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Crywolf on translating his sound to the stage with OBLIVIØN [Tour Review + Interview]

After spending a good chunk of time in the depths of the Huilo Huilo rainforest, working through what he calls his “quarter-life crisis,” Justin Phillips was priming himself for the February release of his new album, OBLIVIØN Pt. 1.

When I am traveling in beautiful places it translates directly to the aesthetic of my music,” Phillips told River Beats. “I’m an extremely visual person, so I love the way that brand new environments affect me creatively.”

The indie-electronic producer and multi-instrumentalist known as Crywolf was not just traveling and celebrating a new album, he was contemplating just how to translate the affect on his album into the live, immersive format. 

The world of Crywolf

Through his own captivating vocal overlays, abstract lyricism, and instrumental beats, Phillips creates the world of Crywolf. It’s a world that is cinematic and surreal, one that takes you into the dark abyss one moment and into heavenly rapture the next. But the sonic aspect is only one piece of the puzzle to his beautifully tortured inner world.

I also think a lot of times it takes an external change to fully realize internal changes and new ways of thinking/feeling. Like dyeing your hair a different color after a breakup,” continues Phillips about how his music is inspired by traveling to new places.

Now comes the time for Crywolf to stop traveling for himself and start traveling for his beloved, growing fanbase. As of dance music’s exalted “sad boys,” Crywolf just ended his album-accompanying OBLIVIØN tour. The show, which in itself is an intimate, emo-indie dance party, matches the dark aesthetic of the album perfectly. Crywolf sings all his new originals completely stripped and vulnerable, rocking his audience to sleep like a baby with a lullaby. In the process, Phillips sees himself front and center channeling some painful emotions of his, everything from frustration and dread, to redemption and atonement.

We caught up with Crywolf leading up to one of his final tour stops for OBLIVIØN, where he got deeply personal about his motivations, his inner frustrations, and coping strategies that led to the making of his latest full-length studio album, OBLIVIØN Pt. 1.

River Beats: Tell us about getting your gear stolen back in 2017. How did affect the way you went about making new music from scratch?

Crywolf: “It was devastating. It wasn’t only a year of new music, it was 7 years of photos, writing, years of project files for older music. Pretty much all the videos and pictures I had from two relationships. Yeah.

I think it made me more comfortable with putting a lot of frustration into the new music. That’s a common theme in a lot of my stuff now. Frustration with life.”

So let’s pick up where we left off about the new album, which dropped early February at the start of tour. What does this album mean to you in only a few words?

“It’s the only way I can express a lot of the seemingly inexpressible things I’ve experienced over the last two years.”

We heard you had so much material for this project that you decided to break it up into two parts. Tell us more. Are they two different themes? Two parts of the same story?

Two different parts of the same story. I knew that the subject matter of all of this material needed longer than just one album to fully express.”

There’s definitely a darker indie vibe going on in this first part. Was this something you were trying to channel? Especially on the darker themes?

I’m never trying to channel anything in particular, just trying to be as honest as possible and follow that internal compass that tells me I’m tapping into a really deep unconscious place.”

The entire first album is soothing and extremely meditative (I actually meditated to it). Is this what you were going for? What do you want people to feel during this listening process? Or what do you think they will feel?

Wow, that’s really cool to hear. I haven’t thought about people meditating to it.

It’s sort of hard to explain what I would hope people would feel with words… it’s sort of the reason I make music instead of writing essays about things. Certain feelings seem too profound to explain with rhetorical speech so I have to express them in the abstract. I guess I tried to when I released the album – “A narrow-beamed flashlight illuminating creatures on the sea floor… a strange mixture of dread and familiarity” – but even that language is primarily metaphor.”

Definitely hear a lot of newer musical elements that I haven’t heard of Crywolf before, especially glitch. What newer elements were you experimenting or working with that you’d like to share with us?

Yeah I experimented with a lot of glitchy and distorted sounds for this album, way more than with previous releases. I was really inspired by noise artists that I like, people that capture abstract dread so well. I used so many distortion pedals and plugins on this album… I feel like at least 70% of the elements are distorted in some way.”

How do you see the album translating into the live stage format? The stage design was visually stunning with an extremely intimate vibe pulsating through the crowd.

It took a long time to build a show that does the album justice, but I think I was successful. The show is a four-part story, with a music video that plays behind the whole thing.

Watch the music video and stream the full 16-track effort here.

 

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