Introducing CLAVIS7EVEN

The up and coming artist talks to Khadisha Thomas about his religious influence, migrating from Congo, musicians he looks up to and his tracks.

CLAVIS7EVEN is a 21-year-old Wolverhampton based singer and rapper. He attends Birmingham City University, where he studies a degree in computing. When he’s not staring at a computer CLAVIS7EVEN is in the studio working on music. In 2019 he decided to make the conscious effort to produce and release music onto platforms such as apple music, YouTube and Spotify. Two years on, he has slowly accumulated listeners in 36 countries and has been played on BBC West Midlands Radio Introducing. As CLAVIS7EVEN strives to grow bigger as a new artist he recognizes his Christian faith as the foundation of his musical being.

His name for starters has a religious meaning.

“Clavis means key in Latin… so I was like yep I’m taking that and seven is my favourite number, and it just has a lot of symbolic meaning. I have a lot of affiliations with my religious aspect of life and in the bible seven is the number of completion and perfection,” CLAVIS7EVEN says.

Before settling on his name, like a lot of budding artists he did go through the online name generator phase.

“I went through a plethora of names and some of them were absolutely atrocious. We’re not doing that, that’s what we’re not doing,” he says with a cheeky laugh.

He has always felt a connection to God. Going to church was something he grew up with as he comes from a close-knit family that are heavily involved in the church choir. All members of his family sing play instruments and produce.

In the church choir, CLAVIS7EVEN is the bassist and his younger brother plays the piano.

“We pretty much dedicated and developed all of those gifts in church. Essentially my family and church first got me into music, that’s where it all stemmed from,” he says.

His music is an amalgamation of genres, namely gospel, hip hop and RnB, but the word CLAVIS7EVEN would use to describe the music he desires to make is ‘truth’, and this is supported by his belief in God.

“All of the music I make I like to make sure there’s a meaning behind it. I need to make sure someone will listen to it and gain a truth that can hopefully set them free. I like to make introspective music, so the one word I’m trying to say is ‘truth’. And I get a lot of that from my faith and my faith does a lot in terms of being able to line me up and the moral of where I do my music.”

His strongest childhood memory is from when he moved to England at the age of 3 to reunite with his family who were building a new life in the UK. He came to the UK with his uncle, as his parents and older siblings were already settled in the UK. CLAVIS7EVEN was the last of his family to come to the UK, so whilst he was separated from his immediate family he lived with relatives and spent a year in Zambia.

“I remember the day that in Congo my dad was leaving because of a few complications that he had to sort out, so he left me with my aunties. I hadn’t seen my family in a while. I remember landing in Heathrow, and I remembered exactly who my mum was and I ran to her and gave her a big hug.”

CLAVIS7EVEN smiles as he reminisces about how impatient he was on the long journey from the airport to his home in Wolverhampton, and the first time he ever ate skittles.

“Listen, I’m fresh from Africa, fresh off the boat, I’ve never seen these snacks in my life.”

He recalls bothering his mother the entire ride home and the moment when he knocked on his new front door and everyone welcomed him.

“I was reunited with my whole family and I was just looking for my big brother and although obviously in Africa your with your family, this was the family I knew of.”

There are many artists the young musician looks up. One of his ultimate inspirations and someone he would love to collaborate with if he ever got the chance is Kanye West. His eyes light up and a massive grin spreads across his face just at the possibility of it.

“At that point I’d quit music if I can’t even go Tesco anymore,” he says.

His other influences include Wretch32 and Stormzy.

The reason he’s attracted to these artists is that he believes they push boundaries and are not afraid to do break the mould and be individual.

“Being a writer is a different skill entirely and the concept of being able to weave words together to convey a certain narrative and emotion is such a skill. And I’m in awe of these people’s writing abilities. Wretch 32 is an incredible writer,” he says.

In April 2020 CLAVIS7EVEN released his debut EP ‘A Master’s Piece’ which includes songs such as ‘Wisesman Smartman’, a track that starts off slow but catches you off guard rapping kicks in and becomes more powerful. Is showcases his incredible lyricism, ability to rhyme and use of symbolism.

CLAVIS7EVEN says: “Wiseman Smartman shows the different aspects of me. I’m rapping for five minutes so I’m just going, going, going.”

A Master’s Piece: Wiseman Smartman

His second EP dropped later that year and features songs such as ‘Safe To Say (Love Sick)’, which was written and recorded at a time when he was ill. The track is a stripped down almost acoustic song with a soulful melody.

“I haven’t got the strongest immune system- shout out to corona.

