Location: SF (Excelsior)
When I thought about what “making an album” looked like, my mind always jumped to those warm, staticky behind the scenes clips featuring people like N.E.R.D., Timbaland, Jay-Z and Kanye West during the early 00s. I can set the scene for you if you’ve never seen one. Usually, there’s a big mixing console, dark walls and some remnants of whatever food the artists’ assistant had brought in.
To be fair, there are still plenty of artists who make albums in this way. I’d be lying if I said I don’t still hope to make an album this way.
But I feel thankful to exist in a time when you can really do everything at home — even if that means a sink full of dishes or Youtube on your living room TV can pull you away from the creative process when you LEAST need the distraction.
I made MIATA completely from the white desk in the corner of my living room using Ableton and a bunch of VST plug-ins.
I don’t have access to a lot of synths, keyboards or expensive hardware. I don’t find I need them either, even if I do find them fun to fuck around with. There’s always going to be something cool about physically twisting some nobs and hearing the machine’s response.
The idea for MIATA centered around a pretty simple idea. I started a song on Ableton and hurriedly named the project file SUBURBAN ANGST. I’m not even sure if that song even ended up on the EP. I use random working titles for songs that end up being named something completely different by the time the music comes out. It can get hard to keep track of something on a hard drive that has like eight different names.
I remember thinking about the time in my adolescence when I felt the most alone but also the most free. Moving from the Bay Area to the Sacramento area made me a very specific kind of angsty that I’m actually really thankful for in retrospect. For me, there was always a “world out there” outside of this very blessed but relatively stifling suburban experience. I understand why my parents made the decision but it did create a desperate need to search for something else. The *yearning* started hella early, my guy. My whole family was still in the Bay or in Miami but in a way, I’m thankful I was able to become my own person without a ton of influence from my very big and confusing extended family.
My last two years of high school, after I got my driver’s license, I would drive my Dad’s Miata on random routes around suburban Sacramento. Any extra money I earned from my job working at an Apple warehouse or a movie theater went towards gas and snacks at random pit spots along the way. My cassette-to-iPod adapter was always plugged in and you could expect to hear a heavy dose of blog era rap music ripped straight from Datpiff.
That was a long time ago, but now just a few months removed from leaving my longtime job amid a wave of genuine BULLSHIT, I found myself in a situation that brought back similar feelings. I spent the first couple months of relative unemployment obsessing over MIATA. Working on those four tracks served as a much-needed outlet from the uncertainty and alienation of young adulthood in weird ass late capitalism. If aimless late night car drives in the ‘10s were MIATA’s inspiration, long nights working on music in ’23 wondering where all my friends and colleagues in ~art~ went were the fuel to the fire.
ME BESAS A MI
Listening to this song now, I can see how deeply I’d fallen in love with the Korg MS-20 V VST via Arturia. I layered some rain sounds from my last trip to El Salvador. If you’re even remotely familiar with ‘00s reggaeton, you probably recognize the sample. I’m pretty sure I was listening to Dinamarca’s last album when working on this song and was thinking about ways to incorporate more trance-y melodies over the drums I typically program.
CENTER OF AMÉRICA
London Breed’s comments about Hondurans made me so mad because I just couldn’t imagine a “liberal” mayor saying something like this about any other group without way more backlash. I’m so tired of only hearing about my mother’s country and the people who come from there like they’re a plague and not like a people colonized, oppressed and victimized for centuries trying to survive in a world that is actively hostile to them. I added in some Oscar Romero quotes in there for good measure. He’s a saint now but the fascist Salvadoran government had him murdered when he had the audacity to use Catholicism as a force for social good and resistance. I’ve heard this song played out a couple times and it makes me really happy because I was subconsciously really trying to scream out to the world on this one. Central America is the CENTER OF AMERICA, the continent not the country.
Something for the DJs honestly! And a Lil Wayne sample from a video I’ve never been able to forget — the time he was being interviewed for British press and he knocked over a cup of lean. Early Internet viral moment.
NIKES ON MY FEET
Something weird! Something for the freaks! (In a spiritual sense not a physical one.) I make a lot of reggaeton and dembow-adjacent music and I just felt like re-contextualizing those drums to create something new. I was also really into Friday Night Lights when I was in high school so I picked a sample from Boobie Miles’ character in the movie to help tie everything back together to those late night car drives.