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midwxst on his debut album E3

press conference

WORDS by Tessa Swantek  TALENT midwxst  PR°1824 

When I listen to midwxst 's  debut album, E3, a world of illusion floods in - one where balmy yellow means caution, so still you come closer. It’s one where a blue heat settles - a still, soothing danger. It’s the romance of a low-lit jazz bar slashed with blinding caution tape. Crimson blood mixes with spilled red wine - a poisoned chalice of love and hate.

The album starts with “lost,” which ascends into belting voices lashing against lyrics, Lost and crazy / Time has changed me. Voices are shot down violently just as they rise, and the saxophone cries softly as they sing, Wounded, he’s been shot by cupid / And E3 was dead before he knew it / He was too deep in his search for affection and fantasies / To realize he couldn't save himself. “Lost” sets the album’s backdrop - as midwxst describes it, “a fairytale gone wrong,” starting with the next track, “pretty girls.” He says. “Sonically, [E3] starts off very calm, almost as if you are in a trance, entering a new world - some sort of ethereal dream. It gets darker. Each song feels like a different part of E3 - how he deals with loss, attachment issues, and people’s pain.”

In most of the tracks, his voice is strong, metallic, and brassy against electronic beats. Many of the songs end with a voicemail, penetrating E3’s world, or with soft blues sounds drifting away. When asked about his sound, midwxst says, “I was influenced by really graphic stuff - overtly angry or depressed. On the production side, I was a really big EDM fan. My very first show was Porter Robinson - my dad took me and I was the shortest person in the crowd and I remember that shit vividly.” He continues, “Seeing visuals and the way people react to songs with barely any lyrics made it so cool to me. I wear my inspirations on my sleeve. I don’t act like I created anything myself. I wanted to let the music speak for itself on this album - it’s very theatrical.”

midwxst’s music demands a wide space - physically and visually. He talks about his first show outside of Indiana, saying, “it was at Scuba’s Lounge [in Chicago]. I was the very first performer and I’ll never forget it because there were two people in the crowd.” He continues, “I didn’t care how many people were there. It was a school night - my dad drove me. That really showed me the vision. I love live music, and I loved being in that space.” He has always known his music is meant to live and breathe in large settings, even if no one else does. “warning,” “lights out,” and “s.f.b” with Denzel Curry, in particular, feel like they are waiting to be completed by a screaming audience singing every lyric.

I wanted to let the music speak for itself on this album - it's very theatrical.  

Vision is what sets midwxst apart. He says, “The whole E3 album rollout was me wanting it to be the way I wanted to - I’m a very meticulous person. I want to keep as much freshness as I can about me.”  This quality is overtly apparent as he mentions facts about at least twenty artists, most lesser known,  in the music industry across genres, analyzes in detail why Cars 2 is the best Pixar movie, and says he works with his team from 3pm - 3am on his music. He talks about being bullied in High School for proudly being himself (also for having a faux hawk, which he says was valid.) Faux hawk aside, he shares, “I was the only one wearing GOLF and all these flashy outfits that were very me. I had an understanding of my identity very early on. I got shoved in a locker. The school was very racially divided. It was hard for people to be themselves. Nowadays, everybody be tryna hit me, but I don’t talk to any of them!” Despite push back from his hometown, it’s important that he didn’t shut out Indiana as part of his identity. He says, “People tried to little bro me early on because they would ego trip. But I like caring about the place I'm from, especially as a kid who has moved around so much. Imma ride for that city! Without the nothingness and corn and tractors, I wouldn’t be the person I am today.” Understanding his identity and maintaining a strong vision despite external doubt is the true backbone of E3

His music video for “heartache blues” is perhaps where his vision shines brightest. With dark slinky silhouettes encased in golden light and cool neon winking like stars in the night, again he “wears his inspirations on his sleeve.” He explains, “[The music video was inspired by] Wong Kar Wai’s In the Mood For Love. His cinematography is very beautiful. We tried to have some sort of ode to that and Taxi Driver. He continues, “That whole leather look was really chosen as inspo from Taxi Driver. The bob on the girl was a [nod] to the time period. [These details] add so much to the universe. I wanted to encapsulate [the idea] that person is still on your mind and present. That’s why you don’t see her face at the start of the video. I’m very still [in the video] to show that I don’t know what I want - to stay or run.” Over two years ago, midwxst filmed his music video for “trying” - a theatrical video his ‘friend’ told him wasn’t even worth shooting, saying “that shit’s ass.” Now, the music video has over two million views.

I had an understanding of my identity very early on

heartache blues by midwxst

In The Mood For Love_03.jpeg
Wong Kar-Wai's In The Mood For Love

The music video was inspired by Wong Kar-Wai’s In the Mood For Love. His cinematography is very beautiful.

midwxst's "heartache blues"

This is not all to say that midwxst creates his music all by himself, he constantly mentions those around him; “I’m so used to drawing outside the lines, I’m learning the part of drawing inside. Sophie [Gray] put a bow on everything musically.” Working with a team who allows him to freely draw outside the lines, though, meant that the album could be deeply personal and unrestricted. He says, “I didn’t have many friends so I had my family, my dog, and X-Box as a treatment. Music has made our relationship closer because they’ve gotten to know me more. It’s not stuff I talk about.” “Grandpa’s interlude” is entirely a voice recording of his grandpa on the phone with him as the piano twinkles:

A tormented mind, who was desperate, in his search for true love
But while on his quest, he was encountered by the question of, "What is love?"
Is it truly a cause of happiness or the weakness to mankind and the cause of pain beyond measure?
Is it a feeling?
Or an excuse for you to finally—the void, that you have constantly tried to fill for your whole life?
All questions neither of us have the answer to
So, before we enter the tormented mind of E3
Understand that you and him are just the same, blind by love
And what's in front of you, and so, the story begins

Throughout E3 is a mixture of soft and hard, joy and caution, love and hate, pleasure and pain. None are meant to be delineated - there are no borders in this universe, blood spills like paint dripping off a canvas. Fire spreads without ever stopping. This fusion is very present in both “hate how much” and “old me,” which he says is his most personal song. In “hate how much,” he sings, Hate how much I like you / Even though you're bad news / Can't say what I might do / I hate that. In “old me,” As in most of the album’s tracks, electronic beats bounce off golden brassy instruments like sparks.

He says creating “old me” was one of his “most moving moments,” explaining “I got to work with Romil from Brockhampton, and I’m the biggest Brockhampton fan! I never expected to be in those rooms - I still am the person who stays in his room and plays video games. I’ve been seeing the fruits of the work I’ve been putting in.” He also recorded E3 in the next room over from Dominic Fike making Sunburn, and The Kid Laroi and Justin Timberlake. He says, “It really motivated me. It made me not play around. It’s like, I can’t be in rooms where great albums were created and not create one myself. There’s history in that room - Mac Miller recording part of Swimming in there!” And he certainly created a great album - and even more than that - a vivid universe.

midwxst says his main message of E3 is “that you can do it, no matter what. You can’t take time for granted. I talk about time a lot in my music - it’s a precious thing. If you don’t go through the things in private that you don’t talk about then you don’t grow.” So out of the wreckage, E3 rips the caution tape.

warning by midwxst

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