Happy March, folks!
Anyone who releases music knows how tough it is to actually put an album out for the world to see (at least, that’s how I roll). There’s getting an idea, writing it, trying to create instruments that sound like how you hear them in your head. Then there’s the getting frustrated, producing, mixing, mastering, self doubt, and excitement. However, on January, 23rd, NYC based artist, Spaceman Fantastiques was able to defy any negative law that would normally convince an artist to stall on sharing their music to the world, and released two. Writing music for games, film, and for our ears, both albums own a sense of depth and storytelling with one focusing on guitar composition (From The Inside), and the other veering towards synthesizers, electronics, and chip (199X). This month, we’ll take a look at 199X and interview Spaceman Fantastiques learning more about his writing process, what brought him to NYC, and what his goals are as an artist.
‘199X’ is nothing short of beautiful. With its track, being named after different times of the day, this album is so cohesive that it sounds like it was written in 24 hours. I pictured this album being written on the perfect day off: Inspiration starting at sunrise, and as the light shifts and hits varied points of a room, memories and thoughts creating different storylines, adding to one well-read book. Varying between electronic ambiance to those picking up in energy with melodies complimented with rhythms, the tracks really show how a day can progress and how no two moments can stay the same forever.
Starting off the album by paying homage to the classic ‘Ocarina of Time’ with the classic ‘cucco’ call, ‘Sunrise, 199X’ morphs from a retro throwback into a gorgeous whirlwind of tinkering synthesizers. Falling and dropping, and then slowing filtering out, the opening track portrays a short but sweet introduction. My favorite tracks off of most albums happen to be introduction tracks; I think that good songwriters tend to subconsciously play as a DJ while arranging their albums tracks. When thinking of how to best draw in the listener, I always notice a great album tends to start off with something that eases the listeners in, and I feel Spaceman Fantastiques owned it.
‘Sundown, 199X’ is well balanced between airy, sparkling pads and raw, crunchy percussion. This song is one of those awesome car ride tracks that sounds perfect on the a long, drawn out, steady cruise down a highway at night time, harmonized with the soft sound of nearby engines a couple of lanes away. I’m a huge fan of tracks changing up in tempo, and when this track does at 2:25, the bitcrushed textures and halftime feel really made the track for me. Any sort of changeup in a track that’s rhythmic always turns my attention back to the track, whether my mind is wandering or I’m mid conversation. This whole track is what summer in a passenger’s seat sounds like to me.
‘Late Night, 199X’ is my favorite track off the album, and I could easily see it catching the attention of anyone who loves 80’s synthwave. That opening chord is what I feel like pure meditation would sound like if it were music: Calming, pure, and clear. A great deal of the album reminds me of the perspective of driving in a car or riding alongside as a companion; this track, in particular, made me imagine driving home late after a show, with your passenger slowly nodding off, remaining totally motionless except for steady breathing.
Spaceman Fantastiques himself was kind enough to answer a few of the interview questions, so without further ado:
You released two albums on Bandcamp on January 23rd, both of which are very different. What was the inspiration for 199X and From The Inside?
Well, I should start with 199X. I wrote that one last year. It started as a project with a deadline, honestly. I had been in a slump and not been focusing on music for a few months so I decided to give myself a month to write an album. It started as just a bunch of song ideas that I started working on everyday then the idea came to make it into a ‘day’. Something I enjoy a lot is a concept album. It came to me through the sounds I was making. Sounded futuristic, but at the same time, familiar. So, I settled on the idea of a day in the city in the year 199X (I only realized this is the year that Earthbound takes place shortly after I released it, but it was from the idea of 20XX from the Megaman series). Mini story takes place from sun rise, through a busy morning into the afternoon (where an accident happens [which I used a musical SOS rhythm during that break down]), flowing into sunset, a night out at a club and then talking all night until the sun, presumably, rises again. I wanted to do some voice acting stuff for it which held the release of the album for a long time, but eventually settled on releasing it as is.
‘From The Inside’ was completely different in creation. I was struggling with a lot of emotional stress at the time. I stumbled onto a really wonderful guitar VST, and I just started writing — taking the sounds and illustrating my frustrations, my sadness, and my hope. These songs were mostly written in about three days, besides fine tuning and details. The last song, “Para Tí” was written for my girlfriend, Elena. This is the oldest song on the album since I had been writing it over the past year or so. I think they all turned out quite nicely.
Where are you from originally?
I was born in Decatur GA, grew up in Roswell GA, and lived near Cleveland OH for a while.
What brought you to NYC?
