Hi! Thanks so much for having me. I’ve been doing pretty well – constantly exhausted, like most people in the 21st century, but otherwise it’s been the best year of my life so far… so I can’t complain, really.
Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Cold Sweat”?
Sure. I guess as far as general information, “Cold Sweat” is the last single released for building a bit of momentum leading up to the album release. It’s got Jonathan Andrew on the bass, Johnny Roccesano on the drums, and Max Feinstein on the guitar… otherwise, it’s a very personal song – I guess most of my songs are pretty personal, actually. It touches on some themes that I explore in a few other songs on the album…
Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?
It wasn’t really so much of an event as it was a feeling – and I guess to put it bluntly, it was the feeling of being a burden on everyone around you, and the general anxiety that comes with feeling that way… even if it’s not actually true. It’s exploring that feeling just before you start panicking a little bit; it might be like, it’s in the middle of the day you’re starting to think these intrusive thoughts… and so you sort of brace yourself and try to handle them as they come. Maybe you start remembering that one super embarrassing thing that happened in middle school. Or, you know, maybe you don’t.
Any plans to release a music video for the single?
Yeah, so I did release a small lyric video. Maybe we’ll consider it? But I think there are other songs that I think better suit a full music video. The lyric videos are really just me having fun learning a new editing program. Currently the big music video release is still some time away – it’s for the song “Phosphene” (track number 10 on the album) and it features a bunch of the musicians in our local music community. I’m super excited for it; it’s looking really beautiful. We’re having a little invite-only event for an early screening with an acoustic set over at the studio in early July. Otherwise, the shooting and editing was by Courtney Collins at Nonlinear Knitting Studios in Jersey City, where we’re doing the show, and Brian Yost and Greg Randolph – two super talented guys as well – helped out in the process with lighting and keeping the shoot moving smoothly.
The single comes off your new album American Ghost – what’s the story behind the title?
So, I guess it comes from my personal experience with my identity (First-and-a-half generation Asian-American male in northern New Jersey). I already knew which song my title track would be when I wrote it, so it was really a matter of naming the song rather than the album. It was always the first track, and in the song, I tried to relay the feeling of being invisible no matter where you are.
And I guess it’s worth mentioning that the song was initially titled “American Dream,” but I didn’t feel that it really captured the song. I was worried people would take it as me wanting to “make it” in America (whatever that means). It’s not that – it’s the feeling of moving through America as if you’re in a dream, and… The dream is actually a nightmare. (Laughs) There’s absolutely a lens of race and gender involved in my processing of this idea, so maybe it won’t resonate with everyone. I think that’s okay though – I wouldn’t claim to say that I understand other people very well, either. I hope that’s okay, too.
How was the recording and writing process?
Oh man. I made so many mistakes. This was my first time even stepping foot into a studio, much less recording an album. I wrote most of these songs in the space of about a year, maybe a year and a half. There are a couple that reach further back, but for the most part, I chose from the songs I wrote and I tried to weave them into an album. I would say I had all the songs thought up and fleshed out at least a little bit about 2-3 months before recording started. I believe the “newest” song on the album is Never Ever (Track 12). That may have been finished just a couple of weeks before recording, actually.
Luckily I came across this scene in Hoboken and Jersey City that was genuinely supportive, super welcoming, and just… overall, full of incredible, kind humans from all walks of life. Johnny – the drummer on Cold Sweat – engineered and mixed the album and helped me through a ton of roadblocks… I went in thinking it would take 3 months from recording to release!! He really put me in place with that one. I had such a blast getting everyone on board and into the studio. I think I came out of the studio a better person than when I went in. I want to do it again… but I think I have to wait. The album came out barely 3 weeks ago, Johnny might actually kill me if I ask him to do recording and mixing on more songs.
What role does New Jersey play in your music?
I don’t think I’ve ever considered that question… Huh. I guess in some ways, a lot. Maybe more than a lot. I would say… that growing up in my area of New Jersey is… an interesting experience. The town next to mine has the highest concentration of Korean-Americans in America. All the posters, buildings, flyers, everything is in Korean, sometimes also in English. But that’s also tying back to that feeling of being invisible. I’ve always kind of felt like I belonged to both an “American” culture, and a “Korean” culture, but at the same time, I’ve felt like an outsider in both. Is that what being Korean-American is supposed to feel like? Sometimes I wonder if that’s how other people feel.
And, you know, like, it’s not as though I faced discrimination and hardship about my race and ethnicity, since the people I grew up with were all generally pretty cool and everyone knew each other pretty well. So, I don’t think I can talk about something like that in an honest way. It would be pretty disingenuous to talk about the difficulties of being an upper-middle class American citizen with a graduate education and a tightly knit family. It’s not as though my family is crazy well to do or anything, but despite that, I’m one of the lucky ones. But I guess, sometimes, you have a feeling and you just can’t shake it, you know?
Where did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?
Um. I would say it draws from a lot of things about me and about my life. I don’t know, I’ve always just tried to write what I understand. And it’s always felt a little strange, whenever I’ve considered personal relationships. They’ve always felt a little foreign to me. So the songs are a lot about how I look at myself in different frames of reference. Maybe in one of the songs, I’m writing from a perspective where you are observing me, and you have to switch all the “I”s and “You”s in the song to really get what I’m feeling. I don’t know. Maybe. Something like that.
Any plans to hit the road?
Yep! We’re hitting the road in August, 15-25. We’re booking shows along a southern route. Heading through Philadelphia and the shore, then making our way through Baltimore and into Virginia. That’s going to be a fun one. Oh man, also I’m really excited – we got booked for a heavy metal show. That’s not typically the sound I have in mind when I write, but I’m hoping to cook up a nice little show for that one. BWQ goes metal. That could be really interesting – actually, it’s already pretty interesting. I’ve been working on new material specifically for that event as a show of appreciation for the opportunity, and some of the things I’m writing are getting pretty weird. I really like it, actually. Sorry, guys (to Jack, Johnny, and Max – friends and band mates in the Project BWQ Live puzzle).
What else is happening next in Project BWQ’s world?
Let’s see. Mostly, just rehearsing and getting some shows ready. We’ve got a show at FM in Jersey City, and July 11th we’re back at Rockwood, stage 1 at 11pm. July 13th locally at Finnegan’s Pub, which is a great little spot in Hoboken… the owner is also a musician and incredibly supportive. And then we’re having our album release party back over at FM Bar & Lounge, Thursday August 2nd. Keep the date! Then we’re off on my first tour, along with a show down in Cape May. So mostly, playing out. And writing. Always writing. And maybe a little scheming. But always writing.