Dear Humans is an electronic soul duo consisting of producer Corey Epstein and vocalist + songwriter Alex Who?.
Originally from Colorado, Epstein has been a musician and producer for over 20 years and in March 2018 he launched NCTRNL Recorcds which has quickly established itself as one of LA’s top deep house labels.
Alex Who? Is a Dutch-Tanzanian singer and songwriter. After graduating from the Amsterdam school for performing arts she starred in various Dutch television series and films before her demo caught the attention of Craig Kallman, CEO of Atlantic records. That triggered her move to the states, getting signed by Empire Records and releasing two EPs in the past few years.
Ahead of the release of their latest EP – the collaborative Me + Music EP alongside Italian duo Armonica – we caught up with Alex and Corey to discuss how Dear Humans arrived, and where they’re going to next.
Hi guys – thanks for talking to us today.
Please could you tell us a little about your individual journeys you went on in the industry before forming Dear Humans?
Alex Who? – We started about a year and half ago. I came falling from space with nothing but a voice and a way with words. have played in different formations, solo as well as leading a band, while living all around the world. Places like Turkey for example really influenced me. learned how to perform live there taken by the hand by my dear friend and genius musician Toygun Sozen. Over the past years I have released two solo EPs before finding yet another version of myself in Dear Humans..
Corey – I learned a bit of piano and picked up guitar really young. When I was 12, my brother bought turntables and introduced me to house music. I spent my younger years playing in Denver and then was drawn back into electronic music later after a few trips to Tulum, Ibiza and Burning Man. I decided to dive fully into production about 6 years ago and launched NCTRNL records with Sarkis Mikael. I was always experimenting with playing live sets, as I wanted to bring more performance control into my sets, but I know I needed a strong vocalist. When Alex told me over coffee that she wanted to play live more, we immediately went to the studio and started building our first live set that we would perform 10 days later at Sanctuary Sundays in LA (thank you, Shanto!).
What do you each bring to the table to form Dear Humans?
Corey produces the tracks and does the instrumentation, Alex is in charge of words and melodies. But we work together where we can, advise each other when asked for as well as when it’s not at times…
You guys describe yourself as an ‘electronic soul’ duo, however we think it’s fair to say that there are definitely elements of house music in what you do. Do you think too much attention is paid to the genre-specifics of music these days?
Music is music to us: we make everything. When we say ‘soul’ we don’t necessarily mean the genre “Soul”. We just mean that our music comes from the soul.. From disco to R&B, house or ambient. Always Soul.
How much are you missing live performance at the moment? Are there any elements in particular that are irreplaceable?
Well.. the answer to that might be very obvious but there is no other answer: people. Feeling the energy of the crowd and having that influence the way you play. Without that you can only rely on yourself and each other for inspiration.
What’s the best gig or club night you’ve ever been to?
Alex – Top of my list must have been seeing Erykah Badu live in concert. Obsessed with the queen who does it like no other.. D’angelo was insanity as well to see in the flesh, doing what he does, the funk knows no end. Briefly being on stage with Talking Heads once was also definitely one of the best things that ever happened.
Corey – My favorite nights have been at Solomun + 1 @ Pacha. For live music, I’d have to say probably a Phish concert circa 2001 in Denver!
What do you think separates a great live performance or performer from one that’s just ok?
Truth. When an artist is actually connected with the music he or she performs. You can hear and feel the difference. Even in moments of silence. You cannot practice or buy sincerity or Soul.
Your latest single, Blinded – is there any particular inspiration or story behind its production?
The song is about being in true love with someone following their own path and finding their true self. I never personally like to explain lyrics cause I do hope I write them in such a way that leaves it open for someone’s own interpretation as to how they connect with the words.. So I’ll just leave you with the words, and you tell me what it is about;
“Love don’t close your eyes when lights are blinding
Baby dont look away
All that we thought true is now unwinding
but baby the love it stays
Just head straight on the yellow brick way
When the night time comes we got stars shine on
Wake we seem in this lucid dream”
Electronic music used to be criticized for being mechanical and lacking emotions, but there’s so much music that doesn’t apply to now. Do you have any personal favorite electronic tearjerkers?
Alex Who? – There is so much good music being made.That’s the exciting thing about these times -there’s so so much. But when you ask to get all in our feels we’d have to go back to the classics.
Air, Universal Traveller, All I Need. Walkie Talkie was one of the best electronic albums ever made without a doubt!
If the music industry should learn one thing from the coronavirus pandemic, what do you think that should be?
Alex Who – Don’t eat bats.
The way you vote could be a matter of life and death. And that women have shown to be most capable at dealing with a situation like this. Not saying that no men have, but every single country that is run by women has done an excellent job. Maybe its about time to get more women in charge in general. The time of white grey men deciding whats best for everyone is getting a little old, don’t you think?
What else should we be looking out from Dear Humans this year?
Music . Just lots and lots of music… we have some stuff cooking but showing is always better than talking about it. We’ll continue to beam you up this coming year Other than that; everything is uncertain and we don’t take it for granted.
Music + Me EP is out 09 October on connected