Insight Interview: Cesium Swimsuit

We caught up with Michigan-based musician Cesium Swimsuit recently to talk about his music and his upcoming projects. Check out his story here…

Hey Cesium Swimsuit, thanks so much for agreeing to an interview. Where are you based? Do you tend to travel a lot, or are you firmly rooted at home?

Thanks very much for having me, I am stoked! I am based out of northern Michigan presently, it definitely feels like home here, though I admit I would prefer to live in a larger city. I lived in Minneapolis for several years and I miss that atmosphere and energy, plus I generally have to travel to play a show or get more exposure musically.

Can you recall your first real exposure to music?

I took piano lessons from an early age up until I picked up the guitar as a teen and I started discovering more music outside of what was played on the radio in the small town I grew up in. My parents played classics like The Beatles, the Beach Boys or Joni Mitchell around the house on the record player and I would skip school lunches save the money to buy Radiohead and Sonic Youth CDs or anything new I could discover.

How and when did you first begin writing and creating music?

Cesium Swimsuit is actually the first project where I have decided to dig into creating and attempting to express the ideas I carry in my mind or make some original art. I started a Soundcloud page a couple of years ago with the intent to share whatever ideas came out and hopefully get a bit of feedback along the way. I wasn’t even quite sure on the name of the project haha. While living in Minneapolis I had attended McNally Smith college of music for guitar performance, but I spent more of my time in the production classes learning to record to tape as well as Pro Tools. Cesium Swimsuit was started because I was curious to write music and learn more recording techniques.

How did you decide upon the name Cesium Swimsuit?

This was mostly an accident but I have come to embrace the explosive name. It honestly is an old joke from chemistry class in high school haha. I can’t explain why now but it was endlessly interesting to me to learn about Cesium and the h20 reaction. I get a fair amount of messages either asking me what it means and once a message with a Rick and Morty clip where Cesium was used for an explosive reaction haha

Have you released any music under any different name(s)?

I do sometimes consider the idea of a side project but so far I am just Cesium Swimsuit.

Can you describe your music for us?

Atmospheric and introspective layers of sound meant to chill with and get lost in. I try to create tracks that take your mind away or draw the listener into the emotion or idea I am attempting to express. I am equally fascinated with what I can do with guitar sounds as well as electronics or synth.

Have you played live recently? Would you like to do more shows or tours in future? Anything coming up soon you’d like to tell us about?

I would like to play more live music, its such a different thing than creating art on your own late at night! Its exciting how different it can be and trying to connect your ideas with an audience while feeling out their vibe as well. Its definitely something I would like to do more of after I release this new EP, it would be great to find my style in a live setting as well. To be honest I think it would be interesting to work with a live painter and create some live art together, I would love an opportunity like that. Improv definitely comes into play when I am creating or recording guitar parts.

What have been your biggest influences?

I listen to a huge amount of music and have since I was a teen. I spent most nights falling asleep with headphones on as I explored as many records as I could find. I discovered Radiohead, Sonic Youth and Tortoise when I was a teen and started digging into the music that was influencing them like Sigur Ros, DJ Shadow and Aphex Twin. I gravitate towards music that is pretty unique, right now I have been listening to a lot of Shigeto and Daedelus. I don’t believe I will emulate their styles at all but I am completely fascinated by what they are doing and the originality they both express in their art. They have created their own distinct voices or styles in music.

Do you think producing electronic music requires technical or creative skill? Or both?

Both absolutely. I really appreciate those aspects of electronica and its related genres. It takes a bit of learning to get into the technology behind these synths or drum machines but with even just a little bit of knowledge, creativity can take over and there are endless ideas to explore. You can literally create anything you dream and tell stories with sound. I tend to favor melody over textures, but atmosphere and using synths/effects are definitely important in the tracks I make. I guess the goal is to impress or reach the listener on both levels.

Do you tend to find the creative process a cathartic or therapeutic experience? Has creating music helped you cope with difficult times in your life?

Creating art is definitely a therapeutic experience for me and I notice I am more stressed if I am not creating music or can’t sit down to play guitar. A few of my tracks directly come from personal experiences that I found difficult and were echoing into other parts of my life. The tracks Cosmic Balance and Fear of our Future come from personal events that I struggled with. Cosmic Balance deals with trying to find your way through the fog of depression and stay motivated, which was something I was definitely experiencing at the time. Music can heal many wounds and get people through some of the most difficult times. Its an escape from daily stress for me.

Any collaborations, remixes or joint projects on the horizon?

I have some more music in the works with master sound painter Belial Pelegrim for a collaborative project together, also an EP with my super talented friend who records as Walrus Tales. Both of the projects have tracks out right now with more in the works for release later on. I am also working with WUMP member Scatz on something pretty interesting.

Any new genres or musical styles you’d like to explore in future?

I’d like to incorporate more of my jazz influence on the guitar and do some more chill beat focused tracks. I am also interested to do a full shoegaze or post rock EP and explore what I can create when I focus more on guitars and violin.

Do you have any thoughts on the future of electronic music? Do you think the scene will evolve further?

Absolutely man! I think technology will continue to evolve and people will continue to gravitate towards electronic music. Several genres have incorporated elements of electronica and I think that trend will definitely continue. The Bass music scene right now has some incredible forward thinking art and if you dig underground into independent electronic music you can find a variety of amazing artists creating unique sounds.

Any new releases coming our way?

I have a solo EP on the way with NINETOFIVE Records that I am excited to share. It has been a bit since I have released an EP and I am stoked to share how my sound has evolved.

It’s been said that a life in music can be a hard one. Would you agree with that?

It can be difficult at times doing the promotion aspects and music sales aren’t always the most reliable when you need them to be but that’s not what this about for me at all. I am so stoked that I have been able to create the music I have and people have been awesome with their support for this project. Its rewarding in several ways for me to hear how a track has made them feel and I have met an incredible amount of amazing people/artists along the way. I couldn’t ask for more.

Do you have any words of advice for aspiring young producers?

Listen to as much music as you can in every genre and support your fellow artists! Never stop learning or digging the art itself. It’s amazing to be able to create something from nothing and share it with people. Don’t stress about it and take your time finding your style by feeling it out rather than going with the latest trends.

Any other projects on the horizon that you’d like to tell us about?

I am planning to release more videos in the future, both for tracks off the upcoming EP and also for some of the collaborations I have done in the past with friends.

And finally – are there any tracks / artists that are relatively unknown that you’d like people to know about?

People should definitely check out the amazing music being released by NINETOFIVE records, Sleepless Collective and the WUMP collective. Some of the most original and forward thinking music you can find in the underground in my opinion and I am honored to be involved with each of them. The WUMP collective recently released an EP with Glass Cannon that is three tracks of mystic bass with a post rock twinge and a dynamic female vocalist. Incredible stuff! Plus Mecca: 83 just put out a smooth new collection of tracks with NINETOFIVE that is not to be missed.

Thanks so much Cesium Swimsuit!

Thank you! <3