There is something utterly captivating about Sombr. A true born and bred New Yorker, Shane was once a skater boy roaming the streets of New York, eventually finding his way to LA to pursue a career in music under the stage name “Sombr.” Experiencing the ups and downs of young love and the inevitable heartbreak, Boose uses the heartache and happiness as a means to colour his music, diving into the emotions that would weave together his EP, in another life, which mesmerizes audiences with tracks like “weak” and “why are we like this.”

With the release of his new single, Sombr sits down with 1883 Magazine to chat about the new track, his EP, his favourite places in New York, and more.

Can you tell us a bit about your background and how you got started in the music industry?

My dad had always played in bands and while I was growing up, there were always instruments around the house. It was kind of always inside of me and it was always somehow involved in my life. My dad was always playing some pretty legendary bands around the house and cool artists like Crosby, Stills, Nash, Radiohead, or just good music in general. So I was always surrounded by some pretty cool influences. Then, when I was in my early teens, I got into the whole musical theatre scene in New York and did that for a while.

Afterward, I started producing and studying the social media algorithm while writing my own music. Eventually, I went to high school at a school called LaGuardia in New York City. It was an art school, and I was a vocal major. Many cool people have gone there, like Nicki Minaj and Timothee Chalamet. That’s where I got a classical training background in singing. We were singing Italian arias and even singing in German. It was very helpful for me. So, when I had all my knowledge, I figured it was the right time to create Sombr. I was going through a lot of emotions as a teenager at that time in my life and I guess the music really resonated with a lot of people.

Obviously, your stage name is Sombr. What’s the story behind the name? 

Essentially, there are a few things. It has my initials on it, SMB. Also, to be quite honest, I was going through a rough part of my life when I released my first single. “Sombr” kind of made sense for how I was feeling, and it was also available like no one had used it so it just felt right.

It’s actually funny because my initials, they’re almost the same they’re MSB!

No way! That’s crazy. My manager’s initials are SMB. We just recently found that out so she has the same exact initials.

Such a funny coincidence! Let’s talk about in another life, your latest EP. What inspired the name? 

The final last single before the EP came out, one of the last lines on the song “maybe another life, I can call your phone just to hear you breathe again.” It was kind of the bridge between the final single and the whole project. It’s mainly just the fact that all the songs on the EP relate to this theme of something good or an experience or relationship in one’s life that you can never go back and get back. This brings back the theme of “in another life,” this would only happen again in another life. It’s really just a mixture of the rawest emotions I felt in my life as a teenager, experiencing everything for the first time and becoming an adult. I wrote this whole project when I was 17. Then, as this project was coming out, I turned 18, moved out on my own, and I’m starting a new chapter of my life. I just feel like it makes sense.

Now, looking back at the songs that you wrote when you were a bit younger, would you change something about the way they’re written? Or are you still happy with them?

I wouldn’t change anything because it just feels so real and it feels so me. I can just imagine being able to look back in 40 years and listen to that and how interesting it would be. I just think humans won’t feel as raw emotions as they’ll feel when they’re a teenager, and I think there’s something special about that. There’s something so raw about making something in your bedroom and your childhood bedroom and putting it out into the world. I think it’s so unique.

How would you describe the sound and style of this EP? 

I’d describe it as something I enjoy. I would say it’s a big mixture of all the music that I’ve grown up listening to and have been inspired by, all in one project. I think it’s very representative of me, and you could call it indie. You could call it indie rock. Some of the songs you could even describe as rap, although I wouldn’t categorize it as such. I just think there’s a lot of variety in the project’s sound, with some parts resembling the 1975, and others sounding like Phoebe Bridgers or Radiohead.

You already mentioned that the EP is inspired by your teenage years, but is there a specific emotion or a specific story that inspired the whole thing? Or is it just about being a teenager? 

Being a teenager, I definitely had a pretty difficult time with my emotions when I was younger. I didn’t really know how to control them and I didn’t really know how to deal with my strong emotions. I kind of found different outlets that were not always great for me. I think music was one of my outlets that actually benefited me a lot and it wasn’t bad.

