After spending two months in his bedroom recording his debut album as Baths, the ocean-to-sky hued Cerulean, Will Wiensfield suddenly found himself touring the world, playing sold-out shows, championed by the label Anticon and the pioneering Los Angeles electronic music scene. With a sound of vibrant and experimental-pop Baths has drawn an audience he never expected. Talking to ACCLAIM in the middle of a whirlwind Australia/NZ tour we talk about Brisvegas vs. LA and how he almost stopped making music.
You’re only 23, you’ve had huge album that’s being played across the world and you’re currently touring Australia. Does it ever feel strange to you?
It feels totally surreal at times, but most of all I just feel really lucky. I mean there are so many people that create music over a really long time and they never really break through. I was really fortunate that it happened really quickly. I’ve been making music for a long time; since I was like fifteen or sixteen, but I’m still so surprised I’ve made an actual career out of it. Every now and then I just take a moment to check where I am, I mean, here I am in Australia in a cool hotel and talking to you about my music.
Cerulean has a very personal feel to it – were you surprised by the response you had to it?
I’m less surprised about what people like about it, because it is so personal, I think that way it’s always honest. But still, that people have even have heard it shocks me. That people actually give a shit. That people will come see me even in Australia is way cool.
People that aren’t necessarily interested in electronic music, I’ve found, have responded to your album. Is there an intended audience?
I guess it’s kind of an open-ended audience, I mean it leans towards experimental pop music. I think when I’m making music its not necessarily for a specific electronic crowd, and I enjoy listening to lots of different music, so maybe that comes through.
Does your audience ever shock you?
[Laughs.] That’s happened quite a bit actually. I just did a show in Brisbane and there were so many jock-surfer-dudes at my show that were really into it. Like, I had this one guy come up to me and tell me that he had all my music and listened to it all the time and it was so far out of place for me. I was like this is great, even though he was the last person I thought would like my music, he did. That’s happened a few times at different shows – just a strange group of people who listen to my music that wouldn’t have ever spoken to me in high school. So it’s kinda cool. I was being shown around Fortitude Valley before the show and it had such a crazy nightlife. It was so intimidating and scary that I was even a part of it for one night!
How do the smaller shows compare with the kinda big LA scene that you’re used to?
I mean there are just awesome people everywhere; I mean sometimes shows are better than other ones. But LA on any given night will have a hundred things happening but they’re all over the place and you have to drive to get to them. Like Brisbane last night, everyone had just come to the one place.
You’re one of the next-gen electronic musicians, has being from LA shaped your sound at all?
I think so, certainly when I was making Cerulean I was listening to a lot of LA artists. But I’ve been making music on my own since I was sixteen, since before I was aware of that scene. I’m obsessed with pop music and I guess that was really my angle, to experiment with that. The heavier beat music definitely has influenced my sound. With the newer album I’m working on is more focused on taking the traditional pop sound and melodies. I’m very keen on getting the next thing going. Cerulean felt like a stepping-stone to where I want to go with my music.
I mean you started with your previous alias Post Foetus having a more folky sound.
Post Foetus is definitely defunct. It was the kind of umbrella term I was using for my music because it didn’t fit into anything at the time. But as a band name, its like, the worst name ever. Baths is more the name I work under, Baths and Geotic.
So you’re heading away from the ambient kind of sound for the next album?
I’m not actually sure. I mean the new Baths record I want to keep it a little bit of everything, I’m not even sure what to call it yet. But with Geotic I don’t actually have anything in the works for a release. I think it will still be ambient and guitar based though.
I can’t say that I’ve seen many Baths collaborations around – you released Suicide Mission with Groundislava recently. How did the collab come about?
Well Jasper and I actually went to high school together. He and my press agent who is also the owner of Friends of Friends approached me with the idea. And it all happened kind of quickly from that, I just gave him some vocal stems and some melodies, but he actually overlayed them into a track and definitely made it his own sound. I was asked to be in the video too, which was a whole other thing. It was cool.
