“If It Sucks We Cut It; If It Rocks Then Great”: Frank A. Vasallo Talks Working With ¡MAYDAY! On South Of 5th!

Oct 2 2018

Lucas G.

If you follow ¡MAYDAY! on the Instagram, you know they are studio rats, who are constantly cooking up new material. With a set of skills as diverse as their sound, they handle everything from singing, to rapping, to producing, but, still, they constantly bring people through the studio. They thrive on that collaborative process, drawing inspiration from other talented artists and injecting it with that ¡MAYDAY! flair.

One of those artists who, with 4 placements out of 13 tracks, had a big influence on South of 5th, is Frank A. Vasallo.

A producer with a background in Reggae, and one who calls Miami home, Frank was an important part of crafting the new sound ¡MAYDAY! was going for, so it felt fitting to grab him for a chat about his work on the album.

How did you initially get linked up with ¡MAYDAY!?

It is sort of long story but I’ll try to keep it brief. I had been friends with Danny “Keys” Perez for some time….Danny and I had been producing tracks together on and off, until I left South Florida to Boston for my undergraduate studies at Berklee College of Music. Once I returned in 2016, Danny and I linked back up and started making tracks again

I’ve always known who ¡MAYDAY¡ was since being part of the music scene in South FL, but I never had the opportunity to get introduced to them

Fast forward to 2017, Danny and I were making tracks again. Danny took me into the studio with ¡MAYDAY! and the vibes were right. We worked on some tracks, one of which ended up being “Lifetimes.” After that, I played them some tracks I had been working on, which they were vibing with, and some of those tracks ended up being on South of 5th as well (“Magic in the Smoke,” “We Ain’t Sleeping,” and “New Blessings”).

We have other tracks cooking, but not for this project. Those will hopefully see the light of day on future projects.

What did you know prior to getting in the studio about ¡MAYDAY!? When/how did you find out they were doing a reggae album? Was that as different for you as it was for them?

Well, around the time I started making tracks for ¡MAYDAY! with Danny “Keys” Perez, I was looking into create more direct Hip-Hop tracks, but Danny told me “let’s make them reggae tracks” since they had been down with the vibe.

It was during this process that ¡MAYDAY! told us the direction of this album and how they wanted to do it all with a reggae vibe.

My gig history was full of reggae. It’s what I’ve played a large chunk of my life…When the time came to put together some reggae tracks for ¡MAYDAY!, I was already a well-oiled machine of the genre, so I felt right at home, and judging by how this record sounds, ¡MAYDAY! fit in right at home as well. The project came together quicker than I thought it would. I am blessed and proud to be a part of it.

What were the studio sessions were like? What was the process of creating the songs?

It was always a great vibe and we would just hang out, put some ideas together and see what would flourish from those ideas.

Some of the tracks I put together at my home studio, others were there on the spot with them, and the other records, specifically “Lifetimes,” Danny and I put together and brought it to ¡MAYDAY!  for them to throw down on.

The sessions we had together were always a good time, with great vibes. Any idea someone had would be tried out. A lot of artists are difficult to work with because they have their vision of a song as its being developed, but it was refreshing to see how open ¡MAYDAY! was to any idea.

The motto: lets try it out, if it sucks we cut it; if it rocks then great. It’s always been the way I enjoyed working, and I was pleased to find out they work in the same fashion.

Can you talk a little about creating “New Blessings” specifically?

“New Blessings” was one of those tracks which I put together at my home studio and brought to ¡MAYDAY! I basically just get home at the end of my work day, sit in my studio, picked up the bass and put together the bass line. From there I threw down some guitar work, and the drums followed. The vibe kind’ve wrote itself in that sense. I try not to get in my own way by having a certain direction or something; I tend to just play what feels good and let is come together on its own.

I did not know the direction ¡MAYDAY! had in mind for it once I brought it to them. After they threw down the hook on it, they sent me some bounces and it was sounding great at that point. Just needed the verses to tie it together, which they definitely did.

It’s one of my favorite records on the album because of the concept of making room for new blessings, especially since Wrek had his twin boys, he definitely had to make some room!

I like the idea behind the whole song. Things arise in our lives that we feel are going to be an immense burden, but if we view these things as blessings, then we learn to appreciate the meaning they bring to life. It’s a beautiful thing.

Which song are you most proud of/excited for?

Honestly, I am excited for the whole record! I love how it turned out, and as I said, I am extremely proud to have been a part of it. I really enjoy listening back to “We Ain’t Sleeping”. I think that record turned out so dope! Keith Cooper from the Pushers threw down some awesome horns on it that tied it together and the Hook is so infectious. Anyone I play it for leaves singing it!

With 4 production credits out of 13 tracks, you had a role in almost a third of the album. Obviously, you guys connected, was there a specific moment when you guys “clicked”?

This goes back to the first question. Once Danny brought me into the studio with ¡MAYDAY! we just “clicked” as you put it. The vibe was right. We got along well, they were looking for more reggae which was a comfort zone for me, and everything played out.

Having never produced for them before made the initial studio session a bit daunting for me, as I didn’t know what to expect, but Danny assured me they would be into what we were making, and thankfully they were. It opened the door for me to get them a bunch of material to work with, and these 4 songs came from that initial meeting.

As a Miami local, What was it like to work on an album called South Of 5th? Did it influence your process/ideas at all?

At the beginning of production, I didn’t know what the album title was going to be, But when they decided later, it gave me some wind in my sails to make “New Blessings” and “Magic in the Smoke.”

When they told me the title would be South of 5th, being that I live on 8th street most of my life (just South of 5th ironically) it was inspiring. It made me want to put together some South, FL beach vibes with some grit of the city, and then came “New Blessings” and “Magic in the Smoke.”

What stood out to you about ¡MAYDAY!?

¡MAYDAY!’s writing. Their writing is great. Beyond their verses, and the substance in them; I am speaking of their infectious hooks – that singing just grabs your attention. I enjoy the way they weave the verses through the track, tying together the theme laid out in the hooks. I had been a fan since “Believers”, and I lost my mind when they did the ¡MURSDAY! project, as I was already a huge fan of MURS at the time.

All that history of writing they have under their belts really shines on this record and I believe is part of the special sauce that made this whole record such a great vibe.

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Click here to Listen to South of 5th!