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Erik Cantù of Prism Kisses

July 12, 2021

The following is an interview on July 10, 2021 with Erik Cantù of Prism Kisses, available on Spotify and BandCamp.

Erik Cantù of Prism Kisses - Disturbed

What genres would your music classify as?

It varies by whatever I’m into at the time I make a recording.

Definitely genres like Indietronica, IDM, Noise rock, Noise pop, Tape Music. I play a lot of tapes.

Hypnagogic pop, which has been a big influence. It has helped me embrace the lo-fi in music more.

Early in 2020, I noticed a mini-exposion of Comfy Synth. I made an EP, Weekend on Whidbey, which was my attempt at Comfy Synth. That was probably the most attention I’ve gotten at once. Other people who caught on, who were following the scene that was budding came across my EP, which is my highest rated release on Rate Your Music. Someone uploaded it on the Comfy Synth Archives YouTube channel, as well as the Dungeon Synth Archives channel.

It is kind of funny that someone might discover my music through the Weekend at Whidbey EP, but then listen to my next release, The Isolation Tapes, and just get bombarded by noise and industrial. It’s not representative of the rest of my music.

What got you interested in music?

Early Influences

I’ve always been into music, even when I was a baby. My mom was telling me she’d played Everclear’s album So Much for the Afterglow, which came out the year after I was born (1997), and I had always sang along to “I Will Buy You a New Life”. My parents have always been into music. They had a big CD and cassette collection, and I’d always rummage through that and listen to it.

I had a lot of new wave influence. My parents were also really into rave music, like the British Rave scene. Big Beat and Jungle exposure at a young age.

The Souls / Frostbite

As a kid I did a lot of songwriting, in my head. I had a name for my band, once calling it The Souls, and later The Frostbite in 2004. Much of the lyrics and melodies I made up were just Green Day or Everclear rip offs, and like awful pop/punk stuff. At most I probably remember two of the songs I made up, since I didn’t record them somehow at the time. I’m thinking of recording them somehow. I am still trying to decide if I’m going to keep the 2000’s feel to them, or modernize them somehow.

Level X

The very first thing I recorded was when I was in middle school. I brought my guitar over to my friends house in 2009. We called the project Level X. We only recorded 10 songs, just guitar pieces. I don’t recall much, but I do remember one song being a sort of homage to the Beatles song Rocky Racoon. Unfortunately that album was lost because I had it on a flash drive that got corrupted.

We didn’t make any other music after that. We did each contribute an equal number of songs, but we didn’t record anything. Shortly after I had to move up to Whidbey Island, Washington.

Segment Point

After discovering Boards of Canada, that rekindled my interest in making music. I started making music with my project, Segment Point, when I got access to Garageband software. I’ve been playing drums since 2010. I consider drums the best instrument. I do play guitar, but not in a technical sense.

After discovering the sampling feature in Garageband, I’d record random sounds, experiment with slowing them down, and producing material that felt right to me.

I have a song called Nort, on our album Collective, that’s just pure presets from Garageband. It screams Garageband. I still use Garageband for manipulating samples, mixing tracks, and making recordings of my guitar.

I download random synth applications to my iPhone, and I use those. I recently got an app called FunkBox, which is an emulator of a whole bunch of classic drum machines. I’m really excited because it has drum machines I’ve been hunting for ages. For a while I used Alchemy synth. I never really used FL Studio, with the exception of one lost song.

LoFi Tapes

I had a neighbor that would pay us to get her mail for her. Every morning before school, me or my little brother would go fetch her mail from her mailbox and put it next to her front door. Eventually she passed away in I believe 2013, and her daughter brought a whole bunch of stuff that she thought me and my little brother might be interested in. One of them was a tape deck from 1978, including a small microphone that went with the deck.

Listening to Boards of Canada, and knowing about cassette tapes, I was like “Cool, I want that!“. So I took the tape deck, and it became a very crucial part in the development of my bands sound. It was a very 1978 used tape deck, and the microphone was connected with a very flimsy wire. I’d record into it and the antiqueness of the deck would warp the tape automatically, giving it that sort of flowing, wavery sound.

One of the first things I did was just a field recording in my bedroom. Around that time I had listened to Forms of Paper by Steve Roden. It was just like abstract sounds of like, paper. I wanted to do something like that, so one night during a bout of insomnia, it was the witching hour, so I just recorded the entire hour, with a sort of silence. Sometimes you’d hear me ruffle the bed nearby, to get some noise in there.

