Introducing: orchid mantis – there is one place we’re all going & a field with no edges + interview

Thomas aka orchid mantis has been in my music life for so long that I forgot that we never really talked more besides talking about releases, music, and other stuff. But somehow I always considered him as a friend and if I would name some artists that really shaped what I am in music terms. There would be Beach Fossils, Elvis Depressedly/Coma Cinema, Teen Suicide, fog lake and definitely orchid mantis.

We have worked on so many great releases together and Z Tapes would not be what it was if there was no orchid mantis. I wanted to state this before you start reading this amazing interview I am so excited to bring you.

There is no other artist on this planet who makes the most atmospheric lofi music. I have liked every single song, every single album Thomas made and I am lucky to be able to live in the same era. Not speaking about being able to work with Thomas on amazing physical releases. It will forever have a special place in my heart.

When writing all of this, I just want to cry from happiness. This is very personal for me and I am sometimes forgetting how much.

If you are not a fan of orchid mantis, after reading this interview you will be. You have to. We all have to. Thomas is a musical genius that deserves all the spotlight.

I think this was a really nice introduction to the interview below. Please read it till the end. You will not regret it…

Filip: We have known each other for a long time, but we never had a chance to talk more. Do you remember how we met online?

Thomas: So true, haha. I’m totally certain I wouldn’t be in the place I am now without your help, and you’ve always been a pleasure to work with! I have a lot to thank you for. I’m pretty sure it started either with you liking one of my Twitter posts about Orchid Mantis or with me reaching out to you over email about releasing one of my albums. I’m not sure if I just found Z Tapes or if you had expressed interest in my work before, but I know when you responded you said you had heard of my music before & I was really excited about that! Back then, I had been on a few of the small blogs that were around in 2014-2016, but nothing much more. I was surprised you had heard of me!

F: What inspired you to start making music?

T: Ever since I was in middle school and started learning who I was, I sort of knew I would always be obsessive about creating things. Even as a kid, I would play games and immediately search online about how to make one myself. My parents would buy me a camera, and I would find photos I liked online (a lot of macro photography) and try to replicate them. I’ve always had this thing where seeing art, media, or anything I like immediately inspires me to try to do it myself, almost to a jealous extent haha.

The weird thing is, I wasn’t really into music until middle school, and I didn’t think about making my own until my friends started learning instruments, so I did too, and we formed a band. But I was writing my own songs really often, and recording stuff. I didn’t become obsessed with it though until I got into the label Orchid Tapes. I learned about lofi recording methods, like tape recording, and I learned about sampling from artists like DJ Shadow. I was like “What? I can really do that?”

My problem with all the music I had recorded prior was that the production just didn’t sound good to me, it didn’t sound like the hifi, polished music I listened to like Radiohead. And I knew it probably wouldn’t ever sound like that with the tools I had. But from the lofi scene of 2014, I learned that there was another option, I learned that you could be deliberate and intentional about the fidelity of your recording. I found that I really, really liked the sound of tape recorders, phone voice memos, and old vinyl. Orchid Mantis happened because I tried to do the same thing.

I bought a 4-track tape recorder and a MIDI controller with Ableton Lite and started writing songs based on samples of old music. All of a sudden, the music I was making sounded pretty good to me! I liked tape recording because it made a song sound like it could have been recorded 20 years ago, which was compelling to me. I learned I could use low-fidelity recording methods as a tool for creating emotion and texture, hazy sounds that mimic the feeling of memory, and then I started recording every day that I could. It’s all gotten more complicated since then, but I try to never lose that initial spark, that unique aspect of my taste that made me excited about recording.

F: Do you have any memories of music from your childhood?

T: I think my first strong memory of music is being in my friend’s car, and one of their parents playing American Pie by Don Mclean and I thought it was the saddest song I’d ever heard. When I was a kid, my taste in music was weird – I didn’t really listen to it much. I had an MP3 player with the soundtrack from video games I liked, and nothing else. I do think video game music made a big impact on my taste though.