“I literally heard the guitar, and I was like ‘wow, I like that and I wrote my raps’. That’s a really special one because I was able to make it even in these conditions, I’m not doing it again tho. Really hurt my throat.”

His song ‘Le, Le, Le’ features a smooth afro beat. It is the type of song you can dance to and the riffs in it are so tantalizing.

“Le, le, le shows my more commercial side, making tunes for parties, clubs. You’re not just gonna be taking me in introspectively, sometimes you’re gonna have a vibe and I can make that.”

This year CLAVIS7EVEN has put out the EP ‘Care Package’ which landed him a spot on BBC Radio West Midlands Introducing.

“I’ve really challenged myself and experimented. I’ve taken time with regards to the artwork, the songs themselves and you need to listen to it in chronological order to get the point. I’d say with this project it’s a story,” he says.

However, the journey is just beginning for CLAVIS7EVEN. He is determined to continue putting out projects and has got the charisma, talent and positive mindset to make it all happen.

He hopes this year he can do gigs and reach more people, making music that sends out a vital message or plain and simply energizes you.

“I don’t have control of which person sees me, or which person notices me, but what I have control of is making good music,” CLAVIS7EVEN says.

We will be eagerly listening.


Madness, sweat and puppets: The online world of Nick Lutsko

The 31-year-old musician discusses exploring the strange side of songwriting and his sudden social media success with Samuel Hornsby.

On Twitter sits a sweaty man posting demented songs about gremlins, feline urination and Donald Trump’s arse. He froths at the mouth as he proclaims his appreciation for boat parades and proudly yells out about his grandmother’s warnings about the man who lives in his basement until he’s red in the face. This is Nick Lutsko, or rather it is his viral social media alter-ego.

The real Nick Lutsko is the complete opposite. He is calm, laid back and welcoming. However, even if his persona is all fantasy, his love for music is a concrete reality.

Though he has been a professional musician for years he suddenly hit new heights of popularity in August 2020 when he decided to post a joke song satirising the Republican National Convention.

Musical madness: ‘I wanna be at the RNC!’

“My online success was gradual and for years. Then I released ‘I wanna be at the RNC’ and it was massive,” he says.

“I had made three of those types of videos before this. The first one was about the model Chrissy Teigen unfollowing me, the second one was about my cats pissing on my bed and the third was about QAnon. Then I released this one which was just deranged. It was totally unhinged and repetitive and it was going on about Dan Bongino who I didn’t know if anyone knew about, it was just a fun name to sing.

“I remember telling my wife ‘this is the dumbest thing I’ve ever written’ and was worried this would be the song that would make people go ‘okay, this guy doesn’t know what he’s doing’. It turns out that was the song that changed everything and showed me the path forward. I learnt that irreverent and bizarre is more of a good artistic default for me.”

Nick’s first foray into comedy song writing came about accidentally with social media once again lending a hand.

“Back in 2007 I tweeted an unsolicited theme song at the comedy duo ‘Tim & Eric’ for this election special they were doing at the time for an online entertainment site called SuperDeluxe. They liked this little song I made and used it for the show’s theme which got the ball rolling.

“When SuperDeluxe ended I then did some stuff with College Humor and when they ended, I did some stuff with Netflix. They were meme songs where I would take somebody’s words and turn them into a parody of a popular artist.

“I’d always kind of done these things for money and my name were very much behind the scenes on all these projects. I was never really comfortable attaching my face to it because there was some imposter syndrome because I never really envisioned myself as a comedian,” Nick says.

Creative mashups: ‘Eminem as a Talking Heads song’

However, during the pandemic he experienced a sudden change of heart and decided to take a leap of faith by producing musical output that was spontaneous and funny with his face at the forefront. This newfound confidence allowed him to see how far he could take this unrestrained approach to content.

Over time these videos grew to feature a surreal storyline full of strange and mysterious recurring characters. They all followed the narrator who Nick describes as a “misguided 30-year-old man who lives with his grandma and has these paranormal creatures who may or may not exist that interact with him” and that he is either “a pathological liar or severely deluded.”

As the outlandish nature of the videos increased so did their popularity to the point where Nick decided to press this series of deluded viral anthems to vinyl. He started a Bandcamp campaign for the record which received $56,126.79 which was 1331% of the minimum target goal.

Collection of derangement: Nick’s advertisement for ‘Songs on the Computer’

“I was blown away with the success of the recent vinyl campaign and not anticipating that level of support.

“Bandcamp just sent me an email one day saying they were starting this crowdfunding campaign thing. It seemed easy because I just had to press a few buttons and type a few words, then it was live. It was a low-risk situation that didn’t require much work.

