FIONA Interview Orlando musice
Image

Don’t Advertise Twice: FIONA’s Secrets to Flexin’

Harry Morall III (better known as FIONA) is an Orlando rapper, producer, DJ, Twitter lol factory, and one-half of weekly dance night Talk Yo Shit. Physically, he’s very intimidating at well over six feet tall, a mountain of a man. As a rapper, he fires confident lines over self-produced beats as depicted on his debut album, GOLDBABY. But those who know him through his online persona, know he’s actually funny as fuck and sweet as sugar. So of course, we met at the Central Florida State Fair to talk about his many successes and future plans. Enjoy.


FIONA Interview Orlando musice

matthew warhol: Well I’m glad we’re like, getting to talk. Because we haven’t really done that yet. It’s cool because I’ve been doing an interview every week for a while now and you’re one of the people I’ve really wanted to get because you do so much: you have the DJ stuff, you do your own music, you have events, a weekly event. So like… why? Why do you give to Orlando so much? What’s it mean to you?

FIONA: I mean… honestly, it was out of necessity. I was just bored and had to live here and there was nothing to do. I would go out, and there would be no good DJs. SO I was like “Fuck it, I’ll learn how to DJ.” And certain genres of music wouldn’t be coming through town, so I was like “Fuck it, I’ll start booking shows.” The lack of options forced me into it.

matthew warhol: When did you start?

FIONA: I started making music seriously around 2012 and then that kind of grew on its own with my rapper stuff. I wasn’t booking shows or producing, I was just rappin’ for fun — I used to make dumb shit — and people liked it. And then in 2014, Barbecue Bar closed. I used to go there all the time because I could get free alcohol, and obviously, I’m going to go to the free alcohol place. And so once the free alcohol place was closed, I wanted to do something still and everything downtown sucks. So, I started my own thing.

matthew warhol: Is that Talk Yo Shit?

FIONA: Yeah, that’s how Talk Yo Shit was born. Then I got with Jeremey (Grape La Flame) — he’s the other guy I started Talk Yo Shit with — and he works at The Beacham. The people that own The Beacham bought Barbecue Bar and turned it into Olde 64 or whatever. They really gave us the freedom to do, literally, whatever we wanted back there.

matthew warhol: How long has that been goin’ on now?

FIONA: Like two years.

matthew warhol: Of the every week thing?

FIONA: No. It started out as a monthly in The Social. Then it went from monthly to weekly, and I didn’t think the weekly would work. Because most weeklies around here don’t last. But it actually worked out because we were able to build a consistent following. People come to that thing [banging on the table] every, single, week. Most people who start weeklies are lucky to last a year, and we’re at two and we don’t even advertise. I’ve never made a flyer. I’ve never put up a poster. I’ve made Facebook events — that’s the extent.

matthew warhol: You don’t even do that anymore.

FIONA: Yeah, I stopped doing that because I didn’t need to. Because people kept showin’ up.

matthew warhol: Why?

FIONA Interview Orlando musice

FIONA: If you do something dope, word of mouth is going to always work — not just in music but in anything in life — if you have a good product you won’t have to advertise. People will advertise for you. If you go to a great restaurant and have a great dinner, the first thing you want to do is tell everyone about it. So if you’re putting on dope shit, people are like, “Yo, come check out Talk Yo Shit, blah, blah, blah.” And it was easy because we didn’t have any competition.

matthew warhol: I don’t think people want to book on Thursdays in a lot of places. People already know that half of their people aren’t going to be there because they’re going to be at Talk Yo Shit.

FIONA: We’re very fortunate to be in that situation.

matthew warhol: One thing that made me think about is an interview I did with Alexia, my girlfriend. And we were talking about her experience as a black woman and in the music scene, and a lot of time she’s the only black person there. And she feels alienated because of that. So I was asking her what events she would recommend to other people of color who often feel that, and the one she named right off the bat was Talk Yo Shit. And it really means a lot to her.

