Q&A with Sweater Beats

Voluntary, Inner Sweatshop

By: PDG - photo by Jasmine Safaeian

May 24, 2017

"I don’t just want to be somebody who has 1 cool song or 1 big remix. I want to constantly get better, try new things and keep surprising people with my music. Oh, and Rihanna of course."

If you met Antonio Cuna, aka Sweater Beats, without a formal introduction, in all likelihood you wouldn't think he's one of NYC most successful DJ/Producers. Hailing from the Philippines via Maryland, Antonio belongs to the rare breed of musicians who are so hard working and talented that they don't need to dress up (or pose) to impress. In the last decade Sweater Beats has been growing incessantly, with Antonio's music, a contagious mix of dance, synth pop and R'n'B, becoming more and more viral. Notwithstanding the fact that in 2017 he's been touring incessantly, we managed to ask yhim a few questions about his musical project.

When did you start tinkering with electronic instruments?

In high school I’d play in emo and punk bands. But when I graduated all my bandmates went to college out of state and I stayed home. Since I didn’t have a drummer to play I started using my computer to make drumbeats and play along with them & that was really the start of me making music electronically.

What’s been inspiring you lately? Have your sources of inspiration changed from the early releases?

A lot of my inspiration comes from knowing that I can make a career out of music. I don’t just want to be somebody who has 1 cool song or 1 big remix. I want to constantly get better, try new things and keep surprising people with my music. Oh, and Rihanna of course.

You work with different vocalists, do they simply sing on tracks you have ready or are these collaborations more organic?

You know, it varies from track to track, every song happens differently. I definitely prefer being in the room with the vocalists when the song is written and recorded, but that’s not always possible.

What's exciting about remixing somebody else song, and what do you get out of it?

I like being able to reinterpret sounds that have already been produced out by somebody else. Cutting up & repurposing the stems of a song is always fun and a lot of times easier than just making a new song appear from thin air.

There's an abundance of synths and samples in your music. Which synths do you currently use in your songs? (samplers included, if any) 

Serum all day baby!

Is there an instrument that has become some sort of signature sound in your new EP?

I have this instrument rack in Ableton that I use in almost all the songs on my EP, which is basically samplers with vocal samples stacked on top of my Serum preset.

You are are in the middle of a fully stacked tour: it's often challenging to translate programmed music to a live setting, what's your approach to it?

I started putting together my live set the way I used to when I was in bands. I’m playing some songs all the way from start to finish, jamming along with them on my guitar or keys. There are some moments where I go full DJ mode with big builds and drops, so I think its kind of a hybrid between the two.

Do you consider the live show as a faithful translation of your recorded material or simply an opportunity to let your songs free to follow new directions?

I think it's a little bit of both. On this tour I’m bringing my own lighting director who knows all my music so I can really give the audience a full audio and visual experience while listening to my music. People are listening to the same songs in a different way. Also, theres some songs where I’m just jamming to them on the guitar so not every show will be the same.

What's your perspective on the current state of the NYC scene, and what other local artists do you admire?

During the last year that I lived in NYC, I wasn’t really in New York all that much. When I started playing as Sweater Beats I was playing all the DIY spots like Glasslands & 285 Kent. Those places are gone now, which definitely makes it harder for new talent to blossom in NYC. But, New York is New York and will always be a hotbed for creativity and artistry.