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Mabel Ye aka mobble, No. 09

Get to know this LA-based songwriter and filmmaker combining guitar and animation into bedroom-based projects.

She's twee, twenty, and a twin. Her works - both music and animations - possess coffee shop emotions, a characteristic complemented by a preference for spontaneity and DIYness. A self-described bedroom based musician and filmmaker, her SoundCloud has functioned as somewhat of a testing ground/launching pad for the Mabel Ye sound, which is now crystallizing and taking further flight on her Spotify and other similar distribution platforms. There’s an appeal and authenticity to her fairly unpolished yet fundamentally understanding releases. Several of her songs - “Beautiful brain,” “When Your Life Is Really Hard” - have been transcribed on, which is perhaps the Internet’s most comprehensive lyric database (she didn’t put her lyrics there, but she’s impressed by the fact that others have). Tonally, her uploads seem to range from playful to sad to guardedly optimistic. She likes video games, she likes cartoons, she likes computers and music equipment, and she likes sugar. On December 6th, she uploaded a video to YouTube sharing that "I get some royalty money from streaming on Spotify and stuff, and I recently bought a little keyboard for like 70 bucks with that. So finally after like 7 years of using my laptop, I can use a keyboard. So, that's really exciting." Here’s Mabel Ye.

Who are you?

A visual artist/songwriter/filmmaker.

How do you identify?

Queer? Gay? Asian...girl ...

I understand.

I really have no idea how to talk about myself, let alone use terms people can understand.

You’re 19 (or, at least at the time of your “Still Nineteen” album release, were nineteen). When do you turn 20?

I actually just turned 20 in October!

Happy belated birthday. Has turning 20 emotionalized you in any unusual ways? (Which I suppose is to say, made

you feel emotions besides usual birthday emotions? And so-called usual birthday emotions aren't/don’t necessarily have to be excitement and happiness.)

Hm, I wouldn't say the actual act of turning 20 triggered anything - but I did note that a lot of significant, almost milestone life events are occurring around this time. So, a lot of self-reflection.

What kind of significant almost milestone life events?

Dropping out, getting my first job, messy stuff, etc. It’s made me more aware of my constantly growing distance from my family and past lives.

Did you attend college out of your own volition?

Yeah, it’s entirely optional in the field I chose. I went to meet other like minded people for once. I was pretty studious in high school, but only out of sheer boredom. There was nothing better to do where I grew up, except do schoolwork, draw cartoons, watch YouTube tutorials on guitar.

What were you like growing up?

I had a few friends, and was wary of letting anyone know me too well. I mostly played video games, went swimming, fishing, and generally hung out with my brother growing up. My twin brother is my only sibling. We’re close. Not much to do in Long Island. I think my bitterness toward the environment I grew up in has for sure affected my work.

Is your brother also artistically minded?

It’s neat, he studies computer science right now but he likes comics, writing, music, etc. Similarly I enjoy building/repairing computers, DIY audio gear, stuff like that. So I think because we grew up together we picked up each other’s hobbies.

What kind of music equipment do you use?

Back then it was a shitty 20 dollar Target guitar and a built-in laptop mic. Now it’s…a far better guitar and a nice microphone, but I still prefer using my phone/laptop mic to record some stuff. Spontaneity makes good things.

When and why did you first get the guitar?

I begged my mom for it when I was 13! She finally caved and got that Target guitar. I just wanted to do covers of Adventure Time songs actually.

Nice. You even cited Adventure Time in a fairly recent Instagram post.

Yeah, AT was great. I hope someone puts Marceline and Princess Bubblegum fanart on my grave when I die.

Regarding your phone/laptop mic recording preference: Do you usually end up rerecording these spontaneous recordings with your other microphone?

I usually build off a phone recording for demos, and I’ll rerecord if I decide to put it in an album. With lyrics and sound, my process really depends and sometimes I’ll start a song by playing around with a guitar riff (looping it or etc). Other times I’ll look through my sketchbook and pick out funny stuff for lyrics. However, I find that it only varies to a certain extent, and I do follow patterns/am very habitual with bits of the songmaking process. There are patterns that lie within my methods (eg riff first, then lyrics, etc).

When did you start keeping a sketchbook?

I used to hate keeping sketchbooks - my first was made for a college application, which I got in with. Sometime around my freshman year I learned to enjoy keeping one.

Most of your cover art images are your own designs. How do you choose which image to accompany a song?

By feeling…or at least trying to convey what I felt at the time of recording.

In general, do you find it easier to convey what you feel through sound than through image (or vice versa)? Or would you simply describe the process of conveying feeling through both mediums as being fundamentally different, despite their both coming naturally to you?

As of late, music has been easier to convey a feeling. I think it might be because I draw for a living, so I’ve kinda burnt out that side of expression. Visual stuff, that is.

Your YouTube animations strike me as wonderful and heartwarming little slices-of-life that occur in visually warm and benevolent environments. How do these ideas occur to you, and how long does your average animation take to make?

The animations, usually paired with music, are a spin on some emotion I was feeling at the time. I don’t want to get too specific, and keep things open to interpretation, so I find a way to change the story of the lyrics through what the animation shows. Films take from 5 days to 3 months, depending on the complexity. Looped animations take no longer than 2 days usually.

Do you have any pets?

I had a cat back in New York, he’s in Florida now with my dad actually. Right now, my roommates and I have a kitten we rescued. He’s from the dumpster, our very own dumpster kitten. He’s really dumb.

You currently live in LA. Are you from New York?

I’m from suburban NY originally. Terrible place called Long Island.

Terrible why?