I originally moved here to be in a band with an old high school friend, but it didn’t quite pan out the way I had pictured. I didn’t want to leave and I had already signed an 18 month lease so I figured I would hunker down and see where the city could take me.
Tell us more about yourself.
This could easily be a very long section but I’ll keep it as brief I can, but I also don’t have the answer for this question. People tell me I am a joy to be around and I’ve made many wonderful friendships. I’ve also had my fair share of crappy health problems, depression, anxiety, and hurt people that cared for me.
What tools do you use when you create?
Mostly my imagination. I’ve used a lot of instruments in my writing. I’ve played guitar the most in my life, and I have written a large amount of my music with a guitar, but also one of my favorite things is to just listen to the sounds of random synths and let my mind take me away. I listen to what the instruments and tweaks have to say and then figure out how to craft a word, then a sentence. Then figure out how to tell the story I keep hearing. It’s a lot of fun and twice as frustrating, but it’s usually very worth it.
Tell us one story about producing any of the tracks off either album.
In the case of ‘Para Tí’, it was a long road to get where it is now. It started as the intro riff, which was written accidentally while playing around. It stayed that way for a while until I worked out some of the ‘chorus’ chords. Then the more intricate part came out of wanting to have a lead and rhythm all in one. I had those three parts for about a year. During that time I tried to record it a few different times but every time it just didn’t work. From piano, to guitar, to synths, nothing was getting what I wanted from the music. Once I started on this acoustic album, I figured it might be the only place to have it live so I transposed it all into Logic and listened but knew it was missing something: Hope. So, I took a page from Bright Eyes and threw in some horns with a nice up beat strumming pattern and the rest came together just as quickly. It was actually the last song I completed for the album so it also had a triumphant feeling all around.
Releasing one album takes a lot of work, but you’ve done double the workload. What’s your secret to finishing albums on personal deadlines?
Well, besides the fact that ‘199X’ was written in April 2016 and ‘From the Inside’ was written in December 2016, I think the easiest way to keep to my personal deadlines is setting small chunks of time out each day. I’m generally a big picture kind of guy and I get overwhelmed easily with what I want to do. So, it comes down to digestible chunks. even if it is just working an hour a day on something, it helps. Both albums were written by getting to work early most days (about 4 hours early), drinking a large amount of espresso, and then hunkering down to write. I have found it much easier to do this before work or on a lunch break because even after a day of doing nothing (IT can be a boring field at times) the mind grows tired and doesn’t want to focus at night.
What do you do outside of the music world?
Honestly, not a lot. Work. Hang out with friends. Avoid human contact. Recluse. The usual. I have recently jumped into the world of game design, so, hopefully, that’ll go some where.
Do you perform?
Much to my friends disappointment, I do not. It’s not that I don’t want to, but I’ve written most of my stuff lately without trying to have a performing version, and also my anxiety usually gets the best of me in that arena.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Haha. Something I’ve thought about a lot lately, and truthfully, I have no answer to this. I would like to think I’ll stick with game design and have something to show for it by then, but who knows?
What advice about writing can you give?
Just do it. Don’t be afraid to be tired tomorrow. Brains are weird. Also, if you can, ALWAYS TRANSPOSE WHAT YOU WRITE. i have forgotten most of my material because of this haha.
What first drew you to chiptune?
Hm. I suppose the same for most people? I grew up with video games, so that seed was planted. Got into guitar in like 7th grade. Once I realized I could make my own music, I went down that road for a while. Then I found the YMCK 8bit magic plugin, and then I just combined the two. I wanted to tell some stories using that set of sounds.
Where does the name ‘Spaceman Fantastiques’ come from?’
It originally started as a project name for a concept album about the sub planets. It was going to be some kind of dance rock album, or something. I had found a cool picture of a Lego Man with a sword that someone had drawn and the name just came to me. The project got tabled and when I started doing chip stuff, I asked my friend if I could take the name for that project. I had been looking for a new moniker lately, but I think it’s been pretty good to me and accepted that I am not restricted to just the chip tag I started with.
Who created your album artwork?
Haha, actually, I did. I took a bunch of long exposures of an intersection outside my apartment, and did a bunch of editing. It might’ve taken longer to be satisfied with the artwork than it did for the album to be written. I am still very new to the art side of art haha.
My brother actually took the photo for From the Inside. He is quite the photographer, and when I saw that picture i knew I wanted to make an album with it as inspiration.
Definitely keep an eye out for more upcoming releases from Spaceman Fantastiques — I have a feeling that more will be on the horizon soon!
Till next time,
The Unicorn Princess