When I hit 7th grade, I became obsessed with Coldplay, I was like “Oh, music is good actually!” haha. But I was convinced that was the only good band on earth, I didn’t like anything else. I would literally lie on the floor and listen to ‘Death and All His Friends’ and just sort of feel this fascination with the emotion it would create in me. Like, half feeling genuinely sad like most angsty pre-teens, and half being like “Wow, this music hurts in a good way.” All of this is pretty embarrassing to look back on. Then I found Radiohead, and quickly abandoned all other music and listened to nothing else. That led to other sorts of art-rock, indie stuff, and electronic music like Boards of Canada, and from there I started obsessing over any music I could get my hands on.

Another one is my parents playing Talking Heads for me when I was really young. I was too young to remember it vividly or anything. It was funny because in middle school one of my friends put on Talking Heads and it was the weirdest feeling because I could tell I had heard the songs a million times, but I was still hearing them for the first time! My parents were like “Oh yeah, we used to play that for you a lot and you’d dance around the living room” hahaha.

F: Do you have any special memories with cassettes or vinyl records? 

T: I don’t know! As a kid, I asked for vinyl for Christmas a lot, and had a lot of fun collecting vinyl as a teenager. I loved going to record stores. My memories with cassettes are all linked to Orchid Mantis, with seeing the cassette a label made for me for the first time and just feeling so much awe at the fact my music was there, in a physical form, with the album art I made. I love album art so much, making the artwork has always been one of my favorite parts of releasing music. All of the music I record is also connected to cassettes since I’m always tracking guitar, synths, drums to cassette tape on my 4-track tape recorder. I have like 100 white cassette tapes that have the stems of half my discography in their original recording haha.

F: I have never asked, but how the name Orchid Mantis was created?

T: I’ve been asked this a lot, and always answer a bit differently. I think I learned about the Orchid Mantis because it was the hardest animal to catch in Animal Crossing, hahaha. I named my project that because I really liked how it sounded when it was spoken. I was really into a lot of bands like BMSR and Boards of Canada that were anonymous and had this mystery surrounding who they were and what they looked like. I was pretty insecure, and I always loved mysterious artists and music, so I wanted to do the same thing. So I liked that Orchid Mantis was a type of animal, not even a human. The idea of my music being named after something natural. I didn’t want my music to be under my own name, I wanted it to sound inhuman, organic, and mysterious. 

F: You have been releasing recently more music. Is there a reason for that?

T: There are several reasons. I think I sort of calmed down on some of the more unproductive things I used to do with my time and became better about recording consistently. Now I get bored and aimless if I go a week without recording. I also became a bit less of a perfectionist with my music. I used to be really ambitious, and I still definitely am, but back then I thought that everything I released had to be as catchy and maximalist as I could make it. I thought that would be more popular. Ambient music was easier and often more immediately fun for me to make – the pop stuff would take a full year of labor to write, record, and mix. But I still didn’t mind, because I like making music as a challenge to myself. I like making something better than the last thing I made, every single time. I see it as a skill to pursue, to become better and better at. That part brings me so much joy. 

But in the last few years, I started looking back at my discography and realized that my ambient work, and the stuff I had done only for myself, was performing just as well as my pop music. When I put out Holograph Tapes, or Compositions on Midi and Tape, I was so nervous like “This is pointless, no one will like this, but I had fun making it and I think it’s cool, so I’m doing this for me.” Then ‘Nothing Really Goes Away’ got a lot of attention on TikTok, and ‘The Sky Is Empty’ and ‘I Was Above My Body’ became really popular with Spotify’s algorithm and I was just shocked. I was so proud of those songs, but always assumed it would be my pop music that people would gravitate to. So I’ve been letting myself make a lot more ambient music, and a lot more lofi stuff that I’m really excited about, like the new EP, and the drone album I have released this month. 

