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SainvilCourtesy of Godmode Music

Inside Godmode, the genre-bending label bringing more bounce to music

The LA-based imprint first brought artists like Yaeji and Shamir to our attention – here, we speak to four of their newest signees

When genre-bending singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Shamir’s debut album Ratchet arrived in 2015, it felt like a moment. Here, we had an artist who instinctively understood the musical and social histories of house and R&B, and could reframe them together into a joyously 21st century dance pop sound that accommodated both bangers and ballads. Another artist, New York-based Korean American vocalist, DJ, and producer Yaeji, has been doing something similar, blending genres and experiences as late-night anthems with pop-potential, which also express the diversity and creativity of the worlds she comes from.

Both Shamir and Yaeji released their first records with Godmode, a music company and record label run by producer Nick Sylvester and manager/A&R Talya Elitzer. The label has been through a few iterations over the last six years, releasing everything from noisy, limited edition cassette tapes to vinyl releases of post-punk and new disco, and throwing hedonistic DIY New York City loft parties; now based in Los Angeles, they’ve taken a deep dive into the city’s pop songwriting, production, and artist development world, and the results speak for themselves.

Right now, Sylvester and Elitzer have been diligently working to prepare the next generation of Godmode talent: Aaron Childs, Channel Tres, Sainvil, and Zalma Bour. Since dropping his debut single “Controller”, earlier in the year, Channel Tres’ low-slung hip-house has been heating up online, and Childs, Sainvil, and Bour are ready to follow him.

With the whole team and artist roster operating from a shared studio space, Sylvester and Elitzer have been working closely with the four to help refine their visions, and introduce them to the world in the right way. Although their artists are all unique, they’re united by some shared values, most notably the importance of hard work and the desire to use success as a platform for giving back to their communities. We caught up with the four of them to learn more.


Aaron Childs didn’t just grow up with the palm trees and seemingly endless summers of California, he also grew up with a father (respected Los Angeles pianist and composer Billy Childs) who made sure music was a big part of his family’s life. “I’ve always been around music and live performance, and I’ve always been around stages,” Aaron Childs explains. “I’m definitely so grateful for that experience, and to have had that access.”

Although Childs introduced himself with the forlorn R&B of “Tangerine” in February, the singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist is currently prepping an EP of joyful disco-funk with Godmode, as illustrated by his recent single “Easy”. In an era where the halftime snap of trap music underpins the glut of popular music, he wants to make songs with an uptempo bounce. Childs takes the success of modern disco-funk and boogie hits from Bruno Mars, Daft Punk, and Pharrell as a sign, and has the falsetto, croon, and yelp to deliver.

“I think there is a resurgence for the kind of music I’ve always pulled from,” Childs says. He credits his parents for helping him hone his aesthetic. “My mum was responsible for my introduction to – and love for – late 70s/early 80s dance music. My father introduced me to classic R&B, soul, Marvin Gaye, all that stuff, and instilled a love for deep musicality and jazz in me.”

Aaron Childs’ father also bought him a drum set when he was two. By age nine, he was performing classical piano pieces. With his teens came guitar and songwriting, but at the same time, as he puts it, “I was an ordinary teenager in high school. I played sports and hung with my friends.” Sports are in part, about establishing common ground and understanding with your teammates. Childs might not be on the court now, but he brings these principles to the stage. “I love getting people together, combining forces, and making sure that by the end of the night, everybody feels closer,” he enthuses. “That’s the M.O. for a lot of the music I write. I just want to connect and give back.”


Channel Tres knows why he’s here, and what he’s trying to do. “I just want to be a good channel bro, a good vessel, for great shit to come through,” he explains. “My job is to preserve the older culture by putting it in a format where we can understand it now. That’s what I’m supposed to do, that and feed my family; make my name last.” When he talks about the “older culture”, he’s speaking about a few different strands of music which are crucial to him. Classic soul, West coast rap and G-funk, and most recently, the hypnotic, hyper-futurist sounds of 90s Chicago house and Detroit techno.

These influences coalesce together on his self-titled EP. With production assistance from Godmode, Tres shows off his chops as a songwriter, beatmaker, and vocalist, languidly sing-rapping over chunky hip-house beats. Marvin Gaye’s soul music, and Nate Dogg, Snoop Dogg, Tupac and DJ Quik’s West coast flavours are crucial to his vibe, but discovering Chicago house was where things opened up for Tres.

