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afropunk interview: sir on his eternal summer

November 7, 2019
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SiR does not look like your stereotypical R&B singer: dreadlocked, lanky, and standing well over six-feet tall in an athleisure ‘fit that’s more fashionable’-wear. If you saw him perform at AFROPUNK’s Carnival of Consciousness in Atlanta in October, and couldn’t hear his vocals, you could assume you were watching a rapper or rasta reggae star nonchalantly strutting across the stage and occasionally hitting a joint while performing. No, the man born Sir Darryl Farris isn’t what people have in mind when they think of an R&B star, but he is part of a crop of iconoclast artists pushing R&B forward, and making some of the best music of the 2000s.

SiR comes from a deeply musical family that includes singing cousin, Tiffany Gouche, his brothers, producer/songwriter Davion Farris and Netflix’s Rhythm + Flow competition winner D Flow and his uncle legendary gospel and Prince bassist Andrew Gouche. He first made a splash as an indie artist in 2016, with the J Dilla-inspired LONG LIVE DILLA, and his 2015 Fresh Selects opus, Seven Sundays, which brought him to TDE’s attention, and led to his well-received 2018 major-label debut November, which featured the reggae-tinged hit “D’Evils.”

SiR’s latest album, Chasing Summer, is replete with confessional and poetic lyrics, and smooth, enveloping soundscapes, courtesy of producers like TDE’s TaeBeast and Sounwave, frequent collaborators D.K. the Punisher and J. LBS, and fast-rising Dallas beatsmith Kal Banx. With 2019 winding down we can safely say that in a year that saw the genre thriving, it’ll be counted among its finest releases. AFROPUNK spoke to SiR about his latest work, about being a married man writing about the past romantic entanglements, and about  making the most honest music possible.

I know that you write, sing, produce, and engineer, but how do you describe yourself and what you do?

I’m definitely a musician first, and if you had to give my sound a name, I would call it “honest.” I’m as truthful as possible with everything I’m doing with this music shit. And I really love music — I hope that shines through.

You’re really good at perspective in your writing. It’s something you pick up on on songs like  “Why I Love You” with Sabrina Claudio on Chasing Summer. Talk about that song and how it came about.

That’s a four-year-old song. I keep my private life private for the most part, but at certain points, I tell stories from my past, and that’s definitely something that I’m super familiar with and it’s very relatable. A lot of people are in situations where they want to have a no-strings-attached relationship. It’s about a relationship that was supposed to be nothing more than what it was, but inside of it, you can also hear the nuance of, “Ooh, I really, I like this.”

It’s a situationship.

For sure! I’m very thankful to Sabrina for being willing to get on that record, and doing  such an amazing job at it. I had a full song and I sent it to her, and she wrote her verse and gave me her take on it and it just elevated the song to another level, because it’s important for us as men to have a woman’s perspective in a situation like that.

Let’s talk about that dynamic, because it feels like its title alone contradicts the sentiment. It’s a very interesting juxtaposition for me. Why is this song titled the way it is?

Man, because we didn’t want to call it “Fuck and Leave.” [laughs] We sat down and talked about it and discussed what we wanted it to be. We thought it would be a better approach to a song that had such a direct message. [We wanted] to let people really listen to the song. We didn’t want to just send them there because of the title, we wanted people to stay because of the song. I think we did a great job of leading people to the water and letting them figure out that it was Kool-Aid.

Tell me what Chasing Summer means to you.

Chasing Summer is all about freedom, all about finding yourself. We’re all searching for something, and summer has always been a great example of peace of mind for me. The album is me trying to find that place in my career and in my relationships. I think I do a good job of painting very vivid pictures this time around. Chasing Summer is definitely just all about finding your Zen, or finding your happy place. It’s not about finding it, really, it’s more about my journey.

