To a generation of internet shut-ins and misfits, Yung Lean’s utterance of “Suicideyear” in his inimitable Swedish drawl on the track “Hurt” was the overture to an iconic moment in online history. The producer on the track, Suicideyear's melodic and haunting sounds were for many their first introduction to the weird and wonderful world of Tumblr rap, an aesthetic that’s given way to today’s SoundCloud rappers and eccentrics.
Influenced by South Florida rappers and culture, Suicideyear’s penchant for experimentation and ambient flourishes earned him a devoted following among established artists and newcomers alike.
Five years on from his breakthrough moment, the Louisiana producer has released his first proper full-length album, Color the Weather. To mark the occasion, he’ll be embarking on his first North American tour, with a stop in Miami on Thursday, July 12, courtesy of local label Space Tapes.
Pausing from rehearsals in L.A., Suicideyear discussed the journey up to Color the Weather, taking inspiration from fellow artist and III Points regular Jacques Greene and grappling with the impact his music has left on artists in his wake.
New Times: You’ve described Color the Weather as your debut record, even though you’ve put out releases of similar length and longer. What makes Color the Weather an album, as opposed to a mixtape or EP?
Suicideyear: There's a lot of literal ways, like one of the biggest was that this was the first time I ever actually sat down in a studio and tracked out instrumentation for songs. Because I had tried to before in the past but it was just nothing that went past demos.
I was working on Color the Weather three and a half to four years ago and going through a lot of different drafts of it. It wasn't until last year, like early 2017, I started to really focus on my idea and of wanting to call it "Color the Weather".
Why the holdup on a proper LP? Were you thinking, Oh, I'm signed to LuckyMe now, time to put out a record?
Not really. Originally the album was just going to be an album and I had only agreed to do the EP with LuckyMe, but we had opened the discussion after the fact. So it wasn't necessarily just signing to a label that inspired me to make the album. I mean Japan was like a mixtape and I love it a lot, but it was more a stream of consciousness thing I did when I was 18 as compared to this is something I've actually focused on. A lot of things have been worked on for years. A lot of influence on the album itself comes from early life and things that I went through in my adolescence. The name Color the Weather comes from a weather coloring competition.
How was recording in a studio a different experience, as opposed to your early works as a bedroom producer?
It was definitely a thing where I had just never had access to that before. Growing up I had an acoustic guitar, but I never had any way to record anything and I never really wrote songs like that. So it was like the first time that I really found myself also writing songs on instruments for Suicideyear as compared to just making beats on the keyboard mouse and FL at my house.
This month will see you embark on your first North American tour in support of the record. Will this be live or a DJ set?
It'll be a live set. And I'm prepping for it right now.
So is this your first time performing your music in a live capacity as opposed to DJing?
No, no. The first time I performed live was a year ago with Jacques Greene on tour. But this is my first time headlining ever as a live set.
With that said, what can audiences look forward to? And has there been a learning curve transition from DJing to producing music on the fly in a live setting?
A lot of my live material is stuff from my album, but a lot of the stuff that I'm playing is also different revisions and different versions. There are a lot of moments on the album where I think it's definitely best suited in headphones and now there are others, like parts in the live show where I've made it more suited for a room. But there’s also a lot of classic stuff, a lot of things from Japan and Remember and stuff like that.
But when it comes to the learning curve of it, it's definitely a trial and error thing. There were a lot of things I learned from the tour with Jacques Greene playing live because that was my first time really doing it, and it's just been something I have to keep getting back at and keep working at. But as of now, it's a lot more fleshed out than it was a year ago.
As a fellow LuckyMe artist, is there anything you picked up from touring alongside Jacques Greene and his approach to live sets?
Yeah, because we were together the whole time pretty much. He brushed off on me as far as some of the live stuff goes, but I kind of want to amass more equipment in the way he does; he's really good at incorporating hardware into his sets, and I really love that. There's a lot of hardware I had to use on the album itself I'm trying to hopefully acquire soon.
The way you're doing your live shows now, is there any room for spontaneity, or do you have it down to a kind of science as to what needs to happen and when?
There's definitely a lot of room for changes and fluidity in the set itself. But it also just depends on how people are because I can tell if the crowd is a lot of people who like deep cuts or crazier new shit that I can play without any kind of repercussion or killing the [atmosphere of the] room.
There was an interview published years ago where you spoke about a trip to Florida prior to what happened with your home burning down. I was wondering what your relationship with the state has been over the years, whether in your personal life or as a recording artist.
I have a lot of family from Florida. I have a lot of friends in Florida, I never lived in Florida myself, but in 2012 I was just really heavy on the internet and I loved South Florida music like Raider Klan. I really just kind of pushed myself and went to Florida and was visiting with people at one point and just trying to be around artists like that. But I also had a lot of friends there beforehand, and I had a girlfriend at the time I was seeing in Florida, but it's been a while since I've been.
What influence did that moment in the early 2010s – with the rise of SpaceGhostPurrp, Raider Klan, and Denzel Curry — have on you as a producer and as an artist?
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Definitely a big one. I thought SpaceGhostPurrp's beats were the craziest shit. There was a lot of stuff from South Florida back in the day that I think — I mean, it kind of goes without saying at this point, but South Florida back then was just inspiring everybody, and it still continues to do so.
At only 23, your work has had a profound influence on music, the internet and culture at large. Does it ever feel weird or bizarre to have already left such a large mark? Do you ever encounter music or any aesthetics that makes you stop and go, “Oh shit, I paved the way for that?”
There's a couple of times where I hear a sound where I feel like I might've helped influence it, but I've never really felt like I was… I don't know, owed anything. The only time anything ever makes me go crazy or the only time anything really surprises me is like sometimes I follow someone who's so massive now and they talk about how back in 2012 or 2013 they were listening to my SoundCloud remixes and shit, and that still kind of blows me away.
Suicideyear. With Channeler, Clara La San, Nuri, and Nick León. 10 p.m. Thursday, July 12, at Floyd Miami, 34 NE 11th St., Miami; 305-456-5613; floydmiami.com. Tickets cost $11.25 via residentadvisor.net.