FIONA: We definitely did that on purpose. Making something diverse doesn’t mean white people can’t come or don’t come. It’s truly diverse. We have this idea in America that diversity is ten white people and a black guy, and that’s not real diversity. So we wanted to do something that everyone would enjoy. I don’t have to advertise that. It’s the style.

FIONA Interview Orlando musice

matthew warhol: Is that why you think it’s been able to stick around? A lot of weekly events are too niche or the people there are elitist.

FIONA: There’s a whole lotta DJs, and it’s not just an Orlando thing, that have a certain attitude towards certain crowds or music. I’ll play anything and I think that being able to mix it all together is part of why you can have such a diverse crowd — if I’m going from Kodak Black to Fergie, from Boogie to Britney Spears, Sheryl Crowe to frickin’ Three Six Mafia. I try to cover all bases, but still, find a way to keep it funk. Because funk is a genre, but it’s also a feeling.

matthew warhol: I think that — going from Sheryl Crow to Three Six Mafia — is such a you thing. If a random DJ played that it wouldn’t work, but because it’s you people are like, “It’s Harry playing this!”

FIONA: I guess so. And I guess it’s cool.

matthew warhol: You have a brand. It’s like with your Twitter stuff too.

FIONA: It wasn’t even intentional. I just talk a lot of shit. And the thing about Twitter is that it is a battle to see who can say the most outrageous thing. You gotta have the hottest take of all the takes.

matthew warhol: Have there been any Twitter moments that stood out for you?

FIONA Interview Orlando musice

FIONA: There were two moments. One, I made this random joke one night about Syrian refugees. I was like, don’t worry about getting kicked out of the country, they’ve been trying to kick black people out of the country for years. But I said it in a real funny way. I went to sleep and when I woke up it was retweeted like 40,000 times. Which is fine, but then it started blowing up on Muslim Twitter. And I didn’t even know there was a Muslim Twitter. Then it got all the way to Syria, and I got messages from actual Syrians who were tweeting me from bombed out buildings and shit. And they were like, “Oh, I fucks with you.” Oh, and this was back when I first got Twitter, like 2009. And back then, I feel like celebrities were more active. One day, I was trolling Lily Allen and she was going on about how people who pirate her music are the scum of the earth. I took a screenshot of me bootlegging her album and sent it to her. And she went off on me. I was in troll mode. And then a week later, I read the news, “Lily Allen Retiring From the Music Industry,” because too many people are pirating her stuff. And that was my achievement of the century. That was pretty cool.

matthew warhol: Going into the music side of stuff, why did you decide to change your rap name from Mr. 3 to FIONA?

FIONA: I made a lot of music under the Mr. 3 name that doesn’t represent where I’m at in my life right now. It just really isn’t the aesthetic I’m going for now. I appreciate that — it’s where I learned how to make music — but I really wasn’t taking it seriously while I was doing that. And I almost feel bad because people still like that shit. But I made most of that stuff as a joke between me and my friends. Also, I was really jackin’ for beats at that time so all the shit I was rapping on isn’t necessarily cleared or approved. Now I produce for myself, but then I didn’t know how to.

matthew warhol: So now that you’re taking it more seriously, what does that mean? What’s the goal?

FIONA: I mean, I don’t even know if there’s a specific goal. One of the main things that I’m about is I want to do as much as I can by myself. I’ve had management before. I’ve been with a record label before. And I learned a lot, but what I really learned is that I can do it myself. There’s nothing that a manager can do for me that I can’t do for myself. I’m also a perfectionist, so I don’t want something to mess up and it be on somebody else. I’d rather it be on me. I have a law degree too. So there’s not a contract that I can’t read and not know what’s on it. Hell, I could write the contract, ya know? My point is that I want to be a one-man-band. That’s why I learned how to produce and engineer and DJ. I didn’t know how to do any of that two, three years ago.

matthew warhol: And GOLDBABY is a pretty decent chunk of time that it was made over, right?

FIONA: It took about a year to make. I didn’t just make it in one sitting.

matthew warhol: There was a lot of different sounds on that. Was that a conscious effort? Because to me when you said that this is the first time you were producing … I don’t want to say play, but you wanted to try everything?

FIONA Interview Orlando musice

FIONA: I guess so, but it’s also a reflection of my taste. I have a wide variety of taste. So there’s a lot of different sounds that I wanted to play with.

matthew warhol: Going forward, do you think you’ll music will always have a lot of different sounds?

FIONA: I can see myself doing an album where I have a theme or something like that, but I’ll always remain diverse, just because my influences are diverse. The more sounds you make, the more original your shit can sound, the more people you can appeal to. So I’m not trying to limit myself because, low-key, I’m trying to make a couple bucks, ya know? I’m not one of those people who are anti-popular. I want the mainstream to pay me, fuck yeah! Got me fucked up!

matthew warhol: So what does the future look like?

FIONA: I mean, this DJ thing is taking legs I didn’t expect. I was doing it as a side thing just to keep my name in the streets without having to rap. I don’t like doing a lot of rap shows because I put a lot of effort into them and it’s hard to get a band together.

FIONA Interview Orlando musice

matthew warhol: So what’s been opening up?

FIONA: Not much that I want to divulge right now because I don’t want to jinx anything, but I have plans to make the step to the next level and start monetizing. I wanted to make sure I was good enough to monetize. I wanted to make sure that when I made that leap that I wasn’t just good enough to do this, that I was better than most of my peers. First, I wanted to make an album 100% by myself.

matthew warhol: What do you think of Orlando rap?

FIONA: I feel like the problem isn’t the talent, it’s the city, as far as how the city embraces and cultivates local music versus other cities. If you go to places like Atlanta, Miami, LA to a degree, Chicago, there are much more opportunities for local musicians to make a living off being a local musician.

matthew warhol: Is that just because it’s a bigger market?

FIONA: Not even. If you go to Chicago, there are local rappers that make a fuckload of money just on their side of town. You can get famous in your neighborhood and have enough to eat. There’s no local rapper making that on a local show.

matthew warhol: So how does that happen? I feel like a lot of people use Orlando as a platform city to then go somewhere bigger, but how do we become a city like that?

FIONA: There’s two ways. If all those people that left, stayed, this place would pop. But you’re asking those people to sacrifice their careers trying to build something from the ground up. What would also need to happen, is you need an investment into the arts from either the city or a philanthropist. You’ll need some rich people with some fuckin’ money to invest in the city and give local musicians a platform — not just at the Bahama Breeze. And once you create that culture and constantly have quality experiences, people will come. A lot of people find it hard to bring crowds out here and honestly, it’s not the people; it’s the product you’re putting out there. A lot of guys are lazy and don’t put effort into it and wonder why people don’t show up.

matthew warhol: So what is that effort then?

FIONA: The effort isn’t in the advertising. It’s in the music, the atmosphere, the performance, the little details, separating yourself from the rank and file. Making yourself your own, individual artist. As I said before, if your product is good you don’t have to advertise. So my goal, any artist or business person’s goal, is that you announce that you’re doing something and that’s it. You’re on some fucking Beyonce shit, dropping the album and selling a million copies in the first 22-minutes. If you advertise with your product, you won’t have to advertise twice.

FIONA Interview Orlando musice

Image

Developing B8TA: ORL Producer/DJ on the Past/Present/Future

Ever since he started making noise in the Orlando music community, B8TA has stayed busy. If you’re at all familiar with local DJ nights, chances are you’ve already seen him. He DJs every Thursday at Patio’s Talk Yo Shit, books his own nights under the Labwrk brand, and pops up on bills by TMD and Body Talk. Additionally, B8TA’s Soundcloud is filled with his own smooth tunes that are heavily influenced by the sound of eclectic hip hop label, Stones Throw Records. I had yet to kick it with the guy, so we sat down, dug through all of his projects, and listened to some music, all while ORL glitch artist MalRea provided a backdrop of twisted anime. Enjoy.

