CHASE STEPHEN – leaf szn [Interview]

Describe your sound in three words

Lush / Dark / Melodic

You mix guitars with lofi beats. Tell us a few things about your creative process?

So far I still feel pretty new to production and mixing which takes away from my guitar playing but for my recent releases they tend to start off with a guitar rhythm that ultimately sparks a theme or color that I use to develop the song. Usually I add textural elements next and some cliché vinyl crackling to give the music more character. After that I just start riffing around with some guitar leads and use them as a voice for the story that I’m trying to tell. To breakup any creative constraints I like to solo other instruments that I’ve been experimenting with such as keys or bass depending on the mood. Then I kinda sit on my mixes (like most producers do) for a while and debate whether I think the song is good or garbage. The more time I spend on a track the less creative I start to feel and that’s when poor judgement in the mix can start affecting the overall sound. Next thing you know you start bashing yourself for ruining a mix that was good like 5 iterations ago (haha).

Many people consider lofi beats as music to study or relax. For us it is something far more exciting. What are your thoughts?

Considering I came across chillhop and lofi beats while working at my first full-time job after college I’d say it can be great as background music for focusing on tasks but I think I was digging it more as music that I actually paid attention to thanks to artists like L’indecis, Saib and Idealism. Over the years I feel like this genre has become super saturated with beatmakers and not necessarily songwriters considering that most just sample beats and repeat. While I don’t think this genre is intended to be “exciting” like you mentioned, I think lofi beats can be a great foundation for building upon creativity and not having any strict guidelines.

Would you consider performing your music live? What would be your dream performance venue?

The instrumental music I currently write and produce doesn’t strike me as something I’d really perform especially because I feel like it’s kind of cinematic and more suited for sync licensing. Honestly I don’t feel like I fit into the beat scene that much because it’s not my forte and a beatmaker isn’t really what I aspire to be. This lofi stuff was just supposed to be a side project for me so I could get better at mixing and producing for my lyrical projects but I think I underestimated the learning curve of what it truly means to be “good” in these areas (haha). It’s funny because the whole concept of “lofi beats” is to intentionally have low quality sound within your mixes but since this genre isn’t the end goal for me I guess I see it as more of a learning experience for my music that’s yet to come.
As for my dream performance venue I think the Red Rocks or any amphitheater of the likes would be sick to play; maybe some heavy acoustic or rock (haha Red Rocks) since I also write music in those genres but I don’t see lofi beats being a great headliner for one
of these venues.

Favorite producer?

You’re stumping me with some hard questions (haha) I don’t think I can name a fav producer because I don’t really know whether or not some of my favorite artists produce their own music, plus naming a favorite producer would severely limit me in terms of the many different genres that I like. I’d say most recently since I’ve been trying to brush up on my guitar playing that Tom Misch might be one of my favs cuz he’s pretty low-key and he puts out bangers (haha).

Are Spotify playlist curators the new gatekeepers of the music industry?

It seems that way doesn’t it? Maybe some genres more so than others but I feel like the music industry has changed so fast over the past decade (even as I’m still learning) that some musicians are stuck with a label mentality and others are stuck with a starving artist mentality. Even though I’m so new to it all I really enjoy the learning process and not having to answer to anybody when it comes to business or creativity. I know and have worked with people on both sides of the spectrum and it can be detrimental to the artist to have no middle ground understanding. One thing that’s interesting is the global pandemic we’ve been experiencing in 2020 because I’ve seen big labels drop artists like flies and I’ve seen indie artists take some big steps in their careers. I feel like many struggle to see the potential that they could have just by creating good music, branding themselves and learning new skills to better themselves in terms of music as a business and a creator. Back to playlists I actually founded my own label (Le Steez) this summer and a big part of my mission behind it is to have artists supporting other artists. One of the ways I’ve been able to promote this is by creating playlists and running social media ads to target certain audiences which allows me to connect with many artists and helps them to get organic followers, streams and exposure.

One last thing we should know about you?

Umm, big coffee guy over here (haha).

Thank you!

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