“The irony is, as a result of one of the campaign pledge benefits, I now have to shoot 350 videos dressed up as my alter-ego gremlin-human hybrid Desmond which is gonna take a lot of time,” he says with a chuckle.

Green alter-ego: The fan trailer trailer for ‘Gremlins 3’

On the campaign paged he expressed his disbelief that his first vinyl release was a collection of comedic Twitter songs but that it felt on-brand for the decade so far. This is because, despite his recent success arising from light-hearted short songs, music has always been a lifelong pursuit with much of his previous material being far more personal and serious.

Nick began taking guitar lessons in the fourth grade which continued throughout high school. After that he then went on to major in commercial songwriting at Middle Tennessee State University before graduating in 2012 when he moved back in with his parents so he could fully focus on his craft.

He says: “I just always struggled through being an amateur musician and any music that I made just went back into building what I was trying to do artistically.”

Now Nick is often accompanied on these more serious projects by his backing band ‘The Gimmix’ who boast the unique look of life-sized puppets with the costumes created by Nick himself.

“Essentially what happened is I started producing my own records and my album ‘Etc.’ had a full band sound even though it’s just one guy doing everything on it. When it came time to do a music video, since I didn’t have a band at the time, I had the idea of using these hand puppets that I had made for the backing musicians.

“I just really like that it accented this surreal kind of feeling that I was trying to get through with the music and I thought it would be cool to carry that through to the live show. By the time that I did form a band I decided to recreate that by having a human sized puppet band on stage with me. We’ve been running with that ever since.”

Puppet pals: The music video for ‘Predator’

The band rarely tours as a result of many of the members having prior responsibilities and primarily focuses on creating fresh engaging live shows for local crowds in their hometown of Chattanooga, Tennessee. The spectacle of the live shows gradually grew bigger and more different with the band collecting good quality footage to show to new possible venues in the future.

However, COVID-19 thwarted any plans of the band branching out to new live spaces any time soon.

So, with live shows ruled out, Nick was constrained to creating music from his primitive home studio. There he found himself wanting to do something lighter as the world seemed more desolate than ever.

“My previous album ‘Swords’ was very much a direct response to the Trump campaign in 2016 and the administration that followed. You couldn’t help but be bummed out by it. After that I knew I wanted my next project to be more fun,” he says.

Nick prides himself in the fact that he always tries to approach his creative projects from an alternative angle but for his new exploration into comedy music, he found himself having to develop a different method of songwriting.

“With my serious output I like to try and find the path less travelled and in contrast, there’s no concern as to whether the joke songs are derivative. I let the subconscious drive the bus and see where it ends up.

“For example, with the RNC song, I had no work to do that day and knew I wanted to create something. That year’s RNC had just started and so I sat down and wrote the song in maybe an hour then recorded it, shot the video and had it up by the end of that day.

“Then, realising that I could do something that day where there’s not much editing or prior though and getting a warm reception from it was very liberating and had made me able to trust my instincts a little bit more.”

He acknowledges his sudden social media spotlight is a strange chapter in his artistic journey, but it is one that has helped him grow an audience, develop new skills and given him the confidence to explore further into the world of comedic music.

Nick says: “Looking back, I’m glad that I’ve been able to make fun music even though a lot of it is about these dark times. It’s nice to be able to package it in these silly, danceable songs.”


‘How many black people are speaking Japanese? Not many’

TikTok star and musical artist, Richard Tomic loves Japanese culture with plans to move there. Despite it not being a popular route for people of colour he follows his dreams nonetheless. Savannah Duncan hears his story.

Richard Tomic, a Black British TikTok star with over 208 thousand followers, wants to leave the UK to live in Japan. He first started creating TikTok videos in June of last year during the UK’s first lockdown.

He says: “I made my account during the first lockdown because I saw my friends who I knew online getting popularity on TikTok.”

Although he was born and raised in London, Richard wants to move to Japan. He has previously been to Japan three times and had the opportunity to live there for a year in 2017. His grandfather was working at the Japanese Embassy for six years, so he was able to stay with him during his time.

“It was the best experience of my life.”

Whilst living in the UK he wasn’t able to do much because his mother was a little strict and very religious, however, once he moved to Japan his Grandfather gave him a bit more freedom.

“I guess you could call it a self-discovery journey, I just did everything I wanted to do that my mom wouldn’t allow me to do because of her religious views,” he says.

Despite his mother’s strict views, Richard believes he had a great upbringing and understands the hard work his mother put in for him.

“I appreciate the fact that she did that for the both of us, mainly for me.”

Currently, Richard is studying Law and Japanese at university because he wanted to gain a degree in any field, he could get his foot into.

