Baths’ album, Cerulean, was less a debut than the next incarnation of Will Wiesenfeld. He has been making music for seventeen of his 21 years, released four albums and three EPs under his previous moniker, [Post-foetus]. These recordings brought him attention, not always favorable, but Wiesenfeld was on Anticon’s radar when he made the metamorphosis into Baths. Cerulean, his debut album, was mentioned in year-end lists by both Pitchfork and the AV Club, and Baths is starting the year on his first headlining tour. As he prepared to embark on his East Coast swing, Baths took some time to discuss how he’s coping with the sudden success.
So is the story true: a young man from the mean streets of Chatsworth makes good via electronic music?
What part of the story are you talking about? I live in Chatsworth now, but I was actually born in Tarzana and then grew up in Woodland Hills and Winnetka. It was definitely a very improbable thing. My world growing up was very much a flat line. I had a close group of friends that were very supportive, but I couldn’t have predicted the opportunities that would present themselves. The exponential growth has been amazing.
Who is Baths?
I was [Post-foetus] for a while. The name in and of itself and writing it out is kind of obnoxious, so that’s why it doesn’t exist as much anymore. Baths was created specifically to go along with Cerulean. It’s a very different sound; I hope more mature. I did want there to be some distance, even if it’s all coming from the same place. I also think that Baths is much more of a stamp and easier to remember. The way it sits in my head is that Baths is for a very specific type of music. I might release things that sound very different, the sort of music that I create to fall asleep to, under another name, but Baths is my main creative outlet.
When you sat down in your bedroom to record Cerulean, what was your wildest dream for the record?
In my head, I structured Cerulean as a first album, so I didn’t want to go too far in any one direction. I catered it to a sound that was more easily digestible. I didn’t want to go totally, totally crazy, but I still wanted to be myself.
What is your process?
The fun of it is that it’s always changing. In other words, I guess I don’t have one. The first shred of inspiration for a song can really come from anywhere. There are songs that I’ve written based on a title, some that have started from a piano melody, and some that start from a sonic concept. I’ll hear something in my head where the bass is very, very crunchy, but then looped so hard that it ends up being very light-hearted and then back to crunchy. Stuff like that, where it’s just esoteric weirdness, can come from anything. For Cerulean, it was different for each song. It’s always unpredictable.
Did you have any idea that Cerulean was going to make the splash that it did?
Not really. When I discussed the album with Anticon, it was supposed to be a very soft introduction to my music. The idea was to see how the press responded, and then the second album was supposed to get a much larger push. The fact that it got as much attention as it did was overwhelming and totally a big surprise.
How did you get hooked up with Anticon in the first place?
A friend of mine knows Shaun [Koplow], the manager of Anticon, and showed him my music. The first time he heard it he didn’t like it. I ended up showing my music to Alfred (a.k.a. Daedelus) who really liked it, and took it to some different people, including Shaun. He gave it another listen and liked it this time. We discussed it, and thought that Anticon would be a good fit.
Critics writing about your music have said that you wear your influences on your sleeve. Do you agree with that?
I do and I don’t. I think that critics may think that I like a certain type of music more than I actually do. I listen to all kinds of music, and there’s always the particular thing that I’m geeking out about at the moment. There were a lot of connections made to the album and hip-hop, and I don’t have a big knowledge base about hip-hop. There were some things happening in hip-hip music currently that I wanted to try and translate, but I don’t really listen to a lot of hip-hop music. I wanted to ground Cerulean in that feel, because I think it’s a comfortable place for listeners to be, but my daily listening is more out there electronic music and crazy pop music, lot of female vocalists.
Were you pleased to hear people mention Flying Lotus when writing about Cerulean?
For any musician it’s great to have comparisons like that, but you always want to be your own person. No matter how grandiose the comparison, an artist really wants to establish an identity. It’s immensely flattering, but it’s a double-edged sword. Of course I want to be mentioned in the same sentence as Flying Lotus, but I also want to have my own distinct identity.
So you’re not walking around trumpeting the fact that critics have said that you remind them of Bjork?
No, but that’s still really dope. If there’s anybody that I wanted to sound like other than myself, it would definitely be Bjork.
Has the success of Cerulean changed your life in any great way?
Yes. I’m constantly being given the opportunity to do all these great things and meet a bunch of interesting people. I’m going to be on tour literally until May 8. I’m going to be playing shows for three and a half months straight. If somebody had told me last year that would be the case, I wouldn’t have believed it.
Is it tough for you to play live?
I think it was when I first started, but now it’s kind of a weathered-in thing. I get excited every time I play, and since the show is really only me on stage, that takes care of a lot of the issues I would have with reproducibility or a certain space. I try to get the audience involved in a loop with me. The more excited and into it they get, the more excited and into it I get.
Has there been a moment yet on the tour when you step back for a moment and appreciate what’s been happening?
There have been moments like that at different points during the last year, but I can’t pinpoint any specific one. I try to be very, very honest with myself about what’s happening. All of this is a very frail thing. I could put out this next album that I’m making, everybody could hate it, and it’s over. I plan on making music for the rest of my life, whether as a hobby or as a profession. The goal is that I want to do this forever, and be a professional musician. I also forget what the actual question was, and I’m so rambling.
Have you prepared for the inevitable indie backlash?
Yes. I can tell you right now that the next album is going to be very different and that a lot of people are going to be turned off by it. People who are genuinely interested in my music will give it a chance, and there will be a certain segment that will dismiss it because it doesn’t sound exactly like Cerulean. This is of course all speculation, because I haven’t even recorded the second album yet.
What is the next step?
I try to take things one step at a time. The first thing is to do the tour, and then come May and June I get to actually sit down and record my second album. That’s going to be a lot of fun. I want to do that more than anything. That’s the whole reason I’m doing all of this; I love to sit in a room and make music.
|Blondie, Bonnie Raitt, Helium, Liz Phair, Malaria!, Nina Simone, Poly Styrene, Santigold, Wanda Jackson - Prix Fixe: Oh Bondage, Up Yours! A Tribute To International Women||Parading Through Mardi Gras Music|