Entertainment » Music

Baths :: Out & touring & still loving Bjork

by Joseph Erbentraut
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Tuesday Jul 19, 2011

22-year old Will Wiesenfeld (aka Baths, his musical moniker) turned heads with his debut CD last year, "Cerulean." Now the SoCal-based artist is touring the country. EDGE spoke to Wiesenfeld about his music, traveling & his love of Bjork.

Twenty-two-year-old, out musician Will Wiesenfeld has come a long, long way in the year that has passed since he released the debut album, "Cerulean", under his principal musical moniker, Baths. As a classically trained musician growing up on the outskirts of Los Angeles, Calif., Wiesenfeld had long pursued music as his passion on the side of doing "normal" kid things: Finishing high school, attending college, planning elaborate oceanside "coming out" pronouncements to his brother.

But Wiesenfeld eventually came to a point where he felt music needed to move to the front burner. He dropped out of college and poured himself into his ambient-meets-avant-garde electronic music craft. The first result of that effort, Cerulean, is an ethereal listening experience that landed on endless "Best Albums of 2010" lists and has launched the musician into a seemingly endless itinerary of tour dates and engagements all over the world.

That voyage landed Wisenfeld in Chicago this past Sunday for a set at the Pitchfork Music Festival, the annual three-day event that has become a performing outlet for the indie music-centric website Pitchfork. The tour continues with dates in Seattle this week and Montreal the next. (For more on the group and to learn of other upcoming dates, visit Baths' website.

"It might sound like a mess on paper," wrote Pitchfork critic Nick Neyland in giving Cerulean an honorable mention for the site's Album of the Year citations, "but Wiesenfeld is an excellent curator who is capable of tying all these broad strokes together into a palatable whole. He manages to shift expectations even more with the genre-bucking garrulousness of his live show, further adding to the welcome dashes of wit and color that are riddled throughout these recordings."

While Wiesenfeld was taking advantage of a rare break from life on the road in his home in Chatsworth, Calif., EDGE spoke with the talented musician about his life, his music and his love of Bjork, the Icelandic icon.

Lessons learned

EDGE: Hi Will! How are you and what have you been up to as of late?

Will Wiesenfeld: I sort of feel like I’m still in the mode of coming down from tour. I’ve toured pretty much solid from February until May 8 or so. I had a couple of one-offs beyond that but I had just never done extensive touring before. It’s really exhausting and I didn’t prepare effectively.

I’m a little tired out even now and I’m just about to head out on another month and a half or two months of touring again. In the meantime, I’m sort of looking to start recording my new album but I don’t know if I have time to really get in the mode for it. I may have to get into it in September.

EDGE: What do you feel will be some things you’ll do differently when you’re preparing for future tours, based on your recent on-the-road experiences? Any lessons learned?

WW: What’s so funny about that is I didn’t learn too much other than maybe that I need to go with somebody else. So much of my experience in Europe was confusing and slightly boring because I didn’t speak any other languages. In Paris, when I was there by myself, I could only eat what I could point at because I don’t speak a word of French. I ate a lot of very bizarre fast food pasta that was not that great. But going with somebody else, the experience is very different, especially with someone who speaks French. When I was with the French promoters, it was one of the best times I had in Europe.

Story continues on following page.

Watch Baths’ video of "Lovely Bloodflow":

Loves Bjork

EDGE: How do you approach live performance? Do you prefer to stick closely by how a song sounds on an album when you play it in concert or do you veer from that? Who are some electronic musicians who you think do it well?

WW: When I was recording the album, I went into it with the idea of performing it live the way I’d been seeing musicians like Daedalus and Nosaj Thing in LA play. When when they were playing and it was only one person, it was very portable but engaging at the same time. I’m still captivated by them when I see them play.

I wanted to figure out a way to do that more on my own terms, having a pop aesthetic and being able to sing and move through the verse chords. I would record the songs on the album and take stems of them apart and find ways to screw around with them live, altering the beats and rhythms until it turns into something that works well.

For the first four or five months playing live, I had to keep tweaking the live set so it would make more sense but I’m at a point where I’m more comfortable with it now. I know for the next album, I’m trying to veer away from that and go toward a full band aesthetic. My background is in that type of thing, since my old band had five other people on stage, a cellist, a guitar player, drummer, another singer and a bassist. I think it’s makes for a much more engaging show that way.

EDGE: I understand from reading a lot of your press that you are a huge admirer of Bjork. Do you remember when you first heard her music? What impact did her music have on your life as a budding musician and as a person more generally?

