INTERVIEW: Chris Bartels

1. How would you classify your music?

I have a handful of different projects where I’m always trying various styles, from ambient to synthpop, but I think I definitely borrow moods and types of sounds from one project to the next, whether consciously or subconsciously.

If picking genres, you’d probably describe the Myths and Mold EP as an alternative-indie-folk sort of sound.  For me personally, there are certainly elements of experimentation with the songwriting and production.

2. Who are some of your top 5 musical influences?

Influences are constantly changing for me.  Anytime I’m listening to music now, I hear and think about not only the feel and emotion of the song, but I think about the songwriting itself, and definitely the production of it as well.  It’s a blessing and a curse I’d say, as sometimes it’s hard to just simply enjoy the music for what it is, and not think about how it’s influencing my creative thoughts.

As far as specific artists, J. Views’ latest album 401 Days and his album DNA project has been ruining me (in a good way).  Tame Impala, Sigur Ros, and Toro y Moi are all big influences. Justin Vernon and what he does with Volcano Choir and Bon Iver was definitely an influence for this EP.

3. What do you want fans to take from your music?

I think the highest compliment for me with this EP would be for listeners to take it as an experience, or a journey.  I enjoy discovering artists through singles, but the full album (or EP) is still my favorite art form.  Songs can still be great by themselves, but to me, there’s nothing like the overall picture and journey of an album.  I hope Myths and Mold comes across as just that – a cohesive story, and not just 5 separate songs packaged together.

4. Can you tell us a bit about your latest album? When will it be released and how does it differ from your previous work?

Myths and Mold is my first solo material since 2011, and the 5-song EP will be released independently April 28.

I made a choice to break away from the other songs I was writing at the time stylistically, and go for a more raw and organic feel.  But at the same time, I didn’t want to necessarily give myself rules with it.  So there’s not too many electronic elements, but there still ended up being plenty of layers.  I also tried new things in the studio, be it interesting mic’ing techniques or using time-based or distortion effects in ways I hadn’t yet.  I sing a lot lower in certain spots than I usually do as well.

5. What do you love and hate about the Music Business?

I think there’s more to love than than there is to hate, but of course, there’s ups and downs with pursuing a life in the music industry.  As sort of a catch 22, I love technology and the possibilities with using it creatively for writing and producing music, and at the same time, I feel that there is so much out there now because of the technology available to us, that our attention spans are constantly shrinking.  It seems the trend has gone from listening to albums, then to singles, to 15 second Instagram videos.  It’s a little hard to swallow when you invest so many hours into your work, knowing a lot of the time it’ll pass by listeners after a few seconds.

But I know there will always be a place for albums, and that most of us still have certain albums or songs that we really invest in as a listener and fan.  It can just be difficult these days to stand out or cut through the noise as a musician yourself.

6. What is the best concert you have been to?

Difficult to pick just one.  If I have to though, I’d say Sigur Ros at Orpheum Theater here in Minneapolis.  That was probably 6-7 years ago at this point.  Such an amazing night.

7. What do you like most about playing live?

Bringing your songs to life and seeing it directly impact others is really rewarding.  I love trying different things as far as my live setup, and trying to create an experience live, rather than just a feeling of jumping from song to song.  With my Hi-Fi Cali project, we’ve been experimenting a lot with every show we do – syncing up, triggering, trying various live effects on every instrument – constantly trying to stretch ourselves and what a live show can look like for us.

8. Is there a song on this latest CD that stands out as your personal favorite, and why?

Probably “Missoula.”  It’s sort of the birthplace for this EP and the sound that I went for with it.  When I started writing it, I didn’t have any album plans or anything, I just went for it and did what felt right.  It opened the door for me creatively with the room tones and the types of sounds that made up the rest of the EP.  “Stay” is close behind, though.

9. How have you evolved as an artist over the last few years?

I think I’ve evolved the most with how I produce and the type of mood I’ve been going for with my songs.  Meaning, I’ve been really trying to break out of what “should” or “shouldn’t” be in regards to my songs – both in form and in production.  No matter the project, I’m using noisy, raw or unconventional sound sources and implementing them.  And I’m doing a ton of automated effects or filters and such, really trying to give the song life – getting away from “perfecting” it, or worrying less about having everything so precisely edited.  I really like how this has been hopefully giving my songs a bit more life, more breath, and a more human imprint – even electronic stuff.

10. If you could meet, play a gig, co-write a song, have dinner, get drunk with any band or artist (dead or alive) who would it be?

I think I have to cheat and pick one dead and one alive.  It’s too hard otherwise… I’ll say Prince and Chaz Bundick of Toro y Moi.

11. So tell us what’s next?

We’ve got a Myths and Mold release show at the Turf Club in St. Paul on April 28th.  Then, I’m actually in the midst of writing a handful of new albums with my other projects.  Elskavon and Hi-Fi Cali are most likely the next releases for me.  Down the road is a Bora York album that I’m getting pretty excited about, though, as well.

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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