Meet St. Beauty, Atlanta’s Janelle Monae-Backed Duo

Meet St. Beauty, Atlanta’s Janelle Monae-Backed Duo

The two talk about their favorite writers, the current state of R&B, and why they call their music confetti.

The two talk about their favorite writers, the current state of R&B, and why they call their music confetti.

Photography: Joshua Woods

Styling: AMIRA RASOOL

Atlanta’s Wondaland Records has witnessed tremendous success over the past few years, recently coming off the excitement of its 2015 compilation EP, Wondaland Presents: The Eephus. The collection features the label's boisterous roster, which includes the likes of Jidenna, Deep Cotton, and Roman GianArthur. Wondaland's releases have seen a string of captivating soul, funk, and hip-hop music with label founder Janelle Monáe leading the pack of experimental musicians.

The latest artists to emerge from the label are Alex Belle and Isis Valentino, the soulful voices behind the band St. Beauty. The duo met in 2011 while working at a local Atlanta thrift store where they bonded over their shared love for classic soul musicians like Stevie Wonder and Nina Simone and their aptitude for creating poetic storytelling music. Since releasing 2015 single “Going Nowhere,” Alex and Isis have been preparing for the release of their debut album. This week St. Beauty released a new single “With You” a soulful good riddance ballad with the tweet “…a snack before the feast."

Before the new release, we sat down with St. Beauty in New York to discuss their music influences and sounds.

How would you describe your sound?

Alex Belle: Well this one guy who came up to me after a show described it perfectly and I felt like it really embodied our sound. He said, "It's like floating through outer space under water." I will never forget that because that is exactly what our sound is. We like for people to take it how it is rather than you know, just put a name on it or a genre or anything. It’s our own genre and we call it confetti. Confetti has a lifeline; there are different stages of confetti; when it blows out that’s the happy moment. When it’s falling that’s the mellow moment. When it’s on the ground that’s maybe the sad moment.

Can you describe your songwriting and production process from beginning to end?

Isis Valentino: It varies. We just got some software recently, so we've been experimenting. Alex will come up with an idea and then send it over to me and then I may put a melody down, and vice versa. It happens like that. Alex is really good with lyrics, so I may have a melody and we'll come up with an idea, like Oh, this sounds like this is happening in the song and then just make a story up for it. I know when we first started, when I first met Alex, she had a lot of poems and writing and she's like I have this idea and then I just started making cords up for it and then it went from there.

LEFT (ALEX BELLE) SWEATER ADEAM BRALETTE HER OWN SKIRT DIESEL BLACK GOLD RIGHT (ISIS VALENTINO) JACKET 3.1 PHILLIP LIM TOP ADEAM PANTS ELLERY

So who are your favorite writers?

AB: I love Nina Simone; she's amazing. One of the writers that I really love right now, Frank Ocean, his new album is amazing. He always tells stories and I feel like telling stories in songs is really important because everyone can relate to a story. Also, Nayyirah Waheed, she's amazing. Her poems are so amazing.

IV: I love Stevie Wonder and all of the people who write with him. I also love The Beatles. I love how it's so animated but so simple, too. Paul McCartney is like one of my favorite writers. I also love reading Malcolm Gladwell because I feel like he always comes at a different angle with history.

How do you feel about the current state of R&B and soul?

AB: It's expanding. R&B is not one thing anymore it's so many different types of R&B.

IV: It has evolved. Rhythm and Blues, that’s what it means so we can't put rhythm and blues in a box. How the people feel, that's how they are going to express it. We have to accept and move along with it because it sounds good. There are so many really cool artists, even like Frank Ocean's new album, I feel like that's a part of R&B.

What advice did your Wondaland Records label mates give you about navigating through the music industry?

AB: Just stay true to ourselves, that’s the most important. I feel like when you're entering into an industry just to stay true to yourself and know what you're doing it for. That's mainly it. We want to be an inspiration to everyone and we want our music to heal people, to make people feel free, to make people feel beautiful. We want our music to do all of that for everyone.

LEFT (ALEX BELLE) TOP ELLERY SKIRT 3.1 PHILLIP LIM SHOES STUART WEITZMAN RIGHT (ISIS VALENTINO) DRESS FENDI TOP 3.1 PHILLIP LIM JEWELRY HER OWN

St. Beauty is performing at AfroPunk on Friday, Oct 14th, 9pm on the Green Stage.

Credits: Hair Tiffany Daugherty  Makeup Jessica Smalls  Production Hannah Huffman  Stylist Assistant Guada Giordano  Special thanks Neo Studios

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