[AltWire Interview] Andy Gbormittah of Silence & Air

Silence & Air

London-based duo Silence & Air, comprised of Andy Gbormittah & Jake Warren, have some impressive stats. Since their start in 2016, the duo has had over 10 million streams on Spotify and boasts over 650,000 monthly listeners. They have worked with a Grammy-nominated artist in the form of Zoe Johnston. They have been featured in London’s biggest newspaper the Evening Standard. An impressive resumé? That’s only the start of it.

Their music is hard to define and categorize into one genre, but the intent is very clear. The duo’s niche is that they design purpose-made music designed to combat insomnia, stress, and anxiety. They do this by combining their talent with research into the science behind what causes these issues. This incredibly innovative way of producing music has tapped into a real issue that affects us as a society in the 21st century. We prioritize productivity over our own sleeping patterns and mental health all too much. A 2016 article from Consumer Reports indicated that out of a survey of over 4,000 American adults, 27% suffered from difficulties falling asleep on many nights in one week. A Staggering 68% found trouble falling asleep at least one night a week. 68% of the population of America would amount to 168 million people suffering from lack of sleep at least once a week.

Enter Silence & Air. It’s important to note that the duo may not be a one glove fits all solution to the problem, and everyone is different and reactions will differ from person to person, but the sheer volume of interest in their music speaks for itself. Through the use of delicate piano and dreamy soundscapes, among other tools that the highly-talented duo possess as producers, Silence & Air’s music is a proven and effective means for inducing sleep, more specifically their track ‘Zero Point’ which at over 9 minutes long will drift you away in to the land of nod in no time.

I got a chance to chat Andy Gbormittah and pick his brains about what the thought process was behind the formation of the group, what inspired their direction and his thoughts on the duo’s success thus far.

AltWire [Luke Morrison]: In your
own words how would you describe your music?

Andy Gbormittah / Silence & Air: Our music is quite hard to place. Our philosophy at Silence & Air has always been to champion the independent artist model, so we end up making what we feel is right at the time.

Some of our projects have strong links to the neo-classical world (such as ‘Solo’ and our newest album ‘Colours’ – which are solo piano works) and others are influenced heavily by the way we grew up. The gritty, London, urban sound…

We also have projects like Zero Point, which is quite left field – although some may class it as electronic/ambient music. We’re always open to interesting and innovative projects – which is the reason why our music is quite eclectic.

AltWire: How did the formation of this duo come about?

Andy Gbormittah / Silence & Air: We met in a spot called Shoreditch Grind, right on Silicon Roundabout in East London. It’s a cafe, restaurant, and cocktail bar, with a tucked away recording studio upstairs.

I was running the studio at the time and Jake initially came in as a client. We hit it off pretty much straight away. We shared a lot of the same taste in music and the way we worked and conceptualized ideas felt very organic. We started working together on more and more projects until we formalized the duo.

The name actually came about on a drive home after a long session. We’d been working solidly in the studio for about 12 or 13 hours, and when we jumped in Jake’s car, we didn’t say a word. He looked over and said ‘it’s nice to get some silence’, I nodded, rolled down the window, and said ‘and air’. We bought the domain names immediately whilst sitting there in traffic, and we’ve been known as Silence & Air ever since.

AltWire: Your song Zero Point is the world’s first scientifically-proven music track for improving sleep and reducing insomnia, can you tell us a little about the science behind this?

Andy Gbormittah / Silence & Air: Just to clear up the question, Zero Point isn’t the first scientifically-proven piece of music for improving sleep, but it’s the first one that has been designed from the ground up with the latest cognitive neuroscience and music psychology in mind.

When we sleep, we bounce between several of the 4 sleep cycles during the night – from being fully awake into what’s called REM sleep. Zero Point works by guiding the listener through these stages, by focusing the brain away from usual sleep disruptors: wandering thoughts, anxious feelings, negative emotions, and into a place of calm, relaxation, and finally, sleep.