“If you want to live in Japan you need to have a degree, that’s why I couldn’t stay there for more than a year because my visa ran out.

“If I don’t graduate, I won’t be able to go back and live, and get a work visa.”

After Richard had lived his year in Japan, once he had returned to the UK, he was forced to take a foundation year.

“They had a few courses that were available to me after the foundation year and Law was the only one that seemed to have substance,” Richard says.

“The other courses I just don’t see how I’d be able to get any kind of reliable employment from them, so I was just like law looks good let me just go for it.”

Anime inspired: Richard’s past fashion.

Richard has a great love for Japan and their culture, to the point where he used to dress similar to Japanese anime characters. His previous fashion sense was the inspiration for his first viral TikTok video called ‘Watch me get out of my I want to be Japanese phase’ which features images of how he used to dress in the past.

His main focus within his videos is his use of Japanese which he mixes with English from time to time.

“The reason why I started Japanese is just I wanted to be different, I was just like how many black people are there speaking Japanese. That’s already a selling point.”

Surprisingly, Richard is no longer a fan of anime like he used to be.

“I had a little anime phase when I first got into Japanese but that’s not the reason why I started learning Japanese. I started watching it as a result of learning Japanese.”

His Japanese phase only lasted a year, and he believes it was his obsessive personality that got him into anime in the first place. I watched one anime and then I relaxed my hair and I tried to dye it white.

“I watch anime every now and again but I’m definitely not an anime fan.”

At first Richard started making English skits on TikTok, but then took a short break after gaining a few hundred followers.

“I was just like, you know what I’ve seen people being really successful in this app let me just try again,” he says.

Richard then began creating English skits again until he posted his glow up video and it went viral. This was when he gave Japanese content a shot just to try it out.

Additionally he also creates his own music and posts it on TikTok. Although he has never pursued music within education, Richard has been making beats for around two years until he started taking music seriously. Since he knows how to speak both Japanese and English, his music also contains a mix of both languages in most of his songs.

“A lot of my ideas are quite out there and quite quirky because I’m a quirky person”

Most of his music found on his page was produced by himself, it was his friends who inspired him to make music.

“They were just like, bro you’ve come so far you’re actually a solid musical artist and it’s only taken you a year,” Richard says.

His one and only inspiration for everything he wants to achieve in the entertainment world is an actor, screenwriter, stand-up comedian and much more: Donald Glover.

“He’s a well all-round performer. Donald was my main inspiration at the start of lockdown when I decided to start doing music and then I started incorporating the comedy.”

Although Richard is inspired by Donald Glover, his content is still 100% original with some being real-life experiences.

“A lot of my ideas are quite out there and quite quirky because I’m a quirky person,” he says.

“I take inspiration from others, but I never seem to copy.”

Despite Richard’s career being newly found he is still incredibly grateful for how far he’s come and wishes he’d started sooner because he doesn’t think things could be better than they already are.

“My most memorable moment would be my first Instagram live. They were just so interested in me… it was just nice we all had a conversation.”

Richard Tomic found his passion for the Japanese culture and decided to pursue it, despite knowing that people of colour do not normally take an interest in topics like these. He is still working towards setting up shop within the country itself. Hopefully bringing along his music and videos with him.


Art in isolation from New York neurotic, Jeffrey Lewis

The cult singer-songwriter discusses loneliness, luck and his love of comic books with Samuel Hornsby.

It’s the end of January but Jeffrey Lewis still has his Christmas tree up. On the wall hangs a homemade collage of ‘The Terminator’ with the head of ‘Lou Reed’. The off-kilter appearance of the living interior matches the appearance of its occupant whose bucked teeth and balding hair may leave passers-by to judge him as an oddball. Such things do not bother him though.

As he potters about his cramped New York apartment on video call, there is a sense of self awareness about his eccentricities which he has often embraced and elaborated on in his art.

“Just because something isn’t in the charting Top 100 doesn’t mean that it’s a failure or that it has no great quality or spirit,” Jeffrey says.

“I don’t think there could be a world in which artist like Kevin Coyne, Daniel Johnston and Jeffrey Lewis are at the top of the charts. We don’t make music that makes sense for most people. It isn’t what they’re looking for. When you’re making stuff yourself you just do what feels exciting to you. I don’t make a song or a comic book with the intention of having a sales target or popularity.”

Introspective songwriting: Jeffrey Lewis & The Voltage’s ‘Take It For Granted’

The music of Jeffrey Lewis has often been labelled anti-folk. The artist himself describes his style as “New York City rock ‘n’ roll with a lot of attention to the lyrics” and draws song-writing influences from the likes of Lou Reed, Jonathan Richman, Bob Dylan and, in particular, Daniel Johnston.

