SNDNGCHLLZ (pronounced “sending chills”) sits in the passenger seat of my car around midnight on a mild South Florida night. The neighborhood is quiet, lined with trees and houses in pastel pinks, yellows, and greens. Just a few minutes prior, the producer-vocalist born Enzo Leonardo was uploading his latest song “Nylon” to his SoundCloud page.
“My bad dude, the shit was kind of lagging.”
It’s an honest moment — one that provides a snapshot into the life of an artist big enough to have an audience but still tasked to deal with the logistics of running his own career. Upload times be damned, the song was now online and, unknown to either of us at the time, gaining some traction.
Following up on the strength of his Tension EP from 2016, this newest single hints at a continued devotion to the fluid, shapeshifting R&B turning heads online. It’s a formula with proven success on the charts and has him poised to break further into the heights of South Florida’s growing electronic universe. While his contemporaries have found success merging straightforward R&B vocals with electronic production, Enzo’s work stands out from the pack because of his singularly raspy vocals. The stars of the genre could sing alongside Usher or Tyrese, while Enzo carves out his own lane.
Enzo grew up in Broward County, in a town lodged between Miami and Ft. Lauderdale, and moved to the United States from Peru with his family when he was just six years old. “My dad makes music; [my] grandpa makes music. I’ve been around a lot of folk and Afro-Peruvian sounds my whole life, which has influenced my style and flavor, the way that I sing and enunciate, the way I carry myself. It might not seem like there is a direct connection to Peru but…it’s in the blood for sure.”
Armed with a musical pedigree, a 13 year-old Enzo started writing down lyrics. Shortly after, he was composing his own songs. Still, the last few years have seen the 21 year-old artist come into his own as a musician, learning from local mainstays like producer Nick León, while soaking up game from the roster of talented musicians from the budding South Florida scene.
Even so, in a Miami music landscape spearheaded by the larger-than-life personalities that are Rick Ross, DJ Khaled, and Pitbull, underground artists are finding a surge in interest in their work, and a climate of support they’re just now growing accustomed to. More specifically, outlets like III Points Music Festival, House of Creatives, and the venues sprouting up in the increasingly gentrified Wynwood and Little Haiti neighborhoods mean South Florida’s artists are finding more ways to shine without rapping or making four-on-the-floor-driven techno. Add those newfound platforms with an audience looking to consume anything honest – and a slew of musicians eager to work with each other – and you’re left with a hotbed of experimentation. In South Florida, the give-and-take is easily apparent, a symbiotic relationship producing some of the country’s best music.
“Everybody can eat now, and we’re getting together feeling like we’re wanted. People are showing love and there are so many fucking great acts, so much great music. There’s now potential for better relationships because we’re all friends, and in the near future I see us all working on more stuff together as a community.”
A car pulls up behind us and one of Enzo’s friends hops out. They speak for a second and agree to kick it after the interview. It becomes apparent, for the moment, that the darker, edgier moonlit production he’s known for is a symptom of a life better spent at night.
The darker, edgier, and moonlit production he’s known for is a symptom of a life better spent at night.
“Creativity comes in random spurts. Sometimes I’ll have crazy writer’s block and don’t write music, or I don’t like it and I’ll drop it because it takes a lot continue.” He says this with a heavy voice, as though there are still some songs in the archives of his memory that both intrigue and frighten him. “With writing I don’t have a process – every time I write something I make sure it’s really honest. I want it to be a good concept – a story.”
The scratchy vocals that fuel some of his best work reveal an artist who’s both comfortable with the personal details of his life under the microscope and desperate to tell the stories in his head. Standout track “Poison” is the EP’s most clear example, its biggest tell. On it, he warns a lover to “leave my heart alone” while inviting her to “drink my poison.” It’s a contradiction anyone who’s been in one of those those intimate, fiery, on-again, off-again relationships can remember with a heavy dose of longing and maybe a tinge of regret.
“The first couple mixes of that song were so garbage, but FRDRK [a collaborator known for his work with artists like Venus Amor and Nobodies] convinced me to keep working on it. When it was time to release the EP, I’d show my friends and every time they heard the track they’d tell me ‘this is the single.’”
As we prepare to go our separate ways, Enzo lays out a wish list of collaborators, local and global, he’d like to work with. It’s a list that moves fluidly between hip-hop, electro punk, and trap & b. He lays out the plans for apparel, merchandise, and visuals and all of the other mediums he’d like to touch.
Bandwidth be damned, SNDNGCHLLZ is in it for the long haul.