A few weeks ago I spoke on the phone with the art-savvy, melodic IDM powerhouse that is Boas. Known as Tyler Newbold to his mom, this producer hails from Richmond, VA--which as he assures me (and as you can see), is a hotspot for crazy/awesome/original music acts these days.
His latest self-titled LP release is a fluid, ever-rippling work, held together by synth patches you could only dream of and 'pasted together' broken dance beats. Along the lines of an acid tripping Thom Yorke, his songs manage to break into intricate grooves while still maintaining emotionally driving melodies. I'm not kidding when I say that he has truly made something completely original.
While reading the interview, why not play this track? It's trippy, it's mathy, awesome. (You need headphones to fully enjoy the intricate craziness)
Boas - Dipole
Q: Your name is Boas, but how do you pronounce it? Is it like 'Boas' as in multiple snakes?
A: Yes, exactly. [laughs] A friend of mine said that same exact thing and he asked me something--it was something 'like multiple snakes?' he said those exact words, it was hilarious.
Q: Where does it come from?
A: It's kind of embarrassing but I was doodling--mostly just doodling--with street art, graffiti style-stuff and that was something that I was writing a lot, just because I liked the word, how it looked. I never really did anything with it really, I mean you know, it was just something I was doing in sketchbooks and it was just this weird thing. There's absolutely nothing behind it really, other than that. Naming a project is a torturous process.
Q: I think it fits your music pretty well. Okay, so what were you doing musically before Boas?
A: I play in a band in Richmond called Cold Toast and we were doing that for a while--just like three people--and we're still doing it. So I've been playing in Cold Toast for several years, since I moved to Richmond basically. Even before that I was recording solo stuff. I've been recording solo stuff for a really long time. But I never released anything and I dunno, I was always just kinda waiting until I was perfectly satisfied with my efforts I guess.
Q: All of the visually artistic aspects (the album art, the myspace, everything else) were done by you?
Q: Okay, so can you tell me about your artistic endeavors?
A: Well I went to art school. I just graduated last August in illustration, communication arts, and I also majored in English. I learned a lot in art school, as kinda bullshit as it was in ways. I still learned a lot about design and that's sort of another career that I'm sort of a beginner in.
In the future, I wouldn't necessarily do it myself, but I feel like it's interesting when musicians do their own art, gives them a lot of control. But I think an element of collaboration is really important, so I think in the future I might outsource that stuff because I know some really interesting artists who would be really cool for that. So I think it's gonna be a one-time-thing for the most part. But who knows.
Q: As an artist/musician, who or what would you say your biggest influences are? Specifically for the album?
A: I feel like the bands I listen to are probably pretty 'clear', clear as far as anybody else would think, on this album at least. But I go through phases when I don't listen to much music, like when I'm working on stuff I sometimes keep clear of conscious external influence. But in those other phases, I am really into new music that I feel is changing things. Specifically on this album, there was a wanting to sound very contemporary, and even urgent. Like most could assume, there's influence from Clark, Animal Collective, Dosh, The Books, people who I really stand behind. But there's a lot of influence on an immediate local level too, like my friends from the Chocolate Milk Collective, here in Richmond, who are some just flourishing and inspiring djs/beatmakers. Vocally, it's sort of a different ballgame, harmonies and stuff. I love Crosby, Stills, and Nash. Sorta like folky music with really really nice tight harmonies. Vocally, I also really adore Bjork. Whenever I'm in a situation where there's a song that needs this appropriate and specific melody, which is sometimes so hard to conjure, I think of what Bjork would do!
Q: Is there anything in particular that attracts you to sacred geometry?
A: Yeah, well I mean, it's a big influence--not like musically or specific 'artist-wise'--but it's sort of this new age stuff that I've been into for a while as far as like conspiracy theories and ET--ET life--and sort of this realm of consciousness that you can pull into your daily life. I saw this documentary about crop circles called 'Star Dreams,' a while ago, and that really turned me on to the intrinsic power of geometry, harmonics, energy. There's very much an urgency feeling around the world, you know, like it's sort of an insanity. But with the understanding of some of these ideas, I think you can break through some barriers, socially, spiritually, and live a little more viscerally. It's just like a synthesis of that stuff, I guess.
Q: Do you have a process when you make songs or do they just kind of work themselves out when you make them?
A: [There are] typically long processes on the songs that you could probably assume would be such. But sometimes there are tracks that I'll do most of the legwork in like a day, and others that will take months and months. But basically it's just like sometimes a long process is like sculpting something. It usually starts off very very basic, ya know, in terms of letting one thing lead to another in terms of what you can hear. You're sort of forming sounds then all the sudden you start hearing things that like [come to you.] In that sense, it's sort of a spontaneous thing in terms of melodies and vocals and stuff. A lot of times the producing/mixing process is a pretty big chunk of the song writing even--in terms of cutting things up and using a collage-y element as opposed to a one shot performance.
Q: Can Boas songs be played live?
A: Yeah, ya know it all comes down to whether or not I want to do it so soon without wanting to get it right. They can be done live, I could play them off my laptop and sing over them, which I've done very rarely. With Cold Toast we were actually playing some of that stuff. Cold Toast is a bit more poppy, I guess, and more straightforward in terms of performance and things. But yeah, we are playing them live. A few tracks off this album I play with Cold Toast. So it's a mix of laptop and live drums (sort of a deconstructed drum kit.) So yeah, it's pretty interesting to do [laughs]. But I am currently in the process of brainstorming a live band, both with instruments and electronics, to perform the Boas stuff properly.
Q: About your album, it sounds like there's something conceptual about it, kinda like it's taking you on a journey. Did you do this intentionally? What kind of trip were you trying to take us on?
A: [laughs] That's great, that's super. Yeah, I definitely love that aspect of listening to an album. It is conceptual--there was a lot of thought put into the flow, and giving you very defined plot points in the album that are very dynamic--parts that are really really sort of heavy. And all in the span of two or three songs, and then having two or three songs that are a complete escape from that. So that inevitably keeps you attached in some way; you can hopefully think that's conceptual.
Q: So about that, about halfway through the album, I think the song is called 'Dipole,' the album undergoes a sort of a transformation. What is the idea behind that?
A: The idea was for it to be a big turning point on the album, to depart from vocals and get into some more sonic territory. I think that point of transformation is complete when the song itself undergoes its own change, exactly halfway through the song. I liked it because it felt like a release from the previous four songs. Like you can just sit back, not worry about a focus in the sound, but more the ambience of multiple parts working together. That was just a process of a song--that's actually a really old song--and yeah, that had been through so much time and sort of remixing over and over as I grew a lot in working with that gear. I think that the way that song started was me, pretty early on, trying to figure how to use software and stuff, and so I think that song started as sort of an experiment doing what was sort of uncomfortable at the time like trying to sequence and stuff like that, and I was trying to make a song out of like a pretty coherent thing, even as simple as it was, then it sort of got regurgitated many many times. I sort of grew with that song. I like it because you're sort of thinking that it's going to be sort of another like "acidy weird gargly mess," but it does shift around, and I like those moments of release, you know, where it goes into the ambient realm, because ambient I feel, is a very universal way of musical communication.
Q: How do you do your synths? Software, hardware, both?
A: Yeah it's a mix of both. My studio is really really modest--there's really not much--but I was able to get a Juno 102. But the thing is totally glitched out and it sounds insane. You can hear it all over the album. Certain notes will hold, go into overdrive a bit, starts screaming. It's used on a lot of songs, it's got a really really extreme personality and that's really the only hardsynth that I used, but I did use it a lot in terms of sequencing. And then a lot of it is stuff that tends to be more sculpted digitally using a softsynth. Which there's a lot of that, too.
Q: Kinda on a different note, can you tell me about your work with Galt?
A: Yeah, he's a good friend of mine. He's a songwriter and I've liked his music for a while. I've been producing other people's songs here and there, different songwriters and JOR producing, And then I started getting into electronic music and then he wanted me to produce his album and record it. So we've been working on that for way too long actually, we're getting really eager to get it done because it sounds really great. But yeah, basically, we're just trying to get this album done. He's gonna try to promote it, so hopefully it'll be good.
So yeah, be sure to check out the Richmond scene--between his other band and Galt, you can get a glimpse of the diverse sounds emanating from this southern hotspot.
Be sure to listen to the other music he's produced--hell, have him do a remix for you! (you can email Tyler at newboldtv [at] gmail.com)