Upcoming appearances: Cultural Canopy at Spacebar.


B8ta interview orlando

matthew warhol: Let me just say, thank you so much for doing this, because I have been a fan of your shit for a while. I really like the stuff you’re doing with Labwrk, the Talk Yo Shit stuff you’ve been doing. [In addition to DJing] you’ve been doing the design too, right?

B8TA: Yeah, I’m not … I’m just stealing shit from The Internet and just putting words on it. [laughs] Thank you, though.

matthew warhol: No, you’re just repurposing. [laughs] But yeah, we’ve never gotten to talk, but that’s why I like doing these interviews. I get to learn more about the artists I cover. So … Starting off, are you from here?

B8TA: I’m originally from the Virgin Islands, Saint Thomas. But um, I’m by way of here. I’ve been here all my life. I just turned 30 in October, and I’ve been here since like  ’95. Actually no, ’96.

matthew warhol: How old were you?

B8TA: Nine or ten?

matthew warhol: And you came to Orlando?

B8TA: Straight to Orlando. 

B8ta interview orlando

matthew warhol: Why did you move?

B8TA: In ’94 we had this crazy hurricane, Hurricane Marilyn, and it was a Category 4 or 5. I remember being in the closet with my mom, my two aunts, my grandma, and my sister, who was a newborn. [We] were all huddled in this little closet. And throughout the whole storm, we could see our ceiling peeling off; we could hear glass breaking, windows breaking.

matthew warhol: And after that they were like, we need to leave?

B8TA: Yeah, our home was completely messed up. And we were eating army rations at school for like a year. We didn’t have actual power for like a year. We were running off generators.

matthew warhol: So you moved here when you were nine. Did your parents bring that music and culture with them?

B8TA: When I was younger I remember her listening to things that were popular back home but when I got here, that’s when I got into hip hop. Like, the first song that I heard that was hip hop where I actually understood what that was, was Fugees “Killing Me Softly.”

dsc09546

matthew warhol: Oh cool. Where did you hear that?

B8TA: Funny story about that, I was on the way to the dollar theater with a guy my mom was dating at the time. He was taking us to see Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls, and it was on the radio.

matthew warhol: Was it an instant love? Did you try to find other things like it?

B8TA: Naw, it was just one of those things where it was like damn, this a new sound. Because when you’re young you just listen to what your parents listen to.

matthew warhol: So when did you start finding your own music that you liked to listen to?

B8TA: Probably like the start of middle school. I think the first album I bought with my own money was the Busta Rhymes When Disaster Strikes…, that had “Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Could See.” And that summer was when that the Missy Elliott album came out, and the Will Smith Big Willy Style.

dsc09708

matthew warhol: Man, I had [the Big Willy Style] CD in my car fairly recently. [laughs] When did you realize you wanted to start making music?

B8TA: You know what? When I was in high school, I was like trying to be a rapper. Or I would just write stuff and me and my friends would freestyle. But nothing really serious. But actually making beats and producing music … my boy Jeff, who was in algebra class with me, he brought in this CD that had instrumentals on it. So we’re listening to it in class, on his walkman, and we’re like, “Yo, this is hot. Who made this?” And he’s like, “I did.” And you know, we’re like, “You’re full of shit. You can’t make this.” He’s like, “No I did. I made it with this program called Fruity Loops. And you just download it. It’s like $99 or some shit, but you can get it for free.” From then, I went home and got the program. I think my first beat was like all bells. But I thought it was the hottest shit ever. I think I was like 15, 16.

matthew warhol: When did you start wanting to put it out there?

B8TA: Immediately.

matthew warhol: Immediately? What, for your friends? Did you have CDs you would pass out?

