Powers of man and machine meet on Baths' debut Cerulean
. Released on Anticon Records, it's a piece of music that mixes luscious beats and addictive samples with raw instrumentation and naked vocals, pleasing both the digital folks and the folky folks. Will Wisenfeld, a Los Angeles-based songwriter, is the wunderkind behind the exquisite fusion found on tracks like the warm and swirling "Maximalist" or the jagged and keyboarded "You're My Excuse to Travel." He's the kind of metaphysical and insightful artist whose music is led by his inner voice (and not vice versa) so much so that he was inspired to use just about every object that was in sight during the recording process at his apartment: pencils, scissors, blankets, keys, you name it. We may call him resourceful, but he's just keeping it real. Read on to find out more about Baths and his new album Cerulean
... -michelle geslani
How did you come to be known as Baths?
I've been making music for awhile, nearly seven years. I've had different monikers, but Post-Foetus was the main one. I had a couple of albums under that. And then last year, Daedalus invited me to play a show in Los Angeles with him along with Flying Lotus and some other people. I opened the night but played with a full band. It was very cool and I was happy with the set but it was so hard to deal with a full-scale band, especially financially. It's just really hard to have an incentive for everyone want to keep playing for me, it was like they had to do everything very close to free and it was really frustrating. That night, after I saw Daedalus play, I was blown away by how easily he could move things around all by himself on stage. I just said to myself that night, "I need to be able to do that, I need to do that." I went home after that and spent a couple of months making an album of music that sort of caters to being performed that way just by one person, with one piece of equipment or a computer. I wanted it to be a very portable show.
You'd think that a "one-man show" would be harder to do since everything would rest on you...
[Laughs] I've actually thought and talked about this before with other people. It seems like it would be easier to have other people involved, like as a large band. But for me, it sort of holds back a lot of my ideas and it becomes frustrating trying to write music with other people because there are so many things to take into consideration and pull together. I'm sort of a control freak [laughs], but I can abandon that when it's in a band context, but even then in doing that, it's still very frustrating for me. I need to be able to put together all the different ideas I have one for one song, by myself. It's what feels most natural to me. To be able to do things entirely on my own is very liberating and easy for me.
I think that makes sense. I mean, if you're able to do it on your own why not, right?
That's how I feel about it exactly. Creatively, I'm able to say so much more. In terms of performing it, I plan to have more players with me in the future because it does help the live performance. But at the moment, starting with this material at least, I feel it's more easily communicated if it's just me on my own.
Were you that kid in school that never wanted to do group work?
[Laughs] Well, yes. Hmm... that's an interesting question. There's definitely a lot of people that this happened to: where most of the group just relies on one person to do all the work. They'd always ask me, "Hey, Will, so when are we turning the project in? When are presenting it?" [Laughs]
You recorded a lot of Cerulean at your apartment. How easily did the songs come to you?
When an idea for a song comes, like a piano riff or vocal thing, or if I hear a whole thing all at once in my head, I have to record it as soon as possible. So it worked out well that I did most of the album at my place. Usually within half an hour of getting that initial idea, I record stuff right away while the inspiration is still there. Cerulean
took about two to three months to write, and most songs took about six or seven hours to finish.
So why did you choose Baths as the moniker for this release?
I wanted this album to be accessible, but I also wanted the name to be accessible, too. When I went under Post-Foetus, I always found it hard to say and spell to people. I felt like I was challenging someone all the time. Whereas with Baths, it's simple and very direct. Aesthetically the name is straight to the point and eye-catching, and emotionally "baths," taking baths, and water has always been an escape for me. I love taking baths and sort of disappearing into my own head and just going into a fantasy world.
Yeah and even "Cerulean" is an interesting word, and so much deeper than say, "blue."
The thing with the world Cerulean
, the reason why I chose it and love it, is it's a spectrum of color, not just one shade of blue. It's a range of intense blues, from dark to light. That's great and that's the whole thing that I was trying to do with the album; that there's a vibe to it, but it differs and goes to different places within that idea. It was the perfect, all-encompassing word for it.
