It’s almost hour past scheduled stage time before POWERS duo Mike Del Rio and Crista Ru are able to perform at the Knitting Factory. An hour wouldn’t be so bad if the set time wasn’t already 12:50am. But the two energetically bound onstage despite technical difficulties, switching off vocals and playing guitars and the sound pad.
Their same bright energy was captured in the catalyst of a collaboration with The Knocks in the 2014 single “Classic.” Since then, the two native New Yorkers have been set on releasing a series of alt-pop singles including “Beat of my Drum.” We sat down with them for a quick interview at CMJ in New York to find out what they have coming down the pipeline: more songs, possibly a tour and - get this - a strain of weed. Good things are coming.
MJ: Hey Mike and Crista! Could you tell me about how you guys chose the name POWERS?
Crista: Mike was like, “Let’s do this name, no, let’s do this name,” and I was like, “Nah, nah, let’s think about this.”
Mike: We had a lot of shitty band names, I can’t even tell you.
Crista: We got the name because we wanted one word that described the feeling, the intention and the just all around vibe of what we were doing. Our music’s very empowering. We found that that name wasn’t taken and freaked out and was like this is it.
MJ: How did you guys meet?
Cristas: We met in a band ages ago in New York. [Later,] he was doing a solo project, we were writing together for it. [And] I was doing a solo project, writing together for it.
Mike: We’ve written for a bunch of other artists as well.
MJ: Like who?
Mike: Tim McGraw, Selena Gomez. A pretty wide variety.
Crista: We had all these songs that were so uniquely our thing. Like we’re both really weird people and everything is very distinct. It’s got its own little taste to it.
Mike: It was like our love child, we just kept building and writing songs and we didn’t really know where it was going to go. We just kept writing and writing.
MJ: So when was POWERS officially born?
Mike: Late 2013, early 2014.
MJ: So how would you describe your sound?
Crista: Everything we love, little bits of everything. It’s not like we listen to one type of music, like we both grew up listening to music, a lot of different types. Growing up in New York, we were exposed to a lot of different music, you know, it was like everywhere. Go to your friends and it’s like this crazy hip-hop, you go to another house and it’s like tight-ass classical music and stuff. You go somewhere and you get like world music too because there’s so many people from different countries here.
Mike: I like to describe it as celebratory, just because you can celebrate the highs and the lows. There’s so many genres and styles, and it really comes down to the songwriting.
MJ: What was it like growing up in the city music-wise? Any favorite venues?
Crista: Personally when I was younger, the venue that I went to the most was the Knitting Factory--the original one in the city.
Mike: I appreciated it at the moment but I think I appreciate the moment a lot more now.
Crista: Webster Hall was a favorite.
MJ: So what’s being on tour like for CMJ?
Crista: It’s kind of like teaching us how to be on autopilot and still function, which I know it sounds ridiculous, but like to just go in and be like, “Alright, let’s do this, this and this and like not forget your shit.”
Mike: I think when you live in New York and CMJ kind of happens, it’s kind of like this taboo thing, like “So what?” But for some reason there’s been a lot of validity to it and it’s been awesome to be here in the fall, which is the best season.
MJ: Any favorite songs of yours?
Mike: We haven’t written it yet. I think every new thing is a favorite. We write so much.
Crista: There’s a constant outpour of songs, like constantly. So something is a favorite and then all of a sudden we come up with something like, “Oh my god, this is so dope,” and then that becomes a new favorite. So it’s like picking a favorite kid.
MJ: So do you guys participate in cannabis culture?
Crista: Weed is like the one thing. I don’t drink. It’s like smoke a little bit of weed at the end of the day, focus on yourself, it’s like, you know, people drink [alcohol] and they numb themselves with it. Weed is like, you smoke, you get high and you actually focus on what’s going on inside of you. It makes you listen to yourself.
MJ: Does that ever influence your music?
Crista: With music it’s become such a phenomenal thing because it’s like I can shut off like the little subconscious crap thats just talking in the back of my head and just zone in and hyperfocus on what we’re doing and really get in the vibe.
Mike: It works like a stimulant for us. And not even a lot, I don't have to smoke a lot. I don’t like smoking in social situations, I’d rather be around instruments, and it’s a very creative [time]. Crista’s more of a day smoker than I am.
Crista: I love getting high and meeting people.
Mike: The first time that we even formally started working together, it was years ago, but it was another project, and we were in vermont and we smoked this homegrown. Like this guy grew it in his backyard, and we just sat in the basement with acoustic guitars and just wrote a bunch of stuff. It was an amazing thing.
Crista: It was a catalyst for us.
Mike: I think it’s great for capturing things and gives you different perspectives.
Crista: I have my G Pen with me right now. It’s no different than having a glass of wine.
Mike: I think in the next 10, 15 years, it’ll be ridiculous that it was even discriminated against.
Crista: There’ll be a day when you can go in and order a J at a bar or something, sit down with your friends and just share it.
MJ: Do you guys have any favorite strains?
Crista: I personally love Disneyland. It’s a hybrid. The first time I had it...I hula hooped for like an hour, just by myself.
Mike: We’re actually working on our own POWERS brand.
Crista: Our tour manager actually he shared a cab with this guy who was like strain branding.
Mike: He showed him our music and he was like, “This is perfect,” and we’re actually going back to LA next week and we’re talking about branding a POWERS strain. We don’t know what’s going to be in it yet.
Crista: I have it planned out.