B8TA: I used to burn a new little mixtape or album every other week, or every month. I was just super excited about it at that time.

B8ta interview orlando

matthew warhol: When did you start getting your name out in Orlando, or even start going out?

B8TA: I think it was like, a couple years ago. I was going out to the Beat Battles at Spacebar. And all the producer-heads used to come out and show face. It was one of those things where there was nothing like that in Orlando. I was probably 25 or 26 … I started getting out there late. Up until I was like 25, I was concentrating on work, and I was going to college too. I kinda got lost in the everyday type thing.

matthew warhol: Were you not making music at the time?

B8TA: I was, but not as consistent. I was in Altamonte for a while, but when I moved back to Orlando I didn’t see the scene the same. Everything had changed. People were actually doing cool shit. And I started doing the Beat Battles. I think I won one or two. That’s how I met Allan Duncan [native feel] and Side C.

matthew warhol: How soon did you start booking your own stuff? Because that’s what Labwrk is, right?

B8TA: Labwrk was basically me and my buddy sitting and watching Boiler Room videos and we were like, it’d be so cool if we did something like this. Not quite Boiler Room per say, but just add different elements like visuals to tweak it just a little bit. And that’s when we started doing the parties.

B8ta interview orlando

matthew warhol: And with Labwrk, were you going to play a certain kind of dance music?

B8TA: Naw, we were like, fuck a whole format. You gotta touch everybody, right? Everyone wants to have a good time. No one wants to be alienated. So play what you whatever the fuck you want. Somebody is not going to feel it, but it’s not that serious.

matthew warhol: What about The Left Field Theory? You’re affiliated with them too, right? Explain that.

B8TA: Yeah, I’m the DJ. It’s mostly rappers and producers. There’s 15 of us? It’s me, Blue Novemeber, METVLMOUTH, Alfonso X, LFT Solis, Lauren’s Truees, Nelson, ZAE THE PHILOSOPHER, illfigure, j. robb … there’s so many of us.

matthew warhol: How did that get started?

B8TA: We actually all met at this open mic thing called The Sesh, like 2014. Some of them performed. And we were all like, what do you have going on?

matthew warhol: So you formed a collective. What do you do in that?

B8TA: We all do our own individual thing. But right now we’re doing a Left Field LP or tape or whatever you want to call it. I think the single, “Ay Mane,” was played on the radio last Sunday, on 104.5 The Beat. But some of the guys I mentioned don’t even live here. They’re in Baltimore, Boston, Miami.

B8ta interview orlando

matthew warhol: What’s your role on that tape?

B8TA: Producer.

matthew warhol: The whole thing?

B8TA: No, I’m mainly doing interludes and intros/outros with Metalmouth. And I think the main sound will be coming from Jay Rob, to form the vibe.

matthew warhol: Is there a vibe yet?

B8TA: Yeah, that song they played on the radio is probably what they’re shooting for, upbeat and feel-good. Because a lot of the stuff I make isn’t very upbeat. It’s more chill, smoke a blunt.

matthew warhol: Who all have you produced for?

B8TA: Blue November, Donny Blanks, this guy over here, [Zuhaven], Duckworth, a whole buncha cats.

matthew warhol: What’s the difference when you’re making music for someone to rap over, versus something purely instrumental? Is it a different process?

B8TA: I like to sit down with people and listen to different music before. A lot of times I’m two tracking it with people, sending stuff through email. But if I have you in my space, we’ll listen to music for a while then go into it.

matthew warhol: Do you play off them and adapt to what they do?

B8TA: Yeah, definitely. Then I come in and add my little thing.

dsc09656

matthew warhol: You have to similarly adapt when you’re DJing, depending on what type of event it is. What’s the difference?

B8TA: At Talk Yo Shit, I definitely can’t slip in a Mac DeMarco track all willy nilly. That would not fly at like 12 o’clock. But maybe [it would] at Cultural Canopy. I can do that with ease and mix it into like Lou Reed or something and people would be like, woah.

matthew warhol: What are your personal goals for music?

