Photo by Scott Hansen
In this excerpt from Bandbox's 16-page Tycho zine, Erik Thompson discusses the calm before Weather's storm with Tycho mastermind Scott Hansen.
By Erik Thompson
Weather made it clear that the sky’s the limit for Tycho. Certainly, no one would have faulted Scott Hansen if he continued to make records in the vein of his commercially-successful Dive, Awake or Epoch. In 2017, though, Hansen took a well-deserved pause to get his head and his heart in the proper place, and he set out to revisit a creative idea he had been contemplating since he released the debut Tycho album, Past is Prologue, in 2006. With Weather, he wanted to craft electronic music that featured singing.
After Hansen was introduced to vocalist Saint Sinner, the pair clicked immediately and, soon, Weather took shape. This time, he created a spacious soundscape that left plenty of room for Hannah Cottrell and made her voice the focal point amidst an ambient sonic wave.
Thompson: Where were you, creatively and emotionally, when you started to write Weather?
Hansen: I used to be a graphic designer and worked in software interface design, and then I got into poster art and sold shirts. That was how I made my living, but I was always making music. Around 2009, I decided to really focus and put all my energy into music for a while and see where that went. I'd basically spent 10 years on visual art and decided to spend the next 10 years focused on music. I finished Dive in 2010 and put that out in 2011, and that’s when I started touring seriously for the first time. That began the most intense, overwhelming seven or eight years of my life. So, 2017 was the first time I had to take a step back and breathe. Dive, Awake and Epoch were just non-stop — like, make the albums in eight months, tour for the next 16 months, rinse, repeat. I wanted to refresh, to recenter myself.
My first record, Past is Prologue, was supposed to be this hybrid vocal record and I had recorded vocals for all the songs. But at the time, I just didn't feel I had the chops and I didn't know what I was doing really as a producer, so I put it aside. Weather is basically my chance to re-approach that whole idea. It's not the same songs, but I got back into the idea of making a vocal electronic record. I was really into Zero 7, Thievery Corporation, Air and a lot of these bands from the late ‘90s and early 2000s that were doing this really cool, loungey, chill-out electronic music, usually with vocals. I also really focused on myself and just tried to get healthy and get myself centered mentally during that time. It really felt like a rebirth-type moment and it was really one of the most fulfilling artistic experiences of my life, making that record.
Did you initially compose those songs with the vocalist in mind? Or did your collaboration with Saint Sinner occur after the songs started to take shape?
I didn't connect with her until after the songs were written. I always have these songs that I love and they mean so much to me, but it's like there's just something missing. I try so hard to put a lead on them or trim them into an electronic, instrumental song, and it just never clicks. Over the years, I've asked myself, ‘What does that mean? Does that mean the song is not going to go anywhere?’ I slowly started realizing that I think these are vocal songs. So I really focused that year on just doing a ton of writing, and every time a song like that came up, I was like, “Okay, let's take this and focus it as a vocal song.”In the old days, I used to take all the instrumentals and decide these are what I'm going to focus on and those other ones just aren't working. With this one, it was cool because it was like, ‘Okay, no, these are just missing something.’ So I had this deck of songs and then I met Hannah, Saint Sinner, through a mutual friend, and she came over to my place in San Francisco. I had been working on what became “Skate,” which was just a simple guitar thing, and I think she sang the final version the day we met. From there, I wrote “No Stress” for her after we met. I sat down and wrote a song from scratch just for her and her vocals.
So your collaboration clicked that quickly?
Yeah, definitely. It's funny, because initially I didn't really know if she listened to my music or was even aware of it. Then later, she was like, “I grew up listening to your music.” It's one of those moments where you realize how old you are, and how young all these kids making music are coming up now. I feel like there was this really cool connection that was already there before we even met, just because she really was familiar with the music. Immediately her voice fit, because it had this textural quality that I really enjoy. She's not belting out these crazy, virtuosic vocal performances. She just has this incredible texture and timbre to her voice, which is the thing I'm always looking for in my music anyways. I'm not shredding on the guitar or keyboard. It’s always more about seeing the way those notes sound and not necessarily what exactly they're doing at any given time. Everything just fit perfectly together — the mood and her music.
Read the rest of this interview with Scott Hansen in our Tycho zine, which comes with every copy of the Bandbox exclusive edition of Weather (plus an ISO50 "Japan" print)!