Classic sad suburban teen energy… Long Island, or at least my hometown in Long Island, was an enormously difficult environment to grow up in. I’m still really bitter about it, so maybe in due time I can better reflect on my childhood.

And you lived there from birth until college?

For the first few years I was raised in Queens in NYC. But otherwise, yes.

Are your parents supportive of your endeavors?

Generally, yes.

When did you make your very first song?

I can’t remember…probably back in middle/high school, something about my cat. The first album I made was all about him.

What’s his name and personality type?

His name is Spy, he’s based off a character from the video game Team Fortress 2. My brother and I named him that so we can say the voice lines from the game to him…he’s a big softy, you can pet him anywhere and he won’t budge.

What are some of the voice lines?

Some good lines from the Engineer class (in a gentle Texan accent): “There’s a SPAH creepin’ ‘rahnd heyeer!” and “Hey boys it’s a SPAH!” and etc etc. I think I started playing TF2 around the beginning of high school, or end of middle school.

What does your daily schedule typically look like? What time are you usually falling asleep and waking back up, and what do you do in between?

As of now - I work full time at a major company. So I do that whole 9 to 5 thing, and it’s a little draining. But I kinda like turning into a corporate drone and shutting my brain off for a few hours. When I get back, I usually just dick around and watch biking videos or eat a buncha sugar or something. Then pass out. I think I’m getting old.

In one of your videos uploaded in 2015, you eat and review a Slim Jim. Did the experience catalyze a lifelong love of the snack?

I’d never had a Slim Jim before and I feel like I wanted to document such a historic moment! My diet is…kinda crazy. I run around a lot and I guess exert a lot of energy, because I eat way too much. I’d say I’m addicted to sugar. Sorry mom.

Do you perform live?

I haven’t performed live yet, though I’ve gotten some requests from local venues and stuff. Truthfully I don’t even know if I remember how to play my songs. Eventually, I’d love to try it out though.

Several months ago you posted a video announcement to YouTube titled “all my music is on Spotify now” (captioned “and tidal, googs play, etc etc most streaming services”). Is this to say that the albums are compilations of songs that you’d individually uploaded to Soundcloud?

Yes. A vast majority of my songs are only on Soundcloud, since most of what I make are rough demos. I really enjoy making a lot of slightly bad content more than one polished thing, actually.

Why do you think that is?

More rough stuff (that’s still genuine) is a lot more revealing of the creator’s intent than one very polished almost cherry picked thing.

Your Soundcloud account is listed as mobble. Is this an alias in its own right or more of a mere username?

It started off as a username when I started posting art online, but after almost 10 years of that I’ve kinda grown fond of/attached to it. So it feels like an alias now.

How, if at all, would you describe your musical aesthetic? Would you agree with/are you glad for your algorithmically generated Spotify associations based on your listeners’ Spotify tastes?

Hah, I just checked that tab. I didn’t check it until now - I’m friends with one person, which is cool. Otherwise, the few artists I do know listed there are great. I’m flattered, actually. Musical aesthetic…I’m not sure! As you can see, I don’t give much thought to a lot of what I do...

Which of the artists are you friends with? Did you meet them through the web?

I know Louie Zong. I met him online first, we made a collab album. Last spring when I interned at Cartoon Network, I was on a show he worked on. So that was cool, we hung out and talked about synthesizers.

And your visual aesthetic?

Ah, warm? Scratchy. I care more about the feeling a picture can convey more than how much work went into it.

Your Spotify bio reveals that you’re “a LA based songwriter and filmmaker…”: Do you consider yourself to be one before the other?

Honestly I never considered myself a musician or songwriter until recently, and even still I am very hesitant to attach myself to that label. Mostly out of awareness that I’m self-taught/don’t take it seriously/probably do everything in a wrong way. Similarly, “filmmaker” sounds very...deliberate. I don’t know how to label myself, so those words were the best I could come up with to introduce myself to the general public.

(I know your remark was at least partially said in jest, but there’s really no such thing as a wrong way: It’s like Nicholas Cage said while playing Charlie Kaufman and his fictional twin Donald Kaufman in Adaptation.: “There may be some tried-and-true principles [for screenwriting], but there are no rules.”) “...combining guitar and animation into [your] bedroom based projects.” Do you basically describe all of your works up until now as bedroom based projects?

Yep. Since they were made in a bedroom, and I like the connotation it provides. Everything I make has always been not too developed or serious, an outlet for my brain, just a way for me to dump what’s going on in my head so I can reflect later on.

Who has influenced you?

There’s a Taiwanese singer named Joanna Wang who is flatout inspiring - her most famous songs are covers that her label forced her to do, though. Her newer albums are incredible with storytelling and such … she’s wonderful in that she beat the system and creates great, sometimes bizarre, sometimes childlike stories and music despite a plethora of hateful ex-fans and a demanding industry. Check out and her personal channel

Otherwise, I really like riot grrrl and twee bands from the 90s: Sleater-Kinney, Plumtree, All Girls Summer Fun Band, Go Sailor amongst many. Mr. Twin Sister, Palehound, Pavement, Leslie Feist, Thao, The Blow, and Good Morning are really influential to me, and I’ve probably learned guitar by picking apart their songs by ear. Brockhampton, Superorganism, and Breakbot have got such wonderful, fun production. I have a lot to learn and improve on - listening to music and figuring out how things are put together helps me immensely.

What do you ultimately hope listeners and viewers get from your works?

Solidarity, relatability. Feelings and emotions are so hard to get across and share. I try my best to do that.

Mabel Ye is on Instagram, Spotify, and YouTube.

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By Cloude