I think the last time I used the deck was 2016, as I lost track of where it went. I’ve had other tape decks since then. I had one from the 1990s.

A very valued piece of equipment I got was a micro cassette recorder. They aren’t really designed for recording music, so it would kind of give the music a kind of distortion, which I really enjoyed alot. I would take it to school and just record random things, then play it back, and play guitar over it.

Capturing the Mundane

I had the bright idea of making a sort of concept album when I backpacked through Europe. At random points during the trip I’d take the microcassette recorder and record announcements at bus stations in foreign languages, or trains, or the plane taking off. Ambient hums of machines, taking a walk in metropolitan areas, recording people walking by that were having random conversations. I wanted to capture the evolution of my trip, and capture the ambience of different countries and cities.

There’s also an element of how capturing such things can be very satisfying. Like footage from the 1890s from Paris of adults just passing by, not knowing that they would be immortalized 100 plus years from then. There was one of kids in Victorian London, staring at the camera and smiling, some pointing at the camera. It’s so weird seeing that immortalized, their excitement in response to this new technology.

Another example is the Lochowicz family that were spotted in a film captured in 1911 in New York City. Someone tracked down this family by connecting their license plate with census records, and revealed that the wife was pregnant at the time the film was recorded, and where they lived, what business they owned, and how it was shut down during The Great Depression.

This is one of the reasons I take photos, and collect recordings, even where I live. My friends are like “Why are you taking photos? You live here.”

There is even a Facebook group that focuses on finding obscure images from the 2000s, looking for strange photos on really old profiles from 2006-2010.

What’s mundane now could be very interesting at some point in the future.

Equipment

I have a turn table that connects to my iPad via BlueTooth, but I’ve never used MIDI keyboards or triggers in my music creation process. I’ve mostly worked with audio samples.

I have a classical guitar, which I’ve had since elementary school, and an electric guitar. I had drums in the past. I have a Chinese gourd flute. I have drum machines, which I usually play through my amplifier.

I’ve used DJ apps, centered around turn tables. I’ve used Audacity. I used Launchpad DJ app for a while, but it was difficult to work with samples in a way that was intuitive for me. Calculating BPM was complicated.

Does Your Area Have a Scene?

Erik Cantù of Prism Kisses - Obscured

Where I live the music scene is much different from the music I make. It’s mostly folk, bluegrass, blues, some country. There is a thriving punk scene, thrash. The most well known is Potbelly. I went to a hardcore punk show in Langley, at The Machine Shop, an arcade venue. That was really amazing.

What are your top 10 influences?

Boards of Canada are the band that really got me into making music. Tycho. Cocteau Twins are a major influence.

Gang Gang Dance are one of the primary bands that got me into a world of music, especially Middle Eastern and South Asian music. They take those influences, and add really psychedlic synths. The lead singer, Lizzi Bougatsos, her vocals remind me of Diamanda Galas.

The Fiery Furnaces and Lightning Bolt are other influences. Anything involving Brian Chippendale.

In the past year, Machine+, especially his album Samsara that was released in January of 2020. It was the first album that I downloaded that year, and I instantly fell in love with it. It’s like a mixture of Shoegaze and Glitch. It’s kind of like Sweet Trip, but depressed. He recently changed his style to more of a hexxed style, like very compressed crunchy hip-hop beats. He still has that shoe gaze style, but very cool. Very cloud rappy.

His music is what pushed me towards my stylistic shift towards a noisier, more lo-fi sort of rock mixed with electronics. Also Swirlies, who I also respect a lot, because they also mix very 90’s sounding shoe gaze, with melodies and samples that are really neat.

Who does your band consist of?

I’ve been the main member the entire run. From 2013 to 2019 I collaborated with Joel Hagan. I considered us a duo. In the early days of the project, during the summer of 2013, we’d both hang out in his room and fuck around with Audacity, cassette tapes, and samples. We’d make hundreds of songs.

He actually produced the intro track to our album Collective. It was the last track that he made for the album. Before we released the album, I was like “Joel, I don’t know what to make for an intro track, so I’m counting on you to do it”. And so he sent it to me, and I was really happy with the product.

He was really into more pop oriented electronic. He was producing Dubstep, or more accurately Brostep, using FL Studio, at the time. He also made a lot of noise, and that contributed a lot to the bands sound. Our early stuff is just pure chaos. We would record samples, amplify it, and there’d be harsh noise. It would just be us laughing, trying to make the craziest sound ever, and we’d just slap it onto whatever album we were making at the time.

