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Skydad, No. 03

Get to know this psychedelic pop artist from Texas.

Above all else, this 19-year-old bedroom musician is honest. He makes sure to articulate himself through his chat messages and interview responses in the same rounded, precise way that he does through his music. “Because I need to,” is his succinct yet striking response, for example, to why he makes music at all. “That sounds really dramatic,” he continues, “but it’s true. If there was another way for me to release my emotions, I’d do it, but music is the only thing that works.” Entropy, his first album, was self-released on all online streaming platforms in September. It was made at the house of his two aunts (who are sisters and not lesbians, he makes sure to clarify) and fueled by 12 hour days, caffeine, and solitude.

A bedroom blend of twenty one pilots, Tame Impala, MGMT, psychedelia, and pop music, it may be easy to dismiss Entropy as a fairly undistinguished psychedelic pop debut from a young musician still stylistically and tonally developing. But there’s something to be said for what the album does well (what it gets right, if you will): It’s easy to listen to, it’s fun to dance to, and the lyrics--if you’re one to care about and dissect them--are insightful (they can be found transcribed in the captions of their respective YouTube videos). As the most memorable and moving creative works often seem to, Skydad’s creativity stems from personal experience: “It started to feel like the songs I was making [for Entropy] were conversations between different parts of myself, or imaginary conversations with people who I wanted to tell things to,” he shares. “Loneliness is definitely a big theme in the album.” Despite the inherent accomplishment of Entropy's completion and catharsis, his perfectionism is clear: “The whole album is basically unlistenable for me now. I can’t help but pick it apart.”

Album number two is already in the works. He isn’t imposing a completion and release deadline so as not to rush himself or compromise the music’s quality, but it should be available everywhere that Entropy is available by New Year’s. He's applying the lessons learned from Entropy, so if you like Skydad’s debut, you’ll likely like [Currently Untitled Album Number Two]. He graduated from high school a semester early, moved in with his aunts a year and a half ago, and dropped out of college after his first semester (as an English major). Here’s Texas-native Skydad.

Who are you?

This is such an ominous question, hahaha. I’ve spent like 5 minutes trying to come up with a cool answer, but I guess I’m just a normal guy? I don’t know, I guess that’s why I make music. I’m still trying figure that one out myself.

You’re from Lytle, Texas and now living in San Antonio, Texas. What’s Lytle like?

It’s a tiny, rural town in south Texas, so growing up, there wasn’t much to do except mess around outside, get high, or get into trouble haha. I used to skate with my friends but I never really fit into any one group. I was in marching band but I wasn’t a total band nerd, I was smart but I didn’t care too much about school. Definitely not a sports kid, though. I was super angsty and kind of pretentious, but I think the experience of growing up in a small town, where most of the people around me had spent the entirety of their lives, really drove me to pursue something different from the norm. Small towns are peaceful, but if you’re an ambitious kid, they can feel claustrophobic.

(It’s debatable, but) I like to say that who someone is depends on where someone is. I think your adolescence speaks to that. Do you come from a long line of Texans?

My dad’s side of the family all live in Missouri, so I don’t see them much. My mom’s side all live in Texas.

Did you live with your parents prior to moving in with your aunts?

Yeah, I lived with my parents until I was 17, but it was just kind of suffocating, you know? Living in a small town with nothing to do, surrounded by people who didn’t really understand me. It sounds super edgy but it’s true. I felt so alone there. That feeling hasn’t really gone away since I moved out, but I feel like it was necessary for me to detach myself from that place and those people. I’ll always appreciate where I came from, but I couldn’t stay there. I told my aunt I wasn’t happy, she offered for me to move in with her, so I quit my job and moved in, I think the very next day actually. It was a super impulsive decision, but I stand by it. I just needed to get out and SEE something, you know? The plan was to save up and eventually move to Austin, but now I’m not so sure. Austin is a really cool place and I love being there, but it’s so expensive and the traffic sucks. I think I’m just gonna wait and make a bigger jump, maybe somewhere in California, or Ohio or something. But I’m just playing it by ear for now.

