“A lot of music today it doesn’t really bring a huge response out of people.” Says phebreze, “I really like putting it all together and I think that the cover art, what I’m talking about in the song, and the music itself has to make you feel something.” No, it’s not the household air-freshener making that artistic statement. phebreze is a young producer and musician who is gearing up to release his first album. We sat down with phebreze, whose real name is Carter, and chatted with him over Skype.
Interview has been edited for length and clarity.
First off, how did you come up with the name, phebreze?
So I knew I wanted convey like an aesthetic and a style with a name. I really liked breezy and natural imagery so I knew I had to have something with breeze. I had just made a series of playlists on Spotify with replacing the ph with f and that’s how I came up with it. phebreze to me means a refreshing new aesthetic and style of music. Also it sounds and looks cool.
Walk me through the creative process for one of your songs. Say “tropics”.
That one actually had a really interesting process. A lot of the songs start from voice memos, I have 800 recorded, full of song ideas. I have so many ideas and directions at once and it is really hard for me to decide which direction to take and which ones I want to record. So this started as a voice memo in 2015, so I must have been like 15, where I was playing high notes on the keyboard and my friend was just playing around with chords and that’s actually the voice memo at the end of tropics. I’ve actually been working on that song for several months, just coming back to it because I was like “I don’t really know how to feel about it”. And it came to a point where I wanted to put it out but I knew it needed a little something else and so I added the voice memo at the end, just kind of like a record with the crackling, you can actually here me say “yeah I got it” at the end. I’m glad you asked about that one.
Neophantasia, walk me through what exactly that means and why you chose that title for the album.
I came up with this title also when I was 15, in January of 2015, that’s how long the album has been circulating in my mind. I wanted to convey a message of what the album was and what the sound was and I wanted to convey that with a single word. So I thought what if I combine two words that describe me and my ventures in music. Neophyte, a person who is new to like a skill or belief. And fantasia, a unique kind of music. Since it is my first album I’m a new member of the music scene and industry and it is a new a different kind of music, so I just added the ph and there you go.
You have been relatively quiet regarding the new album with the exception of a couple of Periscopes. Walk me through what I can expect on the album.
Right now it’s 13 tracks, around 50 minutes long, and each track is kind of personal and each track really makes you feel something. I’m not going to release a track list but I am going to release a single, so I’ll talk a little about that. Cafune, it’s a Portuguese word: to lovingly run your fingers through your lover’s hair. It’s kind of depressing once you know what it’s about but it sounds like just another love song. It’s about a dream I had where I fell in love with a girl and how I forgot her face after the dream ends. It’s about how I could have this connection with a girl in a dream and how it doesn’t translate to real life. That’s probably one of my most favorite tracks in the whole project. It’s kind of like “I want to have these dreamy adventures with you, even if it can’t happen and even if you’re a dream girl”. The other stuff on the album is different from what I have on my Soundcloud. All of the stuff has lyrics and I am experimenting with a lot of different sounds. Each song should make you feel something. I have synesthesia and I hope that each one of these songs can trigger that reaction even if you don’t have synesthesia and should make you feel and see something. If I had to describe the album it would be a refreshing new sound that’s both personal and makes you feel something. I am very excited for people to hear it. I kind of want to step away from it and get some more inspiration before finishing it so I don’t know exactly when it will come out.
How many takes does it take you to make those Twitter videos?
Well the one that took me the longest was probably Weight Off by Kaytranada and BadBadNotGood. To answer the question it takes me several hours to make them. The first couple of hours is to figure out the instrument parts, I have to loop them and it takes me a while just to figure out the choreography of everything. It takes just as long to record it because just one little fuck up can mess up everything. So I’ll usually start at like 5pm and finish up at about 11. I love making them.
Name some artists that have influenced you.
Tame Impala, just because their sound, especially their Innerspeaker, just blew me away, I knew that I had to make something that gave people the same feeling Innerspeaker gave people. Childish Gambino, especially with his lyricism. Tyler the Creator, just because everything he does is just so beautifully artistic and all of his music endeavors are just really good. Steve lacy and The Internet. Also Abra, I’m forever thankful for everything that she has done, she has helped propped me up especially with where she is right now, she has posted one of my remixes of her songs and she plays my beats on periscopes; she is one of the best ever. Also SZA, Toro y Moi, Kilo Kish, Kendrick Lamar for sure, if we are going older then like Stevie Ray Vaughan, he’s like the first musician I listened to, Anderson .Paak, Flying Lotus, Frank Ocean definitely for sure, Homeshake, Knxledge, Black party and Kari faux, collaborators of Childish Gambino and both have helped me with production. Mac Demarco too, Erykah Badu, Thundercat, Lorde, Nicotine’s Famous Honey, so many others. Just know that if I didn’t mention them I’m probably like “oh shit I forgot to mention you”.
Soundcloud recently laid off 40% of its workers and is struggling financially, what, is your opinion on the place of such an open forum in music today? What does it give the industry?
I think that Soundcloud is a really really good platform to begin to share your music on, you can talk to Chance the Rapper about that. I think that labels could capitalize off of that like “check out this dude that is working his fucking ass off”. Soundcloud has a fan base and they are all super supportive of local artists. I think the whole Soundcloud community is tightknit and really supportive, but I think the reason it is going down are platforms like Spotify and Apple Music giving more perks for larger artists and having larger catalogs. Also they tried making more money with Soundcloud go which was a flop. It sucks that they had to make cuts because Soundcloud is great for both the artist and the listener.
You’ve remixed Bonfire by Childish Gambino and listed him as an influence. What do you think of Donald Glover’s decision to retire Gambino?
I respect it. I would also agree with him that there is always a time and place for an artist and for them to continue to making music that they want. Awaken My Love was revolutionary and out of left field in the best way possible. Donald has a lot of dreams and he wants to pursue all of them before he dies. That’s the thing with all artists, what the fuck is travis scott is going to do when he’s 60? The artist should decide that, like don’t let the people decide when you are done. Just have a fucking great final album and mic drop on the industry. Don’t let other people decide when you stop being relevant. Glover is such a pioneer with so many different careers, and his last album is going to get everyone hyped up for it. I’m really excited to see what he brings to the table for this last album and I think that his decision to walk away from it makes everyone remember that Gambino was the guy that put out four crazy studio albums. You can’t make music until you’re dead because you’re going to peeter out, you just can’t just keep putting stuff out. I think that his decision to end it makes everyone just remember what he did and how great of an artist he was.
Neophantasia comes out later this year.