“I don’t like that feeling at festivals when you’re fifty feet in the air away from people and detached. I respond to people being close, dancing, and knocking beers on my laptop.”
Halifax-raised producer Ryan Hemsworth is talking about how he likes playing at venues like club basements because it provides an environment of intimacy that music festivals aren’t exactly known for. Hemsworth is a fairly familiar name on announcements for line-up releases, so much so that even off the bat, one can guess that he has played at a recent festival like San Francisco’s Treasure Island, and be right. Known for his emotive, future bass beats, this sort of thinking on connection and separation does not come as a surprise to those who have listened to his songs, especially those off his sophomore record, Alone for the First Time.
Out last month via Last Gang Records, Hemsworth offers, on Alone, his experiences of the past year, one with a touring schedule full of highs and lows, and of trying “to find that middle ground between light and dark, aggressive and soft.” Needless to say, Alone isn’t exactly the set of bangers expected at a typical North American EDM festival.
“People forget that setting and environment, where you’re seeing an artist, is super important. A lot of times, I’m slotted at festivals between two super-intense producers. It doesn’t really make sense. My music feels weird to play at 2 in the afternoon outside somewhere. It’s important to have all the pieces come together.” Generally speaking, the afternoon set at any music festival fails to compare to the anticipation and energy of a nighttime one. Imagine playing “Snow in Newark” at noon in a huge field!
An introspective album, Alone for the First Time is a provoking title for a busy bee on social media. Asked whether the title reflects a wish of his, a reality, or just a fantasy, Hemsworth answers: “I think it’s all. That’s what I wanted to get across with the title – that there’s a lot of layers to it. When I was working on it, it was those moments between shows when I was actually alone for a moment. At the same time, it’s a super-collaborative project – probably my most [collaborative] so far. Mood-wise, I wanted it to feel – it’s a lot about love – being alone with someone for the first time.”
For Hemsworth’s new Fader column, Around the World with Ryan Hemsworth, those in-between moments certainly get lost in the shuffle of life on the road, especially in the mad-caper debut installment where he visits Japan and delineates the perks of being a touring DJ. As someone who has studied journalism at the University of King’s College, his enjoyment of writing is one more side to him. Consider Around the World like the text version of a Hemsworth tour DVD.
“[I] wanted to start a diary because I have bad memory. Fader reached out to do a column, and there were no real restrictions, so I thought it’d be fun. There’s been a good reaction. People emailing me – people who’ve been to Japan – they’re like, ‘That was totally my experience as well.'”
Hemsworth’s first column sheds behind-the-scenes light on his musical foray into the weird, happy sounds Japanese producers like Tofubeats play and that the Tokyo-based label Maltine Records puts out. Hemsworth’s collaboration with Tomggg in “Cream Soda” is influenced by this type of winsome pristine pop that’s characterized by an overarching aesthetic of cuteness. On the recent trend that sees North American producers like Saint Pepsi and Spazzkid getting notice for a similar fusion of sound, Hemsworth observes that there’s “definitely a generation [of] producers who grew up playing video games and [watching] cartoons or anime” that are reacting to the kind of “aggressive dubstep and club music we had to get through for a while.”
Offhandedly, Hemsworth says, “I was always super into the Vengaboys and shit like that.”