I’m still making indie-influenced pop music of course, I even have a collection of 40 demos like that for the next album, but I guess the floodgates have sort of opened for me to make literally anything I like as well. And now that I’m independent, I don’t have to wait on album cycles, press campaigns, label talks, or anything. I can release something every month if I want to, and I record enough music to do so. I used to feel like every album I had to prove myself, and not take risks. But now, it makes sense to release everything I think is cool and trust my listeners to pick and choose what speaks to them most. Even though my standards only get higher, I feel a lot less pressure to make all my music sound the same now.

F: You still have a lot of monthly listeners and your music is quite popular. How do you find that? 

T: This is also partly an answer to your previous question. I’ve been recording so much more music because of my growth on streaming services as well. Right now I’m able to work part-time, and I feel so extraordinarily blessed by that. I don’t go a single day without thinking about how amazing that is. So I feel a lot of obligation and motivation to really go all in. That’s what this monthly listener growth has done for me. I was always really on the fence about whether to try doing music as a career, I guess because I only saw this going so far. I still feel like there’s a plateau in my capabilities, but I’m less worried about that now. I realized to an extent, I am doing music as a career already, haha.

I got some certifications recently, and I’m looking for a job that I can do freelance or part-time so that I can make lots of time for music. But at the moment, this growth has given me a drive to see this through, while I’m still young. This is the best time after all! So it’s made me want to tour, create more merch, do more collaborations, share more stuff on social media, and maybe even do streams where I take music requests, give advice, and talk to my listeners! And most importantly, release music constantly.

F: Do you think having so many listeners changes the way you think about your music? 

T: Definitely, but only to an extent. Beyond what I said in my last answer, I think it’s only changed it as much as the attention back in 2016-2017 changed it. I’m not just making music exclusively for myself anymore, I do think about what my listeners like, and often find myself combing through my older discography for ideas on what I could expand on. When those ambient songs got a lot of attention, I suddenly felt very inspired to put some more time into new ambient music. But I don’t let it go too far. At the end of the day, I always record because it’s fun, and I’ve tried to only release music that I’m excited about, and that I think is cool. If anything, this growth has made me more confident in my taste, that even if I’m worried no one will like something, I should still release it if I like it. I don’t have to keep it to myself – unless I want to, of course. But yeah, definitely also makes me take this more seriously and plan how I could potentially do this for a living.

F: What are your plans for this year or next year regarding your music?

T: So much! I have a drone album releasing on Oct. 13th [hear below]. I’m hoping people don’t have the wrong expectations for it, because it really is drone music, it’s something I hope will be listened to while doing other things, while relaxing. I think it’s really calming and meditative. The singles I’ve released are the most exciting tracks pretty much, haha. The plan is to release this drone album, then a few singles I have lined up, and before the end of the year or January next year, I’ll be releasing an extremely minimalist lofi album I’ve sort of been working on impulsively. I tried stripping back my sound even further than I did in TIOPWAG, and was REALLY excited by the results.

There will hopefully be some collaborations on that one. And one of the singles will be collaborative too, I’m doing a lot of collaborations lately because I’ve been interested in sort of working with others to push past some of my personal limitations and just make something with artists I really adore. Then, early in 2024, I’ll have the next maximalist Orchid Mantis album, and I’m hoping it’ll be my best work. That’s the one I have 40 demos for – it’ll probably become two albums. I want that one to be heavily collaborative too, as long as all goes well.

Additionally, I’ve been trying to find homes for a lot of music I’ve made that is just too far out there for Orchid Mantis. Harpsichord Canvas on Spotify was the trial run for that, but I have a lot more. By the end of next year, I’d like to have maybe 4 projects running, one for a ton of fast electronic breakcore-influenced stuff I’ve been making, another one for the most experimental electronic I make, and potentially one for really ambient soundscape stuff.

I’ve also been helping a lot with a community of devs working on a fangame called Collective Unconscious (based on my personal all-time favorite indie game Yume Nikki), and from my talks with them it seems like I might get permission to put the couple dozen songs I’ve made for that game onto my Spotify as well, so there’ll be a sort of “soundtrack” release too. I’m actually really interested to see what my listeners will think of those songs, a lot of them feel like they could really be Orchid Mantis songs, but filtered through a different lens. Might as well also shout out my own personal video game project I’ve been developing, Out of Bounds, which I am really hoping will come out early next year. It’s about 60% done I’d say, but it’s been on the backburner for months in all honesty.

