The Florida Singer-Songwriter Shoots for the Stars with His First Full Length Album.
The indie-pop guy unpacks remarkable beauty in heartbreak.
The galaxy of stars and planetary orbs plays a remarkable role in our everyday lives. Without the moon, we wouldn't have tides and life might not be nearly as thriving, and we'd likely be on a collision course to doom as we speak. But that's all conjecture. What we do know is the starry beings looming over our heads have had an indelible impact on our very way of life for millions of years. From the four seasons and other such naturally-occurring events as hurricanes, tornadoes, and thunderstorms, we are bound by the intangible, which runs in our blood and affects our every movement, mood and encounter, even romantic and heart-struck entanglements.
Tyler John, a singer-songwriter currently out of Florida, maps out a storyboard, on a rather minuscule scale, comparatively. His debut album, the appropriately-named Jupiter, whooshes with spacey synths of the 1980s and zips across a blanket of stars, crashing full-steam into the Milky Way and getting lost in creamy, gaseous matter. Going by Between Giants onstage, John seeks to replenish his chest with greater understanding, turning to his songwriting as a way to reassess his youth, relationships and the big-body of Jupiter itself.
"I lived in Jupiter, Florida as a kid for one year, and since the album was written and inspired here, I thought that was a nice homage for this body of work," John explains of the album, premiering today. "It worked well with the celestial concept, though, because one thing I always loved about the planet Jupiter was that it creates its own auroras. I'm big into astronomy. It is the only planet to do so, and it literally creates light out of nothing. I love that, because at its core, that's what music is. Taking inspiration from whatever form it takes and translating it into a song."
Jupiter pushes and pulls with various synth-pop tones, from the EDM-lite of "Every Night" (featuring Violet Hart) to the hip-hop-looped whirl of "Lie to Me" to the ethereal, stinging, neon-busted glow of "Nevermind," which sees John linking up once again with former bandmate Brett Cameron (of Kalimur). Cameron not only lends his piercing vocal to the latter track but also produces it. While John wrote and produced the majority of the album solo, he enlisted Au Chyld to lay the production in meaty layers for "Cautious," bubbling and thick and warm.
On putting together his debut solo record, he tells Popdust it was born out of similarly-crafted songs that were drawn together on their own. "I eventually found an overlap in a lot of the material I was working on. Extreme cross over in the words and message and instrumentation that I knew had to be a full body of work in order to really shine. I knew from the first single 'You' that dropped last fall what I wanted this record to be."
Jupiter erupts in posh grandeur, smokey-eyed and nurtured and precisely angled. Between Giants is a craftsman of the highest order, and even as an independent musician, his offering is carved and creased with shadowy but reflective insight. Below, John discusses the recording process, several essential cuts and relationships.
Listen to Jupiter ahead of its August 1 streetdate:
What led you to finally writing and recording your debut album? Did it come out of a necessity? Or were you examining things in your life?
I am always writing. That never stops ⎯⎯ it is an outlet for me, so pretty much everything I experience gets translated into some kind of composition. So I have all these songs constantly flowing out, but if I was going to do a record I wanted it to be a piece of work. A soundtrack to a period in my life, or a certain experience or feeling. Cohesive you know? And with this, I found a lot of inspiration from relationships during some of the biggest formative years in my life in a new town and it just felt right putting them together in the same coalescence.
"Colors of Your Mood" is a definite standout, drenched in classically-80s synths and a dance-floor grind. What's the backstory? Did it take time to get the production just right?
This all came from one sentence. A girl said to me, “You don't want me like you think you do." I couldn't find a way to answer that in the moment, so this song was my way of doing so. How I make it all right I guess. Sort of like when you realize all the great things you could've said in your argument from earlier in the day?! I used this song to articulate how I was feeling, that I wanted her and every part that comes with it. Every mood swing, every cold fall night, every impulsive move. I wanted it all. The production was extremely tricky ⎯⎯ I wanted it to incorporate that feel-good 80s electro pop sound without slipping into inauthenticity. The guitar on the track was extremely difficult to record and mix how I wanted it to sound also, it was a lot of work so I am very happy that everyone is loving it.
Earlier this year, you said "Every Night" mirrored the impulsive effects of Florida weather. Were you finding inspiration from other elements or left-of-center sources throughout this album making process?
Definitely. I always carry a notebook with me, and write throughout the day. Sometimes it will be single words or just random incoherent sentences that come from – well wherever they come. Most of the time it's nonsense, but sometimes there are gems. "Every Night" I wanted to be almost jarring in the production, and that stemmed from a major storm that was only happening on half of my house during the recording. Florida is crazy that way. The 'Lie to Me' melody was written as a joke that I sang to my friend over a Snapchat telling her I didn't want to go to the gym. A line that started '5091' was from a conversation I overheard in a supermarket between a couple. Inspiration is everywhere, you just have to go find it!
