'Us The Duo' is the insanely talented musical family we all want to be a part of
For the world's favorite Vine husband and wife duo Carissa and Michael Alvarado aka "Us The Duo," music is the ultimate form of communication. These two lovebirds, known for their amazing cover Vines in which they mysteriously cover half of their faces, told us the whole story of their relationship through their latest hit album, "No Matter Where You Are."
Michael and Carissa fell in love and got married before they started working together as musicians, but from listening to even just one of their famous six-second Vines, anyone could tell that they were brought together for an amazing purpose: to make beautiful music together.
Both Michael and Carissa were extreme musical talents before they got together. Michael has a knack for writing lyrics while Carissa can (seemingly) effortlessly conjure the perfect melody for any given song. Together, they form a dream team. After hitting #22 on the iTunes charts with their first and completely independent album, the duo became the first Vine stars to be signed to a major record label, Republic Records.
Now, they're unstoppable as they embark on their musical journey together. Given that they're currently killing it while touring the world and playing for huge crowds they call "Us The Family," we have no doubt we'll see these two on our TV screens as they give a tear-jerking acceptance speech at the Grammy Awards one day...perhaps with little "Us The Kids" running around the stage!
We were lucky enough to chat with the social superstars, who also happen to be the most kind-hearted and likable people ever, in order to gain more insight to what inspires them to create their art, how their relationship fuels their music, what they want to share with their loyal fanbase, and why the entire social-media-sphere desperately wants to be a part of their adorable family.
I'm sure it's difficult to display your talent and artistry in a six-second window. How long does it typically take to plan and record your 6-second Vines?
Carissa: You know, people often think that it's a quick thing for us to film these six-second vines because I mean they're only six seconds long. But after we plan it and rehearse it for a while - we're perfectionists so we like to make sure that everything's right - we'll take lots of different takes and pick the best one. Sometimes it can take up to an hour or an hour and a half. It takes longer than you may think.
What made you think to show only half your faces when recording your Vines? Were you just a little camera shy or was there a bigger statement behind it?
Michael: Yeah so the half-face Vine filming started when we shot our very first musical Vine. I came into the living room having just heard about the app a little over a year ago. I said 'Carissa we have to film a Vine!' and she said, "what is a Vine?" I explained to her that it's a six-second app. She was like "ah I don't want to film one right now it's 10 o'clock and I don't have any makeup on" and I said "it's okay as long as we can just film half our faces nobody will see your eyes and know that you don't have makeup on." She said "Okay that's fine."
It ended up just becoming our brand and I think it caught on because it was somewhat of a mystery. People couldn't actually see us and they were more focused on the music rather than appearance which was kind of cool.
Did you do anything awesome to celebrate your first million followers on Vine?
Michael: That's a good question! You know for us the first million followers happened so quickly it was literally in thirty days of starting our Vine music account. I think we were so shocked by the growth of people that we had no time to celebrate. In the next thirty days we got another million followers so the followers just kept happening so quickly and we were so excited to be on the app that we just kept making videos to keep up with the demand.
So you celebrated by making more music!
Michael: There you go!
Where do you draw inspiration for your songs? Do you write about your personal experiences?
Carissa: Definitely. We like to write about things that we go through and things that we see other people going through. As you know, a lot of our songs are about love and about our relationship. From this last album "No Matter Where You Are," we kind of tell our whole story from beginning to end through songs. So I think it's a personal way that we can let fans into our life and let them get to know us a little bit better.
On that note, which came first in your relationship, music or love? Did your shared passion for music make you more attracted to one another?
Michael: (Laughs) That's a great question. Actually I fell in love with Carissa before I even knew she was a musician. It was really weird but the night I met her I was with one of my best friends and I looked him right in the eye after four hours of meeting her and I was like "I'm definitely going to marry that girl." I had no clue she played music that was just an added bonus. We actually got married and music kind of came after that so it was more of an afterthought. I think it's a good thing to fall in love and focus on your relationship and then the music kind of happens after. We have a good foundation I would say.
Going off of that, you guys did sing together at your wedding. What made you decide to do that? Do you feel that you communicate better through music?
Michael: Yeah, definitely. We're pretty emotional people and whenever we're feeling something we just automatically open up a notebook and start writing things down. Music just seems like a very natural, easy way for us to communicate.
Carissa: It's funny because Michael actually wrote me a song and he gave me the CD with a note on it when he first asked me to be his girlfriend and he wrote "will you be my girlfriend? Check one box" and he wrote "yes" on one box and the other box said "yes" as well. I didn't really have a choice! He's so silly. But on that CD was actually a song he wrote for me called "Girl in LA," this was when we were doing long-distance, and I just started crying because nobody had ever written a song and recorded it for me and about me. That definitely showed me a lot about him as a person and I loved it.
What's your favorite thing to do together outside of the recording studio?
Carissa: We love to eat! We like to go to nice dinners with multiple courses and pair them with wine. We like to act like we know a lot about food and pretend like "oh the acidity on this is really nice." We love to watch Food Network when we're at home and Michael loves to cook it's a passion of his. So I think that's something we share and it's something I only got more into when Michael and I were in a relationship.
Carissa, I've checked out your Tumblr page and saw that you're quite the fashionista. How would you describe your personal style?
Carissa: It's funny that you bring this up I'm actually going to put out a new blog soon. I'm working on it right now and it's going to be totally separate from Tumblr so stay tuned for that! I do love fashion, you're right. I would describe my style as very simple. I'm into neutral colors, very classy but kind of edgy at the same time. You'll see me wearing a lot of black and neutral colors. I'm not really into bright colors but I'm trying to step out of my box a little bit more.