F: You live in Georgia. Does this state have an impact on the music you make?

T: I could probably think of some ways, but honestly I would say not considerably so. That’s just because I was never someone who went to many shows or played a lot of shows. Not very involved in the local scene, although I’d like to change that. My experience with Orchid Mantis has always been fully online, unfortunately. All my collaborations have been conducted online, except for a few friends I’ve made in Atlanta. My fanbase feels mostly online, rather than localized in Atlanta. I didn’t intend for it to be that way, but I think it stems from me being a homebody, haha. I don’t do a lot, I mostly stay indoors and make stuff.

F: What has the DIY community meant to you and your music? 

T: I’ve always loved my local DIY community, and for a while was a bit connected to the Atlanta house show scene in like 2015-2016, but I always felt pretty removed from it. I was just too anxious about socializing. The online DIY community means everything to me, it’s always been the thing that makes me feel like I’m not alone. It gave me a way to share my music, make tapes, and connect without dropping thousands on PR campaigns and the like. I remember sending dozens of emails myself to tiny music blogs many years back, and every time I got a response, it meant everything to me because I knew they were just reaching back out of love for music and lifting up artists who were just starting out.

F: Which artists have influenced your music the most? 

T: I’m already rambling enough, so I won’t elaborate on these and instead just list some!

DJ Shadow for introducing me to sampling. Express Rising here too, is massively underrated.

BMSR for making Falling Through a Field and giving me a blueprint for lofi pop.

All Orchid Tapes artists like Alex G, Teen Suicide, Foxes in Fiction, Ricky Eat Acid, Blithe Field, and Elvis Depressedly/Coma Cinema, all taught me about sampling, tape recording, atmospheric production, and using older Yamaha/casio keyboards.

Bibio for his ambient album Fi, which made me realize how much I loved the sound of decaying tape, warbliness, the wow, and flutter.

Rei Harakami for teaching me what my personal ideal is for ambient electronica. And for making Owari No Kisetsu, probably my favorite song ever recorded.

Phil Elverum for essentially blueprinting how I write chords and melodies on guitar, probably influenced me the most as a guitar songwriter.

I could probably think of more but that’s probably enough!

F: What does your creative process look like?

T: Honestly it’s always different. Sometimes I start with drums, sometimes I start with bass, and sometimes I have the whole song written on guitar. But, what’s always the same with rare exceptions is that I record while I’m writing. If you write a song, perfect it, and then record it, it’s not as much fun recording it, because the discovery period is already over. You’ve already had that breakthrough, that moment where the song clicks, and you’ve already formed your expectation for what the recording will sound like. That can be good, but I like to have that discovery period, find the chorus, find the sound while I’m recording it. I find I’m happier and enjoy the process more when I do it that way. When I don’t, I’m never satisfied with the final product because it doesn’t live up to my already-developed expectations. So I like to come up with a guitar chord progression, have a vocal sketch, and then work from there. Or literally, just make a drumbeat and start recording guitar parts with no idea where it’ll lead. I just chase what sounds good to me, the next piece of the puzzle is always inspired by the last one I added. And if it’s something I’m happy with, I’ll get excited in this really particular way. 

F: Do you search for the meaning through the music? Does the creative process help you to process your thoughts? 

T: Definitely. It’s not always a part of my songs, but it comes up often. Music is the most meaningful thing I do every day to me. Writing lyrics, I probe myself on things I’m worrying about or memories I’m stuck on, and there is definitely an element of processing and therapy in writing about it. Often, I’ll listen back to a set of songs and realize there’s this subconscious throughline I didn’t even notice. That’s how my albums come together thematically as well, I start to feel like an album is getting somewhere when I notice a concept forming. I also think of my discography as a diary – every year I’ve got a project I can listen to and instantly 

F: Where do you seek inspiration for your lyrics? How do you choose what to include in lyrics and what not? 

