Umii, the new project of R&B singer Reva DeVito and Los Angeles-based producer B. Bravo (AKA Adam Mori), just released their debut EP, This Time, and it’s already received tons of positive feedback. It was even voted a number-one EP by Jamz Supernova in her weekly roundup for BBC 1Xtra.
DeVito and Mori first decided to make music together after meeting in Portland in 2011.
“[We] were cranking out a bunch of songs and demos, and then I had her featured on my album,” Mori says. “We were like, ‘Yeah, we got all this music. Why don’t we just start a group together?’ So we came up with a name and a concept, and that’s how Umii was born.”
“And we became besties in the meantime,” DeVito adds. “Adam also DJs for my solo stuff a lot of the time.... We get along super well and just have a blast. He plays live keys and does, like, little synth solos, and just kind of livens it up a little bit. We love working together.”
Umii resembles the Japanese word for “ocean,” which pays homage to Mori’s heritage, and is also similar to the Arabic word for “mother.”
“What we were going for is kind of the combination of those two,” Mori explains. “Water is life, you know? And mothers also—women also—give life.”
“I wanted our tagline to be ‘Umii gives life,’ just in the essence of it being music that makes you feel alive and just... good,” says DeVito. DeVito says they don’t like to limit Umii’s sound to one genre—they love that their project has the ability to be more fluid than their solo work. “I would say melodically, [it’s] very dreamy, and mostly liquid, watery sounds,” she says.
Her description is right on the nose. With funk-infused, feel-good singles like “Masquerade” and “Dangerous,” and get-loose tracks such as “Don’t Let Up” and “Make Your Move,” Umii’s concept definitely breaks the surface. Think crisp beats and wave-riding production, sonic drips and ripples, and a light echo on DeVito’s rich, silky-smooth vocals.
“We don’t purposefully sit down and say, ‘Oh, we’re gonna make something that sounds ’80s- or ’90s-influenced,’” Mori says. “That’s just what comes out, you know? Obviously, we grew up in the ’80s and ’90s, and that music is what made us fall in love with music.... Michael Jackson was my hero when I was a kid.”
Umii says they’ll play This Time in its entirety at this week’s release show, but the duo will likely sprinkle in some of their solo work, since the EP’s only eight tracks long. Speaking of which, DeVito and Mori say they’re currently working on an Umii full-length, and hope to continue working together for a long time.
“Yeah, I’m down to make music with Adam until the day my voice doesn’t work anymore,” she says.
Mori adds, “For life!”