Do you feel like your town or school ever reduced your identity to artsy-angsty-skater-type-weed-smoker?

I don’t know about all that, mostly I just felt like the weird kid. Not cool enough for the jocks, too rebellious for the nerds, too white for the Hispanic kids, too Hispanic for the white kids. I’ve always been somewhere in between. I for sure was categorized as a stoner though, just because of the way I dressed. I wore dark clothes, my hair was long, and I didn’t like to be told what to do.

But I didn’t even really smoke weed in high school until my senior year, and I was scared of psychedelics until after I graduated because of some nasty dissociation I got after trying acid. I was the awkward kid who always had headphones in, listening to weird music. I kind of enjoyed being that, though. I didn’t want to be like everyone else. I got a weird kick out of non-conformity, or maybe I was just a hipster. Nowadays I’m more open minded, and I realize art is art. It doesn’t matter how you try to classify it, it’s about how it makes you feel.

What do you hope listeners feel when listening to your music?

One thing I always try to do with my music is invoke a feeling of nostalgia. I want people to feel at home when they’re listening to it, like they’re 7 years old again without a worry in the world. I like using a lot of bells and synths because those are the sounds that make me feel that way, like I’m in the backseat of my parents’ car listening to the radio and I just feel safe, you know? That’s not something you feel very often when you’re an adult. Usually I’m worrying about bills or whether I should be going to school, but music is my release from that. At the same time, though, I want to make people think. We don’t really have philosophers anymore, at least not in popular culture, so if I can find a way to deliver a message in a way that affects the way people think, that’s really cool to me. “Gimme Some More," off my album Entropy, is a cool example of this. It’s basically a psychedelic pop song, but the lyrics go way deeper than the average pop song. It’s about the concept of the ether, a void inside all of us that we’re constantly trying to fill with either social media, or alcohol, or talking, or anything, really. We’re all addicted to something. But the juxtaposition between that message and the way the song actually sounds just does something to me. The cool thing about music, to me, is that it’s a way of getting a message across that would normally be difficult to communicate. So you can write about some really interesting concepts in a way that’s easier for people to digest.

When did you first articulate to yourself/realize that expressing ideas in an easily digestible way is one of music’s capacities?

There are so many songs that have impacted me in ways I can’t even begin to describe with words. Music has saved my life so many times, even before I started making it. One experience that stands out was during the peak of an acid trip, when things were kind of starting to fall apart. There was a lot of drama going on around me and I was starting to panic because I wasn’t in a comfortable situation, so I went out to my car and put some headphones in to get away from everyone else. I have a couple of playlists that I made specifically for tripping, which is mostly stuff like The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Tame Impala, and Mild High Club. But anyways, I put one on shuffle and closed my eyes, and the first song that started playing was "Across The Universe" by The Beatles. I remember this wave of calm washing over me, all the panic and anxiety melting away.

As I was listening to John Lennon sing those words, “Nothing’s gonna change my world,” over and over, it felt like that song was written specifically for me, to reach me at this exact moment in time. Which sounds incredibly narcissistic, but in that moment I realized just how powerful music could be. Like maybe that’s my purpose, you know? Maybe it’s just that one song, or one phase, that reaches one kid and changes their entire life. Maybe everything happens for a reason—maybe everything I’m going through is setting me up to reach something way better. It was perfect timing, either a complete coincidence or maybe something more poetic. But I don’t know where I would be right now if that song hadn’t played at that exact moment. That was the last time I tripped, by the way. After that, I cut out all the self-destructive things I had been doing and I decided that if I was going to do music for real, I needed to become the best version of myself I could possibly be. All because of one song, written 50 years ago.

You revealed to me through our chat that you wrote and recorded Entropy for about 12 hours a day for two months straight, with short breaks in between to recover and get yourself out of the house. What would you do during these short recoveries? Where would you go?

