What has been your most favorite compliment about your music?
The most favorite compliment I’ve received about my music has probably been that it sounds “caramelly”. Ever since I heard that, I’ve used it in a lot of my bio’s and ‘abouts’. I love it. I always felt like I wanted my song Brown Eyes to sound something like that.
Who do you make your music for?
As far as who I make my music for, I definitely make music that I would really like listening to, but it’s always been important to me to try to live a life that’s a positive example for others and make music that can inspire others and reflect a (hopefully) positive lifestyle. Not that I think music should always be some big special inspirational message, sometimes I want my music to simply be a haven for someone to escape from life, either in a relatable way or psychedelic way, but I guess I write music for the thinkers, the philosophers, the lovers, the adventurers, and the trippers.
Talk to us about your latest track?
My latest release is an EP consisting of seven songs, two of which I collaborated with two other local artists. I produced everything on the album, and mixed/engineered all but the final track, I Became An Ocean, which was mixed by my good friend, mentor, and grammy nominated producer Eric Lilvavois of London Bridge Studios. The whole EP was recorded at my home studio, Humble Jungle Studio. The first track, Brown Eyes, consists of many layers of synths, self-recorded samples, field recordings, delay, different reverbs, and guitars. It’s pretty droney, and something I always imagined being the soundtrack to a long dive underwater.
The second track is Stay, a psychedelic journey through a couple’s toxic relationship. The recording process may have been my favorite on this one. The drums were recorded in my studio, re-amped in a tile bathroom, mic’d up in a closed shower, then saturated with tape. The vocals were all recorded on a telephone mic I made by taking an old house phone from the 80’s and rewiring it with a 1/4″ input jack so that I could sing into it and record it. The layers of guitar on this one were influenced a lot by the albums Revolver by The Beatles and Physical Graffiti by Led Zeppelin. I recorded a lot of different guitar amps on this song, and there are a ton of guitar tracks layered in there with different mic positions, different types of mics, and even different guitars layering the same parts. After all of that, the recording was bounced to analog tape, saturated, and sped up. Before being sent off for mastering, I played back and recorded a backwards mix of the song, fading it in here and there throughout the song for the final recording.
When She Comes is, to me, the early exciting stages of a relationship (or not), before being in love or breaking up after or staying together or whatever. Maybe we’ll stay together, maybe not, but either way, let’s skip the bars, grab some cheap beer and go to the beach, and lie to each other about ourselves and the places we probably won’t end up actually going to while flirting endlessly, hoping to get to know each other on some deeper level. It’s all very sweet, because there’s this charm, and you still notice the little things about each other that make you smile after seeing each other for at least a little bit. I wrote it during the recording process of another song of mine actually. I was getting frustrated with the takes I was doing on the acoustic guitar for this other one. I was recording to tape, an old 80’s Tascam 8 track, and I kept having to rewind and re-record. Between takes my fingers kept wanting to play what would be that main fingerpicking guitar part for When She Comes, and eventually I just caved and gave it my attention, and the whole song just flowed right out. I spent the night doing a demo of the song, and the following day I recorded the final tracks and mixed it the same day. It’s one of my favorites from the EP. I love the storytelling in it. Some of it is based on encounters of my own, but a lot of it is just a story.
Slow Motion was a really emotional song for me. I wrote it when my old band was breaking up, my dad was in hospice, and I had just gotten out of a pretty serious relationship. It felt like everything in my life was falling apart, and there was nothing I could do about it. I was just watching it happen, and days felt like weeks and it all felt like it went down in slow motion. A lot of the lyrics are a bit ambiguous, but they are all metaphors for very real emotions and events.
Going Nowhere is a very philosophical and introspective song about not thinking too hard about what’s happening but letting go and just kind of doing life. “Take your time but don’t let it pass” is the chorus lyric, and I feel like I have to remind myself of that a lot. Like, we only have so much control, you know? Control what you can, and lead the best life you can, but don’t get so wrapped up that you let it all fly by and you forget to be present. On the recording side of this one, a couple fun notes and things to listen for are the vocals in the bridge, during the whole weird synth dance thing. The lyrics “shining truth, a mind over matter” are sung through a box with a literal rotating, spinning speaker, as if to be some big echoey mantra being sung by a thousand monks high over the Himalayan mountains, at least that’s what I imagined. Also there is a single organ note I recorded to tape that was faded in here and there throughout the entire song, eventually being slowed down and sped up on the tape machine to adjust the pitch for the changes in the song. That was a lot of fun. The Beatles did something like that on She Said, She Said, from Revolver, which is where I got that idea from.
