Recording Under the Influence is a recurring self-titled feature where we ask artists to ignore their musical inspirations for a minute and share what really went into the making of a particular record. Since we’re not quite sure what the hell’s driving the twisted pop tunes on Cerulean (the full-length debut of Baths, available now on Anticon), we went straight to the source: multi-instrumentalist Will Wiesenfeld, who shared the album’s ‘philosophy’ and the strange stories behind a handful of songs. Not quite what we usually get from this feature, but we’ll take it!
“It sounded melodious but impossible to sing along to…I thought that was hilarious.”
Going into the album, I started with a very simple philosophy and some small ideas to try and keep some sort of consistency. I definitely wanted to create a very beat-oriented album, but the main thing was that I wanted both the process and the outcome to be a thoroughly enjoyable experience. I wanted to force myself to have fun–sort of–and to not overthink anything.
The first thing I told myself (I guess this is the philosophy I had…) was that I wouldn’t premeditate anything I recorded on the album. If I felt inspired, I just needed to immediately start recording, and leave the brainstorming to my fingers and my recording equipment. I wanted to get a little outside of my own head, I guess. A huge part of my process is usually to think things out beforehand–reconsidering ideas and throwing tons of things away before I ever actually sit down and begin to record music. I still like that sort of process, but I just wanted this album to feel different: lighthearted and unpredictable, with that sort of â€˜childlike innocence’ thing. I think it helped a lot to not pre-plan it. The actual recording sessions in my bedroom lent themselves to a crazy amount of experimentation, and I got SO much joy out of that.
The other main thing that helped was knowing the title really early on. I fell in love with the word “cerulean” after recording some of the first few tracks I threw away…It has all sorts of positive connotations (it’s derived from the Latin word for “heaven” and “sky”) and it stands for a sort of spectrum of blue hues, not just one in particular. I wanted the album to formulate itself the same way; I wanted this overlaying positivity, and a range of material that still existed within its own little world. It helped a lot–being able to think of the title when bouncing dozens of ideas off of each other. I could hone in on the best decisions much faster, and I felt much more self-assured with each one. Making music is always unpredictable, but I think simple guidelines and ghost rules can help make it so that all the material you’re making has a comfortable level of similarity, even if it doesn’t seem blatantly apparent from song to song.
Aaaaaaaaand, here’s some insight into a couple of the songs on Cerulean:
When I sat down to start recording “Maximalist,” I already had the title. I had heard someone on the Internet describe an artist’s music as being â€˜maximalist’ and taking up all possible audible space, which I though was SO tight, so I pulled out my equipment and I wanted to try and build something of my own to fit the word. The first idea (which turned out to be the best thing) was to literally maximize my resources–I used every single physical instrument I had available to me. I made this wall of guitar, piano, bass, vocals, synth and Casio that was too thick to retain any melody. I was really happy with it–it sounded melodious but impossible to sing along to, as my friend Mario later pointed out. I thought that was hilarious. From there, I just made a simple enough rhythm to ride that wall through the entire song, because I wanted that block of sound to remain the focus.
“Basically I was just vibing. Super hard.”
I was on the Internet (it’s almost literally my entire life) looking at hundreds of drawings of Japanese furry stuff (not pornographic, just gay and adorable or whatever) and a compulsion came over me. I NEEDED to make a song that felt as ridiculous and cutesy as the idea of a bunch of anthropomorphic tigers in Kimonos getting mildly drunk at some Japanese festival. DUH, right? So I got down to doing the thing; I just happened to start with guitar stuff (again, trying not to over-think anything) and fucked with it in Ableton Live for a while until I got this sort of cute â€˜animal’ type of sound. That became the foundation for the vibe of the entire song, and the production fell into place soon after. I think it was actually one of the fastest songs to come together on the album? I also remember being totally thrilled to find the awesome kid samples on YouTube, and even though it was originally a more â€˜adult-cute’ mindset, the title “Aminals” felt way too fitting not to use: Every English-speaking child on the planet has mispronounced the word “animal” the exact same way at one point or another, and it’s ALWAYS awesome and bizarrely adorable
I woke up one day in November of last year (I think?) to the most surprisingly calming weather. I had left my window open overnight; apparently, there was a storm, and it was still raining very lightly outside. Coming off my roof, the water sounded like a trickling old stone fountain or something. The air was totally gray and sort of sad, but there were these birds chirping quietly through the bad weather in some far-off tree…basically I was just vibing. Super hard. Nature. I just laid in bed listening to everything for like an hour before I realized that using that as a backdrop for a song would sound amazing. I got my recording shit together, and I placed my microphone right next to my open window, then let the 5-or-so-minute loop that I recorded play back while I futzed around on the piano. This perfect, emotionally timid little piano part came together, and I recorded it straight away. (So we’re about an hour and 15 minutes in from me waking up, btw.)
I was on such a roll. I was in it– that feeling that you get when you’re recording music and literally every single thing just fits together. Indescribable. This was turning into one of the most natural evolutions of a song I had experienced in a LONG time, and I was so happy that no one was home at the time. I was totally undisturbed and could just work until I could capture this strange emotional state as accurately as possible. Still without the rhythm in place, I began writing the lyrics. The cold, natural smell in my room was totally overwhelming, like there was some other presence in the room. It completely took over the rest of my senses. Hence, “Rain Smell.”
The lyrics came to fruition as naturally as everything else. They ended up simple, repetitive, and strangely reminiscent of something that I wasn’t sure I had actually experienced? Nostalgia that I couldn’t place? I dunno. I was freaking, though, in the best of ways. I think the end result after the rhythm came together was the most satisfied I had felt in a long time. I LOVE MAKING MUSIC. Dude. I’m still losing my shit that there’s a chance I may get to have a career doing what I love to do. AHHHH. LYFE. <3 <3