Up-and-coming South Manchester artists Akemi Fox and Teo combine heartfelt lo-fi R&B with striking visuals. Misha Notley caught up with them following the successful release of their latest EP Colour You In.
How would you describe your sound?
Akemi: Chill vibes that are slightly depressing, but also hopeful.
Teo: Probably melancholy R&B is the right way to describe it.
Is the genre you’re producing the music that you listen to?
Akemi: I listen to similar music, but also I’m quite stuck in my ways, so I listen to albums that I’ve loved for years. I’m a bit lazy with finding new music at the moment, but I still want to. You know when you have emotions attached to songs? I like to relive them, especially at the moment when life isn’t the best.
Who are your dream collaborations?
Teo: It changes a lot, but right now it would have to be SZA or Summer Walker.
Akemi: It would be Kaytranada because it would get me into a dancier and happier vibe which I’m intrigued to do in the future.
What effect did lockdown have on your songwriting process?
Akemi: [Lockdown] makes me feel like I’m stuck in a rut sometimes, especially with lyric writing [because] it’s hard to be inspired when you’re not doing much.
Teo: You can definitely see, on the lyrics side, that it feeds off people more, [whereas] on the production side it’s very easy for me to go and sit in a room for a week and make a bunch of beats.
Do you see yourself staying in Manchester?
Akemi: I like to expand as much as possible. Of course, I love Manchester and I would always perform here and make music with other people here. The Manchester music scene is very inspiring, I feel like everyone is very supportive and friendly with each other which is nice.
Your guide to arts, music and culture in Greater Manchester.
What is your favourite venue that you’ve played at in Manchester?
Teo: Gullivers, probably. That was just the funnest night.
Akemi: We played Manchester Academy – obviously the crowd wasn’t huge – but it was nice to have such a professional set-up.
Teo: We played with a band as well, the Global Soul team.
What challenges do you face when performing?
Akemi: I used to have the worst stage fright. When I return to the stage, I’ll probably get that stage fright again. You’d watch me and you’d feel uncomfortable because I’m a bit shakey. That was definitely a difficulty for me because I wasn’t used to singing in front of people.
Teo: My main issue when I’m playing beats is: what do I actually do with myself whilst the beat is running? I have to dance around and look a bit lanky.
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Are virtual concerts as good as performing in person?
Akemi: When you’re watching someone live, it’s just a feeling that you can’t replicate on livestream. When you’re performing, even if you can’t see every individual person, you can see a group of people and it just feels like a different level of support rather than just seeing numbers. Nothing will beat a face-to-face performance.
Teo: Whenever I’m going to see people that I want to see, there’s a part of it which is just like: ‘Oh my god, they’re here!’ It’s not the same on livestream.
How do you curate your image and visuals?
Teo: I leave the visuals up to Akemi, but I’m a good assistant on a shoot.
Akemi: I’ve met quite a few people from my Uni that are photographers. For the Colour You In EP, that was taken by my friend Morgan Roberts who is a fabulous photographer. He always makes his models look fabulous and I wanted to feel and look fabulous. Some of the other artwork was by a graphic designer called Sophie Seth who is fabulous. She did the Lemon Tea and You Love cover.
Do you have anything coming up which we can look out for?
Akemi: At the moment, we are working on some new music, that’s what I’m focused on.
Teo: We’ve got another acoustic set-up video coming out soon.
Listen to the our full interview with Akemi and Teo on Spotify and other streaming platforms.
Misha Notley is a London based multidisciplinary designer, art director and researcher who works primarily with, but not limited to, animation, photography and videography. Her work spans topics such as feminised labour and speculative futures. See more of her work on her website.