T: I get a lot of inspiration from poetry and manga. All media, really. I think ancient poetry can be so inspiring because it’s always felt so inherently lyrical to me. The lyrics for Time Flows from the last album were heavily influenced by Inio Asano’s manga Solanin. I read a lot of esoteric pseudoscientific “non-fiction” as well. It’s a guilty pleasure, even though I don’t take much of it seriously. That does influence my lyrics too. It’s definitely a mix of media influences, and self-reflection on my circumstances – describing events, feelings, nostalgia that I haven’t fully digested in my own life. Memory is the biggest thing, pretty much all of my music is set in the past tense.

When I started recording I didn’t think too hard about lyrics, I was mostly just struggling to make statements fit the syllable count inherent to the melodies I was writing, and making them rhyme. It was a nightmare for me. Back then, I just tried to write something pretty and try my best to make it meaningful to me. It’s still the same now in some ways, but as I’ve grown more confident I’ve started being a lot more emotionally vulnerable and a lot more direct with my lyrics. To others, I’ve been told they sound sort of vague, but they’re crystal-clear to me.

I try to be a bit indirect sometimes so that I can build contrast for when I turn brutally honest and simple on a certain line. That’s a great way to make a lyric stand out. I think good lyrics communicate something you couldn’t say in prose, something a bit too complicated. In the same way, a good metaphor is more emotionally resonant than just saying something outright. Most of my own personal favorite lyrics comment on the biggest subjects – on the world, what our nature is, where we’re all going. What came before this life, what comes after, the nature of time, the nature of feeling. I always get really excited when I feel like I’m approaching something like that.

F: What is your daily job and how do you make music while working? How hard is it to find time? 

T: Honestly? Right now I’m working as a dishwasher, while casually job-hunting. Very part-time though. It’s tough, because it feels like no matter how little I work, during that time I’m always wishing I could be making art instead. I want to make sure I’m never so busy that I’m unable to muster the energy to make art. There are a lot of people I know who are passionate about creating stuff, and songwriting, but work so often that all they can do after a long shift is just relax at home and watch something, or play a video game. For me, it’s not hard to find time, it’s just hard to manage my time so that I put in the hours every day. Every day feels so short, usually when I do record it’s because I pull an all-nighter recording from 10 pm to 6 am, but I always feel practically reborn after that. I do have to give up a lot of my other interests though, I don’t play games or watch TV like I used to, and that’s okay because it makes it more fun when I do, and in the end, I feel much more fulfilled spending my time on art.

F: Do you have any other hobbies besides music? 

T: I’ve been really into movies lately, that’s been the one thing I’ve been putting aside music for. I think it’s just because I was barely watching any the past few years. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve also gotten heavily into game development. I’m pretty much splitting my time 50/50 on music and game dev now, although I’m trying to put a lot more time into music again. 

F: Any favorite or inspirational books or movies? 

T: I love films and books, but I’m not too inspired by them when it comes to music. That said, I was more than a bit musically and conceptually inspired by We’re All Going To The World’s Fair (definitely some subliminal influence on the title of my most recent release), which is just an indescribably genius work in my eyes. On the same note, I’ve been very influenced by the online obsession with liminal spaces or “weirdcore” in the last few years – it can be a bit cringe, but it really does hit me in a personal place. I did a lot of traveling when I was a kid, and some of my clearest childhood memories were of strange spaces like that – airports, schools during summer break, abandoned buildings back when I did urbex, etc. That has an influence on my music for sure. My favorite movie this year was Past Lives!

F: What keeps you motivated to continue making music? 

T: I have to make stuff, that’s the main motivation. I just have too much fun doing it, nothing else compares. I can only really read or play games or watch TV for like an hour at a time these days without getting bored and wanting to create instead. Music is a very instant-gratification form of art if you approach it the right way, more than anything I’ve found so far. You can write a song in an hour, record it in an hour, and be listening to it in the car on the way to work 10 minutes later. Of course, that’s rarely the case, and shouldn’t be the case, but it’s nice how open music is that way. 