Is it strange working with someone from high school? Is it like ‘I used to see you in maths – wanna make a track together?’
[Laughs.] Yeah, it all happened so quickly over one afternoon with Jasper. With my electronic music I’ve never worked with someone side-by-side in a room though. I get extremely selfish with my work; I think it would be really hard for me to work with someone directly. I’m selfish with my ideas and lyrics and I just feel more comfortable working alone and I think with collaborating you have to be in that mode – like a band situation where everyone is on the same page. It’s much easier to just work on your part if you’re the bass player, but for two electronic musicians to work together you butt heads a lot more and I can’t work that way. I’ve only done guest vocals and guest production.
I interviewed a duo recently who told me they liked working together because it can get lonely making music by yourself.
I’m very comfortable being by myself and especially after touring. I mean, I spend hours and hours and days by myself and just only seeing promoters and talking to people at gigs. I think I thrive creatively by working alone too and I can get into that space where you come up with ideas and actually get them down. It’s much more satisfying knowing you’ve created something originally. My thrill and what I really get out of music is it can be a very pure expression of one single person. I mean it’s like a glimpse into someone’s head. I get very excited by that personal output. So it’s always been fun for me.
Now the video for Suicide Mission is some sort of alien invasion at a party – who came up with the concept?
Well, Jasper’s brother Barney put everything together. They were like come over for an afternoon and do some green screen work, and they gave me an outfit to wear. It took a couple of takes but it was fun, it was relaxed, I mean it took them a month but I was there for just one night.
Is it interesting to see people’s interpretations of your music?
Yeah, sure. I think when you make a song and you finish it it’s not really yours anymore. People can have their own understanding of it through listening to it and then there’s people who actually take and remix it and do their own thing to it, which is cool. I get kind of bummed out when people use it for a stepping-stone for something else and don’t give credit to you or don’t even ask. And that’s happened to me a few times and I don’t want to name names or anything. But they kind of put on airs that we’ve collaborated when that’s not actually the case. I feel a little bit robbed when people do that. It’s just something I’ve had to come to terms with since my work is all over the internet, like illegal downloads. My music is very personal to me and I can be quite protective of it. I think nowadays with the mixtape culture it’s something I have to get used to.
You don’t like the idea of people not paying for your music?
I get it, it’s not like my favourite thing. But if someone comes up to me and is like ‘Hey, I downloaded all of your music,’ it can be a little bit offensive, and they’re not being polite about it. I understand that it happens, everyone does it. I’m not offended by it, but at least the support the artist in other ways.
It’s kind of an interesting backlash to online music sharing that you can be a huge fan of something and have never paid for it.
It’s like a complicated set of emotions! [Laughs.]
You’ve said you’ve been making music since you were fifteen – what keeps you inspired to do it?
Newness. New things and ideas and sounds and artists. I’m a very, very future orientated person, every time I hear music I’ve never heard before its very inspiring. Or if you watch something, like an animated series, or a film, or something that’s unanalysed and uncut it’s exciting and I just absorb it like a sponge. Making music for me feels like an extended effort in creating something new but at the same time is emotional and melodic. In terms of remaining inspired, all I do is look for something new. I just find vast amounts of media and in that way, there is always something new surrounding me. I’ve never really found myself uninspired.
Well, last year I got sick – I actually caught E. coli, which is why I had to cancel my last Australia tour and I took these antibiotics to get better and for upwards of like three months I just couldn’t do anything. And it was the most apathetic I have ever been. I was so uninspired to make music or even leave the house. And it was just so not my life normally. I’m always so obsessed with music and I could not be bothered. It really threw me, and I think has worked its way into my new record as a point of inspiration – kinda backward, but that brutal amount of apathy became part of my headspace to tap into once I’d gotten better, like an outside influence. So depressing, but that’s the only time I’ve ever been uninspired to not make music. Thank God its over! [Laughs.]