“Hearing the work of Daniel Johnston showed me a way to make music in the vein that I was making comic books. Daniel showed a way that just your own personality, humour and emotions could translate into making great songs. That was really a revelation to me.

“I graduated from school and suddenly I was out in the real world without much of a social scene. I was just living a very typical starving artist life. I was home most of the time and working jobs, but I had no money,” he says.

“At that point making comic books wasn’t enough to fill all my loneliness and boredom so I started writing songs. Then I found myself going to      open-mic nights and performing them. My musical career came out of a big personal void and the pain of being alone. Humans are tribal creatures and if we’re severed from a social scene you almost feel this physical pain from the isolation.

“All of that emotion went into the music which were like lullabies that I would sing to myself, along with a bit of humour.”

“I feel lucky about the songs I write, not proud.”

Though Jeffrey found a cathartic release through music his first love was comic books, a passion he has had since childhood and has persisted ever since.

“It’s funny. I was just stumbling on a batch of old comics from when I was a little kid from six or seven years old. Just look at those comics I remembered how much they meant to me and how many of them I read. It was just my whole world. Music was just not part of my life as a kid. It was just comic books enveloping 100 percent of my brain.

“Comic books are something I feel I was born to do. It’s also something I feel I’m still on the path of learning how to do. I’m aware each one I make is just a further step towards the better comic that I’ll make next time after that.”

Though Jeffrey puts a great deal of time and effort into both of his two primary creative outlets, his approach to making and evaluating them is a contrast. On the one hand, he views drawing as a challenge and a craft that requires constant improvement, whereas coming up with good lyrics and melodies is something he puts more down to luck than his own intentional decisions.

“An album feels like a product of luck and a comic book feels like a product of skill. It’s very hard to feel proud of your luck. I feel lucky about the songs I write, not proud. I don’t know if you can say you’re going to be more inspired next time,” he says.

“Each album feels like some miraculous thing that I might not ever be able to repeat. Just because I wrote ten songs that I feel excited about for one album, doesn’t mean I’ll write ten more great songs for the next album. It’s almost the opposite. It’s more like ‘man, I can’t believe I came up with this album’ and then I think that I’ll never be able to come up with one again.”

Both Jeffrey’s comic books and music have a very hands-on and homemade approach. He provides all of the writing and artwork for the comics and album art as well as writing and performing the songs. His latest lo-fi release ‘2020 Tapes (Shelter​-​at​-​Homerecordings & Pandemos)’  was recorded at his home during the New York lockdown. Although, as he explains, this is not just a stylistic choice but also a necessity.

Pandemic performance: A homemade recording from ‘2020 Tapes’

“I don’t have the technical know-how or even the recording gear to make anything high quality.

“The song is the important bit and if I can just record the song in whatever way is available, which can be in the studio or at home,” Jeffrey says.

“However, I don’t apply that mindset when I make my own album artwork. Though it is a do-it-yourself project because I am literally doing it by myself, that does not equate to being a lesser product than it would be if I were to hire somebody else. I feel like nobody is going to do a better job of the illustrations and the packaging design than I can because I think I’m quite good at it. It’s kind of D.I.Y. from the opposite perspective than the music.”

A usual staple of a Jeffrey Lewis live performance, whether in the flesh or screened digitally, are documentary style history songs accompanied by his own illustrations, combining his two artistic venture. This unique audio-visual display is one that had early roots in his musical career but has been expanded over time.

Mixing music and art: Jeffrey on stage with his comic book projections

He says: “Around 1998 I started to be offered to play little shows around New York City. When you’re only playing one gig every five weeks you really have a chance to make every performance a special thing. Each show was a new chance to experiment.”

One idea to come out of that period of experimentation was illustrated songs. After a few years he ventured into non-fictional topics for them for the 25th anniversary of Rough Trade Records and soon after created one depicting the history of ‘The Fall’ when he opened for the band. Eventually though he ambitions for the format grew.

“I thought ‘what would be the most gigantic historical topic with a huge story that has nothing to do with music?’. The crazy idea I came up with was to try and tell the history of communism. I’ve been adding installations in that particular series ever since.”

Illustrated history: Jeffrey presents ‘The Story of Chile’

His illustrated songs are emblematic of his enthusiasm for both comic books and music as well as his unique creative vision which has allowed him to persist as a cult figure for over two decades. Sure, as he admits, an artist like himself will likely never hit the charts but his passion and originality will make sure he will always stand out and be remembered.