If you listen to us, we have no specific genre.
The music industry is a terrifyingly niche space. It is not easy to enter into a well-established musical scene out of nowhere. Oftentimes, there is judgment and general lack of interest from those already deeply embedded within the scene, and any newcomers can run the risk of suffering a difficult transition into acceptance.
iLLECTIVE, a Philadelphia-based R&B trio, is aiming to prove that they deserve a spot in their music scene. Having only been a band since May of this year, the group — Derek Buxton, Anthony Hughes, and Joe Sessoms — are still learning the ropes of their scene, however have already decidedly curated an impressive interest. They put out their debut EP, Beats, Vibes, & Soul, in October, and have recently begun performing live shows around the city that they call home. They have planted their seed, and now it’s time to grow.
Atwood Magazine recently caught up with the group shortly after their first ever live show. Throughout our chat, we discussed everything from the origin of the band’s name, what it’s like integrating into a well-established music scene, and bringing good vibes everywhere they can. Undoubtedly personable yet highly aware of their place in Philly’s music scene, iLLECTIVE is truly just enjoying themselves and the art that they are creating.
Listen: “Addicted to Soul” – iLLECTIVE
A CONVERSATION WITH iLLECTIVE
Atwood Magazine: Where did you guys come up with the name iLLECTIVE? Who came up with it?
Joe Sessoms: I believe it was actually Anthony’s brother…
Anthony Hughes: No, it was his [Derek’s] brother.
Derek Buxton: Oh, yeah, we were going to be “The Royal Villains;” my brother came up with that, but he was then like, “No! I’m using it.”
Anthony: He was like, “No, you can’t steal that.”
So how did you come up with iLLECTIVE?
Anthony: Basically, it’s “Philadelphia-collective” mashed together. So like, we want to grow it eventually, so that it’s not just us–it’s artists, designers, everything. A bunch of creatives all under the same umbrella.
So it’s kind of like a mindset.
Derek: Yeah, and we can work with that.
Joe: Is “the illest” in there at all? Or is that just me?
Anthony: I mean, “iLLECTIVE” sounds better than “PHILLECTIVE.” “PHILLECTIVE” sounds like something that would play at The Kimmel Center [in Philadelphia].
Exactly! It sounds like a seasonal show or something.
Anthony: Well, I don’t know, maybe that’s our Christmas show.
You can have a Christmas spectacular!
Derek: Book us on the holidays.
Maybe a Christmas album?
Joe: Oh yeah. Definitely a Christmas album.
Anthony: Turtlenecks and Santa hats.
Yeah, totally. So how did you all come together to make your music?
Anthony: That’s actually a funny story.
Derek: Who’s gonna go first?
Well, start with how you got into music, and then how you came together.
Anthony: Okay, so, in like sixth grade, my sister was taking piano lessons, and she was really bad. So I decided that I wanted to — being a brother, I wanted to beat my sister, and started taking lessons. Then about a year later I started playing guitar.
Which do you prefer?
Anthony: Guitar. I’m a much better guitar player. I wish I was a better piano player.
Derek: For me, since I was younger, I’ve been in church, and I was always in the choir singing. I played bongos, I picked on keys because of my uncles and my brothers, and then I played in drill team for a little bit, so that got my rhythm up. Then before I went to college, I learned the guitar, and I just kept going with it.
Joe: Like Derek, I was a church kid; there’s a lot of music there. But my dad used to play bass in a band with his cousin and his buddies; he was a bassist, slapping it, doing all that old-school stuff. I first played his old bass, but then he sold it, and I got the hang of one on my own, and just started learning through YouTube and listening to my favorite bands; anything from [Red Hot] Chili Peppers to Thundercat, all kinds of stuff. And…yeah. What was the second part of your question?
How did you guys all come together?
Anthony: This is such a funny story.
Am I going to get three different versions of the story?
Derek: That’s right.
Anthony: Last [winter], I was at my old job that I didn’t like, and I was like, “I need to start playing more music.” So I was on Craigslist looking for a wedding band, because I was like, “Oh, well I can make a couple bucks while I’m playing,” and while I was scrolling through, I saw an ad that said “Hip-hop/R&B band needs guitar player” and I was like, “I like both of those genres,” so I ended up meeting with this band, and going to play a show in February, and then–
Derek: –This is where I show up!
