On The Record: Slapp Symphony
BY KALANI WILHELM / Special to the Star-Advertiser
While music knowledge is endless, it also happens to be the one thing production duo James Westbrook and Leti “Let-T-Let” Leti chase on the daily.
If the act of copying the signature sounds of the music industry’s hottest producers was a crime, Slapp Symphony would be innocent of all charges. Rather than follow pop trends of the moment, they much rather flourish in a fad-free zone where innovations are the only form of persuasive motivation.
With a versatile and identifiable sound that has resonated well in Hawaii hip-hop, R&B and island music circles via projects like 2011’s “Drown’em With Beats, Save’em With Rhymes” (2011) and Kaipo Kapua’s 2012 album, “Kaipo,” Slapp Symphony’s faith in the industry has kept them striving for more.
“Our take on Hawaii’s music industry is that the music quality and movements are advancing daily,” said Westbrook. “We believe that with the way the industry is going … it will continue to grow and advance.”
Leti and Westbrook do realize they are ultimately a singular piece of a bigger puzzle, however.
“As producers, we don’t have words to say how we feel on the record, so through our music is how we express how we are feeling,” said Westbrook, who has worked on collaborations featuring Maryanne Ito, Kapua and rappers Kealoha “K-Luv” Mahone and Tunez Moananu that are all scheduled to be released as singles early next year. “The mood of the beat usually dictates what the song will be about. Each artist brings their unique experiences to each record.”
The path from the rough and tumble side of Salt Lake to multiple Na Hoku Hanohano Award nominations culminated earlier this year when their work on soulstress Ito’s “Waking Up” won the Hoku Award for R&B Album of the Year. Slapp Symphony produced two songs on “Waking Up,” which also earned Ito 2015 Pacific Artist of the Year honors at the Vodafone New Zealand Music Awards.
These established beatmakers specialize in melodic piano chords, well-textured harmonies, string loops and clean hitting bass, and have re-refined their goals over the last few years thanks in part to travels to Los Angeles, New York and Atlanta to meet with producers and record label execs. Westbrook was quick to note a healthy contingency of local producers putting in work to improve the soundscape for Hawaii-based artists.
While spending hours at Lana Lane Studios in Kakaako is their priority, side projects include expanding their clothing line and producing music videos and a biography-style documentary.
“What we like about working at Lana Lane Studios is it the creative and comfortable atmosphere,” said Westbrook. “Besides the recording studio, it is the hub for POW! WOW! Hawaii, so every time we go in there to work there’s always new art to look at or new projects being created.