What was the creative process of this EP, did you have any particular challenges or breakthrough moments? 

I wrote the entire project by myself. It was just me doing the writing. Then, I co-produced it with the amazing Tony Berg, whom I love so much. He has also worked with Phoebe Bridgers and Genevieve Stokes, and he has collaborated with Laura and many other incredible artists. This makes me feel incredibly grateful to be in this position. I consider myself lucky to work with Tony. I remember being in class in high school, feeling defeated, and listening to Phoebe Bridgers’ record. I thought, “Wow, the production on this is insane. This is the person I want to work with.”

Then, when my song “Caroline” had a big moment, I got the opportunity to work with him, and we have been best friends ever since, even though he is 50 years older than me. He has so much knowledge to share with me, and he is an amazing person. I started producing a lot of the stuff in my room, about 50% of it. Then, I brought it into Sound City and brought it to life with Tony. We added real-life instruments and had amazing players. I was able to fully execute what was going on in my mind and what I envisioned. It’s truly an amazing thing.

Wow, that sounds like a great experience. You mentioned that he’s one of the greatest people that you’ve collaborated with, is there anyone else that you’d love to collaborate with in the future or anyone you dream of working with? 

That’s a good question. I’d say a few collaborations that I think could be really, really cool for me. Number one would be Cigarettes After Sex because I don’t think they’ve worked with many people. Number two would be Justin Vernon, and number three would be Billie Eilish.

As I said before I listened to the EP and one of my favourite songs is why are we like this? I really like the lyrics because the whole EP is about moving through the feeling of heartache a little bit and as you said, realising that it will never be the way that it used to be. I wanted to ask you if there’s a track on the EP that holds a special significance to you, and if so, which one and why?

I think the one that has the most significance would probably be “weak,” because it was originally two different demos that I had made in my room. I couldn’t complete the songs because I just couldn’t think of any ideas for how to finish them. Then I had brought in these two demos to Tony and we combined them into one song and it had so much meaning, it was really deep once they came together. It just made so much sense. I think it’s so cool because these two demos I had made while I was still in school at 16 or 17. Then, after I blew up and got signed, I was able to revisit them with one of the greatest producers I think has ever lived.

Do you have certain lyrics from weak that is your favourite one? 

Let’s see… I’m just trying to remember. Probably, “I’m a man, I’m weak.” I’m a man and I’m weak because it’s true. Men are not strong. They’re weak. Would you agree with that?

Yeah, I think that sometimes they can be very foolish and that makes them weak. [laughs]

Yeah, exactly! [laughs]

How do you typically find inspiration for your songwriting? Do you have any rituals or routines that helped you get into a creative mindset?

I’d say most of my inspiration comes from films, or just real-life experiences or films like I’ll never write a song about an experience or a person. It’ll always kind of be a combination of different things I’ve seen, felt or experienced, but it’s never one specific thing. I’d say one of the songs in the project, “burner phone” was definitely loosely inspired by Call Me by Your Name. I love that movie so much. It’s amazing. Everything is inspired by a film, a book or a breakup. 

Which one is your favourite scene from Call Me By Your Name?

I think it’s the acting in the scene where they’re walking around the fountain in the village. It’s like, what’s going on? Like, what’s happening? It was very confusing and then it kind of clicked the first time I watched the movie. I think it gets very exciting from there.

Have you watched a certain movie or read a book recently that will inspire your future songs?

I’ve been really Lost In Translation. I love that movie. I recently rewatched Interstellar, and I think I’d really like to write a cinematic song that could fit in that movie. I think that’d be really cool.

What’s your dream venue to perform in?

Madison Square Garden in New York City. I was born and raised in New York City and my dad used to take me to basketball games there. That’s kind of just the top venue you can get to in New York and it’s legendary. That’s my dream, but it will happen. I know it!

Yeah, that’s the right answer and the right attitude. Do you ever think you’ll play in Germany?

100%! I think Germany is probably one of my top cities actually. I was looking at my Spotify data in Germany, it’s pretty high up there. If I were to, obviously it’s not always up to me, but if I were to go to Europe, I definitely think hitting Germany would be smart. Even if I don’t do my own concert, I’d love to do a festival there just anything in Germany. I’d love to go.

