Interview: The Rise of Felix Snow
The first time I heard a Felix Snow track, I was driving down the PCH in Malibu, my dog was riding shotgun - her head poked out the window - the salty ocean air ran a marathon through our hair. The sunset filled the entire sky, the waves crashed along the shore, moving up and down in a graceful and gentle rhythm like they were dancing. The whole thing was very reminiscent of my childhood upon leaving the movie theater after watching anything superhero-related. I was invincible, at my happiest, ready to take on the world, or save it, or just show off my newfound powers.
No doubt, Felix Snow is a character, dark shades on threads on tattoos on gold jewelry, further proven by his online social engagement which some might say rings smart-mouthed or smart-alecky. But dig a little deeper and the operative word is 'smart,' which isn’t a brazen presumption, neither is the fact that his superhuman powers are 100% non-fictional. Maybe he can't fly like Superman or breathe fire like Fire Lad, and maybe he doesn't have physical strength beyond his proportions or even x-ray vision, but most definitely his songs send fans flying high and shielding themselves from Snow's fiery, hand-crafted ability to see what is invisible to others.
I had to learn more. Of course my Q&A with this artist-producer just brought up more questions, but that need for more is exactly what's so exciting. We're witnessing the beginning of Felix Snow's rise. Ditch those skis, snowboards, sleds and spend your money on a chairlift ticket, one-way, to the tip top of the mountain where Snow and his entourage are sitting high.
Does a change in production (acoustic, roomier vs synthetic, atmospheric) affect how you approach your delivery? (If not, tell us how you prepare to cut a new track.)
Being a producer, I'll answer this question this way: yes, the production, along with guidance from me, the producer, affects EVERYTHING about how a singer sings. For 99% of singers you have to get their confidence up - singing and hearing yourself back on speakers is traumatic for everyone - even with those who've done it for 10 years. I'm the confidence guy in the studio - it's all about no ego and all confidence. Trust is huge. Establishing that is 90% of the process.
Sonically, the track pushes a singer a certain way and sometimes they'll nail their role off the bat, but oftentimes pushing a singer to sing softer on a harder track or vice versa can take the song to a new level. You have to be on that talk back like a motherfucker - being their mom, boyfriend, and dad all at once.
Do you have a strong opinion about pop's current emphasis on synthetic tones?
Recorded music has been around for basically no time at all. To view trends in a microscope is a mistake - "recorded music" is the trend of recorded music now. Think of how far tech has come in a decade ... We are still on stereophonic sound in our industry which was invented 50, 60 years ago. For music creation, however we are on the cusp of something revelatory - Ableton is an absolute godsend and is in many ways more organic than playing a guitar. Human feels can be programmed quite easily. I'm like those Jehovah's Witness guys for Ableton.
If we have to look at the advancement of music tech I say we look at vocaloid - look up hatsune miku. It's funny how she's still news to everyone, even in our industry. Our current infatuation with manipulating vocals to sound like a computer and vice versa - which is 100% integral to everything I'm doing now, terror jr, Kiiara, etc. - is the first tiny step towards the computer doing all of the singing. Look at all of the edm/festival audiences - they could give a two shits whether someone is singing live or not. It might as well be a "robot" - or in hatsune's case, a hologram pop star. I'm looking forward to the Elvis Presley vocaloid plugin.
The idea of "computer" or "electronic" music will disappear. The computer is not glitchy and stiff anymore - it's infinitely expressive and gorgeous and has literally ripped down a massive wall young Phil Spector and Brian Wilson would be in awe of.
Tell me about your relationship to production: are you hands on with production, or more apt to just trust another (or fellow) producer?
I can never trust another producer. Nobody is as fast as I am. I've never studied it, but from what I've heard my approach to production is very zen - like that little board they sell where you paint a few strokes on it with water and ink - first thought, best thought, that sort of thing. When you open up your daw, the first hour is where all the magic happens. Anything beyond that is tinkering, which is important, but its the seasoning, not the steak. Pablo Picasso famously attempted to charge a woman thousands of dollars for a sketch that took him 5 minutes to draw - his answer to why it was so expensive is that it in reality it had taken him 50 years to produce.
The only producer that's ever truly impressed me in person is Arca, who taught me Ableton. The only producer that's truly impressed me on record post-computer is Burial and pre-computer I'd say Brian Wilson, Kevin Shields, and Phil Spector.
Pretend a fan is all alone, and about to hear your newest track... Where would they be? What would they be doing?
It's going to sound fucked up, but it would be beautiful if they were dying, in the last five minutes of their life. I think they could really appreciate it in that context.
Favorite pop song? Why does it affect you so much?
Jay Sean - Down. It's the first pop song I ever heard where I got what pop was - it kinda sucks but it's magnificent and everyone knows the words and is happy when they hear it.
Favorite pop act growing up? Why were they everything to you?
Backstreet boys, and in many ways they still are. As long as you love me is perfect. That song by savage garden is also perfect and is a perfect male vocal. If you're to be a guy and sing, you can only sound like a girl, it's the only way it works.
How did you meet kiiara, and where did the inspiration come from for ‘low kid savage’? Any unknown stories during the process you're willing to share?
My friend and now business partner David Singer Vine really pushed me to work with her. Kiiara was our first artist project, and it was working so well on all the necessary levels - creative, PR, personally - I sat him down and said let's do EFFESS. This is too good - we're a machine. Let's do this a hundred times.
We decided to dig into the concept of contrast - giving an artist lyrics they "shouldn't" be singing over beats they would never sing over left to their own devices. If you listen to kiiaras work before she met us it sounds absolutely nothing like what we ended up making with her. And that was the point - to make her forget what a creative comfort zone was.
The rocket ship song - Gold - was the third song we ever made together. The rest of the songs came very quickly after that and we're all made in north hollywood at my apartment where I was living with Gallant. Apt 528, that's a legendary place.
Are you open to new, unsigned artists that want to work with you? What's your advice to those trying to get your attention?
Those are the only people I'm interested in working with. I want to work with someone no one knows. At effess we do everything ground up, no exceptions.
Have your shit in order - in 2016 that means being able to record yourself and send amazing music. Since the inception of Effess I've become really privy to how much being a humble human being is worth, no matter the skill. Being able to carry with you a mix of confidence and humility is the rarest talent. A lot of assholes run this world, but a lot of nice guys do too - be one of them.
What can we expect from you in the coming months/year ahead? Expect Effess' first three acts - Felix Snow, Terror Jr, and Guard - to be dropping the best music of the year. We will be pushing the barrier of what is "normal" to the average music listener. Really addictive, fucked up pop music.