In just three short songs, 21 year-old producer Dylan Seals tackles some dynamic electronic ground on his EP “3″. The chilling arpeggios, beautiful vocal melodies and layered synths weaved into these beats echo, arc, and shimmer, calling to mind producers that project moody atmospheres in their work like Bonobo or Burial. The tracks progress in intensity from the R&B smoothness of “Turquoise” to the glowing, distorted space of “How are you” to the soaring, kinetic snares on closer “Place”. That the EP is less than eight minutes long and leaves a lasting impression shows careful, creative songwriting and production. I spoke with else about influences, soul, and more.
Q: The three songs on this EP are stirring, subtle and downbeat, with plenty of R&B elements from the vocals. Who are some other producers that inspired this style for you?
A: There’s a huge list of producers that inspired me in some way. Guys like Shigeto, Flying Lotus, Arca, James Blake. Every song I make is an amalgamation of songs and sounds that I’ve absorbed from these guys, and my way of spitting that energy back out. I started noticing this year while making a beat, song, or, whatever, that I wasn’t exactly creating my sounds and such based off my influences anymore. I wasn’t thinking, “OK, this synth needs to sound like that vocal thing in Flume’s stuff.” I still do that a shit load, so does everyone, but it’s all becoming more “me.”
Q: Do you approach electronic music first and foremost as a drummer, or do you have to separate yourself making a beat from how you play drums?
A: I don’t think I do. I usually sit down in front of my MIDI keyboard and computer thinking, “I want to make something as good as this, I want to express how I’ve been feeling, lets just make a crazy fucking sound.” There have been a couple of times where I have drum beat in my head for a song that I have, and then I punch it into the computer before I lose it, but so far the two have been relatively separate. I’m trying to blend the two together more though, and did so on this EP. With most of my songs, I’ll record drums after the chords and main idea are down, but with this project I wasn’t going to let myself get away with a shitty drum sample or a phrase that sounded a little messy. Like with “Turquoise,” it took a while to find the right snare sample and adjust exactly where every hit came into play with all the percussion. That should be something I do with every song. As a drummer I should try to perfect each groove, but some of my past beats I just got lazy, which I’m not going to let myself do anymore.
Q: What was the most rewarding part of producing and recording this EP?
A: Hmm..probably finally getting around to work with vocalists and making what would be considered “songs,” not just beats. I also sang a tiny bit on Turquoise, which was a big step for me. I learned a lot in the studio too. Not just about mixing with Sean, but I really loved working with Camille and Kayla- taking their lyrics and adjusting them to fit a phrase, adding a line to fit how I wanted to express some feeling, or directing how to sing the melody I had in my head for the beat. Outside of drumming, I’ve never felt so in my element while working with Kayla and Camille in the studio. That kinda sounds cheesy, but yea. I’m really looking forward toworking with more singers and using my own voice.
Q: This EP features KaylaMims on “Turquoise” and Camille Lummins on “Place.” How did you approach adding their vocals to the mix collaboratively?
A: I made Turquoise during the summer and I knew I needed a singer on it or it would have just sat on my computer and done nothing. The middle section without Kayla’s verse is kind of boring. We both wanted to work together after I checked out her music and after she saw me play, so I sent her the beat to experiment with. About a week later we had a session and everything came together smoothly. With Place, that was a simple beat I made in early September, and again knew if I didn’t get some words on it, it would just sit and go nowhere. I sent it to Alex first to play bass over because he’ll make whatever you just made 10x better with his playing. Camille and I have wanted to work together for a while, and I really heard her voice on this beat, so I got her in the studio and we experimented. Her voice is so great man. It took me a while to figure out how to phrase each word in order to sit on top of the beat nicely, but the hardest part were the lyrics. Took three sessions just for that one verse. I loved the first two lines and how she sang them, but it was hard to find the right words to go along with the next eight bars rhythmically and emotionally. Think we got it though. I knew as soon as she started singing, too, that her voice would be great to manipulate a lot, like with the reverb effect in the beginning, and the re-pitching at the end.
Q: I’ve seen a few bumper stickers recently with the phrase “Drum Machines Have No Soul” on them. Discuss.
A: Hah, that’s stupid. I mean actual drum machines are pretty robotic, but that sticker is proposing that drums recorded in a computer have no soul, which isn’t true at all. The people who made that sticker probably have no idea what it takes to get a good sounding drum beat. So many producers I listen to have amazing drum patterns and can do stuff that a normal drummer can’t. Being able to pick out each individual sample so that they all blend together with the mix takes a lot of patience and good ears. And even if someone is just drawing in the notes into a midi clip, they can still make a kick ass groove. Yea, that’s a stupid bumper sticker. Hippies are annoying.
Q: I feel like the covert art for this EP, particularly the color, nails the mood and atmosphere of the songs. What did you tell Leeaux as he design it?
A: I’m so happy with how the cover came out man. I knew Leo would be great to work with after he saw me play a couple times and dug my music, and after I checked out his work. When we first linked we just experimented with a some colors to work with that we thought went with the music, but I saw this drawing of this guy with that cut off and spiraling head on his twitter and reeeeeally wanted to use it for the cover. I love distorted faces and human bodies that are kind of fucked up to where you can still tell it’s a person, but it’s twisted and abstract. After I saw his drawing, I asked Leo to draw another one but slightly different, with some “stuff” inside the head kind of branching out, implying that there was a lot going on in that dude’s head. Leo drew a few versions right in front of me and after he scanned it and blended it together with the initial covers we wanted to use, we both knew the spiraling head would be perfect. However, it took a bunch of versions for me to get exactly what I wanted. Three days before I released the EP, the cover was flipped upside down and had a little “3” in the corner, but when someone told me that it looked like I was just numbering the photo I was like, “Shit, you’re right. LEEOO!”
Q: What is the perfect space, mental and environmental, to listen to “3″?
A: Hmmm. I mean, I love to listen to this type of music whenever I’m in motion. Walking, running, on the bus, train, car, plane, whatever. I feel like that’d the best time for it. Almost every time I’m in the airport I’ll throw on LA by Flylo or Flume’s debut album. Idk, it’s just the perfect feel for when a bunch of confused and stressed-out people are flowing all around you. I feel like driving at night would be a great space to listen to 3. I’ve yet to hear this fucking thing in a car. I miss my car.
Dylan Seals performs at The Willow 10/21 with AF the Naysayer