"Lie to Me" has a sort of spacey, starry-eyed rhythm to it ⎯⎯ from the snaps to the tinkling of synths. You have a hip-hop/spoken word breakdown in the second half. How did that come to be?
I struggled on the bridge for a long time – I could never get it to sound the way I wanted. It was the first song from this cycle that I recorded and was the last to get finished. At one point I realized I never liked the melodies that I was writing for the bridge because it didn't feel like it belonged. The track opens with a phone conversation based on one that I had in real life, so if I had the chance to reply now – what would I say? Once I wrote my response and it took the form of an actual conversation, the song felt complete. And I realized that is why I was never satisfied before that point.
Now, the piano version is quite stunning, a nice contrast to the fully-produced, hip-hop-bred recording. Did you begin writing this song originally on piano?
Yes! "Lie To Me" was originally going to be a ballad, but the song has this theme of a beautifully crafted landscape of lies disguising a crumbling relationship. I felt like that was something that needed to be reflected in the production more. When I added the automated digital synth creating a sort of modern-era type romance within the instrumentation I knew where the song needed to go.
Why not leave it as such a stripped down composition for the final product?
While I love the final version of "Lie to Me," it strayed far from its origin. I tend to get lost in production, and created a piece of art that is almost unrecognizable from where it started. I love both versions, but felt that they were so distinctively separate that each needed to be treated as their own song.
Why include that particular live performance on the album?
This fall, I move up to New York City to pursue my music, and this marked my last performance in Florida. I have lived here two years now, and the experiences I had shaped me into a better version of myself and wrote this album. I figured it was only appropriate that my final show here made the record and showcased 'Lie to Me' in its original form.
Do these two versions fulfill different emotional needs for you?
Not so much ⎯⎯ I think that they just convey different messages. Emotionally both feel just as genuine and expressive but just are different perspectives.
With "Nevermind," you're working with your former band Kalimur. Why did it make sense to reconnect on a song? Do you see it as a sort of bridge from your past to the present and future?
Definitely. My experience with Brett Cameron the lead singer of the band shaped me into the artist I am today. The journey filled me with the confidence to start this project and share my art, so it made sense that my first major release incorporated such a big influencer. And also Brett is a national treasure – any opportunity to work with him is one that I will take.
On "The Reason," you actually mention your "axis is off-kilter." How did that relationship send you into a spiral?
This definitely stemmed from the cosmic mood I was in when creating the album aesthetic – and the relationship was one of those things that just made me question myself. We as people are always craving balance and things that keep us centered, but this girl had the power to change my ideals and life ambitions just for another moment with her. The fact that I was able to act these ways, in almost raw desperation for her, made me rethink who I was and what I really wanted in life. A lot of self reflection came after this. But, you know, I'm not too bitter about it. Just kidding, screw her.
Did this album process make you really examine your life?
Definitely. Some of these concepts covered in the songs aren't written in the moment per se, so it is always interesting approaching music and ideas that you wrote in a different headspace. This made me actually quantify my sources of inspiration and realize just how much certain things affected me.
"You" is another instantly unforgettable moment. Is this the same relationship you've sung about on much of the album?
This one is about a different girl actually, but I loved the common trend between this and 'Colors,' of me chasing women who don't want anything meaningful and me attempting to convince them why it would be great.
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Let's take a look at Nazi-inspired fashion.
Villains always have the best outfits.
From Darth Vader's polished black space armor to The Joker's snazzy purple suit, bad guys always seem to show up their protagonists in the fashion department.
Way more handsome than Batman. static.giantbomb.com
But could there possibly be a real world equivalent to the type of over-the-top villain fashion often found in fiction? It would have to be sleek and imposing, austere and dangerous. Probably black.
Maybe it's him. Maybe it's fascist ideology.
Let's call a spade a spade. From an aesthetic standpoint, the Nazi SS outfit is very well-designed. The long coat tied around the waist with a buckle portrays a slim, sturdy visage. The leather boots and matching cap look harsh and powerful. The emblem placements on the lapel naturally suggest rank and authority. And the red armband lends a splash of color to what would otherwise be a dark monotone. If the Nazi uniform wasn't so closely tied with the atrocities they committed during WWII, it wouldn't seem out of place at Fashion Week. Perhaps not too surprising, considering many of the uniforms were made by Hugo Boss.
Pictured: A real thing Hugo Boss did. i.imgur.com
Of course, today, Nazi uniform aesthetics are inseparable from the human suffering doled out by their wearers. In most circles of civilized society, that's more than enough reason to avoid the garb in any and all fashion choices. But for some, that taboo isn't a hindrance at all–if anything, it's an added benefit.
As a result, we have Nazi chic, a fashion trend centered around the SS uniform and related Nazi imagery.
