After a few name changes, 22-year-old LA born musician Henry Laufer is Shlohmo. He co-founded beat-lifestyle-crew WEDIDIT while he was in high school and dropped out of University to create an album in his bedroom armed only with a MacBook, a couple of blunts and some Bad Vibes. With a sound of lo-fi hip-hop, cassette tape hisses, field recordings and entangled with his own emotional journey, Shlohmo’s music is now played and partied to across the world. Ahead of his upcoming and first-ever Australia tour, he tells us about his first experiences, from dragging bodies through woods to chipmunks singing Michael Jackson.
What first inspired you to create music?
It was probably when I heard a Blink 182 song – All The Small Things – I think. I heard it and wanted to learn how to play it on guitar. I mean I grew up on a lot of punk music. I didn’t listen to electronic or hip-hop music until I was about thirteen or fourteen. I guess what made me want to start moving in this certain direction was really Amon Tobin, DJ Shadow and Boards of Canada, the weirder movie style trip-hop or whatever it was called back then.
Were you surprised by the success of your debut EP Shlo Fi?
[Laughs.] Yeah, I’m still surprised that anyone gives a shit – it’s always surprising. It was released on Myspace, I just had a music page, and I didn’t even know what I was doing. But I made an EP and made the cover for it, I’d always wanted to do my own packaging. I didn’t have an audience or anything; I was just doing it for me. But somehow it got passed around, and eventually it was heard by the Friends of Friends label and they signed me based on my Myspace account.
What was the first track you ever put online?
Before Shlomho I was going by ‘Henry From Outer Space’ (laughs) and I did an EP in 2008 and that stuff was all like house music, like dance-focused electronic music in my later high school years, before I moved back to trip-hop sort of stuff. Basically, the premise of it was that I was making music through the eyes of an alien that crash landed on Earth that had just discovered rap music and weed. And that’s what it sounded like – like a corny alien – like those ’50s American movie portrayals of aliens, who had got smoked-out by himself and listened to rap, and then he tries to make music from the bits of broken equipment on his ship.
Do you remember the first cassette/CD/vinyl’s you ever bought?
My mum got me the Alvin and the Chipmunk’s Christmas cassette, which lead me to Michael Jackson because Alvin did a Beat It cover, I was like ‘This is sick!’ so my mum bought me the Thriller cassette. Then I think I owned the MMMBop! Hanson CD. Those were definitely the first things I remember owning.
What was on the first mixtape you ever made for a girl?
It was probably in high school. It was probably really sensitive. I think there was some Bob Dylan, a Cat Power track, definitely some Telefon Tel Aviv.
What was behind your first LP Bad Vibes?
I’d been at college for like two years [studying Fine Art] and I hated it and dropped out, I wasn’t really sure if music was the right thing for me or what the fuck – I mean there was no money coming in and I was like ‘OK, I better figure out what to do – I need time to make this album’. And I kinda locked myself in my room to make music for a while and I was really fucking bummed out. It was a very whatever time for me. I mean, it’s funny, I think a lot of people that listen to the album think it’s a really positive, nice, trippy, psychedelic album, but for me it was a response to that, I was trying remedy the situation in my head. So it came out nice, but to me it definitely feels like bad vibes. It didn’t necessarily come from a negative place but it came from a filthy bad-boy place. So that was it’s origins, that, and a bad relationship.
The first video that you directed was for Trapped In A Burning House – aside from being creepy, what did it turn out as planned?
I made a bunch of bad videos before, but this was my first for one of my tracks. It was definitely a spooky one. That song was… kinda like an overpowering bummer song and I wanted the video to reflect it. What kinda came to my mind when I was making that song was fucking running through a house that’s on fire, like someone’s childhood house. But obviously, I couldn’t burn a house down, so another thing that came to mind, equally as morbid and not necessarily me doing it – but the image of a person being dragged through the woods, dying. Murdered in the woods, or the last little glimpse life they have. I don’t think I did it well enough – I wanted it to come off, not more obvious, but I kinda wanted it to be lots of little clips of remembering things in your life – that don’t matter. Like arbitrary shit, like the front of your house, or that girl that you liked that one time, your feet on the floor. Like how your bathroom floor looks under your feet. The things that you thought weren’t important, but you can’t really change now. Kinda morbid [laughs] but the finished video is five minutes of someone being dragged through the woods.
What was the first party that WEDIDIT threw like?
We did house parties a lot in high school. We’d just throw a party and jack a sound system and just play shows at friend’s houses. We did like a rap show. Our first real official show was in LA, December – the first one since school we’d all been together.
What happen the first time you ever went to Low End Theory?
It was 2008 and I only remember bits – I think it’s because I just got really baked every time I went there – it was like Ras G and Samiyam and crazy – there would only be like 30 people there and now there’s lines round the block just to get in. It’s wild.
What can we expect from a Shlohmo set when you first get to Australia?
I’ve always wanted to come to Australia but I’m terrified of flying! The idea of flying for that long is terrifying to me. But I think I waited the right about of time. But I think none of you guys have seen my set yet. So I like to play my own music and play out a lot of stuff that really inspired me as a kid, you know, nostalgic stuff, that I slow down. So my stuff, vibe-y but it’s also fun. I like to keep it more party than listening to an entire album of my own music. But I can’t wait to come to Australia and hang out with all the Oz-kids! It’s gonna be dope.