I would try to hang out with friends and get some social interaction, and if not I would just go for a drive and listen to the music I had been making. I found out that making an album by yourself is a really lonely experience. I would go weeks without having a conversation with anyone or leaving the house, and since humans are social animals, after a while that starts to get to you. But I became pretty comfortable being alone.

What kind of sceneries did you drive through?

There’s a nice curvy road behind my parents’ house that I used to love cruising down while listening to music. It goes on for about 7 or 8 miles, with trees on either side, train tracks running parallel to the road. It’s so beautiful. After a while the curves end and it becomes this long, straight road. It almost seems endless, until you reach the town at the end of it. That’s the one I imagine driving down when I listen to the album. I haven’t been able to actually drive down it while listening to the album yet, but it was definitely in my head when I was making it.

Was it particularly hard to go sober (with the exception of caffeine) when making the album?

I knew that in order for me to create the best piece of art I could, I needed to be able to process everything I was feeling without numbing myself with drugs. I’m not Nancy Reagan now or anything, it was just my personal decision and I’m really proud of myself for doing it, because it wasn’t easy breaking the cycle. A lot of the album is about that struggle, being caught in a loop and constantly trying to get out of it, but ultimately falling back into it. It’s a complicated subject, but I was stuck for a long time, and eventually I got out of it after making some sacrifices and cutting dead weight. That experience informed a lot of the album, and now it’s cool looking back because I know I went through all of that for a reason.

Is it hard for you to be so open in your music?

I was never one of those people who could just talk about what I was feeling. It seemed so easy for everyone else but I could never find the words to say what I was feeling, in a conversational setting at least. So naturally, I started writing. I would keep journals, write poems in class, or dumb short stories, and eventually that evolved into songwriting. I’m an emotional guy, so it was really important for me to have a way to express myself. Songwriting became that for me. Whatever I was feeling, I would try to find a way to express that musically. I’m not religious, but music is a spiritual thing for me, so I want to be as honest as possible in what I’m saying. Every word that I’ve written means something to me. It’s not something I take lightly. I feel like it’s our job as songwriters, as proponents of culture, to try to affect things in a positive way. Music has helped me through some of the hardest points in my life, so if I have the opportunity to show some kid that they’re not alone, that someone else has been through what they’re going through, my entire life is justified.

Why Entropy?

I remember hearing the word entropy in chemistry or something, and it just stuck with me. It’s basically this concept that things lack predictability, that they always fall into chaos, within the inherent balance of the universe. I’m probably butchering the definition, but I felt like it really went with the type of album I was trying to create. I wanted to encompass all the places my mind tended to go, from my manic highs to the depressive lows. We’re all on this roller coaster of emotions, with varying levels of severity, so I wanted to capture that and put it on wax, so to speak. I feel like it also sonically fits, because no one song on the album is like the other. The genres are all over the place, from hip hop, to EDM, to synthpop, to ambient or psychedelic. It’s unpredictable.

Post-Entropy, what's your daily routine been?

Pretty much all I do is make music. I quit my job a while ago to focus on music, so I basically treat it like my job now, even though I don’t get any money from it. I try to make something everyday, even if it’s just a throwaway. My sleeping schedule is beyond messed up though, so I’ll stay up until about 5 or 6 AM making music and then I’ll sleep until around noon, get up, eat something, and start working again. I really hate not being productive so I try to keep myself occupied with something. I rarely go out or even watch TV. I don’t have many friends in San Antonio or money to do stuff, so most of my time is either spent making music or listening to it.

Do you listen to music mostly to discover new artists, or to return to and enjoy artists you’ve listened to before?

I used to be so dedicated to finding new artists, but now I don’t really have the time. I would listen to my Discover Weekly every week, go through the autoplays on SoundCloud, browse YouTube, and all that. Now I pretty much just cycle through the same 10 albums or so, and I’ll listen to whatever projects my favorite artists put out. I try to keep my ear to the ground, but it’s not always that easy.