Shared Dreams was a one night collaboration with local artist Alec Breton, who I knew from his project Lyfe Indoors. He opened for one of my favorite artists, Shlohmo, and we hit it off after the show. We wrote and recorded the whole song in one night. I’m sure we were both writing from different places, and it turned out to be a really cool song I thought. He plays the “lead” bass parts throughout the song and we sing back and forth to each other. I actually mixed this song entirely on my laptop on a boat up in Alaska this last summer while commercial fishing for salmon.
I Became An Ocean was a really time consuming song. Took a long time to write and make. It’s some of my favorite writing I’ve done, both musically and lyrically. I loved being able to let loose with my guitar for the first time with the Sugar Nap project. I wrote it and sang it with Julia Newman, who I’ve also produced and mixed for in the past. She came to me with the idea for the song, and we spent months and months writing and rewriting and really honing it in to be what it is.
Other than the two collaborations, I played all of the instruments on all of the songs besides Slow Motion, which a friend of mine played drums on.
The EP, released October 8th, 2021, is my first release of a collection of Sugar Nap songs, and my main focus right now until the new year.
Where were you emotionally in your life when you created it?
Since the songs were written over the course of three years, the emotions throughout the album are all different and reflective of different stages of my life. When I first started doing Sugar Nap, I was at a very pivotal and heavy point in my life, which is where Brown Eyes, Going Nowhere, and Slow Motion came from. When She Comes, Shared Dreams, and I Became an Ocean we’re all just written this year, while Stay was written last year. I guess with Stay I was writing and recording it while I was in this pretty serious relationship that didn’t end up lasting very long. The song isn’t necessarily about that relationship, but the uncertainty that is a big theme of the song definitely influenced the lyrics and recording. There was a lot going on in our lives, and I ended up leaving the state for a few months which made it hard. The song was released as a single the week I left.
What studio experience could you relay to other artists?
A big part of Sugar Nap is the audio engineering and mixing, which is all done by me. It’s been such a journey for me learning and experimenting and getting past some really frustrating and difficult recording roadblocks. If there were advice I would relay to other artists who are self produced or even working with another producer, it’s to really get into the process of it all obsessively. Tear it all apart, learn what everything is and what everything does, and it will help you get the sound in your head. I obsessively researched what other artists and engineers did to get the sounds they did, and I would implement those tricks and gear in places I felt would serve my songs. When it comes to mixing, it’s really important to reference your mixes with other songs that have a similar vibe you want to portray. I don’t think I’m an incredible engineer, but I can usually get pretty close to the sound in my head with what I have, which I think is another very important thing; do what you can with what you have. I strongly believe that limiting the tools available to you will increase creativity. Learn the room you’re recording in and the quirks, your mics, your amp, your guitars, synths, etc.
What about writing experience? Any tips?
As far as writing goes, some of my best writing has come from all sorts of methods. There are many times I’ll just hit record on my phone and improvise on the spot an entire song. It forces me to sing what I’m feeling at that moment, and my fingers usually follow. But there are some other fun methods I’ve used as well. I’ve turned on the tv, the radio, a playlist from my phone, matched all the volumes, and in all the madness, wrote down the occasional word I could pick out. Then I’d take the list of words, cut them into individual pieces of paper, and mix them all up into different phrases and see if something inspires an idea. There’s really no “right” way to write a song in my opinion, but there are a lot of places to start. Some of my songs started from a mood I’d create on a synth or something. I get this weird sound going on the synth and some delay, and then it becomes a melody, and then I start writing this soundscape and the lyrics accompany the mood. Sometimes I sit there and try to rhyme words to get witty rhythms and paint clever pictures, then try them over the guitar or piano. If I were to give any writing advice, it’s that there isn’t a right way to do it. Do what you want. Get creative with it. I’m a big fan of metaphors and words that inflict certain emotions. Too much of that though can get a little too ambiguous or start to sound a little cliche, so finding different synonyms for some of the more common metaphors can be helpful.
What is the next goal for you?
The next goal for me is really to just focus on promoting this new EP and getting that out there to as many people as possible, hoping to make an intimate connection that leaves people wanting more. I’m doing a “virtual tour” as well, where I’m essentially just releasing a live video from a pre-recorded show every Wednesday for a few weeks on Youtube, Facebook, and Instagram. It’s the first live footage or live show from Sugar Nap, which includes a full live band. Even all the samples and ambient pads are triggered from foot pedals and other buttons. I wanted it all to be totally live, no backing tracks. We had such a blast. Between that and the EP, I hope to generate some excitement for shows in the new year and a potential tour, following a full length album. I do not have a date in mind for the album quite yet, but most of the material is already recorded and mixed.
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