Anthony: Yeah! So we were backing this girl, and Derek was just playing by himself.
Derek: And we met him [Joe] because we were working together at a bank headquarters, and he introduced himself at a meeting and was like, “I play bass,” and I was like “You play music? What type?” So then we [exchanged] numbers, and then got with Ant.
Anthony: Then we were trying to get together for a while, and it just wasn’t working out, and then I ended up running into Derek at a GoldLink concert, and we were like, “We need to just make music.” And he was like, “I got this bass player.”
Derek: I was like, “I don’t know how he is, but his energy is dope.” And then when [we heard him] play, we both just looked at each other, and [we knew].
Anthony: That was around June, and ever since then we’ve just been doing it.
So you’ve only really been together since June?
Derek: I guess like, February-March.
Anthony: Not even! It was like, May. I know because I have the “Dance with You” file saved on my laptop, and it’s like, 5/21. Then you [Joe] came in like a week later and put some bass on it.
Joe: “Dance with You” was our first song.
That’s my favorite one!
Joe: Get out.
Joe: Get out of here.
Derek: I hate it.
Anthony: I like it.
Derek: I’m tired of it. It’s like, the first thing you make out of many, and you get sick of it. You want to change in so many ways. Everybody likes it though, so…
Listen: “Dance with You” – iLLECTIVE
It’s a good song! I like it! So is there any influence that you have that might be surprising to people, based on what you play?
Anthony: We have really weird tastes. I think we all have pretty eclectic tastes. I listen to everything from Sinatra to Kanye West. Joe listens to like, indie rock.
Joe: Tame Impala, they’re one of my favorites.
Derek: For me, I like Bombay Bicycle Club, Andre 3000.
Nice! Yeah, very different from what you do. Would you ever venture into those genres?
Anthony: If you listen to us, we have no specific genre. We jump around. We’re just like, “I like this song.”
Derek: It took us so long to figure out what we were going to submit ourselves as, under what genre.
Joe: Yeah, you’ll see like, we have songs like “Dance with You,” and then we have “About Time,” which is totally different and doesn’t really fit with the rest of the songs. But it’s just what we vibe with.
Derek: Then you’ve got “99,” which is just like, 1970s guitars, stoner vibes.
Why did you make that song the first one you released?
Anthony: It honestly sounded the best.
Derek: Yeah, out of everything that had been mastered by that point.
Anthony: We mixed some of our stuff, but the rest we had professionally finished. With “99,” we did that all on our own, and we were like, “This song’s cool,” and it’s kind of got a little bit of everything.
Derek: It shows you what everybody in the band can do. The vocals, the bass, the guitar — it just jams out.
Listen: “99” – iLLECTIVE
For sure. And the EP is called Beats, Vibes, & Soul - and that seems kind of like your mantra as well.
Joe: It is, it is.
Derek: You can say that.
How do you try and incorporate that ideal, that mindset, into your music?
Derek: We think it just happens. It just happens.
Is that why you named the EP that?
Derek: It was going to be called “On Some Different Shit,” “O.S.D.S,” but we were like, eh.
Anthony: Because it doesn’t sound like that! It’s kind of like, vibey.
Derek: It doesn’t fit our faces, it doesn’t fit the cover; it’s not groovy enough.
And this title, literally, is very groovy.
Anthony: Yeah! I mean, I like it. My roommate hated it; he thought it sounded more like a genre.
Well, you can work with that! And I mean, there’s some album titles out there that are much weirder.
Anthony: I feel like, once we decided we wanted to use that picture for the cover, we were like, it’s not “On Some Weird Shit.”
Derek: We had so many agreements and disagreements about everything.
I mean, I get that. And you guys did your first live show ever (on October 17) at Silk City in Philadelphia! How did it feel?
Anthony: It was amazing. I had so much fun.
Joe: It blew my mind; I wasn’t expecting it, you know? We had a lot of fun.
The support seemed incredible!
Anthony: It was awesome.
Derek: Everybody liked us!
What has the general public response been to your music so far?
Anthony: It’s been really positive, I think. People that I didn’t think would like it, like it. I showed it to my grandpop, who’s 80, and he was like, “Wow, I really like ‘Kawasaki!’ That’s arranged very nicely!” So that was cool.
Very cool. So being so new in the music scene, what is one thing that you’ve noticed so far, from other people in the music scene? What is it like putting yourselves in the scene?