Do you use fashion to express yourself in the same way that you use music?
Carissa: Oh totally! That's a great question, actually. I think it's a way to show your unique personality. I mean some days I'm in a mood where I don't care what I look like and I'm just like "I'm going to wear sweats and sunglasses and tennis shoes today." But then there are some days when I'm feeling really confident about myself like if we have a show or interview or something and I get to wear heels and a two-piece set like a high-waisted skirt and a crop top or something fun. I absolutely think it's a great way to show who you are as a person. And just to have fun, you know. You don't always have to dress the same exact way every day it's all about experimenting with different things and doing whatever makes you feel good.
Do you two write every song together or have either of you created something independently since getting together?
Michael: Yes we definitely write together, but we start by writing separately. A lot of times I'll get the idea for lyrics and start writing them down and I'll show them to Carissa and say "hey I wrote down a song will you take a stab at a melody?" She's a great melody maker so she'll come up with all of these little vocal lines and it ends up being a great partnership. My strength lies in the lyric aspect and Carissa's strength lies more in writing the melodies.
Where were you the moment you found out that your second album, No Matter Where You Are, had hit #22 on the iTunes Pop Charts and #19 on Billboard's Heatseekers Chart? What went through your minds when you got the news?
Michael: We released this album totally independently so we weren't a part of a label. It was like a little album we made ourselves and we put it out to the world hoping someone would listen to it. All of our marketing efforts were really just us making social media videos or tweeting or making Youtube videos telling people it was out. We were actually at my parents' house in North Carolina. It was the day after Thanksgiving and we released this album and were just sitting at my parent's old computer watching the stats and refreshing the page just hoping people would listen to it. And then we watched the album rise up on iTunes and we were pinching ourselves like, "is this really happening? Why is it number 22? This is crazy!" It was definitely a surreal feeling but it also motivated us to write a new album and that's what we're working on now. Hopefully the next one, now that we're a part of an amazing label and have a big team of people behind us, will make that number 22 a little higher.
What musical projects do you have in the works right now? Any new singles or even albums for Us The Family to look forward to?
Carissa: We're currently in the studio and doing lots of writing sessions with different producers. We actually have a few songs in the works and we're just working towards our next album which we're hoping to put out in the summertime of next year. We're hoping for a single by maybe September or October. We're really excited. It's a little bit different from the folk-pop sound we had with our last album. We're definitely going a little bit more pop and experimenting with different sounds and kind of making more upbeat tunes. We're just hoping that everyone likes it! We're very excited.
You guys obviously have a huge fan base. What do you love most about "Us The Family?" How did that term get coined in the first place?
Michael: We LOVE "Us The Family." It actually happened by accident. We always have a hard time calling our fans "fans" because there's something about that word for Carissa and me that separates the artists from the people who watch. In our eyes, we're all the same. Whenever we have a meet and greet before or after a show we always hug whoever is coming to meet us and we sit down and talk and we try to do smaller amounts of meet and greets so that we can spend more time with the people who come. We've always had this feeling that they're not fans, they're more than that. So we were sitting around trying to come up with a name for our fanbase and nothing ever seemed to fit. I think Carissa said something like "well if they're not fans then what would you call them?" and I was like "well they're more like family." So then Carissa was like "what about 'Us The Family?'" and I was like "yeah that's so cool!"
We wanted everyone to feel as if we're a unit rather than having them just looking up to us all the time. We created this hashtag on Twitter and we said "welcome to Us The Family. If we favor your tweet, you're officially part of the family." Now we have almost this world-wide community and a lot of the family members are tweeting each other and creating group messages and they don't even know each other in person. They're from opposite sides of the world and still call each other siblings.
We just met one of our fan accounts at a show in the Philippines and they were saying they created a whole group message with the Spain account and the Brazil account and Malaysia and they all talk to each other every week and encourage each other and support each other. That's the whole point of why we do what we do. It's to bring people together and create a community and lift them up. It's definitely working which we're so excited about.
What's the one piece of advice you would give to aspiring musicians?
Michael: We always tell up and coming talented people to do two things. The first is to surround yourself with people you love and who are encouraging. It's really important to have a good support group whenever you get something new going. They're the ones who will keep you motivated and keep you inspired. The second is to be consistent with whatever you're putting out and not to listen to whatever hatred might happen as a result. When Carissa and I first started putting up these Vine videos we had a lot of haters saying like "this stinks, you guys are terrible" but we never let that bring us down. We kind of used it as a driving factor to keep going. We always tell people never be scared of the bad comments that may come or the disturbing things that may happen. Know who you are and what you do best.
Where do you see yourselves five years from now?
Michael: This is a good question. We talk about this a lot. We sit around and watch Food Network on the couch and have tons of time to dream. I'd say in five years we would love to have a larger Us The Family base across the world. We'd love to have a new album out and to hear one of our songs on U.S. radio. We've only heard one once as result of a contest so it'd be really cool to hear that on the radio. We would love to win some sort of award. A Grammy is thinking really high but we'd love to win a Grammy - that would be the ultimate amazing goal. In five years we also definitely hope to start a family of our own. We want little "Us The Kids" running around!
Click through this slideshow to see pictures of the amazing duo doing what they love:
Us The Duo
'Us The Duo' is the insanely talented musical family we all want to be a part of
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Watch this video to learn more about their epic love story:
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