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“All the mysteries are still there in the music.” LA’s Baths on his skewed version of pop

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  • published
    16 May 2013
  • interviewed by
    Chris Kelly
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"All the mysteries are still there in the music." LA's Baths on his skewed version of pop music

Later this month, Will ‘Baths’ Wiesenfeld will release his second album, Obsidian. It is a departure from his ambitious Cerulean — but that shouldn’t be a surprise.

When we last spoke to Wiesenfeld, back in 2010, he described the tone of the then-unfinished album as “almost antithetical to Cerulean,” and promised “heavily thought out ideas mixed in with more spontaneous ones.”

True to his word, Obsidian is not just darker, both lyrically and musically, but also a more adventurous record, unafraid to venture away from off-kilter hip-hop beatcraft of Cerulean. Like artists as diverse as Grimes and Autre Ne Veut, he’s growing as a songwriter as he explores his own “skewed version of pop music.”

FACT spoke with Wiesenfeld about the recording of Obsidian, his favorite pop music, and why he doesn’t consider himself a part of LA’s beat scene.

You can hear the through-line between the two, but Obsidian is definitely a different record than Cerulean. That was a bedroom record, right?

My process has never not been that. I don’t work in studios; it’s always been a makeshift set-up at home. This new one is the same way. It may be a better caliber of production because I got better equipment, but it was still made in my or other people’s bedrooms. It’s never made sense for me to make music in someone else’s environment. I’m way too much of a control freak so I definitely need my own space and my own stuff, so I don’t have to worry about the pressure of breaking stuff or something like that.

Making this record, because I moved out of my parents’ house a year and a half ago, has been transitional. Figuring out where to record because I couldn’t do it at my apartment made the process very difficult. It’s been a crazier ordeal than doing the first one.

In 2011, you were bedridden for months with a nasty infection. How did getting sick affect the album?

It put everything on hold: it was exactly when I was going to start recording. I had set aside the time, stopped doing shows, and planned on being home. I had to cancel one of the last shows of the tour because I was really sick, and then I was totally incapacitated for 2 to 3 months. I was definitely bummed out, but it was more annoying than anything. The timing couldn’t have been worse.

Some of it tied into making the record, but the plan I had set in motion for the record — that it was darker material and darker lyrics — that realm had existed way before getting sick. I had made tracks like that even before Cerulean, but I tried to cater the tracks to a better first impression. I don’t want people to think I set out to write about how much it sucks to be sick.

“This is leaning more towards making my skewed version of pop music, that’s the whole idea.”

The lyrics of Obsidian definitely explore darker themes, notably suicide, and it can be disarming with your falsetto.

That’s kind of the feel: that it’s supposed to be almost a dichotomy. Things have a surface value; you hear it sonically as one thing, but the more you listen to the lyrics and take it apart the worse it gets. Daedelus had a really good Portuguese word for it, for a bittersweet feel; it appears pleasant but it has a darker tone. [Ed. note: possibly saudade?]

As for the evolution of your sound, Cerulean was very beat-driven, while house music and even indie rock are referenced on Obsidian.

Cerulean was simplified, as complex as it may seem. The songs happened quickly, the parts were written very quickly. It was like splattering paint on a canvas versus taking time with painting, as I did this time. They both have values for what they are — one is not necessarily better than the other. But I personally am much more down with this one since it took me so much longer and I had so much more invested in it. And I spent so much time with the first one that I’m already over like half of the songs! [laughs]

Your vocals are much more upfront and do more of the album’s heavy lifting. Are you more confident in your voice this time?

It actually isn’t a new thing for me. Before Baths, when I was doing [Post-foetus] stuff, my vocals were upfront a lot because I would be singing all the time. It’s been a part of my M.O. since the beginning, but it took a slight back seat on Cerulean because I wanted heavier rhythms to stand-out.

This is leaning more towards making my skewed version of pop music, that’s the whole idea. That’s much more the type of music I want to be making in the future, where there’s lyrics and melodies and it’s centered in the vocals, so there’s something to ride that’s very human right at the front of it and all the mysteries are still there in the music.

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