A few weeks ago, I saw the music video for a song called that, to my surprise, had been filmed all over Penn's campus. I immediately wanted to find out more about this song, and the artist behind its ludicrous sounds and fun–filled imagery.
That brought me to ARTHUR, a young Philly local whose debut album comes out November 16th. His personality shines through with a mix between bouncing off the walls and big, infectious smiles. His music is the same. I chatted with Arthur about making music he loves while not conforming to any lo–fi DIY standards.
34th Street Magazine: So [I] go to Penn, so when I saw that “Ivy League” video, I was thinking, “Wait, that’s on my campus!” What is the story behind the song and location?
ARTHUR: It’s just like, what if I did something completely different? What if I just decided tomorrow, if I woke up and my life was nothing like it is now? It's been a while since I wrote the lyrics, so it’s hard to even say. I just like the idea of ‘Ivy League.’ I like the words. They sound really pretty. And I don’t go to school, so I just thought it would be funny to become ‘Ivy League’ and celebrate that idea of prestigious schools because I’m like the opposite. I’m forgetting how to do math and write. It’s been like five years since I took a math class.
Street: So the music that you make, is it mostly live music that you record…or do you do everything computer–production wise?
A: I produce everything and I record everything myself, and then later I will have a friend mix it and make it sound cleaner…But it’s very computer–based. I used to like doing things on tape because it’s really organic and kind of intimate, but then I kind of like how unrealistic you can make something sound on a computer. It doesn’t need to sound organic.
Street: I feel like the idea of lo–fi has become too cliché at this point.
A: I hate when people have to say that, because they just can’t think of a better thing to call it. I definitely understand saying something has a lo–fi style, but people don’t lo–fi to make lo–fi music. They’re just making music…they weren’t trying to, and it’s very special when you do everything yourself. It’s like your children, your songs. And that’s why it’s weird to release a song. It’s a part of you, you have to let go of that part of you.
Street: What’s a typical day of making music look like for you?
A: Usually I will write a song, and I will sing and play an instrument to it on my phone. And then I’ll sit on it for a week and then I will come back like “I’m bored, I’m inspired, let’s make this song.” Usually I play guitar or play keyboards, then drums, then bass, then sing on it, and go back and I’ll be like “I need to flesh it out more” add some more keyboards and effects. It’s really mish–mash. Some people like to make things a process, but for me, it's harder for me now. I used to drink 10 to 12 cups of coffee a day and smoke like a pack and a half of cigarettes and it was easier then because I was so manic. Like this album is going to come out in a month, it's all just me really manic, extremely manic. And that made it easier to write songs.
Street: Speaking of the album, are you excited to put it out?
A: I had a full album before that I don’t really care if people know about and I don’t want to advertise it because it’s old and I made it when I was like 17. And it was kind of the same thing. I was really depressed; it’s kind of the only time I can make an album, is when I feel very alone. But I’m excited because I’m rebranding myself, kind of showing people what I’ve been working on.
Street: Do you have any advice that you would give to artist in your situation, or trying to get to where you see yourself today?
A: Just stop worrying about what other people are doing and even if you don’t feel great about yourself, you have to believe in some part of yourself, or some part of the world that you want. You have to think about what the best thing in your mind would be and make it true in whatever way you can. Even if it’s not real, if it’s not tangible, it’s something that you can comprehend, you have to get that kind of feeling. Like a rainy day in the woods on a Saturday when you’re seven years old watching cartoons like Pokemon. If that feeling, if that’s what you want, and you can’t ever really recreate it, but just you shouldn’t worry about reality like that. The best thing that exists in your mind is as valuable as the best things that exist in reality. If not more valuable, and if not more real.
Street: Are you scared to put out the album in that way?
A: No. I’m ready to be done with it. I just need to be someone else. I need to move on with my life. It’s just I haven’t been able to, you know?
Street: How was it touring with Rex Orange County?
A: It was great, a lot of cool exposure, but it was kind of weird playing for a bunch of 15 year old girls. Especially because they think you’re like famous or something and it was really funny because they’re like “OH MY GAAAWD” I like Alex a lot, both of the dudes in his band are super sweet.