To couple with yesterday’s review, neat beats wrote us some bangin responses.
With the completion and subsequent release of your second album, Sleep Cycles, you maintain your distinctive sound without compromising originality. How do you feel you’ve accomplished this?
Sleep Cycles was made during a really chaotic three years. I moved to San Francisco, worked the night shift, had to deal with a couple back-to-back medical issues with my fiancée. I spent a great deal of time working on that record sleep deprived, stoned, and caffeinated. Deep down I was still drawn to the same sounds and styles, but I was conscious of trying to make the album more cohesive than Cosmic Surgery.
Has the release been what you wanted it to be, in terms of production and reception?
Yeah! I’ve learned a lot more about production since Cosmic Surgery came out and I have better equipment. Record sales were fucking awesome, way more than I expected. I’m super fortunate that I have a really cool loyal fan base. When I released Cosmic Surgery it took a couple years to sell 500 copies, and right now it looks like I’ll be out of Sleep Cycles in a couple more months. It’s really expensive to press vinyl, so it’s nice to know that I can recoup my costs fairly quickly.
I haven’t yet received much attention from blogs and stuff, but I’ve been too busy to write them. The reviews I have gotten already have been pretty glowing, and I’m glad that people see Sleep Cycles as a progression rather than a weak sophomore album.
Sleep Cycles and Cosmic Surgery both maintain strong continuity. When you construct music, do you plan ahead, tinker or relentlessly perfect? Broadly, how do you build your coherence across an album?
I don’t do much planning outside of fitting things together that sound good and then perfect them or scrap them. Going into Sleep Cycles, I knew I wanted to go into something a little more surreal and trippy… I wanted the record to feel more like a weird mixtape than anything… For a while, I was contemplating releasing the record on tape only. I tried to curate that sound by being selective about what I develop and just collecting weird shit and sounds across the Internet and in thrift stores.
Your EP, Science is my Girlfriend, seems to be the beginning of your music publishing- at least in the online sphere. Were you heavily involved in music before this?
Yeah, big time. I’ve been sampling and DJing since I was 16 (I’m 28 now), and I’ve always been in bands. Right now I’m playing bass with this shoegaze band called Lavender Blush, which is sort of a continuation of this band Moonbeams that I played drums in for like 5 years. I’ve been casually involved in a few garage rock bands, fronted a couple punk bands back in the day, but never played around much or anything. But I was and still am very much in love with punk rock and DIY attitudes and that’s influenced the way I manage myself and the ethic of neat beats.
That EP seemed to eventually evolve into your debut- Cosmic Surgery– do you believe there is a relationship between the two?
I was always pretty private about neat beats up until that EP. It was something I did purely for fun and to show my friends. With some encouragement, I put out that Science is my Girlfriend EP and it was reviewed really well in the local counter-cultural free paper in San Diego called CityBeat. That gave me the confidence to get a credit card and plunk down 3k to press some vinyl and fulfill this longtime dream of mine to have a record.
You’ve called your music instrumental hip hop before, and your releases do draw on hip hop production widely. You sample and use voices instrumentally, but never in a hip-hop style. Your music lacks aggression, is this intentional? Is it problematic taking the ‘sting’ out of hip-hop music?
No, I mean I’m following in the tradition of producers like DJ Shadow and Blockhead, or old school 90s style production like you’d hear in Mobb Deep’s The Infamous or some of Organized Konfusion or J Dilla or Madlib. A lot of hip-hop doesn’t sting, at least to me it doesn’t. But hip hop is also the most politically active form of music, even more so than punk. Most of the absolute very best stuff comes from black Americans talking about how fucked up things are in the ghetto and how injustice is baked into American society. So yeah, most hip hop has a sting but I don’t consider that an integral part of what hip hop is. And if someone told me “neat beats isn’t hip hop” I don’t think I’d care, I mean, I’m not claiming to be a poster child for it or anything. It’d be like someone trying to argue that Mac DeMarco wasn’t punk. Genre is so broad and meaningless that is just doesn’t matter.
The other half of your music seems set in folk, piano, and almost a sense of magic, heavily remixed. Broadly speaking, where does this come from? Do you find it difficult to combine these tones in original and clear ways?I listen to a lot of solo piano stuff and I buy a lot of records at thrift stores with dreamy nature photography on the cover. I just find those kinda records to be easiest to chop up and loop and mix with other things. All of my music is a distillation of these weird records that most ppl have forgotten.
I work ecstatically. Inspiration usually strikes when I’m just throwing loops against the wall and seeing what sounds good together. I have hundreds of decent loops that never go anywhere, or they sit forever until they get combined to form the right thing. It’s really just a lot of listening and fucking around until something comes out.
What motivates you to create music?
It’s like showing someone a beautiful spot to watch the sunset. I like knowing that I play this weird passive part in people’s lives. It’s like being intimate with people but with no emotional cost to me. Does that make sense?
To me, your sound feels generally contemplative, quiet, nostalgic and maybe even lonely. What do you try to emphasize, emotionally speaking?
Wonder, existentialism, nostalgia, death, how weird and great it is to be alive.
If you could tell the whole world something, what would it be?
“Chill out bro!”
Excluding music, what brings pleasure to your life?
Good coffee, good beer, redwood trees, weird Internet shit, video games, anime, goth chicks, cold sunny days, peanut butter ice cream, science fiction books, being hungover in bed when it’s raining outside and dogs.