“I’ve been dabbling in house for a year, and I’m seeing connections 400 per cent bro,” he enthuses. “The old house music, when they have the drums going and a lady singing all soulful, that. I see the connections between house and soul music. That shit’s no fucks given, bro. That music empowered people who were gay, black, outcast, whatever. They had nowhere to go, nothing to call their own, but that was theirs.”

Raised in Lynwood, near Compton, by his great-grandparents, Tres spent years working behind the scenes as a songwriter and a beatmaker until he felt ready to shoot his shot. “I had a duffel bag with my music equipment in it,” he recalls. “I would take the train to wherever people wanted me to go. I didn't have no job, so every day I would text twenty people, and see where I needed to be.” Since dropping “Controller” in April, Tres’ needed to be in a whole new tier of places. He’s got shows in the UK and Australia, and Elton John’s been playing him on Beats 1. The world is calling.  


Arguably the most contemporary member of the Godmode roster, vocalist and producer Sainvil makes Auto-Tuned, trappy R&B in the same tradition as 6lack, Bryson Tiller, and Tory Lanez. That said, he’s got a knack for melody that connects back to his love of Michael Jackson and The-Dream, and an aspiration to become, like Kendrick Lamar and Childish Gambino, an artistic triple-threat. “It’s about getting the visuals, music, and concepts right,” he enthuses. “Being the total package.”

The son of Haitian immigrants, Sainvil started life in Miami’s Little Haiti neighbourhood, before moving through Orlando and Nashville while growing up. In Orlando, he started making music with an ex-girlfriend. “We were gonna write songs together and blow up in the music industry,” he reflects. They worked away on a broken laptop in his bedroom, recorded DIY music videos, and released self-mixed and mastered mixtapes on the internet. “I was 17, and I knew I had to try get on by any means necessary,” he says.

After Nashville, Sainvil spent some time honing his skills and soaking up the vibe in Atlanta before moving to Los Angeles to level up. He sees his vocal style as response to letting the music he’s working with set the vibe. “I started out rapping first, and I kept trying to sing,” he remembers. “Eventually, I found a pocket.” Being able to sing and rap was crucial, that way he could cover all his bases: “I want my art to be complete.”

For Sainvil, Los Angeles and linking with Godmode is about maturity, correct business, and visibility. “Making music is cool, but if no one gets to see or experience it the right way, that’s not cool,” he admits. “It’s about making everything count.” He’s planning a debut album, and if he makes it count, Sainvil’s got plans. “I’m trynna do things for myself, things for my family, and things for the world,” he says. I want to set an example, especially for people from my background. I saw what my parents came from, and what they had to go through. I want to make things easier.”


Raised by Eritrean parents in Cleveland, Ohio, Zalma Bour feels the weight of hailing from the same state as NBA basketball legend LeBron James. His significant success and social contributions motivate her, and she’d like to measure up. “The pressure’s on, but I accept the challenge,” she laughs. “It’s unbelievable what LeBron is doing at the moment. He just opened a public school. That’s the sort of thing I want to do one day.”

The most recent signee to the Godmode camp, Zalma makes modern soul and R&B informed by the immaculate sonics and uncompromising attitudes of her idols: Mariah Carey, Lauryn Hill, and Janelle Monae. They’re all artists who walk the line between R&B/soul and pop, which is what Zalma aspires to do as well. Six years ago, Zalma swapped a relatively calm life in Cleveland for the unstable reality of trying to make it in music in Los Angeles. She cliqued up with 6lack collaborators Singawd and Jakob Rabitsch, and recorded “Getaway Kind” with Fade to Mind founder Kingdom. There were meetings with record labels, publishers and managers, and a false start or two, before linking with Godmode.

Zalma started her musical journey by singing along to Disney films as a child, before realising she loved writing poetry and could structure poems into songs. “I was very sensitive and emotional kid,” she recalls. “I always felt deeply about a lot of things. I was like a little yogi almost. Music became my thing, my little secret.” It was a means of coping for Zalma; a mode of existence. “When I was sad, I wanted to write. When I was happy, I wanted to write. Music was just part of life.”  

Singing and writing led to piano lessons, choir groups, and home recording. It was a slow boil, but everything clicked together when she realised this thing could be a job. “My favourite thing ever is to help people and connect with them,” she admits. “Music has saved me over and over again. What better to do with it than try to give that feeling to other people. It’s a way for me to make all of this mean something.”