Your new single is “would’ve been you.” What’s the backstory behind the track?

One of the comments I have gotten the most from my listeners is that my music has “saved” or helped them in some way.  But really, it’s the people who listen to my music who have saved me. I heard a sentence that Virginia Woolf wrote before she left this world, and it made me realize that even if a person cannot be saved, trying to save that person is one of the most important things you can do.  Working to save yourself might be the most important thing to try, even if it seems impossible.

Did anything differ in your creative process while making “would’ve been you” compared to songs in the past? 

In terms of the writing process, this is the first song that I have written which is at least partly based on an instrumental “riff” by someone else.  Flawed Mangoes sent me a guitar loop, and that was the partial instrumental basis of part of the song: “If anyone could have saved me, it would have been you.”  That “riff” and those words were somehow made for each other, and now they are together forever.

Let’s talk a bit about your fans. Many fans connect deeply with their favourite musicians. How would you hope your music resonates with your listeners and what do you want them to take away from this EP?

I want them to feel like I felt from the people who made me want to make music. I want them to feel special. I want them to feel like it’s something they can relate to. I just want to make people feel a certain way, you know? You know when you like an artist or a song that gives you that special indescribable feeling that can’t be recreated anywhere else? I just want them to feel like they’re not alone. They can relate to it and be inspired.

Tell us a bit about your personal life. What are some of your interests or hobbies outside of music?

I’d say before I started doing music as a career, I was big into skateboarding. I would skate all around New York, I’d go to all the skate parks and I actually had to quit when I started taking music more seriously because I broke my arm three times when I was a skater and if I broke my arm then I’d be out of playing guitar for like a month so I can’t afford to do that anymore. So definitely skateboarding is a big interest. I love films. I love animals. I always wanted to be a veterinarian when I was younger and I love spending time with friends.

What are your favourite places in New York? So your favourite secret places, not the tourist ones.

Well then they’re not gonna be secret anymore! [laughs] But I think I can help with this. I feel like when people go to New York for the first time, they don’t always go to the right places or the most authentic places. I’d say my favourite place to go when I’m in New York is Tompkins Square Park. In the Lower East Side, there’s a little area called Dimes Square — not Times Square. Everyone thinks I’m saying Times Square but it’s Dimes Square. It is so good. It is my favourite place to just sit and have a drink and hang out with friends. Dimes Square – amazing food, amazing people. It’s also right where I grew up so it’s just where I live. I’m right there. Right now. I’m in my apartment there.

I have a list of every city that I want to go to and I’ll write down all the spots you mentioned, I will write them on my New York list. 

Dimes Squares should be number one! 

I will go there immediately when I’m in New York. 

Go there and if you’re in town you should call me! [laughs] 

What influence does New York have on your music? 

I think New York has definitely influenced me in a unique way because there’s art everywhere. Whether it’s a mural or graffiti or someone performing in the subway or on the streets, there’s always a street performer. Also, just so many people here do music. Growing up here and my family having a musical background and music always being one of my interests it’s kind of impossible not to fall in love with music and not to to end up doing it. There’s definitely been a lot of influences around me growing up.

I can imagine! New York is such a great city because I think if you’ve never been you tend to romanticise big cities like New York or even London.

I talked about this with my dad last night. I’ve lived here my whole life and I’ve grown up here and I still romanticise it. I was talking about how New York just gives me, especially at night, it gives me an indescribable feeling. It feels so romantic and special even though I’ve lived here my whole life and I’ve seen the worst of it. New York is such a special city.

I always think of those classic movies like When Harry Met Sally, those kinds of movies when I think of New York.

Yeah, this is how I think it’s like, definitely.

Balancing your career and your personal life can be challenging. How do you manage to find time for both and do they ever influence each other?