The possibilities are endless, and there are so many ways to approach it. I’ll never get bored, I literally have a list of ideas on my phone for different weird things I could try, dozens of them. So there’s always something new to get excited about. Also, I think as long as I’m listening to music, I’ll keep getting these manic bursts of inspiration when I hear something I think is cool! I could maybe see myself eventually moving entirely to a different form of art, although I think that’s unlikely. But I’ll always be creating stuff.

F: What was the most challenging thing in your music (artistic) path?

T: Two things: Stagnation and breakthroughs. Stagnation happens when I go through a period of not being excited by what I’m making, which happened earlier this year. I was recording a lot of indie-influenced pop stuff, that I thought sounded good, but felt I guess too easy or generic. Or too much like treading old ground. I just wasn’t satisfied with it. Now, listening back to those demos, I’m a lot more excited about them, but I had to stop with that for a while and do something completely different. I usually solve stagnation by completely switching up my process. Instead of writing songs on guitar, I’ll make electronic music, or instead of making melodic music, I’ll work exclusively with samples for a while. Or I’ll make an ambient drone. Or try this breakcore stuff that’s so popular lately(which I’ve also been pretty inspired and excited by this year).

Anything that puts me out of my comfort zone. But even then, sometimes it just takes bashing your head against the wall for months to hit breakthroughs. For that, I just have to be patient. Trust the process. Understand you’re going to have terrible recording sessions, but it’s worth it. I have to show up, day after day. If you’re fishing once every few months, you’re not going to catch a big fish. But if you fish every day, the chances get pretty high. Not to mention you get better at it too! I’ve learned to trust that if I put the time in, the breakthrough will come.

There’s actually a third, most important thing too, but I’m going to save it for another question you’ve asked me, it’s my primary advice for any artist.

F: Do you have any set goals with your music? Any milestones you would like to achieve? 

T: I want to release every single month next year, at least on one of my (hopefully) several projects. I also want to tour! A lot of my streams are algorithmic right now, and I’d like to try to develop a more stable fanbase of listeners who are really searching up my music and putting it on their playlists, following what I do next. I’d like to find a manager to help with PR and campaigns, and maybe a new label. For right now though, I’m comfortable seeing how things go as an independent artist. I do plan to hit up a few labels I’d be extremely honored to work with though, I have high hopes!

F: What would you dream to do if anything was possible?

T: I’d like to be able to tour internationally – in the past few years I’ve become obsessed with traveling. The ideal life would be to be able to stay in various countries doing artist residencies, recording, and releasing music. I’d like to be able to split my time 50/50 between recording music and game development and develop a following for my game projects as well. That would absolutely blow my mind if I could have some success as an indie developer. My dream job would be soundtracking video games or films (PLEASE hit me up if you need music for an indie game project, I will work for the tiniest wage, I just want to build a portfolio!!). Obviously, my ambitions are probably a bit too scattered for them all to be remotely possible, but that won’t stop me from trying! Full-time recording artist and indie game developer, that’s the dream.

F: Do you have any advice for artists just starting out or maybe coming back to prior passions? 

T: I have a lot. First of all, before anything else, ask yourself the reason you’re making art, and be truly honest with yourself about it. Then critique your reason mercilessly. I’m not saying to be hard on yourself but to be mindful of what path you’re following. This is inspired by a talk given by Davey Wreden called Playing Stories. It’s the most impactful talk I’ve ever listened to and changed my life as an artist. It’s the most valuable advice I can give, because of how heavily I relate to it. My retelling of it doesn’t do justice to its depth, but what I got out of it is that if you’re making art to prove your value to others or yourself, to get attention, to be complimented on your work, then please be careful. Because that’s okay, that’s normal, but I firmly believe it cannot be your fundamental reason. There’s no satisfaction if you walk that path, you’ll always want more. More attention, more accolades, more success.

