All Over the Place and Back Again – A Conversation with Will Wiesenfeld
One of the most interesting electronic/beats-based albums of 2010 came from Will Wiesenfeld’s Baths project. Cerulean, the debut album from Baths, made it on quite a few year-end lists, but it seems to have stayed under the radar outside of the experimental electronic and glitch scenes. Released by anticon. records, Cerulean fits in well with that label’s eclectic catalog. A densely layered pastiche of beats, ambience, and melody, it’s hard to categorize. Cerulean is a convergence of the best that modern indie, hip-hop, electronic, and pop music have to offer. It’s all of those things, and it’s none of those things.
This is “Plea” off Cerulean:
Will also released an album, Mend, from his more relaxed, ambient project, Geotic, in January, 2011.
Synconation spoke with Will about all the recent accolades, his songwriting process and what lies ahead.
You were picked for a number of year-end lists. As far as 2010 goes, what was the best part of the year for you in terms of the album and the response to it?
WW: I don’t know if I can point to one thing in particular. It was kinda just a big, epic, awesome blur of craziness. Getting to go to Europe was something that was really special to me, because I’ve never been before, and so it was a very cool taste of that…and it was music that got me there which was the coolest part about it. That would probably be the highlight.
One of the things about Cerulean that strikes me as to why people are responding so well to it, is that you have this ability to use experimental techniques and styles, yet maintain strong songwriting, I’d even say a pop sensibility. What is your songwriting process and do you find it easy to reconcile those elements?
WW: Yeah, that’s sort of just naturally how things happen for me. I came from songwriting. Bjork was my biggest influence in all of that. I think the sort of mesh of the electronic thing and acoustic instruments and like, basically anytime I can get my hands on all these things used in the recording process is the norm for me. That’s not very far reaching, at least in my own head. It’s sort of just how I like songs to come together, so it just always happens like that. In terms of how the actual songwriting process happens, it’s always different. I’ve written an entire song based on just a song title idea, and then there’s songs where all the lyrics happen after the music is made and stuff like that. I don’t know, it’s all over the place. The order of the way the music is made is always different, as well. It’s very crazy.
One of the nice things, I think, about your music, both Baths and Geotic, is that it has a human feel to it. It’s mainly an electronic offering, but its more organic than most other practitioners of the genre. Do you write and play most of those tracks yourself? Do you use a lot of sampling?
WW: For Baths and Cerulean, for anything I do, I’m playing everything you hear. It’s 100% my own production. I’m not outsourcing or sampling from other sources at all. It’s all my guitar playing, my voices, my bass lines, everything like that.
I wanted to ask about Geotic. It’s distinctly different from Baths. Is that project a way for you to relax and get away from your normal process, or is it a way for you to work out ideas that you don’t think quite fit with Baths?
WW: It’s a lot of things. I think it’s definitely parts of both of those things. It’s never really a conscious thing with recording Geotic or recording Baths. It’s just sort of what the inspiration is at the moment. Sometimes I’m more inspired to create more Geotic type music and sometimes I’m more inspired to create more Baths type music and songs. So, it just depends on the moment, and like, how things happen. Geotic tends to happen in much more focused bursts I think, though. I’ll get an idea for an album or start working towards something and then I get this push to want to do an entire album of that idea, so it will all happen very quickly. Like with Mend, the whole thing happened in like five days. The album before that, Hearth, happened in like five days, as well. Realm happened in two or three, I think. Stuff like that. It happens all at once and I kinda want to just do it and have the thing. Whereas, I think Baths, at least with [Post-Foetus] it was much more meticulous, but now for Baths its just sort of blown off, stuff like that. I’m looking forward to recording the next album because I think I can really get a lot more in depth with it.
I think you can hear that in both those projects, too. Baths definitely sounds meticulous and Geotic sounds a little more laid back and relaxed, which I think is a big part of their charm. As far as making music for both of these projects, are there pieces of music gear that you like to use? Is there a favorite piece or anything that you feel is part of your sound for either of those projects.
WW: I don’t know, it sort of varies. I use guitar for Geotic, a lot, just cause I think its more easily layered. I use a looping pedal with it a lot, and its just very easy to do a lot of parts with the same instrument on top of itself, and it still sounds good, where with piano if you multi-track it more than two or three times it sounds kind of crazy. Vocals are a little harder to get that happening with. Guitar is just the easiest way to record in a dense way, on the fly, so I often use guitars for Geotic. In Baths, and in anything else, it’s all over the place. I like singing, and I like using my voice a lot, but at the same time piano is my main instrument, so I start there and sometimes move outward from the parts I make on that. I don’t know, it’s a little all over the place. Everything with me, I think, is a little all over the place. hat’s just the nature of me making music.
I’ve seen some videos of you performing live and I was really impressed by how you were layering the vocals. I noticed you were using an MPC and it seemed like you were actually looping and sampling your own vocals live. Is that your typical approach?
WW: On one song, I am, but not through the whole set, but on one song I actually do a live loop, but outside of that I’m not.
Are there any particular artists or musicians that you feel have a really big influence on your music in general, or for Baths or Geotic, specifically?
WW: Bjork, definitely. I always mention her, just cause it’s sort of where the root of all my creativity lies. I think it started with her and it branched outward. I don’t know, it lies in a lot of different things. I think, initially, one of the first things that made me want to start trying to make ambient music was Eluvium, a long time ago, but there were things that I wasn’t totally sold on with his music, that I sort of wanted to try myself. I was inspired to start trying to record stuff by a lot of ambient music in that realm. I think lately, the Jonsi and Alex album, Riceboy Sleeps, that came out last year…the very ambient album. That was my favorite album of last year, I think, next to Husky Rescue, but that Jonsi and Alex album, in particular, is like, one of the best ambient things I’ve ever heard. I can’t help but be excited by that and try to incorporate things I’ve heard in that. Inspiration arrives in all sorts of places, so I can never really keep track of what is making me want to make a song at any given moment. There’s lots of things all over the place.
I definitely hear some influence from the Riceboy Sleeps album. Its beautiful and sounds kind of electronic, but has a very organic feel to it. I know that they used a lot of acoustic instruments on it.
WW: Yeah, its very cool.
Is there any other music that you are particularly into lately? Anything that is really inspiring you or acting as a muse?
WW: I don’t know, I’ve been listening to a lot of Cocteau Twins. Just because I’m sort of in love with her melodies, Elizabeth Fraser. Her melodies on everything are just kind of crazy. You don’t really hear people sing like that anymore. That sing that passionately and with that amount of range and style and uniqueness. I’ve been listening to a lot of that.
For the coming year, I know that you are touring a lot a the beginning of the year, do you plan on continuing to tour more the rest of the year? Are you going to go back in the studio to work on a recording project? What do you have planned?
WW: Yeah, I’m touring until May and then June or July I start recording the next album, and then I don’t think it will see release until 2012. I think that’s my sort of plan for right now. On tour, I’m playing like 13 new songs that happened after Cerulean, so its something to keep people up with my new music, in the meantime, but its not really like a new album.
Baths – Maximalist:
Geotic - Unwind: