By Kyley Jones | June 11, 2023
📸: shot by Owen S Labate

To listen to 79.5 is to dial in to the sound of the city. The band, named after a fictional radio station, was founded by Kate Mattison over a decade ago. It’s taken many forms since its inception, but the most recent lineup includes vocalist and keyboardist Kate Mattison, vocalist  and rapper Lola Adanna, bassist Andrew Raposo, drummer Caito Sanchez and multi-instrumentalist Izaak Mills on the saxophone and flute. 

Trying to categorize 79.5’s sound into one genre would be reductive. The band’s sound spans across decades, genres and artists. This cross-pollination of various influences has bred a sound that is uniquely their own, combining the styles of psychedelic pop, disco, funk and R&B. Their swirling harmonies, sultry piano melodies, and modern house beats are truly epic. Above all, it’s a sound that was inspired by the heart of New York, which makes this Brooklyn-based band a joy to witness live. 

On June 2nd, we gathered at Brooklyn Made with friends, family, and fans of 79.5 to celebrate the release of their sophomore album, self-titled: 79.5. The project is the result of several years of collaboration between the 5-piece band. They kicked off the night with “Magazine,” the tenth track off of 79.5, and the crowd was immediately entranced as the dreamy vocals and earnest storytelling began. The chemistry between Kate and Lola, who have spent years working together, not only on their current musical project, but as background vocalists for Durand Jones, was palpable. The two vocalists, donning matching black latex catsuits, commanded the stage with confidence and filled every corner of the room with laser sharp harmonies. 

79.5 wowed us with the dazzling disco banger, “Club Level,” and brought us back to 2018 with “Terrorize My Heart,” from their debut album, Predictions. They channeled feminine rage in “B.D.F.Q” (Bitch Don’t Fucking Quit), a feminist anthem that features a fiery rap verse from Lola Adanna, and tapped into the torturous experience of longing that comes with unrequited love for “As I Wait 4 Your Love.” Izaak Mills showcased his saxophone skills, prancing across the stage and even through the crowd on multiple occasions. At the end of the night, Lola rained the crowd in red roses. 

The show energetically celebrated the hard work that went into creating this album over the past few years. We’re excited to see what else lies on the horizon for this Brooklyn Band.    

We caught up with Kate Mattison and Lola Adanna from 79.5 before the show at Brooklyn Made, where they answered a few questions for the groovement:

Tell me how you’re feeling about your show tonight at Brooklyn Made.
Lola: I’m really excited because it’s our album release. We really love this place. We performed here once before, and we were talking about possibly having a release party here. So now it’s happening. It’s pretty dope. 

Do you have any pre-show rituals or routines that you like to do to get in the zone before you perform? 
Kate: I wear my Circle Jerks shirt for good luck. I tore apart my apartment today to find it.

Lola: Yeah, we have certain things that we do before we go on stage for sure. We usually do vocal warmups. I like to show up early and have a little alone time with the space. I like to feel the stage, feel the space, feel the energy, and pray a little bit.

I’d love to learn a bit more about each of you individually. How did each of you get into music, and what inspired that?
Kate: Both my parents were music teachers. I don’t remember not playing the piano. I was just always, always around music. I never got into rock and roll or anything until I was a teenager. My parents weren’t the cool parents that would listen to The Stones. I listened to Bach and jazz. My dad had a lot of jazz records, for sure. I didn’t start writing my own material until maybe 18 or 19. 

Lola: My dad is a musician, so I went to gigs with him, and I traveled with him locally. I got inspiration from that. I wanted to be a doctor, but then I realized that I wasn’t doing anything doctor related. I was dancing, singing, and performing. I just loved to perform. I didn’t know which one I was gonna go into, so I just did musical theater. I was like, “Okay, cool. All three.” And then I really got into the live music scene, which was really dope. It was more freeing. It wasn’t like you have to be a certain typecast. I could write my own music, sing how I want, dress how I want. So that’s my music journey. But I still love musical theater!

Do you remember what your first concerts were?
Kate: I didn’t go to anything cool with my family ever. But I went with my friend in college to a lot of ska punk shows. I’d go see NOFX and Reel Big Fish. 

Lola: I don’t remember the artists, but my parents listened to a lot of African music. So I remember going to Prospect Park and seeing park performances in the summer. I really cherish going with my parents to sit in the park picnicking. But my first big concert was Beyoncé. 

How did you all meet, and what is the origin story of 79.5?
Lola: Me and Kate did background vocals for Durand Jones & The Indications for their sophomore album, and we didn’t know each other. Aaron just kind of got some people together, and then we kind of just hit it off. We sounded really good together. Kate likes to say we’re like Frick and Frack. It was a really easy friendship. She actually invited me to do a show first. And then after that, she invited me to do Industry City with her and the band. After that, it’s all uphill from there.

Kate: Izaak and I have been playing together for over 10 years, and I had known Caito for maybe 16. I met Andrew through Caito, and I did a solo show with them one time. I liked their energy, and how they played, so I asked them to join up.

What was the first show you all played together?
Lola: Come on Everybody.

Kate: June 2021. It was this time two years ago, right after everything opened up.