History of Nazi Chic
For the most part, Nazi chic is not characterized by Nazi sympathy. Rather, Nazi chic tends to be associated with counterculture movements that view the use of its taboo imagery as a form of shock value, and ironically, anti-authoritarianism.
The movement came to prominence in the British punk scene during the mid-1970s, with bands like the Sex Pistols and Siouxsie and the Banshees displaying swastikas on their attire alongside other provocative imagery.
Very rotten, Johnny. i.redd.it
Around this time, a film genre known as Nazisploitation also came to prominence amongst underground movie buffs. A subgenre of exploitation and sexploitation films, Naziploitation movies skewed towards D-grade fare, characterized by graphic sex scenes, violence, and gore. Plots typically surrounded female prisoners in concentration camps, subject to the sexual whims of evil SS officers, who eventually escaped and got their revenge. However, the most famous Nazisploitation film, Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS, flipped the genders.
The dorm room poster that will ensure you never get laid. images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com
Ilsa was a female SS officer and the victims were men. She spent much of the movie wearing her Nazi uniform in various states, sexually abusing men all the while. As such, Ilsa played into dominatrix fantasies. The movie was a hit on the grindhouse circuit, inspiring multiple sequels and knock-offs and solidifying Nazi aesthetics as a part of the BDSM scene.
Since then, Nazi chic fashion has been employed by various artists, from Madonna to Marilyn Manson to Lady Gaga, and has shown up in all sorts of places from leather clubs to character designs in video games and anime.
Lady Gaga looking SS-uper. nyppagesix.files.wordpress.com
Nazi Chic in Asia
Nazi chic has taken on a life of its own in Asia. And unlike Western Nazi chic, which recognizes Nazism as taboo, Asian Nazi chic seems entirely detached from any underlying ideology.
A large part of this likely has to do with the way that Holocaust education differs across cultures. In the West, we learn about the Holocaust in the context of the Nazis committing horrific crimes against humanity that affected many of our own families. The Holocaust is presented as personal and closer to our current era than we might like to think. It is something we should "never forget." Whereas in Asia, where effects of the Holocaust weren't as prominent, it's simply another aspect of WWII which, in and of itself, was just another large war. In other words, Nazi regalia in Asia might be viewed as simply another historical military outfit, albeit a particularly stylish one.
In Japan, which was much more involved with WWII than any other Asian country, Nazi chic is usually (but not always) reserved for villainous representations.
OF COURSE. i.imgur.com
That being said, J-Pop groups like Keyakizaka46 have publicly worn Nazi chic too, and the phenomena isn't limited to Japan.
In South Korea, Indonesia, and Thailand, Nazi imagery has shown up in various elements of youth culture, completely void of any moral context. For instance, in Indonesia, a Hitler-themed fried chicken restaurant opened in 2013. And in Korea, K-Pop groups like BTS and Pritz have been called out for propagating Nazi chic fashion. Usually such incidents are followed by public apologies, but the lack of historical understanding makes everything ring hollow.
So the question then: is Nazi chic a bad thing?
The answer is not so black and white.
On one hand, seeing Nazi chic on the fashion scene may dredge up painful memories for Holocaust survivors and those whose family histories were tainted. In this light, wearing Nazi-inspired garb, regardless of intent, seems disrespectful and antagonistic. Worse than that, it doesn't even seem like a slight against authority so much as a dig at actual victims of genocide.
But on the other hand, considering the fact that even the youngest people who were alive during WWII are edging 80, "forgetting the Holocaust" is a distinct possibility for younger generations. In that regard, perhaps anything that draws attention to what happened, even if it's simply through the lens of "this outfit should be seen as offensive," might not be entirely bad. This, compounded by the fact that Nazi chic is not commonly associated with actual Nazi or nationalistic sentiments, might be enough to sway some people–not necessarily to wear, like, or even appreciate its aesthetics, but rather to understand its place within counterculture.
Ultimately, one's views on Nazi chic likely come down to their own personal taste and sensibilities. For some, Nazi chic is just a style, an aesthetic preference for something that happens to be mired in historical horror. For others, the shadow of atrocity simply hangs too strong.
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Summer Walker returns and is no longer playing games.
Summer Walker loves creating music but despises the music industry.
She regularly considers retirement and ended her 2019 tour early because of social anxiety. "I hope that people understand and respect that at the end of the day I'm a person, I have feelings, I get tired, I get sad," she said in a video post. "I don't want to lose myself for someone else." She was relentlessly vilified for her decision. Fans cited stiff meet-and-greets and chalked up Walker's cancellations to a sense of entitlement.
Then she was presented with the "Best New Artist" award at the 2019 Soul Train Awards, and her hurried acceptance speech was dissected by tasteless memes all across the country. Walker's candid cries for understanding remained completely ignored by years end. The truth of the matter is that Walker suffers from anxiety and stage fright that is all but totally crippling. So she did what any misunderstood artist does, she disappeared and stopped saying anything at all.