AJ Haynes is the embodiment of a powerful women in music- INTERVIEW
“POWER” by Seratones is a stunning, fast tempo’d electric light of strength. We absolutely idolize front woman AJ Haynes, and were thrilled to get to chat for a couple of minutes. Listen to the soul and security in AJ’s voice before reading the interview
Our top 5 favorites
3. Sad Boi
4. Gotta Get To Know Ya
The very first time we heard Seratones was on Tiny Desk! Can you tell us a little bit about that experience? Did it open up any doors for Seratones?
Bob Boilen is a legend. It was so surreally wonderful to be on part of the Tiny Desk series. I was super nervous. There is a certain nakedness and vulnerability with stripping songs back to their most elemental components. Fans of Tiny Desk are real music lovers, so I’m so happy to have been able to reach so many folks. So many people at our shows tell me that Tiny Desk was how they discovered us. I’m more than certain there were many metaphorical doors that opened for Seratones--into peoples homes, their intimate spaces, as well as in a professional sense.
Our favorite song off of POWER is 100% Heart Attack and Gotta Get To Know Ya! Your words are enlightening, empowering, and energetic. Do you write with your audience in mind, or do you just say “fuck it” and put your heart on the line and hope for the best?
With this season of writing, I’ve been interested in the craft of songwriting, the kind of emotional sausage factory of it all. That is to say that songwriting is not always pretty, is not always magical, or even easy. It’s messy. Frustrating. Terrifying. Freeing. Vulnerable. Most of all, it’s work. Collaborating with other songwriters forced me to have to come to terms with my imposter syndrome and really connect with my own narratives. Even the great Beats with their wide open free verse and ecstatic prose had a craft and mechanistic framework. I’m really interested in how to make honest work compelling. So yes, in a sense, there’s some “fuck it.” But there’s also a diligence and purposeful approach to my songwriting.
If you could have dinner with 5 people living or dead who would they be? Music industry only!
Aretha Franklin, Prince, Anita O’Day, Ella Fitzgerald, and Julie London.
Is there one message that you hope to portray throughout all of your music? Maybe togetherness, individuality, or strength?
My message is intersectional--meaning at the crux of my real experiences as a Black woman, daughter of Filipina immigrant, reproductive justice advocate, artist. It’s difficult to say there’s one message. As Whitman says, I contain multitudes. Even “Power” is more of an exploration of power than a statement.
Can you tell us about how living in Louisiana inspired your music?
I think that synthesis is integral to Louisiana’s culture. We take a little bit of this and that--we make something out of nothing. There’s a hustle, but also an appreciation for the sensory experience. Honestly, I think being in Louisiana helps balance my heady nature. I feel like having a foot in Louisiana keeps me grounded.
Do you have any advice for younger women or children aspiring to succeed in music?
Know your worth. Don’t let people take your voice. And know WHY you’re doing this. I think success means so many things to different people. For me success is a combination of financial benchmarks (cause ya girl gotta eat!) and creative benchmarks. This creative journey is also part of my spiritual path. I don’t think it HAS to be for anyone, but I feel like ultimately you should define what success means to your individual situation
"'Power,' [is a] most aptly-named cut. After two-and-a-half minutes of driving, all-out performances from the entire group, almost everything drops out, leaving vocalist AJ Haynes alone with a tremolo string section, before suddenly diving back into the opening groove, fuller and more powerful than before." - NPR’s All Songs Considered
"The fuzztone is cranked way up, Haynes’s bluesy vocals are multiplied, synthesizer tones wriggle here and there, and the drums are overloaded with distortion in what sounds like a programmed version of a mid-1960s stomp. It’s not roots-rock anymore." - The New York Times
“A super-compact jam at just over two minutes, “Gotta Get to Know Ya” is constructed around a fuzzed-out, punk-funk bassline and Haynes’ versatile vocals, which range from sultry purrs to siren wails. Building on the soul and garage-rock elements of their debut album, Haynes and the Seratones keep the pace by laying down a ridiculously tight groove, sprinkling in some spacey synth effects and live-wire guitar skronk along the way...switching from smooth, Lenny Kravitz-style layered harmonies to full-Lemonade Beyoncé righteousness in the space of one quick couplet.” - Rolling Stone (Song You Need To Know)
"The song’s immediate fuzzy bass crunch and raucous, head-nodding drums prove that they can still hang in the captivating garage-rock fray of their 2016 debut Get Gone, but there is a new depth to their compositions led by frontwoman A.J. Haynes’ stronger command of the band’s platform. “Gotta Get To Know Ya” is the perfect example: a soul bop that sounds like an unrequited love overture that actually doubles as a salve for climate change and it’s encroaching effects. " - Billboard
"[‘Power’] = an immediate confidence-booster." - NYLON
"['Power'] is an ambitious call to arms and a compelling anthem acknowledges what we're up against...[it] perfectly captures how in 2019, the enemy is as much our own despair, as our political opponents'...built on heart-beat, battle-cry percussion and a mega-watt horn section, 'Power' lives up to its name..." - PAPER
""A.J. Haynes, whose bluesy contralto recalls Tina Turner here, Sister Rosetta Tharpe there, but with yelps and falsetto leaps that carve out her own style...['Power'] begins with an unrelenting snare playing every beat in tension with a cool, mellow bass riff, recalling ‘70s touchstones like Issac Hayes’ Shaft theme or The Supremes’ “Stoned Love.” A soaring string section alternates with synth washes for cinematic flair, all while Haynes spins a tale of danger...And let’s not forget Haynes’ pipes, because they’re in top form. Her voice alternates between her signature blues queen register in the chorus with a new, cool voice that recalls Marina Topley-Bird...Haynes solos in noirish suspense before that final chorus thunders in like a million man march. It’s psychedelic soul by the way of trip-hop, and it’s perfect." - Paste
“[Seratones’] brand of fuzzed out garage-soul sounds potent on first single “Gotta Get To Know Ya.” - Brooklyn Vegan
“glorious, swelling album…[a] sonic monument, and precise lyrical tapestry. AJ Haynes bends her gloriously malleable voice seamlessly around the temples of rock, and soul, and funk. All of them, unfurling in waves of keys, staccato percussion and wailing curves of guitar. ” - Hanif Abdurraqib