I definitely feel like the album has a wide variety of moods and layers of feeling to it.
I have a bunch of different layers. I'd like to think I'm not a one-dimensional sort of person. Making music I feel is sort of an extension of myself and there are so many thoughts and feelings and opinions that I have all the time. Through my music, I try to go to as many places as I can. Making the same album twice is like the worst possible thing I could ever do [laughs]. Because if I've done something, then I'm done with it for good. I mean, I'm definitely not going to make this album again...and even right now as I've already started working on some new stuff, I find that it's a lot darker and a lot different. My music is a reflection really of myself it all depends on what I feel is most important in my life.
A lot of artists say that they don't want to make the same album twice. But the way you're explaining it, it sounds like you physically and mentally couldn't possibly do it.
Well, the whole thing with music listening to it and making it the thing that is most vital and most important to me is being able to hear the person that makes the music, to hear the artist. I think that's why I'm so obsessed with Bjork, because every Bjork album I've ever heard sounds exactly like her, regardless of how crazy and different each of her albums are. The magic of it all is in learning more and more about her in everything that I hear her make. I feel the same way about Kate Bush and Flying Lotus. With Flying Lotus, all of his music gives you the vibe that you're actually getting to know him.
How would you describe the difference between your past work and your work as Baths?
I know that my earlier stuff was sort of more experimental. And it was a matter of just fucking around with stuff and going all over the place. I don't think I was as much of an artist myself as I am now. I think I've come to a place where I feel like I'm really making the music I've wanted to make and I sound like me. The stuff now is like an amalgamation of past ideas and past experiences, and it feels very solid.
You literally use objects as instruments throughout the Cerulean...
Yeah, it's all about meeting the atmosphere or emotion of the song. A lot of it was recorded around my house, so there was a lot of blowing wind sounds and rain right outside my window, or sometimes I'd catch myself tapping a rhythm on my desk with a pen. All the various sounds are kind of all over the place, but once it's all recorded, I try and manipulate them so they fit into the songs and it's not just some crazy random mess. That's the fun of it...you can basically use anything and that's really sort of how it works within the electronic music genre. There are so many sub-genres like dub step, jazz electronica, techno, melodic pop, etc. it's unbelievable, and each creatively uses different kinds of instruments. My music is just another realm of electronic music, and I like it like that. I should incorporate as many objects, random or not, because it's such a limitless realm. Hopefully my music and the way I go about making music starts to show the rest of the world that it [electronica] is not a soulless world. There's tons of great artists and really emotional and expressive people in the genre.
How important is it to you that you use some objects and real instruments?
I feel like if it's all from the computer and whatever, it's a different vibe. In some respects it can be great, but for me, if I want to communicate, I need the person to hear me through the music and I feel like that can only be accomplished through using a lot of instruments. It's easier for people to connect with those physical sounds like vocals. It makes the music more accessible, which is so important.
Earlier you mentioned having a wide range of moods. What was the general mood while making Cerulean?
It's very, very positive and happy and crazy and excitable! It was really in line with what my life was like during the recording of it. At that time, things were getting really exciting. I was developing a friendship with Daedalus and becoming more involved with electronic music in Los Angeles. It was the most excited that I had been ever. With that in mind, I started recording and it turned out upbeat and happy. [Laughs] But really, I'm a very happy person. Of course, there are darker moments on Cerulean
but I dealt with them in a positive light.
Is that something you try to do most of the time take something dark and spin it positively?
I think on this album, yes. But it depends on the context. I don't think with my newer music it's going to be the same. I like to think of making music as albums one album at a time, as it's the perfect artistic expression at that very moment. So, for Cerulean
, it was definitely like that. I tried to keep myself very positive.
What would you say is your favorite song?
At different times I have different favorites [laughs]. Right now I like "Rain Smell" a lot because I feel like most of the music I listen to is very similar slow and ambient. It's more like of what I would listen to on a normal basis, so I have a personal kind of attachment to it. But I like them all equally, I think. They each fill a certain space that needs to be filled in order for the album to work as a whole.
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