B8TA: For this year, I really want Labwrk to develop into a brand that’s more than just throwing parties. Becuase that’s not really my scene … I can’t even say that. I like being out. And I like having fun. But it’s not about partying. And I eventurally want it to be a thing where I can take other artists and help them get out and do their thing, essentially the Stones Throw Records of Orlando.

dsc09694

matthew warhol: Were they an early influence for you?

B8TA: They were a huge influence. MF Doom. Jay Dilla. Madlib. Madlib is my all-time, next to The Neptunes. I’m sorry Jay Dilla.

matthew warhol: What attracts you to that kind of music?

B8TA: I think it’s the “I don’t give a fuck,” vibe. Because it sounds gritty and dirty. There’s so much more tape hiss and hella dust on the record when they’re mixing it. But it still sounds like … I can’t even explain it.

matthew warhol: Raw?

B8TA: Yeah, raw.

matthew warhol: How do you add that same feel into your music?

B8TA: Man, I just try to emulate what these cats are doing, and just add my own thing to it. And I think at the end of the day, me transitioning from a producer to also being a DJ has made me realize where I see myself. It has helped me discover my sound.

matthew warhol: And that’s because you’re taking so much in?

B8TA: Yeah, constantly having to find what’s new. Because a lot producers do this where they’re like, I’m not going to listen to no new music; I can’t be disturbed. But you start to put yourself in a box. And before you know it, you put your shit out and you’re 10 years behind what the new sound is, instead of progressing with the sound.

B8ta interview orlando

TMD ORL

TMD Pop-Up: Premium Spirits at The Social

In December of last year, a dance music event held at Spacebar turned The Milk District venue into a rave of free people speaking the Queens. ORL DJs both fresh-faced and familiar played a night spanning Great Britain’s musical underground; genres like deep house and garage shared the speakers with the grime stylings of Dizzee Rascal and Skepta. The event was called TMD UK. And we were given access for $1.

Fast forward to now and the DJ collective–known only by three consonants “TMD” and their signature smile face–has greatly surpassed the vision its members began with. At least once a month, TMD holds a curated event where people lose their shit. These nights never stale due to the constantly rotating lineup of resident DJs, collaborators, and guests, all sharing their particular tastes. And because this group has always wanted to deliver the best and newest music to the most people possible, events have never cost more than $1 to attend.

This Saturday, TMD will hold their second event at The Social–the first branded entirely under their name–TMD Pop-Up: Premium Spirits at The Social. Two resident DJs will pair with guests from fellow ORL collectives LABWRK and Talk Yo Shit and trap producer, LanlordCollectin. Both fog and drinks will flow as we dance to the finest in premium spirits, served by six of Orlando’s best DJs. Dissect the lineup below. Enjoy.

Blair Sound Design (TMD)

Blair recently moved back to Orlando after some time in Tallahassee. He played TMD’s Combination 2 as the guest that night, but fell in love with our burgeoning dance scene, moved back, and joined TMD. As a Outsider house producer, Blair’s music has spread all throughout Europe, and he is set to have his first vinyl pressing later this year via French Press Lounge, his own imprint under London’s Lobster Distribution.

Beau R. (TMD)

Beau has better taste than you. He can pull music from any era of dance music and make you fall in love with something you never knew existed. He DJed under the moniker ’07 CHEV at TMD UK, and is ready to represent the smile boys with driving house and techno beats.

FIONA (Talk Yo Shit)

LanlordCollectin

“Lanlord, what’s happenin’?” When I first met Lanlord he was promoting his then upcoming mixtape with local Soundcloud rapper, TEDD.GIF. He laid the ground that Ted went ape shit on; his tight, hype instrumentals pushed the MC to his most hype. As a DJ, he forces the crowd to perform similarily.

Grape La Flame (Talk Yo Shit)

B8TA (LABWRK)

popp