What began as Complete Natural Entertainment, LLC., Big Sounds Better, a production company/independent record label was founded in 2016 by New York musician and current CEO, Keith “Mike Pro” Greaves, has also become Big Sounds Better – a progressive urban music group currently based in Ft. Lauderdale Florida. In January 2018, Big Sounds Better released their debut EP “The ‘Big’ EP” finding airplay and charting on college radio stations throughout the country including WNSU in Fort Lauderdale, KDUP in Portland Oregon, and WESS East Stroudsberg, Pennsylvania. Throughout January and February, the band was playing shows from Daytona’s “Main Street Live” Festival to SXSW in Austin, Texas.
In mid-March, Big Sounds Better was featured at the Miami Music Expo alongside brands like Yamaha, RME Audio, and Eventide Audio. With engineer Ariel Lopez, the band recorded a live in-studio performance for dozens of expo attendees. The performance was mentioned in “Sound-On-Sound” magazine. On March 29th Big Sounds Better won the 2018 “SunFest Battle of the Bands”. They appeared on WPTV, the WPTV Helipad Sessions, as well as in interviews on 98.7 “The Gater” and their Facebook Live Channel. They appeared at “SunFest” 2018, Sunday May 6th on the JetBlue Stage. Their performance was mentioned on Wild 95.5 Instagram Story as “spectacular”. They have a growing fan-base in West Palm Beach appearing at CityPlace on June 23rd and drawing a crowd of several hundreds.
The creative collective, managed by MEL VANDERPOOL, is made up of MIKE PRO, ANDY BOX, BX JAMES, ALEX “Ai” LEON and JEREMY STATHUM, who have a yearly fundraiser called The Big Give Back on August 11th in Fort Lauderdale Florida. They are encouraging people to donate via Cash App or become a sponsor. It’s a charity event and aimed at keeping kids safe mentally and physically. Over 600 kids are expected to attend. They are giving out backpacks, there will be a talent contest and a safety hero poster contest. Here’s the link to the big give back website www.biggiveback.org
- How long have you been together and how did the project get started in the first place?
Big Sounds Better: We’ve been together for a little over 2 years. We all came together in 2016 when our drummer Mike Pro was looking for musicians and artists to help build a production company. BX met Mike when his band at the time booked a session at Mike’s studio; Alex met Mike at a jam session in Harlem; Jeremy met Mike at church in New Jersey; Alex met Andy at an open-mic on the Lower East Side and introduced him to Mike. We would have these all-night recording sessions creating vibes and turning them into records. We moved the situation to Florida in late 2016 as a production company only, no band or anything. When we came down here we would play once a week at “Plug-n-Play” run by Code Red bassist, Zemroy Lewis at his club “The Garden” in Lauderdale. People liked when we would get up and jam with Mike on drums, BX on keys, AI on guitar, and Andy rapping. Though Jay (Jeremy Stathum) was still in New Jersey, Big Sounds Better was born on that stage. We did our first show as a band in March of 2017.When Jay came down in August it completed the group.
- You’re made up of 5 components. Could you tell us, who does exactly what in the band?
Big Sounds Better: We are just five regular guys: Mike, BX, Andy, AI, and Jay. On stage Mike Pro plays drums. BX plays bass/keybass and will play keys and maybe even drums from time to time. Jay plays keys/aux/organ. AI plays the guitar and Andy is our frontman who raps and sings. In the studio it’s kind of the same thing with most of the musical arrangements created by BX, Jay, and Alex with Mike creating percussion and drum parts and Andy writing lyrics and vocal melodies. We have two musicians who contribute to the band but are not present in Florida: Ibzan Cummings and Shane Sorbello. Both have amazing talent and help to add special elements to records like “D.O.A.D” which is out now.
- Your manager is Mel Vanderpool. How did the selection of a female manager in a male dominated industry come about? And have you noticed any specific advantages and disadvantages coming from this choice?
Big Sounds Better: Mel is the hardest working member of our team and we’re confident she can outwork managers with far more industry experience. She has been a part of our story since New York, present at many of the all-night recording sessions before the move. We wanted her to manage us because she constantly delivers results, has a great rapport with the band, and is professional through and through. Honestly, Mel being female is an advantage; or at least she uses it as an advantage by showing a male dominated industry that women can do it too, and maybe even better. We think the fact that she is a strong, smart woman effectively managing a group of five guys goes to show that male or female has little to do with someone’s motivation, their character, or their work-ethic; it is up to the individual and Mel kills it every time!
- What do you feel are the key elements people should be getting out of your music?
Big Sounds Better: Our music is progressive “BIG” music. We are taking current pop, hip-hop, and rock music and fusing it with styles from the past and present across genres to create a fresh-new sound. We want people to feel that energy of something new; something reminiscent of a past age of music but with a flavor and direction that pushes it forward. We don’t curse in our records because we want to make our music “living room friendly”; something that you can play for any member of the family. Another thing is love; most of our music deals with concepts of love. We think that the world needs to embrace love and by creating music about the complexities of love we hope to shed light on its power and importance within our lives.
- What do you think separates you from the massive crowd of artists emerging right now?
Big Sounds Better: Our BIG sound separates us immediately. Nobody is creating with the progressive direction that we are. Our progressive music is created with mostly live instruments, with arrangements and techniques that span the last 60 years of music and recording technology. Also, we are a new kind of hip-hop band with a frontman who sings and raps. We are an urban supergroup in the making which some people may not like. It’s hard for hip-hop fans to digest because it’s new. But that only motivates us to keep going because we know we are onto something!
- Who were your first and strongest musical influences that you can remember?
Big Sounds Better: We all have many different influences. We actually go into detail about this on our website BigSoundsBetter.com/about so any fans who want to know go to the website and check it out!
