming from acoustic and punk backgrounds. Allows him to sing like and angel and also mosh harder than anyone in the pit or on the stage. Still his influences from dark RnB like the Weekend. Helps usher his sound through RnB with ease.
We met because we went to the same high school and kind of did music together every now and then. We didn’t decide to actually join a band and take music seriously till a couple years ago. I guess you can say we looked up to each other’s styles and abilities whether it be in music or in life.
Who do your take inspiration from?
We take our inspiration from a collective called soulection and other major Canadian artists like the weekend or drake.
Why the name ‘Samurai Champs’?
The name Samurai Champs comes from an anime we both love called Samurai Champloo. It’s about two samurais, one which is traditional and the other not so much. This is also adopted into their very distinct fighting styles. Which in a way is relatable to our situation as the duo in Samurai Champs.
Even with their differences in Samurai Champloo, they are able to collaborate towards a common goal. Which I think represents us well. To be able to understand each other, even though we belong to different backgrounds of music.
How would you describe your musical style?
The genres we would fit in is hip hop/RnB/electronic. Not so much bright and happy. But more so dark and moody. We have heavy bangers for the crowds to mosh to. But every now and then we still like to charm up a crowd with some sad singing.
If you could collaborate with any living artist or band, who would you choose?
It be cool to see how one of our tracks would sound with Miguel in it. Just because we are both fans. But definitely would like to come out with a banging track that has Rich Brian or Higher Brothers from 88 Rising on it.
Tell us about your new single ‘Cabernet Sauvignon’, what’s it about?
‘Cabernet Sauvignon’ is not so much a sad song but a real song. In the way that it speaks about a love that two people fight to have but comes to an inevitable end. ‘Cabernet Sauvignon’ is the symbolic item revolving around these deep and intimate conversations in the relationship, whether It be good or bad.
When did you write ‘Cabernet Sauvignon’, and where did you record it?
We wrote ‘Cabernet Sauvignon’ a couple years ago, but were able to actually breathe life into it recently with the skills we now hone. We recorded the track at blue doors recording studio in Regina with our homie Walt Ernest assisting with the mix and engineering of the track.
How does ‘Cabernet Sauvignon’ build on your style?
‘Cabernet Sauvignon’ brings out two distinct styles we wanted to implement into a track. Jeahs heavier loud raps and Mervs soft warm singing create a clashing yet dark harmonic track.
What are your hopes for ‘Cabernet Sauvignon’?
We hope people can separate our music with ‘Cabernet Sauvignon’ from the more generic sounds. To hopefully distinguish ourselves stylistically as well. Ultimately we hope it does well overall, so keep listening to it.
‘Cabernet Sauvignon’ is the title track for your debut album, can you tell us about the other tracks on the LP?
The LP has a variety of tracks. I feel like there’s a song for everybody on it. Some which are groovy, sad, happy, and even some heavier tracks. It’s like a food platter, you’re gonna find at least one thing you can enjoy.
What other plans do you have for the year?
We have plans to head back to Toronto for NXNE and working towards a couple festivals in Asia this year.
Finally, if you could go back in time and give yourselves one piece of advice, when would it be and what would you say?
It would be a couple years ago. Work harder but smarter and definitely make sure to put a timeline on each track instead of fighting your own criticism so long that you don’t end up releasing the songs you want. Just because you felt they could be better.
You can always revise and make a better track as you become a better artist. But that’s not the point. The point is to enjoy the journey, with the releases as a marker for your growth. Do it with love and loyalty.
Listen to ‘Cabernet Sauvignon’ on SoundCloud below. For news and tour dates go to the Samurai Champs Facebook page.