Interview: Knyves Escobar Releases "Phantom Limb"
If you’re a fan of DMV-based artists, you absolutely need to get on the Knyves Escobar train. With roots deeply stemmed in DC and Silver Spring, Knyves brings her inspirational love for the capital city into everything that she does.
We sat down with this budding local musician to discuss all things spooky, roots in classical training, and inspiration ahead of her release of the music video for her new song, “Phantom Limb,” which was just released today.
Some really cool things are in the works right now! You released a new song last week. What was that process like?
I just released my latest single "Phantom Limb,” and I'm so excited! I love everything spooky. It is a song that I fully produced. I wrote the whole thing, played cello on it, recorded myself. It's about someone that I dated a year ago, and it's about not necessarily missing him, but missing how I felt when I was with him. But, being with someone in a cool relationship, and the fun of all that. That was the catalyst for writing it, because he literally ghosted me.
This is spooky on so many different levels -- there are layers to the spook!
Exactly! I love a good spook. But, he's like a ghost in a way. He's gone, and I've not heard from him, and at this point, and that's what the song is about.
And today you're releasing the music video! Tell us all about it.
A really great friend, Ryan Pham, who I literally just met this year decided to come up from North Carolina, even though we had never met before, off the strength of my other music. He saw the "Jaded" music video, and he wanted to make another music video happen. He asked me what I had, and at the time, I was finishing up "Phantom Limb," and we had run into so many bumps in the road with the track. I produced the whole thing, but I had to find someone to mix and master it, and we were not having luck with that. We were having people not hold up their side of the bargain or mishaps here and there. It made us feel like maybe we should put the song on hold, but we finished the music video and we were still trying to figure out how we were going to release the song.
I'm really glad that we got all of it done, because it truly was about the journey. Through so many twists and turns, we made it! The song is out and the next step is the video, which I am really excited about. Ryan liked the song, and he came up with the story board. Spoiler alert, it's kind of like alternate realities, almost like Stranger Things-esque. Y'all better watch it!
And to see you perform live is a completely different, yet equally as stunning experience. We love booking you for shows, and having seen you perform several times now, how cathartic is your creative process?
For me, the songwriting process definitely is me parsing through my emotional turmoils and traumas. I write all the time, I ask myself how I'm doing, and sit there and scribble on a page. That's just how it is, and sometimes, there will be something on the page and I'll say to myself, "I might have just did something, that's kind of fire." With "Phantom Limb" and all my other songs, I take my past relationship problems and spin them into something that's like a time capsule, in a way. I'm distilling all of that emotion and anguish into one song and trying to summarize what I went through with that one situation.
Do you find that experience helps you unpack what you went through? Maybe that this artistic venture brings you clarity at the end of the day?
Definitely. For example, with "Jaded," I was constantly getting myself involved in these dead end relationships, getting involved with people that were not emotionally available, that would choose somebody else over me. It took me writing that song to ask myself what I kept doing that, realizing that there's better out there and I couldn't keep putting myself in the same cycle. You're going to keep doing the same thing until you learn your lesson, and eventually I learned my lesson.
Another thing that truly blew me away last time we did a showcase with you at Rhizome was that you also play cello. What kind of training do you have holistically as a musician?
I come from a long line of musicians — my grandmother, father, brother, all of us did something musical. We all take to music like a duck takes to water. I've been singing since I was four, and realized that I loved it because people were telling me to shut up, and I wasn't going to do it! This was my thing and I was going to keep doing it. My dad put me through piano and violin lessons, which didn't stick. I was 11 when I picked up the cello for the first time, and it just felt so natural in my grip. So, I'm classically trained in cello for the past 12 years. I did orchestra competitions here and there, first chair throughout high school or whatever! I stopped after a while, because it didn't felt like I was doing it because I loved it, but because I was in these competitive situations. Orchestra is very cutthroat and anxiety-inducing, so I took a hiatus. My cello sat in her case for about a year, maybe two. I couldn't bring myself to open up the case and take her out, but eventually, I did it and it felt right. Now that I pick up my cello, it doesn't feel like I'm obligated to play. I feel it more because I still love the instrument, and its definitely something I could never forget. I could probably wake up from a coma and still be able to play a Bach arrangement.
Do you find that being classically trained impacts the way you write your music?
Sometimes. My favorite composers, like Chopin and Gabriel Fauré, have really spooky, melodic lines that I sometimes emulate in a way. Definitely, thinking about a song and composition in terms of an orchestra, because there are different pieces, with things coming in a different times. It's helped me to produce, as well, because I'm thinking about all the different instruments and how they interact with each other. I love it, because I don't have to hire an orchestra, I can just make my own.
What are some aspirations that you have for yourself musically?
I want to go on tour so bad! I want to see the world, and I want someone to pay for all this stuff. We're doing everything independently. I met my manager in January or February. Literally, I just started releasing music in 2018. It's been a snowball effect, but unfortunately, as an indie artist, I have to cough up the money. It is what it is, and I do it because I want to see myself succeed, but hopefully somebody out there will be like, "Dang, let me fund this." That would be great.
If you could go on tour supporting an act right now, who would you like to go out on the road with?
Oh my gosh. Snoh Aalegra, wow. I really like Omar Apollo and what he's doing. He's just incredible, amazing artist, singer and performer. Frank Ocean? If I could be in the same room and breathe the same air as him for two seconds, that's all I want.
What are your favorite songs to bump while you take your long drives between Baltimore and DC?
I have been on my sad boi shit — so definitely listening to "Blonde." Like, "summer's not the same as it used to be..." Oooo. There's this one other song that just touched my soul this summer — "Jealous Guy" by Donny Hathaway. Definitely give it a listen. It's an oldie but a goodie, and it just makes me feel all the things. It's like I'm living inside a vinyl record.
And you have deep roots in the DMV, right?
Silver Spring born and raised, but my dad has been in Adams Morgan since he was seven after he immigrated from El Salvador. We're here all the time — DC is my heart and soul. Everything I do is here, everything I love is here. DC is the hub of everything, I love the culture. It's different from anywhere else I've lived, be it abroad in Santiago, Chile, or living in Baltimore right now. It's a whole different vibe, more welcoming.
Of all of the cities that you performed, what makes playing in DC such a unique experience?
It feels very homey. I'll always get nervous before a set anywhere I go, but I know being in DC that people are very receptive and people really like my sound. It just makes me feel like I'm on the right path.
Interview and photos by Meredith Wohl.