- Who, if any, are you currently looking at as inspirational sources for your endeavors, both musical and businesswise?
Big Sounds Better: Musically we wanna be like 60’s MoTown meets 90’s Interscope all produced by Quincy Jones. Businesswise people like Chance the Rapper, Jimmy Iovine, Elon Musk, Walt Disney, Steve Jobs. These people that visualized and created businesses that have succeeded in changing some aspect of the world.
- What would you consider a particularly successful, proud or high point in your career so far?
Big Sounds Better: Winning the SunFest 2018 Battle of The Bands and playing at SunFest 2018 has to be the high point right? Playing a huge festival like that for the first time in front of a great crowd, getting to do radio and TV interviews and meet some great people up in West Palm Beach. It was one of those magic moments you carry with you.
- On the other hand, what has been the most difficult or unsatisfying experience you’ve had to endure so far?
Big Sounds Better: To begin this question it is important to know that we have always recorded our music on site in our own studio with our own equipment. When we first moved down to Florida in November 2016 we built the studio in the front wing of our house. In February we had a flood and the studio was in an inch of water. Luckily we suffered no major damages but it forced us to move the studio to the back wing of the house which required us to build a whole new drum booth and vocal booth. This project we did on our own, built everything with blood, sweat, and tears. It took about 6-7 weeks to complete. After we finished the studio and our sound was better than ever so there was a happy ending.
- What key ingredients do you always try and infuse into your songs and performances?
Big Sounds Better: On record we always want things to get BIG; a lot of instruments with fun and unique chord changes and melodies that play with tonal harmony in a BIG way. We have live drums and percussion on 99% of records which add an important flavor. Our lyrics are always deep and metaphorical even when seeming superficial. They are like onions and Ogre’s. All in all we want layers of live instruments coupled with layers of lyrical metaphors tied together by catchy melodies and hooks.
- Who takes care of the recording and production of your work?
Big Sounds Better: We take care of all of that in our studio. Mike and Andy engineer most of the live instrument session with BX and Jay doing their own engineering with keys/synths/aux recording. Most of the records we released have been mixed by Mike but a couple were done by Franklin Sequora.
- Can you tell us something about the scope of your recording and production company? Are they vehicles only for yourselves or are they extended to the open market.
Big Sounds Better: Our company is certainly open to the open market. We a new-age music business that owns its own studio, has artists for which it creates and distributes content through its distribution company, and works with artists and brands to create music for hire.
- Which aspect of being independent artists and the music making process excites you most and which aspect discourages you most?
Big Sounds Better: Its amazing being able to make whatever music you want, whenever you want and not have to answer to anybody. It’s a very free and open environment that feeds creative juices. On the other hand, having to fund and develop every aspect of every project from scratch is very challenging and can be a bit discouraging at times when things don’t move along. If they don’t, we go onto the next thing.
- If you had the opportunity to change one thing about how the music business works right now, what would that be?
Big Sounds Better: We would want to change the message that mainstream hip-hop is pushing to the masses that glorifies drug addiction and criminal activity. Such a powerful form of art should be used to expand consciousness and awareness, not destroy it. Instead of drugs and guns, why not love and virtues? Hip-hop is at a place now where it is the biggest genre in the world. The upcoming 20’s will be the first decade where hip-hop sits lone atop the mainstream culture. If we could use this power to focus on creating art that expands and progresses hip-hop in new creative direction, it would do an unbelievable amount of good.
- If someone has never heard Big Sounds Better, which keywords would you personally use to describe your overall sound and performance impact?
Big Sounds Better: We always call it BIG, everything we do is BIG but the best way to describe our music to people is progressive hip-hop or indie rock-pop-rap fusion. Our shows are a live experience where we have fun and rock our a**es off!
- Do you consider Internet and all the social media websites as fundamental in building a career in music today, and what is your personal relationship with the new technology at hand?
Big Sounds Better: It is absolutely fundamental to a career in music; however still the most fundamental thing about a career in music is MUSIC. If you are not creating and finishing music you are not going to have a career as an artist or songwriter. Being able to reach fans, build your brand awareness, and grow your following on the internet is essential and we could do and need to do better at maintaining our social media presence.
- You are having a yearly fundraiser called The Big Give Back on August 11th in Fort Lauderdale Florida. Could you tell us about the scope and intent of this project?
Big Sounds Better: The Big Give back started as a charity concert we wanted to have in Fort Lauderdale to get school supplies for the children who need them. It grew into a much bigger event. We are partnering with the FDOT, On Call Leadership, the Urban League of Broward County, Broward County Parks and Rec, plus more. All the info for the event is up on BigGiveBack.com. We want to give back to children in the area that matters the most; education.
- What is your relationship with visual media? Do you think videos are important for your music? Do you have a video you would recommend fans checkout so they can get in to what you’re doing?
Big Sounds Better: Visual media is very important. Fans want to watch and listen nowadays. We have a couple videos out now but need to do more visual branding for our content. We have one video out now called “D.O.A.D” which everyone should check out and share. We shot and edited it all ourselves.
- Do you prefer working and creating in a studio environment, or performing live in front of an audience?
Big Sounds Better: We enjoy both. The studio is where we live so we are very comfortable there but we also love being on stage in front of fans playing the music we cooked up in the studio. Both are equally amazing experiences.
- What’s the next BIG event on the upcoming agenda for Big Sounds Better?
Big Sounds Better: Ahh! There are always surprises in -store with us! Check out our first EP “The Big Ep” streaming on Spotify and Apple Music, Follow us on twitter and IG @bigsoundsbetter and get exclusive content on bigsoundsbetter.com