People were more than ready then. How would you describe the genre or general vibe of your music?
Lola: Well, I would say it’s pop, jazzy, r&b, disco. There are so many great musicians here that come from different places and different genres of music, which creates our own little genre of music. But it’s definitely pop. It’s definitely disco. It’s definitely r&b. It’s got the essence of jazz too.

Kate: I think it’s very unique. Very New York sounding. Unique New York with elements of jazz, soul, R&B, now there’s rap. But definitely pop leanings as well.

You used New York as a reference for your sound. Are you all from New York?
Lola: I’m originally from Brooklyn.

Kate: I grew up in Ohio, I’ve been here almost 20 years. Caito is from Panama. Izaak is from Olympia, Washington.

What are some specific influences or inspirations that you each have, either musical or non musical?
Kate: I think that overall, the thing that is most inspiring to me is new music that I hear on the radio, or that friends show me. I always say Todd Rundgren and Janet. But truth be told, I don’t sit around and listen to all this and think, “Can I play like this?” or anything like that. In general, what inspires me most is when I get to play with the band. When we get to sit and play with each other, even if it’s just practice. The art of playing music. That’s what it is for me. What inspires me is when we get together. 

Lola: Yeah, they inspire me. I always say that Kate inspires me as far as writing goes because it’s just a different style than what I’m used to. They all inspired me because they’re great musicians. I come from a musical theater background, so I don’t really play an instrument per se. I sing. So, just learning stuff from them is an inspiration in itself.

Can you elaborate on what makes Kate’s writing process different from your own?
Lola: I think it’s more so the style less so than the process. I like to hear a beat and I’ll write to it. I’m very story based, like ‘he-she’, but she can write songs like “Club Level”. It’s not about someone per se. A lot of the songs are not to a certain person or about a certain person. It’s music. It’s like poetry. I think that we complement each other.

Kate: I do feel inspired by every person that we work with. I don’t think I would want to do this project if it wasn’t with these people. I’m inspired by every one of us. And I think we’re a fun group!

Can you tell me more about what inspired the name 79.5?
Kate: Nothing really inspired it. My friend sent me a really cool list of band names. He’s a very clever man. I’d played a couple shows with him before and he knew what we sounded like. So, he sent me a list of names and that one really stuck out to me. The music has always had an AM Gold kind of vibe. Like, low on the dial. The hardest thing about coming up with a new band name is finding one that’s not there. 

Let’s talk about your new self-titled record, 79.5. What was it like working on this project, and how does it feel to have it released to the world?
Lola: I just remember the creation process because I was technically a little bit new. So, they were bringing stuff in and I was like, “This stuff is really dope,” because I’m straight r&b funk. So I was like, “Oh, I really want to dip into this. This is like, so dope.” The process was really awesome.

Kate: We did the demos in our studio with me, Lola, and Izaak, deep in the pandemic. That’s when we did our demos. We recorded it in 2021, so it was after restrictions were lifted. But, we would go in there for hours and hours and hours. It was awesome.

Lola: We would just create. We got to know each other, too. That was awesome. To see it all pulled together now is like, whoa.

Kate: The word “release” is applicable. It’s a release, that’s what it feels like. Whew, I feel oddly relaxed right now. I feel like I should be more nervous, but I’m not.

What are you hoping that people will take away from this new record?
Kate: I just want people to know that as women, we can stand up for ourselves. I want them to see that it’s a feminist record. That’s what I hope people get from it. It’s a chance to stand up for yourself, no matter who you are.

Lola: Be unique, be an individual, and don’t quit.

Kate: The music is not really like anything that’s out there right now. It’s unique. That’s the expression that’s there. I hope people feel it. It’s a feminist movement within a record.

You can definitely hear those feminist themes in every song. Aside from a new lineup, what has changed for 79.5 since your last full-length album, Predictions, and how did that influence how you approached creating music leading up to your most recent project?
Kate: After that record (Predictions), I learned so much. And, I’ve learned that it is really, really important to show grace and mercy to yourself and to those you are working with. And so this process just became something I cherished. What’s changed is a lot of growth and a lot of protection over what this is. I might not be able to say what it is right now, but it’s protected right now. It’s protected with five of us and our energy. I don’t know how, but it is

Lola: And we’re a family too. We look out for each other. We’re open with each other, and we’re connected. I think that’s really important for a band to have.

So it feels like more than just a group of people playing music?
Lola: Yeah. It’s good to have a connection with your band and check in with each other, because I feel like that’s the root of keeping bands together. Having something on a personal level. Not too personal, just enough where we can check in and we can tell if somebody’s having a down day. We know each other pretty well.

Kate: Yeah, when you’re on tour it’s not natural how close people are together. It’s funny this last tour we did, she (Lola) and I shared a bed every night. I think you’re right, to make it work it’s gotta be more than just that. 

Did that come naturally to guys?
Kate: Yeah, we were just giggling right from the start. I don’t even know what we laughed about. 

Lola: But also being in a booth and also really connecting musically. It just kind of clicked.

I’m curious, what’s next for 79.5? Perhaps even more music?
Lola: More shows, tours, and more music! We’re ready to get back into the studio.

Kate: We’re open to all of the possibilities. 

Connect with 79.5 on Instagram and Spotify.

📸: shot by Owen S Labate 

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