When composing music with sleep in mind there are a few important factors to consider. We effectively have 4 main ways that sound affects us: physiologically (our chemical responses), psychologically (our emotional responses), cognitively (how our brain processes auditory information), and behaviourally (our instinctive reaction to certain sounds).

Zero Point leverages these systems to prime listeners for sleep. For example, the tempo is incredibly effective when set within the range of a typical resting heart rate. This very subtly decreases throughout the track – which has the powerful effect of lowering the listeners’ heart rate too.

Another example is the use of special sub frequencies, to not only create a point of focus, but to promote the release of theta brain waves (which is associated with REM sleep – the final stage of the sleep cycle).

We also use a selection of natural sounds, which are designed to lower our cortisol levels (our fight-or-flight chemical) and reduce stress/anxiety. These factors all contribute to improving our quality of sleep.

AltWire: Your music was featured in an article by London’s Evening Standard which focused on the importance of sleep and listed a number of gadgets and methods designed to help fight insomnia. The track Zero Point was mentioned as a proven remedy. In this article your duo was referred to as a “tech start-up” rather than a music duo. What are your thoughts on this?

Andy Gbormittah / Silence & Air: I think the crossover between music, science, and technology puts this project in an interesting space. Our long-term vision for Zero Point – and sleep music in general – is to partner with tech companies and leverage their infrastructure to help people suffering with poor sleep.

We’re working towards deep integration with voice-controlled devices, partnerships with noise-canceling headphone manufacturers, and licensing more sleep music into popular relaxation and meditation apps.

To an outsider, these all sound like things that a tech company would do, so we understand the reference. From the inside though, we’re only really interested in making great music and pushing the science – so listeners can feel the benefit. We wouldn’t call ourselves anything other than musicians.

AltWire: You’ve both definitely found a niche in the sense that millions suffer with sleeping issues. Do you think by marketing to that demographic you could potentially be opening the door to other sensory-based music?

Andy Gbormittah / Silence & Air: We hope so! There’s a lot of fantastic technology out there, with the potential to help those millions of people. It’s a case of pushing that forward and making sure the accessibility is there. In our eyes, there’s no point creating music if you end up limiting how people listen to it.

That’s why we’re firm advocates of releasing our music on streaming platforms. They’re universal, and no one has to change the way they consume music because of that. It would be great to push the boundaries in the future and make music that integrates with all of the cool technology coming out.

AltWire: Your first single Blueprint features Grammy-nominated artist Zoe Johnston. Tell us about the experience of working with her.

Andy Gbormittah / Silence & Air: Zoe’s great! We had a blast working with her on ‘Blueprint’. Jake was initially in contact with her because a friend of his was a big fan of Above and Beyond. We fell in love with her voice when we heard it and Jake reached out to her with a piano idea we’d been sitting on for a while.

She sent us back a demo and we were blown away by her voice and style of writing. Zoe’s incredibly talented and she’s lovely to work with too. She’s a breath of fresh air!

AltWire: You have already amassed a huge following on Spotify. What are your thoughts about this?

Andy Gbormittah / Silence & Air: It’s crazy to think that all of these pieces of music were just an idea at one stage.

We’re in a golden era for creators, where we can make our music and have millions of people access it at the push of a couple of buttons. We appreciate everyone for taking the time to listen to what we create because that’s the most important thing for artists.

AltWire: Is performing your music live something you aspire to do more?

Andy Gbormittah / Silence & Air: We’ve talked about performing our music live for quite a while and it’s certainly on our radar. There are so many things going on behind the scenes that we haven’t had time to put it together. Our first performance was a Sofar sounds gig, and it was a fun one to do. I’m sure there’ll be many more in the future.

AltWire: What are the next steps for you moving forward?

Andy Gbormittah / Silence & Air: We have some time off at the moment, so there’s generally a lot of thinking and brainstorming involved in planning our next moves. We’re both involved with projects outside of Silence & Air, but we’re excited to keep on making music and see where it takes us!

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