Are you already working on your next album?

I started working on the second album almost as soon as I finished the first one, and it’s almost finished now, but I won’t give a date because I’m letting it run its course. Most likely the end of the year, though. I’m just writing for myself right now. Making the last album was really stressful because I felt like I had something to prove, but now I’m more confident in my skills as a producer/songwriter and I’m not really seeking validation from anyone but myself. I’ve been pretty much dead on social media since the album dropped because I’m trying to draw inspiration from a very specific place and there’s too much noise on the Internet.

What’s the specific place you’re drawing the inspiration from?

The place where everything gets buried when you don’t wanna think about it or deal with it. The places where trauma lives and depression thrives. That feeling of being a kid and feeling like there’s no place in the world where you’re going to fit in, no matter what. Feeling lost. Like you’re 5 years old, running around the store and all of a sudden you can’t see your mom anymore. The panic that sets in. Like you’re a boat floating in the middle of the ocean, staring at a massive wave that’s about to crash down on you, and there’s nothing you can do about it. But also, waking up on Christmas morning. Falling asleep while your parents are driving and feeling completely safe. The highs and lows of adolescence. These are all the feelings I’m trying to capture with these songs. And how I learned to deal with those feelings. Depression, mania, the ups and downs, the isolation, the anxiety, everything that you feel when you’re a kid who doesn’t fit in, who feels like they won’t ever fit in. Like they won’t ever feel a real connection, or be able to sustain it if they do. I wanted to pose these questions that I used to ask myself, and then I wanted to answer them from the new perspective I gained since growing up and going through what I’ve gone through.

You design most of your song covers and Instagram content. When did you first get into graphic design?

Probably about a year ago. I unfollowed pretty much everyone on instagram to only follow cool art accounts: Graphic designers, 3D artists, painters, tattoo artists. I really wanted to learn to appreciate the visual medium. I’ve always enjoyed taking pictures, so one day I just searched “photo editor” on the app store, downloaded the app with the highest ratings, and I started messing with some pictures I had taken. After I finished, I was like, “Whoa, I could just make my own cover art now.” So I became obsessed with taking and editing photos, just with apps on my phone. That’s all I use to this day, like two or three different apps. There’s no real method to it, it’s just me messing around until I think it looks cool. I love taking the most boring pictures and turning them into something completely unrecognizable.

You have a YouTube lyric video for “Gimme Some More,” fuzzy psychedelic visuals to accompany the already psychedelic album-opener. How long did the video take to make?

Probably two or three hours. I would’ve finished it sooner but the app on my phone kept freezing.

I assume you have a similar interest in eventually making music videos?

I have so many ideas for music videos. I have a folder that I put all of them in, so it’d be a dream come true to be able to make them one day. I know I can, too, I just need to find people to work the cameras, some lights, and Premiere Pro. If I’m in the zone I can edit for hours at a time. Once I get a good camera I’m definitely gonna start messing around with videography some more. But for now, I’m just studying and practicing with what I have at my disposal.

I would also LOVE to direct a short film one day. I actually have a screenplay that I’ve written and would love to be able to make, but we’ll see. I really enjoy writing, and it’s been a dream of mine to work on an animated TV show one day. I just feel like there’s so much you can do with storytelling in the animated format, so I’d love to be able to explore that one day.

Do you believe in God?

Depends on what you mean by God. If you’re talking about some bearded guy in the sky who hates when guys kiss and watches me touch myself, then nah. But if you’re talking about the concept of God, the idea that we’re all connected, that there’s inherent balance to the universe, an ebb and flow, if you will, then yeah, I can subscribe to that. “Deus Sive Natura.” God or Nature. [Editor’s note: When I ask about his all-time favorite lyrics, he cites a line from “PRIDE.” by Kendrick Lamar: “I’d take all the religions and put them all in one service / Just to tell them we ain’t shit but He’s been perfect.”]

