Let's talk about the new album. How’d you land on the title ‘Ride Waves’?
I feel like life is all about balance, and in the creative process for this record things weren’t always very good - but things weren’t always that bad either. It was somewhere in between. So I just try to keep my head above water - keep surfing. So ‘Ride Waves.'
Were things not so good for you personally, or are you talking about the wider scope of the world, because obviously, the situation is kind of a mess.
I think both. The wider scope has definitely affected my personal shit too. It’s more about my own shit and what I'm going through because I write records as a coping mechanism for all the crazy stuff that happens in life. My outlet is music; that’s what I have and that’s what I’m good at so that’s what I use to create art. I do some visual art but that’s not at the same level of being able to help me cope with the way that I feel about my own fucking planet. Not even planet Earth - planet me.
Tell me about the byline to the new album’s title - ‘Experiments In Beautiful Thinking.'
That was something that my homegirl, Taylor, she’s an art therapist, she spit that at me and I was like, ‘Yo, that’s a dope perspective.' Cause I don’t want to force anybody to do a thing. Like I don’t want to force you to consume this thing this way - that’s not my goal. [The album] is an experiment in putting forth these ideas to people. And if you can create that experiment for yourself - that thought experiment to refresh or change your perspective - that could be a beautiful thing.
And the music from ‘Ride Waves’ will take you there.
Absolutely. It’s a vessel. Sometimes it’s a vessel through positive things and sometimes it’s a vessel through really serious issues and shit that might stir up some emotions. What’s important is that it’s a safe space for you to be able to have a moment of catharsis.
I feel that. Whether feelings brought on by music are intense-good or intense-bad it’s better to feel something rather than just come away from the experience with numbness or apathy.
But it’s also okay to feel like, nothing. No emotional state is permanent so wherever you’re at, I think that it’s important to respect that emotional quality. It’s like visitors in a house; if you have anger as an emotion it might stay for an extended period of time, but while it’s there, you need to honor it so you can send it off.
It’ll get off your couch eventually.
Exactly. Like you don’t pay rent anger, fuck you! And eventually, something else will come to pass. Like if I can just be there and down with that emotion, it’ll balance itself out.
You’ve got some crazy exciting contributors on the record including Snoop Dogg, Matisyahu, Bootsy Collins, and Wiz Khalifa who was on the Issue 01 cover of office. How did some of those collabs come to pass?
Some of them were financial and some of them were already fans of the music. Like if you can afford a Wiz feature - cool. But he can’t just be bought, he’s gotta dig the sound too. So we sent it across and I was like, ‘Oh man I really hope he digs this shit.' Cause I created the song without him in mind; I made the tune and recorded it with the Brooklyn Gospel Choir at Germano Studios in Manhattan while I was on tour. I had the entire thing done and wanted a rapper feature so we hit him up about it and I was like, ‘Man if he likes this song I’m gonna flip out.'
And the Matisyahu tune happened because the bass player from my band was also the bass player in his band so he showed off the record and Matis was a fan. He was like, ‘Yo that’s dope, we gotta work on this thing together,' and we ended up writing some socially-conscious dance tunes. It was cool.
His music has always walked that line of making you think in a broader scope, but you can also move to it, which is mad important.
That’s what I’m saying, I felt the same way and that’s what I wanted to create with him. It became a song about gun control and more so a song about anti-violence. Like basically ‘Guns Suck.'
How about Snoop - how’d that partnership come about? He’s music royalty and stoner royalty AND has a film career - that’s wild.
With Snoop, we hit him up for the feature because I had this really fun song and I’ve always wanted to do a tune with Snoop Dogg. They were big fans of the tune and that one happened really quickly; they cranked out the verse, sent it back and bang - done. Gang-gang.
You dropped a lead single for the album that I really loved, it’s called ‘I’m Good.' The lyrics really hit me, it goes ‘I don’t focus on the bad shit, Yeah I get the vibe, it’s a classic.’ That’s some uplifting shit in a time where the world could really use it. Did you just know people needed something to -
To whip up the vibe?
