TOPAZ is a Chicago based musician whose debut album "Faux Linear" is due for release very soon. We connected with this multi-talented artist to discuss his upcoming project, his new single/visual "Bloodshot Eyes", how his time in several jazz groups during high school molded him as an creator and much more.
After reading our exclusive Q&A with TOPAZ, be sure to follow him on social media and listen to his catalog on Soundcloud. Most importantly, be ready to stream/download and share "Faux Linear" as soon as it drops.
Tell us about your upcoming debut album "Faux Linear" in relation to your latest single "Bloodshot Eyes". Is the single a reflection of what we can expect from "Faux Linear"?
The new single is definitely in the same vein sonically as most of the release but I think people basing "Bloodshot Eyes" on their expectation for the rest of it might be a little off. When I started the initial process of writing the songs for the new album I made a conscious decision to focus more on lyrics and vocals more than I have in the past. On my previous EP's, I was preoccupied more with creating a general aesthetic for tracks that kind of blended together but ultimately I think that mindset caused some tracks to lack the cohesion I intended because the vocals and lyrics served more as an extension of the other instruments rather than the thematic forefront of a bigger message. I really tried to make tracks that could stand alone acoustically despite the bombastic nature of a lot of the final product of the mixes. All in all, I'd say Faux Linear is by far the most personal thing I've ever done.
If you had to describe your music to a stranger in three words, which words would you select?
Wow, that's a tough one. Gonna take the cop out approach here and give you much more than three words. Any time someone asks me how I would describe my music it's always a challenge to come up with a short answer let alone one sentence. I don't like to box myself into one genre because my goal is always to create songs that kind of blend a bunch of different styles together. Sure, most people would hear my music and easily define it as dream-pop, psych-pop, or chillwave which I suppose is accurate in a lot of ways but I think the real characterizing factor, for me at least, is the sense of treating my arrangements almost like a film with a beginning, middle, and end rather than a normal ABAB structure. I'm sure that sounds pretty pedantic and I realize those ideas are nothing new but I guess the best way I could condense it would be that I try to make songs that tell a story that rarely repeats itself.
How would you say that your time playing guitar during your teenage years in several jazz groups has molded you as an artist ready to soon drop his debut album?
Looking back, I think playing jazz was pivotal for me in developing my style. It's no secret that there is a jazz influence present in a lot of my music, especially in some of the guitar work and chord structures. I was lucky enough to have some amazing people in my life that I owe everything to musically. Jazz is still one of my favorite things to listen to, the improvisational and free nature of it is something I really value in music.
What do you enjoy most about being an artist and what do you dislike the most?
The thing I'd say I enjoy most about making music would definitely be the level of control and independence it gives me. I'm kind of a lone wolf in that aspect at least in my creative process. I love the idea of picturing something in my head and then executing it on a tangible level. Ultimately, I'd say the feeling of self-worth music gives me is incomparable to anything else. In terms of what I dislike most, and this is kind of obvious for someone at the current place where I am with my music, but being broke constantly is pretty shitty. In any case, I'll take being broke and making music over the money that comes with working a soulless office job any day.
Tell us about your collaboration with i+o on the "Bloodshot Eyes" visual. Describe the process of how the video came together.
That actually started when I first met João Coutinho, one of the main artists behind the video. He was a fan of my music and expressed some interest in collaborating and after seeing some of his work I agreed whole-heartedly. Aside from the video, he is responsible for making the album art for Faux Linear as well. I loved the aesthetic of his stuff and was so happy with the cover he made that I proposed the idea of him doing some visuals for me. I gave him and his partner on the project pretty much full creative leeway and I think they nailed it. The organic and kind of natural style of the visuals is something that I think fits the music quite well. It's rare that I can fully trust someone in a collab type situation so I'm sure down the line you can expect some more work from both of us.
Who are some artists who are/were your biggest influences musically? And how do you stand out from them?
That's an interesting question because a lot of the artists I listened to while making the new album are definitely not similar to my stuff in terms of sound. Getting super into brilliant songwriters like Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, and Randy Newman kind of changed my perspective on music in a way and how I should go about the creative process. However, in terms of really shaping my sound over the years I credit guys like Bibio and Toro Y Moi (specifically his first two albums) with the way I've honed my sound. The idea of mixing organic and live instrumentation with distinctly electronic elements and production techniques is always something really exciting for me. I also have to give credit to YYU because they remain one of my favorite artists. Honestly I'd say the first time I heard their stuff a light bulb went off in my head and their music really resonates with me on a personal level.