Interview: Brad Hooks & Sari Mellafe of The Young Romans

This week we chatted with Brad Hooks and Sari Mellafe of The Young Romans, the indie-pop band making waves out of Los Angeles. In the latest installment of our interview series, Brad and Sari discuss their musical beginnings, their inspiration, and what they do in their free time.

Twenty Two: Let’s start with the basics. Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

Sari: I was born in California but raised in Santiago, Chile. I moved backed to the states in 2002. I’m the youngest of three children and the only one that pursued music as a full-time career. But other than that I’m just an ordinary, laid-back kind of girl. Don’t really fit the standard of a musician lifestyle. But music is definitely my main passion.

Brad: I was born in Charlotte, NC, and I started taking piano lessons when I was 5. My parents are pastors. So I grew up doing the whole singing-and-playing-in-church thing. I started my first rock band in high school. That’s when I quit the piano lessons and began writing my own stuff.

Twenty Two: Have you both always been interested in music and performing?

Sari: Not really. I grew up around musicians and have always been interested in music. But I didn’t start performing live until I was 15 years old. Still not used to it.

Brad: Let’s just say I was the lead in the elementary school play more than once. And there was singing involved.

Twenty Two: How would you describe your sound?

Sari: This one is a hard one for me.

Brad: Well, we try to focus on an organic sound, but also try to do something big and epic at the same time. So the vibe kind of vacillates between intimate moments and cinematic ones. But we do aim to steer clear of the music sounding too slick or polished.

Sari: One unusual thing that we have in our sound is that I often sing the lower harmony and Brad will sing the melody above that. It’s kind of a different thing than other guy/girl groups.

Brad: Well, Sari’s tambour seems to really shine in the low notes. And I really like to sing falsetto. So it works out.

Twenty Two: What’s the process you go through when you’re making a new song?

Brad: It happens all sorts of different ways. Sometimes I’ll bring an idea to Sari, other times she’ll bring an idea to me. Sometimes the song will start off with both of us brainstorming together.

Twenty Two: Where do you find inspiration?

Sari: Life in general. I can’t really put my finger on it. It’s just more, I don’t know… life, melodies… beats.

Brad: Life for sure. On our record “Tiger Child” there are songs inspired by love, life, death, separation, new relationships, trying to rekindle old ones, and pretty much everything in between. Often times though the idea will hit when I’m not at the piano. I’ll be driving, or running errands, and then a melody or lyric will pop in my head. I quickly pull out the iPhone and record it in the voice recorder. Most of the time the ideas don’t amount to anything, but one out four times or so they become a real song.

Twenty Two: How has growing up in North Carolina and Santiago, Chile, respectively, and living in Los Angeles influenced your work?

Sari: I think my father and older brother influenced me a lot more than where I grew up. Though the three of us are very happy people, we are all driven, musically speaking, by minor chords. I hold my breath and stop whatever I’m doing whenever I hear a song with a well-placed minor chord.

Brad: Um, I guess growing up in church in the South inspired me in a lot of ways. Probably mostly regarding song structure though. You really get a good idea of what makes a good verse and chorus. Out of the hundreds of songs in those hymn books, there’s a reason why you sing the same five every week. As far as being inspired by LA, I guess it would mostly have to do with how crazy the dating scene is here. Definitely provides a lot of fuel for the song-writing fire.

Twenty Two: Who are some of your favorite musicians at the moment?

Sari: Bon Iver. Another band I’ve been listening to is MeWithoutYou. And Nick Drake.

Brad: I’m a big pop guy. Not gonna lie. I kind of love Usher. Sorry, Sari. But I also have spent many, many hours jamming out to Led Zeppelin and Tom Petty. And I really dig Spoon, Jakob Dylan’s last record, and, yes, Robyn.

Twenty Two: When you’re not working, how do you spend your time?

Sari: Hanging out with friends and family. And petting animals.

Brad: Training animals? Like for a circus or something?

Sari: No, petting.

Brad: Oh. Ha… I’m super into running right now. And I live near the beach so that works out. I’m currently training (and I use that term loosely) for a half marathon this summer. We’ll see how that goes.

Twenty Two: What can we expect to see from The Young Romans in the future?

Brad: A lot of touring. Putting a tour together for the summer right now, and just working really hard to promote the album and try to get it out there as much as we can.

Twenty Two: Do you have any advice for aspiring musicians?

Sari: First, know your strengths and weaknesses and surround yourself with good people that can work with you in the areas you need help. Second, be smart and humble. There’s always someone that can do something better than you.

Brad: Ditto.

A special thanks to Brad and Sari for giving us the opportunity to learn more about The Young Romans. You can keep up with them by checking out their website, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

Click on the images below to see more from The Young Romans.

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