I wanted a tune that felt really fun to play live and I wanted a tune what would really inspire me to feel better about shit. I made that song in New Orleans. Like I was cruising around New Orleans with it in my headphones and I was like, ‘It’s fucking working.' It just gives me that feeling that I could listen to it for the full four minutes and have a really positive experience.
Knowing that you were absorbing some NOLA energy for that song makes a lot of sense.
That’s where so many GRiZ albums get made and recorded because horns down there, the girls who sing on that tune...I just feel inspired to write down there. It’s swampy and I feel like something about it being so humid - everything sticks to you. Some sort of magic potion is floating through the air.
Your other new single has DRAM on it - Big Baby DRAM. It’s called ‘It Gets Better.' When I read the title, I was like, ‘Hmm, that sounds like the nonprofit organization which is intended to uplift LGBTQI+ youth.’ Is the song title a nod to that movement?
So the song happened completely in a capsule outside of the movement. I was on my roof in Denver and I was like, ‘I wanna write some shit that’s gonna make me grin,’ and I want to incorporate a kids choir sound that’s innocent and fun and uplifting. Looking at the two singles leading up to the album, it seems like each tune has the same ethos to it, so I’m excited for the record to drop and people can get the balance of the light and the dark. But during the lead up to the album I wanted people to hear some triumphant ‘Fuck yeah!’-quality shit. So I wrote ‘It Gets Better’, went to Chicago and recorded with the Children’s Gospel Choir, went back down to New Orleans and recorded the horns and back-up vocals for it, and then sent it all to DRAM saying, ‘Yo, let's do some PG shit, do it for the kids.' Cause I got nieces and nephews who have changed my perspective - I wanna write music that I can be proud to show them and that they can rock out to.
They can play it at the dance if they want to.
Exactly. I wanna be a good example for the kids. I wanna teach them that it’s cool to be a positive person. That’s it’s cool to talk about serious issues in an inspiring way. Like being edgy is cool and shit but being nice is also fucking cool.
There’s nothing corny about being positive and making people feel comfortable about who they are. I came out in high school and there weren’t many music acts to look up to. There was Bloc Party with Kele Okereke... and I think that was it. To be a young person and hear a song like that, even if it’s not specifically about queerness, if they can connect with the overall message, it’s a good thing.
It’s about all that shit. It’s about personal relationships just as much as it is about being comfortable with yourself. Beause even today it’s like...it’s just not easy being gay. Sometimes you get points for it where you’re like, ‘I’m gay,’ and people are like [whispering] ‘Oh, that’s so cool.’ and I’m like, ‘Uhh you had said what? Thank you.' Yeah it’s not a thing.
Isn’t it crazy that it’s still kind of not a thing?
You know what, I don’t think it’s crazy that it’s not a thing yet, it’s just that there aren’t enough old, racist motherfuckers that haven't died yet. It’s getting smaller and smaller - there’s like this gap that’s closing in on racist asshole people that keeps getting smaller but it’s still so strong and prevalent because - because I don’t know why.
Because that shit’s potent!
Hate is potent as fuck. It gives people something to rally around, and that’s bullshit. We should rally around acceptance and being ‘You’; celebrating the differences between people rather than feeling threatened, marginalized, and powerless. Power to the people and power by the people, not just giving a small group of people all the power so that they can do whatever the fuck makes them feel comfortable. Fuck that. Break it up, man.
I can still count on two hands the number of musicians, especially gay men, who are out in 2019, so you’re pretty high up on the visibility scale. Did you ever consider going forward with your career without being out?