Did you grow up in a religious environment?

Sort of, but not really. I grew up going to church and Vacation Bible School, but as I got older we kind of just stopped going. I was Catholic for most of my childhood, but I started questioning things and it stopped working for me. Most of my extended family is really religious and conservative, but my parents and siblings aren’t really churchgoers. You’d definitely be in the minority if you were an atheist, though, which I was for a good while.

Has Skydad ever performed live?

I’m a one-man-band, so unfortunately I can’t perform live just yet. I would love to, though, when the time is right.

Do you have a dream venue?

I think just playing out of state would be crazy. Somewhere in California or New York or something. I can’t imagine playing somewhere like Madison Square Garden yet because the concept of even one person paying to come see me perform is crazy to me. Doesn’t hurt to dream big, though, so we’ll see.

Any dream collaborators?

Definitely Kid Cudi, Tyler Joseph, Kevin Parker, Damon Albarn, Kanye West, and Kendrick Lamar. I feel like I’d click with Vince Staples, too.

I know asking a musician to pick their own favorite songs is like asking a parent to pick their favorite child, but which songs off of Entropy are your favorite?

Right now, probably “Analysis Paralysis,” “Normalcy,” and “How Long?” It constantly changes depending on my mood though, since the songs are reflections of things I go through pretty frequently.

What’s your equipment lineup?

A crappy Macbook Pro that freezes a lot, with a Juno DS-88 and a Moog Sub Phatty. I also have an Akai MPK Mini for when I’m on the go. I really want a Juno 106 or a JV-90, because something about those cheap, vintage sounds just does something to me. It all goes back to that feeling of being young again. I love pretty much everything Roland does, but their vintage synths are unmatched. Really want a Prophet 5 synth, a Sennheiser mic, JV-1080, a melodica, a theremin, plus a bunch of plugins to mess around with.

Why Skydad?

Honestly, I don’t even know. I had been making music for a few months and I finally had something I wanted to upload, so I started making a SoundCloud profile and when it got to the name, I thought about it for like a second and I just typed Skydad, out of nowhere. I didn’t even really think about it in the moment, but looking back it feels like it was meant to be or something. I think I must’ve read the word in an article somewhere and it lodged itself in my subconscious until that moment. I’ve grown really fond of the name, and now it actually means something to me. I see Skydad as something I can strive towards, a more confident version of myself, without all the flaws and insecurities.

And why does Skydad make music?

Because I need to. That sounds really dramatic, but it’s true. If there was another way for me to release my emotions, I’d do it, but music is the only thing that works for me. It helps me work through what I’m feeling without ignoring it or letting it consume me. I think it’s really important for people to have a catharsis, because if not then things start building up and there’s nowhere for them to go, it’s like a kettle boiling on the stove until all of a sudden, it bursts. And that’s not good for anyone. So music helps me release those emotions in a way that’s constructive and positive, and it gives me a sense of purpose, which is something I think we’re all looking for.

Do you have anything to say to prospective listeners who are on the fence about listening to your works?

There’s a line in my song “Mr. Know It All” that encapsulates how I feel. “Feel like I’m punching the ocean, trying to make some waves.” That’s how it feels being an Internet musician in 2018. It’s hard seeing all these crazy talented people (and even some wack artists) who are famous now, and wondering how in the hell I’m going to stick out amongst the noise. But I feel like if I continue to put out genuine, quality content, and I stay true to myself, people will be attracted to that. I see it like this: if each of us is tuned to a certain frequency, representing different levels of understanding, then if I put out content that matches a certain frequency--or a number of frequencies--it’ll reach the people who resonate with it and bounce back to me. But honestly, I have no idea what I’m doing. I’m just hoping for the best.

Skydad is on Instagram, Twitter, Cash App (he appreciates anyone who wants to donate to the cause), SoundCloud, BandCamp, Spotify, and iTunes.

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By Cloude