WW: It’s an extremely vivid memory. My whole relationship with her music is a perfect guide to my own relationship with music in general. I heard her music in seventh grade and up until then I’d been listening to pop radio and heavy metal. I was in that weird middle school rebellious phase, listening to nu-metal bands like Korn and Linkin Park and all that really, really bad stuff. Then I heard ’Hunter’ for the first time on the Internet somewhere and in that moment, listening to that song, I had a complete re-evaluation of what I was listening to. It was brutally unfamiliar to me.

My parents are not particularly musical people. My brother and I played classical piano and so this was so alien and so foreign and interesting to me. I bought her entire discography as quickly as I could save up to get them at Tower Records when that existed. I followed her music and learned about her collaborators and producers and consequently learned about Mum and Sigur Ros and they became hugely important to me as well. It just expanded from there. Even now, her new project has me more stoked than ever. I feel like her philosophy with music is like exactly what I would like to achieve with my own career, but I’m just starting out so those are some very lofty goals.

Coming out

EDGE: I feel like Bjork becomes a bit of a catalyst for a lot of young indie queers in our generation, especially guys, to come out. What was your coming out experience like?

WW: It was very structured, sort of. I knew I was gay around the time I first heard Bjork, which is hilarious. I only came out in tenth grade, so it took me a little while. I did that whole thing where you sort of build your entire life up in your head as how it would be to not come out. You might get married in the future but then you’d maybe have some secret affair on the side and it just became so convoluted and untrue to me and so weird that I had to come out.

I came out to my brother first and I purposely made it really hilarious and epic. I told him I had a secret to tell him and said we had to drive to Point Dume in Malibu in the middle of the night. I told him I was gay and it was just very hilarious and kind of expected, I guess, that no one thought it was much of a big deal like I thought it would be. I came out to my parents and came out to my friends by telling one friend of mine, who in turn told everyone else he knew. He’s that kind of really loud guy.

EDGE: How did your parents take it? Was it more a shock for them that you were starting a music career?

WW: I think being a musician was a bigger stretch to my mom. It was difficult for her to envision me not going to school and getting a degree anymore. I was in college and up until that time I’d been recording on my own. I had seven or eight albums and three EPs of my own material. Most of it was garbage but I was super passionate about it and was still working toward that. I basically came to the decision that it was then or never. I was going to have to pursue making music full time and write my own stuff and everything. I left school and to do that was really tough for her to come around and see I could be something. My dad was much more receptive. He could sort of see I had the potential to make it work.

EDGE: Do you ever feel a certain amount of pressure as an openly gay musician to embrace a certain style of music or talk about your sexuality in a certain way in interviews? Is it frustrating?

WW: Not at all really, just because I think the whole thing about coming out is at that point you come out of your own boundaries and have to realize that there are no real walls anymore, especially if you’re in a creative position. I just realize there’s no reason to hold anything back. If you’re going to do what I want to do, you have to do it in the absolute truest sense that you can. I like being able to write lyrics that are actually about guys, it is exciting to care about what I’m saying. It’s very liberating and when you come out you have to sort of go 100 percent out or not at all. You can’t half-ass it. I tried to make the music just as open as I could make it.

EDGE: You mentioned your new album earlier. I read in a previous interview that you want the music to have a darker sound. Tell me more about what we can expect.

WW: For the next album, I may try to invoke a certain darkness for a much more introverted, dark, creepy affair. I’m the total opposite of that in my life as a person, but it will be a role I’ll have to play. This is not the debut album, but this will be more experimental and weird musically. I didn’t want that to be the first effort of mine out in the world. With ’Cerulean,’ I wanted to make a first impression with accessible, simpler pop music. The next one will be an opportunity to keep it pop with the melodies and all that stuff that makes a song listenable but bring it more towards what I actually want to do with my career.

EDGE: My last question for you: The muttonchops. How long have you had them? I think they’re a nice signature, sort of akin to JD Samson’s stache.

WW: I’ve had them for six or seven years because, in my head, I think they look good. The second somebody is like, "They look horrible," then I might have to have a whole re-evaluation. I don’t know what’s going on with them, but for the time being I think they look OK. I just have them because I have had them, I guess.

Baths is featured in Seattle’s Capitol Hill Block Party (July 22-24) and the Osheaga Festival in Montreal (July 27-31) in the weeks ahead. Visit the group’s website to learn more about his music.

Watch this live performance by Baths’ of their song "Plea":

Joseph covers news, arts and entertainment and lives in Chicago. He is the assistant Chicago editor for The Huffington Post. Log on to www.joe-erbentraut.com to read more of his work.


Add New Comment

Comments on Facebook