An Interview with Pat DiMeo of Synthwave Band The Motion Epic
Pat DiMeo is part of the retrowave project The Motion Epic. The music that he creates tries to recapture the "positive tone, enthusiasm and fun" that was present in the synthpop of the '80s. I talked to him about how he first became interested in synth-based music, how he creates new music and where he thinks the synthwave/retrowave scene is headed in the future.
Karl Magi: How was your interest in making music first sparked?
Pat DiMeo: My parents were a huge influence on my music career because when I was young they would show me musical concerts on VHS like Pavarotti & Friends. They were just very musical. They never learnt how to play instruments, but they’ve always appreciated music. I picked up singing when I was just two years old. I used to sing in our home living room, organize concerts and pretend I was Pavarotti. Growing up, everything I did, I would relate it back to music. It's a blessing and the curse, I guess. I was also really into acting when I was young. I had a lot of acting gigs from the age of seven to about 12, especially in theatre and so for me I think acting and music are both very similar fields - creatively speaking.
The musical life took over when I started to play drums. As I turned nine years old, I continued to learn about music and gain influences from there on out. I always had a love for the music of the ‘70s and the ‘80s. Growing up, my dad used to like playing Elton John, Springsteen and Bowie’s music around the house or in the car, so I would have to say that I developed my interest in music from those artists. I then just carried a lot of the ‘80s side of things with me.
I’ve been in rock bands since I was 14 but my musical direction into synthpop didn’t really surface until I was 26.
KM: What first drew you to making synthwave/retrowave music?
PD: I was in a indie rock band back in 2016 so I would say my interest in synth driven music started then. I didn’t even know what it was, but I was just getting back into a lot of synth-heavy and retro pop music. I dipped into it officially though in 2017 when I started investing my songwriting in that style of music. My producer Andreas (who is the other half of The Motion Epic) and I started doing some research and we found artists like The Midnight and FM-84 that were doing similar music to us. We were honestly shocked that the retrowave community even existed because we had no idea. We brought in my buddy Dan to play guitar on most of the tracks. He loves similar music to Andreas and I, but he was also shocked to find such a supportive community for this style of music. We just stumbled upon the style and we are very fortunate to be in this position right now.
KM: Who has been influential to your approach to making music?
PD: There’s a lot of bands from the ‘80s that inspire me when I formulate my songs. I would say Tears for Fears would be a heavy influence as well as aforementioned David Bowie, Elton John, Bryan Adams and '80s Springsteen of course. If we fast forward to the modern day, I’ve already mentioned The Midnight and FM-84. There’s also a band called The Night Game who are a strong influence as well.
KM: How do you approach the creation of new music?
PD: As a songwriter, I’ve always written on guitar, so back when we began this project in 2017, I presented a few songs to Andreas and we translated them from it’s origin (vocals, acoustic guitar) into synth heavy tracks. Andreas would develop the tones and look for the right sounds. We spent a lot of time digging into software. We also looked into using analogue synths, but a lot of the digital stuff is pretty interesting. It was just such a different thing from the rock tracks that we were used to doing. This was super new to us but we developed our sound pretty quickly.
We try different ways of song writing too. For example, Andreas would come up with a short loop with a chord progression, I’d go into the studio with it and add some vocals, we’d see if we could develop it as a verse or a chorus and elongate that idea to see if we could make it into a song. We juggle a few ideas here and there, we always keep each other updated as we work on songs. We write pretty fast. I like to spend a lot of time on the songwriting to get the proper lyrics.
There are times where it gets very difficult. You write a melody and then you get stuck on the words. I try not to break my head any more because I feel that if it comes from the heart, it’s what you meant to say at the time. I used to be so picky and go back over songs again and again, but I’ve learned to let it go. I think, especially with The Motion Epic, that there was a sense that I just wanted to start putting out songs.
KM: Tell me more about some of the things you’ve worked on of which you’re proud lately?
PD: I’m proud of our success so far since we started releasing music in June of 2018. There have been a lot of opportunities coming our way that we never really expected. We signed our first EP off to Business Casual Records and John’s been super supportive of us. He gave us the opportunity to release cassettes which sold out the first batch, it was a great start for us. NewRetroWave picked and nominated our first EP in their top ten EPs of 2018, so that was another big milestone for us. It all happened really fast. I was expecting these things to happen in two, maybe three years time, but it happened all so quickly.
It seems like every release we do and every song we put out continues to move us forward. We seem to have a big fanbase in Russia as well which I didn’t really expect. One of our fans inboxed me on Instagram and told me they were talking about me on Russian social media sites like VK. I was like, “What?!” I downloaded VK and searched for The Motion Epic and there were all these posts about us. I was so shocked!
I would really love to take this music on the road, but we live in different times for releasing music. I’ve seen a lot of my friends’ bands and artists in general touring early on in their musical careers and it doesn’t really work that way any more. I think you have to put out a lot of music and get a lot of attention first and then it’ll be reasonable to go on the road - otherwise you’re pulling teeth to get people to come to your shows. Make noise on the Internet and hope that it’ll work out.
Right now, I’m talking to labels in Europe and seeing how the process is there and if we can eventually jump on tours out there... Once it makes sense to do so. I’m just going to keep putting out music to the point that it explodes, at least hope it does and then venture out!
KM: Can you give me a bit of detail about the album you’re planning to release in the near future?
PD: It’s a short record (eight tracks) but I wanted to put out a collection of songs because the last thing we did was release singles on Spotify that we then packed into an EP titled Midnight which was released on Business Casual Records. I want to put out a few more singles before the record as it is a “sort of concept album” that has a common theme between the tracks. The working title of the album is True Romantics which, at its core, is about many different forms of love. It could be love for a woman, about heartbreak and even about love for humanity and so on.
KM: How do you feel the retro/synthwave scene is doing lately?
PD: I think it’s a growing community. I’ve been out to a few retrowave shows and meeting the people that love this kind of music. It is all so relatable to me. I grew up a ‘90s boy but I have such love for ‘80s films and music. When you meet these people, it’s so easy to have a conversation with them. The scene shows signs of growth. Nobody has any idea how big the scene could get. I’m noticing the synth influences in popular music more and more. I really hope that it does grow into something bigger. It’ll take some time but I think it’ll get there.
KM: What do you do to recharge your creative batteries?
PD: I’m always on the ball. If I had access to a studio 24/7, I would have released four records by now! My songwriting seems to be in the forefront for me because I’m finally making music that I truly love. When I listen back to what I’ve done, I’m so proud of it. I seem to be more and more inspired to keep the ball rolling because of these accomplishments. Other than working on music, I love to sit back and watch my favorite TV shows and movies because that always helps a recharge!