“It feels amazing,” reflected Lindsey Pavao and Richie Smith, calling in from Sacramento on a Sunday morning. Pavao and Smith constitute the indie dream-pop duo Trophii, and they have just finished working on their debut album. While both of them describe their feelings quite bluntly, this album culminates more than either of them could ever put into words.
Four years ago, Pavao’s name reached national recognition thanks to her stint on season 2 of NBC’s The Voice. She made it all the way to the singing competition’s semi-finals, during which she covered Bon Iver’s “Skinny Love.” With this newfound fame, one might assume Pavao could easily use this momentum to launch a successful music career. But for her, life as a musician got complicated.
“I felt like I was wrapped up in other people’s expectations. But I think a couple of years ago, I finally let that go.” She continued, “Sometimes the media and TV try to give this strong sense of what is happiness or fulfillment, and when I let go of the idea that there’s supposed to be a narrative, I could write my own narrative.”
“I know that sounds abstract,” she said, but it makes sense. No one can stay true to their own creativity while also adhering to the expectations of an external force. At the same time, though, she didn’t want to fight this battle alone; she took a step back and realized that it was time to be a part of something bigger.
Pavao explained, “being an independent artist doesn’t mean you’re on your own, it means you get to choose the people whom you want to work with.”
Luckily, Richie Smith had experienced a similar realization around the same time. Smith had been part of multiple bands and projects in the past but yearned to make his creative contributions more significant. “I was desperately looking for something to pour my creative energy into,” he said.
Smith and Pavao met while working in the band Life in 24 Frames and eventually began collaborating on their own music. Smith explained, “we tossed the idea of collaborating back and forth, but weren’t able to connect for almost a year. A few months after working together in [Life in 24 Frames], she asked me to come help her with her music and that’s kinda how it all started.” For both of them, this mutual desire to work on something more personal made the transition into becoming a duo seem like a natural progression.
“There was a day where we decided he wasn’t just my guitarist and that we were a band,” Pavao added. “It just sort of happened.”
With the foundation for their new project in place, Pavao and Smith have constructed Trophii’s debut album, Vitamins and Flowers. Crafting the album has been collaborative in the truest sense of the word, both of them seeking to build an atmospheric soundscape. Smith described, “we’re both interested in stuff that is rhythmically interesting. There’s a lot of really good dreamy, atmospheric music, but sometimes it can put you to sleep. I hope that our music doesn’t do that.”
The balance between ethereal ambiance and packing a rhythmic punch sits at the front of Trophii’s single, “Itch.” As eerie synths sweep in and out, articulate drums bounce along with Smith’s guitar plucks. When Pavao’s vocals creep in, she sounds omnipresent—simultaneously distant in the mix and right up in your face. Influences ranging from Blonde Redhead to Radiohead to Phantogram can be felt throughout.
As they prepare to finally drop Vitamins and Flowers, Pavao and Smith show no sign of complacency, already mapping out Spring tour dates and album release parties. “At this point, we just wanna have it out there,” they both admitted anxiously. Trophii’s goal moving forward is to create music on their own terms. Pavao summed up this mission statement, in light of the long journey she’s traveled to get to this point:
“I’ve fucking done it. I know that success is an external form, it ebbs and flows. The only way to be continuously successful is to continuously produce, and do things that make you feel alive.”