 I’m honestly not great at the balance. Sometimes, when I’m really focused on music, I will neglect my social life and neglect that I have to socialise at all. I’ll just make music and then I’ll be like, oh, wait, it’s been a week and I haven’t seen anyone. I’ll need to kind of take a step back and see friends. I think it’s always good to take breaks from work to see friends because then it kind of gets uninspiring. I’ve just been trying lately to have a lot of balance. Before I was able to have much free time, I had to go to school and do music every waking minute when I got home. Now that it’s my career, having balances is key to me. But it’s cool because a lot of the people in my social life now are all artists and musicians doing the same thing as me and they’re also putting out songs and albums. It’s cool having my social people also be people that I can work on music with and just talking about our love for music. 

What do your friends say about your music? Do you let them listen before you release songs? 

Yeah, my friends that also make music, I definitely let them listen. But with my friends who don’t do music? I never let them listen because I just am so particular. This might be a bad personality trait but I hate when non-musicians give me feedback on my music which might be something I need to work on. It just makes me feel a certain way because the thing is, a non-musician will give me some feedback on something that was actually the best part of the song to someone else and it messes with your head.

Yeah, that makes sense. How do you manage university and music?

So I kind of skipped that route. I think my song Caroline, going viral on TikTok in 2020 put me in a very lucky position so that I can take some time to focus on music and not do school. But maybe I can revisit in the future but I think that I’ve learned everything that I need for the career that I want to pursue.

That’s good! I feel like when you’re a musician, if that’s what you want to do, and you’re good at it then you don’t need to go to university.

My university is being in the studio with Tony. [laughs]

While you’re on the topic, are there any upcoming projects or live performances related to in another life that fans can look forward to?

I can’t say a lot but I definitely am looking forward to finally, I know people have been waiting for it, finally playing this project live. So Sombr hasn’t done a live show yet so we have a few shows in January.

I saw on Instagram that you know Nessa Barrett, are you planning on working with her?

It’s something that we’ve definitely talked about. She said we should get into the studio at my release party. I’m always open to anything. I just love her music. She’s an amazing human. That’s something I would be open to and who knows maybe it’ll be able to happen. 

What are some of the goals and aspirations you have for your career moving forward? 

I’d say the goal is to be a rock star. I feel like there aren’t enough rock stars right now. I want to make rock and roll and I want to play arenas. I mean, I just think it’s so possible with everything that I’ve accomplished at my age. I just want to keep going and I want to do it and I think I can if I keep working hard.

Of course! Talking about being a rock star, I can’t see much of your outfit, but how does fashion influence your music or is it the other way around?

I’d say music influences fashion. I think just naturally when you’re listening to cooler music you’ll dress cooler, like the fans will dress a certain way or the artist will so I definitely think music influences fashion. It definitely influenced my sense of style. I thrift most of my clothes and I think me listening to indie music has a lot to do with it. It just makes sense.

Who are your three favourite fashion inspirations? 

That’s a cool question! I’ve never really thought of that. I’d say there’s definitely someone I just have to think about. Someone definitely like Freddie Mercury. I really like Harry Styles too, what he wore at his last show.

What’s one piece of advice you’d give to aspiring musicians who are looking to make their mark in the industry?

This sounds like bullshit but it’s not because people would always say this whenever someone would give an acceptance speech for an award on TV. They would always say, never give up, everything’s possible. If you want to do something, you should do it. I’d say it sounds very cliche and it sounds like total BS, but I think it’s really true. Now that I’ve achieved something that I’ve been working really hard for for a while that I didn’t think was possible. I didn’t think I would get this far. But it really showed me that if you work really, really hard, anything can happen.

You’re obviously still very young, but if you could think of something that you want to leave behind one day, what do you want people to think of when they hear your name and what do you want to be remembered for?

I want to be remembered as an artist who inspired a whole generation of younger kids, like how when I was growing up, like the effect that Michael Jackson had on people. I’m a very, very, very long way from that, you know? Just the first year of my career. But I want to have an effect, kind of a timeless effect so even when I’m not around my music can be appreciated.

Interview Maja Bebber

Sombr’s EP in another life and latest single would’ve been you are out now.

Check out Sombr live:
Monday, January 22 – Los Angeles, CA – The Moroccan Lounge
Wednesday, January 24 – Chicago, IL – Schubas Tavern
Tuesday, January 30 – New York, NY – Baby’s All Right

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