Suicideyear is a veteran in the internet era of music. His atmospheric, cloudy sounds served as the backdrop for URL classics such as Yung Lean’s ‘Hurt’, amongst various songs for artists like Black Kray. His unique, catchy sound positioned him next to producers like Clams Casino in the new wave of hip-hop that saw A$AP Rocky, Lil B, Lil Ugly Mane and the Sadboys rise in notoriety.
But something that Suicideyear has subconsciously neglected throughout his 7-year span is the prospect of being pigeonholed. Instead, his soundscapes change with the landscape of music, morphing into new horizons. His new album Color The Weather is his most ambitious release yet, as he dives further into the realms of ambient, pop and experimental music.
When I talked to Suicideyear over the phone last week, he was cooped up inside his house in Louisiana. He had recently bought a Nintendo Switch and was escaping the dry summer weather that sweltered in New Orleans. We talked about his new album, his inspirations and his legacy for half an hour until I let him get back to his natural calling: making beats. You would think that after years of working on a new album, a rest would be anticipated. Although Suicideyear likes to paint his marks on the world outside of the normal boundaries, he still gets there with the same strokes.
Color The Weather is your debut album. What is it about this collection of songs that made you say ‘this is it?’
I had the first version of this album a few years back, and in early 2017 I just recreated the album completely, only leaving one song. This project is super personal me, and the album I had completed before didn’t mean as much to me as I thought it did.
The album title is a reference to a colouring competition that used to run in your hometown of Baton Rouge. What was it about this that was so important to you?
It was the first time I ever saw somebody reach out to kids on a mainstream level, akin to Mr Rogers. Just the way it allowed children to interpret how their days were going. It wasn’t about how well you drew, it was just about drawing your weather.
The deep, Baton Rogue lore that is the album title creates a direct feeling of nostalgia. What are some other things growing up that you enjoyed or were enthralled by that has influenced your craft?
I would definitely say the landscape in general. The national region is crazy. A lot of the stuff both south and east of New Orleans are wild, and there’s a bunch of places that were once superly populated that are now being reclaimed by nature. Southern music was super influential as well, but I say the area is what appealed to me the most.
Visual art seems to be a popular alternative outlet for a lot of musicians – both on a professional and hobbyist level. Is there something you do outside of music that gets your creative juices flowing?
I like to associate a lot of imagery with music. I can start with an image before a song, or a song can inspire the imagery. I keep a nice little iPhone folder full of crazy moments I see in movies or photos I take.
The great thing about colouring competitions is that it encourages the youth to create without boundaries; similar to what you do with production. What motivates you to always break barriers and redefine yourself?
I don’t know. I guess it’s the reason I started making music in the first place. I wouldn’t even say I do all those things myself (laughs), but I guess it’s just that instinct that made me sit in front of a computer and start making beats. It’s hard to say really.
Your single ‘Days Forever’ has an all-encompassing vibe of melancholia. Can you talk us through how this song came together and what you wanted it to say?
It was a song I made with Georgia in a studio in London. I think within 30-45 minutes we had the song 75% fleshed out and ready, and it was just fast, natural and fun. I already had some of the lyrics I wanted down, and there are actually tiny parts of the song where I sample my own voice. I would say this song – and a lot of the material on the album – pulls from adolescence. There were a lot of people that I grew up with that were either abusive or negative, and the album is kind of about me colouring my weather during that time. ‘Days Forever’ itself is about finding that balance of being on your own without hurting yourself or compensating for someone else. As a kid, it can be really easy to become attached to protecting somebody.
When I hear the way you create soundscapes, it feels reminiscent of the wilderness: mountains and waterfalls on a winter day. Is nature something that you think directly affects your sound and style?
Completely. In the last year, I’ve spent a lot of time in north Baton Rouge where it’s rural and filled with wildlife. I feel like for the most part that’s where a lot of the influence is coming from in my music and even the imagery I associate with my sounds. The cover art for ‘Spider Feet’ with (Yung) Lean was shot in that area.
