Whether it be their band moniker or the title of their debut album, Clouds & Crayons certainly know how to live up to a name. On 2016’s Love Soliloquy, the Jackson duo deliver candid, resonant tracks featuring ambient sounds, dance-worthy beats, and vibrant storytelling. With Astin Rocks! (Astin Sullivan) on the mic and Loki Antiphony (Tre Pepper) behind the sound, the self-described “Electro-Soul” pair aren’t afraid to leave the confines of one genre.
“We fit in a lot of boxes, from rock to R&B to hip hop,” Loki explains. “Our approach is to try to make our music as approachable as possible for any type of genre.”
The fusion of Clouds & Crayons’ sound likely stems from Astin and Loki’s differing backgrounds – Astin, originally from Atlanta, is a filmmaker and Loki, a Mississippi native, has worked as a music producer for over a decade. When Astin had a vision for a music project, the two were brought together by a mutual friend, Phillip “DJ Young Venom” Rollins.
“I had written four spoken word pieces and thought performing them would be a good way to get the content out there,” Astin says. In January 2016, she sent Loki an iPhone recording of one of her poems, he put it to music and the rest, she says, is history.
As they began working in the studio together, Astin brought up the idea of taking their act live – and Loki agreed. “We meshed really well and I thought performing live could be a really cool challenge,” he says. The duo has since performed live shows across the Southeast, bringing Astin’s lively presence and Loki’s unique beats to audiences from Dallas to Atlanta.
While the notion of touring came a bit spontaneously, there was one aspect of the album Astin was always certain of. “I had this music and these lyrics that I’d been singing around the house and I knew I wanted to create visuals for them,” she explains. Getting connected with Loki proved to be a fortuitous partnership for Astin’s vision, as his compositions inspired what kind of story she would tell visually for each song.
While producing a visual anthology proved to be an undertaking – after all, the two were balancing their day jobs and creating something only Beyoncé had done at the time – Astin was determined to prove there is more than one way to establish oneself as an artist. After screening the full visual album in October, Clouds & Crayons will launch their #Love16 campaign, releasing one video online each month.
Both Astin and Loki believe that working on their music in Jackson – and any artistic venture, for that matter – gave them a sense of freedom to express the full extent of their creativity. “When you approach the community here about a project, they’re excited to help you see it through,” Loki says. “It makes Jackson a great place to create and refine your work.” He attributes the traditionally hospitable nature of the Magnolia State as providing a collaborative, supportive environment, unlike the often cutthroat nature of larger hubs. Astin echoes this.
“There’s a lot of space to create here–there isn’t much pushback on wanting to create something, be it a film or music,” Astin says. “The thing about Jackson is that you can really do whatever you want.”