Anthony: I think that every musician, in a way, kind of looks out for each other. Especially those that are on the come-up, that you know are working on their own music, and they’re always so wowed and interested in hearing your stuff. Everybody is always looking to work together.
Yeah, I get that. Do you think Philly is more of that?
Derek: It’s 50/50. It’s depending on your genre, and your crowd — but that’s anywhere.
What is the negative side of it, do you think?
Anthony: It could be hard — you need a product before you can do anything. You need to prove yourself before you’re going to book a show sometimes. Which can be frustrating, because you know that you have good music, but you don’t have it finished yet.
Derek: It’s like supply and demand.
Anthony: We were ready to start playing shows in September, you know, but we just had other stuff to get done.
Derek: We had to find our lane.
Anthony: But it ended up working out; there couldn’t have been a better first show for us.
Right, and the first show came a week after the EP, too.
Joe: So it built up on the hype! We hit the ground running with it.
So what’s your favorite part about making music?
Derek: You get to express yourself.
Joe: You get to have fun. One of my favorite bass lines that we do is in “About Time.” It’s very short–it’s the hook after the verse, and it’s in sync, the bass and the drums, and I just like when we do creative stuff, you know? In a way, it is “on some different shit.” It’s something you may not expect.
Anthony: I’ve been trying to produce and make stuff for a couple years, and now I’m finally finishing stuff because I finally have people to work with and bounce ideas off of. Like, I could put keys and guitar down, but I was always missing a bass line. I can’t sing, but Derek can sing. Now, it’s like, we’re finishing songs that we get to share with everyone, which is awesome.
Listen: “About Time” – iLLECTIVE
It’s all collaborative!
Derek: If somebody plays one thing, somebody else will be like, “Oh, I gotta build off of this.”
Anthony: It’s cool, because like, we’ve been sitting on some of these songs for a while. And then we got to put them out, and people actually like them.
Derek: That felt good!
Anthony: One of my friends was like, “Thank god you guys don’t suck, and I don’t have to act like I like it.”
That’s good! Where is one place, then, that you hope iLLECTIVE will go? Do you have a long-term or short-term goal?
Derek: Like, performing-wise?
Yeah, or just in terms of success - do you think success can be measured at all?
Derek: To be honest, I want to be a ghost writer and a producer.
Joe: I want to go on tour in Europe.
Where in Europe?
Joe: Everywhere. I want to hit spots like Russia first, like, St. Petersburg; I’d love to just travel all over.
Bring those beats-vibes-soul to Russia!
Joe: That’s right.
Anthony: Hey, if they’re down, we’ll be there.
Joe: They need the vibes over there! And literally like, all over France, Italy — it would be a little selfish, because I just like to travel, but why not travel and do what you love? That is the pipe dream, if at some point we could get there. We’ll see.
For sure! So as a group, you just hope to keep doing it as long as you can, obviously.
Anthony: Yeah, exactly. Keep making music, keep playing.
Derek: Like, even if I’m touring and if people want to buy songs, it’s like, “hey, here you go.” And I do — I do want to go to Ibiza, Spain, and all those festivals there. I’d like to go to Woodstock just to be classic.
What is your dream festival, if you had the opportunity to play one?
Joe: Burning Man.
Anthony: I don’t think I could handle Burning Man…but I’ve never been to Coachella, and I really want to go to Coachella, because it seems like the end-all, be-all of festivals.
It’s the pinnacle! So what is one thing that you want people to know about you, because you’re still so new?
Derek: We’re fucking dope [laughs]. But seriously, we’re just three cool people that are trying to make music that people like.
Anthony: I think that our stuff is awesome in recording, but I think that our live show was really cool, with people dancing and vibing.
Derek: We want to do it more!
Joe: It’s like, when you really feel like you can express yourself, you know? I mean, clearly we do it through our songs, but when you’re live, and people are clapping their hands —
Anthony: Good vibes; just creating a good environment.
It is undoubtedly simple to associate iLLECTIVE with a good, fun environment. The trio, though just six and a half months old, seem like their popularity will inevitably increase tenfold as time goes on. They are quickly gaining a core fan base, and that is certainly thanks heavily in part to their affable attitudes and catchy tunes. iLLECTIVE has curated exactly everything that their EP states: impressive beats, good vibes, and a whole lot of infectious soul.