Who, or what were some of the other things that fuelled your creative drive throughout making this album?
Stevie Wonder. His music is really amazing and inspired me to get on the piano. But I would say the biggest influence on the album would be an artist named Grouper who I love, and really just my friends like Nedarb Nagrom who also produce.
Not only does Color The Weather have guest vocalists such as Georgia, but also additional production from the likes of Casey MQ. Is collaboration something you aim to do, or does it make you anxious about having other people contribute to your legacy?
As far as an album, I’ve always wanted to work with people. I met Casey MQ through RBMA and we had already worked on music before this project, making the collaboration come naturally. It’s not something I feel in any way threatened by or worried about you know.
This album does contain elements of your signature sound, yet still marks an insane journey of growth and maturity since a lot of people first heard Yung Lean use your beat on ‘Hurt’. Was it a struggle to avoid being pigeonholed in that era of music?
Not necessarily, because I think a lot of the kids that were into that shit have grown up now, and have grown with us. Lean and everybody else from that era has progressed so much as artists to the point where it’s no longer a factor.
Recently you teamed up with Yung Lean on ‘Spider Feet’, which I feel acts as a to how much you’ve both grown. What was it like reuniting with him, and how did it differ from working together in the past?
It was cool, but it wasn’t much different from when we’ve worked in the past. We still haven’t gotten the chance to get in the studio together, but I had hit him up in his DMs about sending a beat – and after around 16 hours he had sent back a draft for ‘Spider Feet’.
When looking at that era of music you came up in, it feels like a lot of the stuff that was happening on the internet- and has been happening in music for decades comes from a direct southern influence. Growing up in the south, how do you think acts like the 3-6 Mafia helped lead you into a music-making career?
I’ve always been a big fan of Juicy J and DJ Paul’s production, but Lex Luger I downloaded FL Studio in the first place. Before I was even producing I used to watch videos of him on Youtube where he would break down how he would make beats, and it felt like a very communal process. He broke it down like meat, and that process was so attractive to me. I’ve always been a big fan of Lex Luger’s sonics; they’ve always sounded like John Carpenter over hard, gritty beats. I feel like there’s a trend in hip-hop today where the drums and bass are hard – but the synths and keys sound like tiptoeing after you’ve robbed a house (laughs).
You can definitely hear that influence in artists like Metro Boomin – where his beats sound like Twin Peaks over 808s.
Yeah, exactly! His beats are beautiful. Calm, yet hard-hitting.
I personally champion people like you, Yung Lean, Black Kray, Lil Ugly Mane, and others as the godfathers of this new scene that rose into the mainstream from the internet. What do you think the landscape of music would be like today without the obscure realms of URL culture?
It would be super different because even outside of those acts it’s hard to imagine hip-hop evolving at all without the internet. I would have never heard of Lex Luger if it wasn’t for Youtube. I think hip-hop would be almost unrecognisable and there would be a lot more Maroon 5s in the world (laughs).
Would you consider Colour The Weather an extension of what you’ve been building for years, or a completely new canvas of art for you to explore?
I would say its a balance of both. I did a lot of things I’ve never done before throughout the process such as tracking vocals and instruments. But at the same time, I’ve been making this album for close to 3 years.
If you had to paint a picture of what Color The Weather means to you, what would you paint?
Moss everywhere and 35 different creeks intersecting. If raindrops make the sound of a spoon falling every time they hit the ground, that would be this album.
Lastly, what are your plans for the rest of the year? Is there an Australian tour on the cards?
I’m just working on music. Lots and lots of beats, and hopefully some collaborations. I’ve been hit about some Australian shows be fore – I really want to make them happen. Somebody read this and book me!
Suicideyear’s debut album Color The Weather is out now. You can stream it here.
- Photography: Nick Vernet