You’re a very introspective and thoughtful writer but you’re not pigeonholed to broaching heavy topics. For instance, you have songs like “W$ Boi” where it’s like “I’m just reppin’ where I’m from” and you’ve got songs about weed [laughs]. Talk about that versatility.

I be adventurous with this shit ’cause it’s like a relationship, man. Relationships get boring at times. You gotta step outside the box, spice things up. So I’m definitely in that part of my career where I’m trying to keep things spicy.

Let’s talk about cultivating a community of fellow artists. I’ve followed your work and I see you as part of a crop of Los Angeles-based talent like Anderson .Paak, Knxwledge, Tiffany Gouche, and Iman Omari, who were making some of the most vibrant music together. Now, four or five years later, everybody’s doing their own kind of thing and the world’s paying attention. Tell me about the LA scene as it relates to you, and the development of people in your circle like Knxwledge, Tiffany, D.K. the Punisher, and Iman Omari.

Much respect to Knxwledge man. He don’t answer my phone calls no more. [laughs] That was a good time. We made some really good music. But Iman Omari, that’s like my little brother for sure. Tiffany is my first cousin, and we definitely feed off each other and like to pick each other’s brains all the time, trying to get shit right. But what’s crazy is, over the last five years we’ve been so busy focusing on our families and lives, we don’t even get to like hang out as much as we want to. Fuck the music shit, I want to kick it with Iman. When I see Iman I be wanting to smoke and ask “how are your kids?” Last two times I saw Tiffany, it was at family gatherings and it was just that. I think the time we spent making music together definitely was amazing and it helped shape us as artists for sure and we still just pull from each other. Talking about just Tiffany and Iman in general — those two relationships, for me, are sacred. So fuck music, them are my niggas! It’s just beautiful to see their growth and the things that they’ve been able to accomplish on their own.

How does it feel to see your sound be so well received and to be one of the people helping to shape what R&B sounds like right now?

I’m definitely appreciative. I put my head down and I focus on what’s in front of me. I think the people that give you something that feels the most personal do that very well. They’re not focused on, “Oh, this nigga just dropped the project.” I didn’t listen to no R&B for like two years. I wasn’t listening to nobody.

Then what were you listening to while making Chasing Summer?

John Mayer! And like The Beatles or Stevie Wonder, or like Da Baby!

What did you get from listening to those other artists?

The musicality, the sonics. I’m listening to beats. I’m listening to their cadences and things like that. Like John Mayer, he just makes me feel good. That’s all. His music gives me a good feeling in my soul when I hear it. So I’m attracted to that. Music really knows no boundaries. I think genre is a way for businessmen to put things into a cycle and work that cycle.

As a writer-producer combo you and D.K. gave Jill Scott a hit with her song “Fool’s Gold.” How does it feel to come full circle and have her featured on your album, on “Still Blue?”

Phenomenal man. I was in the ninth grade in 2000, graduated in ’04. So when Jill first put out a “Long Walk.” I remember being in my room, watching my TV, and just watching that video and seeing how intense her fucking spirit was. I was such a fan of her when I was a little guy. I just loved her presence and her attitude, and her energy has always just been so beautiful. So meeting her was like wild for me. When we were doing that writing for “Fool’s Gold,” I was just such a shy person and like, you know, I’ve grown a lot over the last three years.

I feel like you’ve come out of your shell a little bit.

Yeah, for sure. [But] really, I chilled out, that’s more what it is. I’m more confident in what I have to say and I think about what I have to say before I say it. A lot of that comes from like being around her and like being around artists who were confident. She exudes confidence and not in like an arrogant type of way just in an “I am me, know that” way.

Tell me what playing AFROPUNK means to you or what your conception of AFROPUNK is.

When you guys first got started,  you were the land for the lost. You were guiding people that knew we existed to each other. And I’m for sure an Afropunk, and the biggest thing that you guys exude is the freedom to be what you are and not be trapped in the box that people create for us as Black Americans. You guys are a shining example of Blackness at its best. So for me, it’s an honor and a privilege.