There are so many other reasons to make art that will lead you to a healthier relationship with your work and your time: make art because it’s fun, make art to pass the time, make art to express yourself, make art for the joy of developing a skill, make art to relieve stress. But don’t make art so others will like you, don’t make art so you’ll like yourself. Do it to learn about yourself, and to make something you love, to be proud of. Art isn’t supposed to be painful, it’s supposed to be joyful. There’s nothing better than bringing something new into this earth, and knowing it’s yours. This is complicated because it’s normal as an artist to want success so you can afford to spend more time making art – but again, that shouldn’t be the primary reason, only a hopeful side-effect of making your art, and making it the best it can be. That desire should be rooted in wanting to have more fun making art, not to get rich or something. And believe me, it is possible to slowly develop a more healthy core reason, change your mindset, and have a more beneficial relationship with making art. It’s the place we all start from as beginners, after all. I know because I’m working on it every day, honestly.

The rest of my advice really branches off from that advice. First of all, find the things that are compelling to you personally, and then chase them. For me, that’s lofi music, and all the experimentation that can be done with electronics. Influence is healthy, but the things people will connect with most are the things that are most unique to your taste. They’ll stand out. I get this sense that if people want to listen to me try to do popular indie music, they’ll probably listen to someone who does it a lot better. But if I make something that no one else is making, and people connect with it, I’ll be occupying my own niche. That’s what people mean when they say to find your voice. I’ve struggled with that for sure. 

My other advice is to be flexible while you search for what you have the most fun with – nothing else comes first. That’s how you’ll get addicted to making stuff. A good example is that I used to be really unhappy with my songwriting. I hated everything I wrote on guitar, I hated my production. I could tell I didn’t like starting from an empty canvas – so I experimented, and started looking for short, melodic samples that I could write my own chords and melody around. I found that because I liked the sample, there would always be something I liked about the song, even if my songwriting still felt inadequate. Eventually, I sampled less and less, because I got more confident and developed more. Same thing with production – if you don’t feel capable as a producer, limit yourself. A lot. For me, it was making songs on a 4-track, because all it gave me was an EQ and four channels, nothing else. I didn’t have to worry about the endless headache of mixing, effects, compression, etc. etc., and could instead just enjoy recording. I moved on from that too, now I use 4-tracks as another color in my palette. But both those approaches helped me maintain joy in recording.

I struggle a lot with anxiety around returning to projects or starting something new. If you don’t work on something for a while, it begins to feel like this impossible goal you’re terrified to touch – you might ruin it, it might never get done, you might hate it, you get scared. That’s hard to combat, but one stupid trick I’ve learned is to break it down into a more manageable bargain with yourself. For me, that’s essentially just telling myself I’ll work on a song for 15 minutes and setting a timer. When that timer goes off, if I’m not having fun, I stop and do something lazy and easy instead. That works a lot better than you’d think because you’ve sort of tricked yourself into side-stepping the anxiety by turning it into only 15 short minutes of whatever you’re so unmotivated or scared to tackle. It doesn’t work every time, but it works most of the time for sure.

F: In the end, I have one challenge for you. Describe every song from your most recent album there is one place we’re all going in a single sentence, one sentence for each song. 

T: rainwater on the windowsill – waking up in the spare bedroom of your friend’s old house at 4 am, rain beating against the window, recalling a vague dream of your elementary school, abandoned and bathed in white glow.

wish i could be there – walking through some city you’re unfamiliar with, you rest beneath a single streetlight in a black void, feeling lonely.

strange moons – passing through a dark suburb after nightfall and coming to a great bridge over the highway lit up purple and blue, leading you to a shallow sea with gray mountains across the opposite shore.

there is one place we’re all going – black night, shuttered windows, no sound, all familiarity is lost.

canine teeth – catharsis and escape, a long conversation that lasts till morning, regrets that linger forever.

i was here before – total anamnesis, the workings of a vast machine we’ll never understand, in a place that time cannot reach.

flower blooms forever – a tunnel growing wider, swallowing everything it touches in golden light.

sunbeams – your earliest memory, displayed on a crt television screen.

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