Overtime Joel was les involved in the band, with less and less collaboration over time. Eventually we had some irreconcilable personal differences arise.

More recently I met another collaborator, Tom Cummings, in 2017. He lives in Longview, Washington. We met online on Facebook. We’re in several interest groups together. Our first conversation was on shoe gaze, and I told him to listen to Astrobright, which he enjoyed. I listened to his older music, and I could tell he had a very similar style. I particularily like his vocals and guitar melodies.

Other Projects?

You’ll notice my other projects under our Band Camp site (Segment Point, What’s Keeping Cadence, Wolf Zurkus, etc). These are projects I’ve been involved with, as a primary contributor, and thus list because they’re related to Prism Kisses.

What’s your background?

I grew up in Los Angeles during the early 2000’s. My parents moved to Whidbey Island in 2012.

I was a very paranoid kid growing up. My second memory ever was September 11th. That really fucked me up as a kid. The War on Terror that came after that. I had the impression that the Taliban or Al Qaeda were going to invade the US.

In elementary school I had a teacher that used to talk about conspiracy theories that he believed in. Things like China is going to invade the US in our lifetime, nuclear attacks, or Al Qaeda is making something called “Bomb water”.

It’s kind of sad that very outlandish that implausible conspiracy theories end up giving conspiracy theories in general, especially plausible ones, a bad wrap, just because paranoid people give them that tinfoil hat association.

I did have moments of depression, even as a child. I don’t recall them that well, but my parents recollect them. I have Aspergers syndrome, so I received some alienation, which isn’t quite outright bullying, but still in the same category. I tend to be very obsessive about certain topics, especially as a kid. I would just not be able to shut up about something, which overwhelms people. I kind of understand it, but the rejection did affect me as a result.

One of my worst school memories was when I was in high school. During the peak of one of my bouts of anxiety, with OCD symptoms also being developed. I got a panic attack. This was when I first moved to Whidbey Island. A teacher thought I was faking the panic attack, so I just unloaded on him. He said I need to calm down or they’re going to call the police, which only made it much worse.

The Influence of Noise

Erik Cantù of Prism Kisses - Revealed

Noise definitely is a very interesting scene. I definitely like how it’s evolved as a genre. On one end of the spectrum you have AIDS Wolf, and on the other end of the spectrum you have Sleigh Bells, which uses very accessible radio friendly pop melodies, but they amplify it. But I, who just loves the sort of chaos, my first time listening to AIDS Wolf I was like “Holy shit! What the fuck is this?!“. It’s really interesting how we kind of found a way to just use noise and awful production to our advantage.

I would say the noise influence in my music is about 50%. If you listen to any of my full albums, there will be points throughout where there’s just all this chaos, and then the next track will be very peaceful. I kind of like that dual dynamic where it’s just unpredictible in a way, even though it does make my music more inconsistent. I’ve been trying to find a way to make them harmonize better.

My music has begun to focus more on my psychological state, how I’ve been feeling. It’s a mix of deep lows, dizzying highs, at times feeling super chaotic, where my mind is just, like terrified. And then there are moments where it has been light and positive. I like to express that in my music. The noise elements can actually be positive, high energy, instead of mirroring a negative state.

For instance, an album that really influenced me was Vision Creation Newsun by Boredoms. That album is like absolute chaos. It’s pure noise rock, very heavy psychedelia. The tone of that album is like the musical equivalent of running through a field of flowers. It’s amazing how that would work.

Noise music can be really cathartic. At one of my lowest points of depression was actually when I got into really noisy music. The first band that I constantly listened to, which I constantly acknowledge was Melt Banana. They are still one of the most batshit insane sounding bands every. When I was deep in a depression I just blasted it through my headphones. Later I discovered Lightning Bolt and Boris.

Does some music make you feel less alone?

Yeah. I got that sense when I listened to DAUGHTERS album You Won’t Get What You Want in 2018. I listened to the second to last song, Ocean Song, and I was like “Holy shit. This is exactly what my anxiety attacks feel like”.

At the end, where it’s just pounding, and the subject of the song is just running, because he got the sudden urge, like a fight or flight instinct, and he just runs, and you hear this dramatic orchestra and pounding drums. That’s exactly how my anxiety attacks feel, it was like they read my mind.


Written by Jason Miller who lives and works in Denver, CO developing websites and focusing on personal development. He is also on Twitter

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