Woah, I've never been asked that question. I think for a long time I had a tough time with it in the sense that I didn’t want to come out and be known as a ‘gay musician’. Because I just wanted to be known as a ‘musician’. My perspective was that ‘I’m just me, and gay is just a part of the water that gets the paint brush wet and allows colors to be applied’. It’s just part of the DNA and that’s it. But now I’m seeing that I need to champion myself a little bit further into it because even though I had an easier time accepting it for myself and a great group of friends to rally around, I think that I need to be able to take that energy and throw it towards people that need reassurance.
During high school and middle school I was like praying to god, I was like ‘I swear to you god, Mr.God-man in the sky, @the_god, if you will make me not gay I swear I will not smoke weed for two weeks’. I was fully bartering. Real shit, like ‘I will quit eating McDonalds FOR LIFE’. And it didn’t come true, thank fucking god. Thank you god! There was a plan after all.
But yeah there was a point in my career where I was like ‘I don’t think I have to do this’. I had no idea where this whole thing was gonna go. I remember coming to New York and being like ‘Wow, if anyone would ever come to my show in this city, if I could ever get a gig in this city that would be so cool’. At this point everything has changed so much and [not coming out] would have really fucking sucked. All this shit happened and I feel blessed to have this position where I can speak to kids and let them know it’s the coolest thing in the world to be who you are. Whether that’s gay, bi, straight, trans, asexual, queer - fuck it.
Vegan lesbian, like yes, please. Leather daddy. Whatever. Gay Christian, Straight Christian. Ally. I don’t give a shit man, just be you and don’t hate.
So you’re open about being into dudes which is very important but you’re also open about being a stoner. What’s the best weed you’ve sampled lately?
There was Gelato and also….what was that shit I was smoking in Aspen? It was Gelato Cookies or something ridiculous like that. Lets just go with Gelato.
Got any good stoner stories for us?
I feel like if they ever read this they might get a little tilted but that’s fine because I put down this challenge and they accepted. So High Times magazine asked me to come to their suite in Los Angeles - it was a hotel room, it was sus - and they were like will you smoke weed with us on camera and we’ll interview you? And I was like cool, I’m gonna get high with High Times, classic. And they got too high! To the point where I had to end the interview. I had outsmoked High Times magazine.
Wow you outsmoked the smokers. That’s so good.
I wanna get high with them again cause they were super fun to smoke with. I was having a blast but it seriously turned into me interviewing them. I was like ‘What’s the next question?’ They were like ‘...What?’. [laughs] I was mega lit.
Swinging back to another track on the new album, ‘Can’t Get Enough’ features you on vocals which you haven't really shown off much before right?
Nah, that was the start if it. And the reason why that happened was because at 4 o’clock in the morning outside my hotel in New Orleans I’m writing to this tune and as the lyrics were coming out I was recording them on my MacBook soundbar thing, and I was just feeling it. That was the demo that ended up making it onto the album so the vocals there literally just came from my computer. Lyrically, it was my story to tell and I was going to give it to someone else. I showed it to other people and I was trying to get the vote of confidence for someone to be like ‘Cool, you should give this to a different singer’ but everyone was digging it the way it was. And I was like ‘You know what; we’re gonna keep it. I like it too’.
You also have a whole tour coming up this summer with stops in Costa Rica, Brooklyn, and St. Augustine. Are there any cities in particular you’re hyped to play?
New York! I gotta shout out New York cause I always love playing shows here, the fans are the shit. New York is a fire city to play, I love it so much. Maybe one day I’ll call this place home. A lot of these shows are gonna be in outdoor amphitheaters - not the Brooklyn show, I’m sorry! But I’m excited to play in that format, to play outside, cause right now it’s so fucking cold! I’m ready to get my spring, outdoor, play-under-the-moon vibes on. That’s what we’re gonna be doing.
Any places you’d like to play in the future?
I’m about to go to Thailand in three or four weeks, so I’m gonna cross that off the list. And after that trip, I’m probably not gonna be looking at too many 24-hour travel days for awhile.
Are you gonna do some surfing while you’re there or just kicking it?
I’m gonna be working on a follow-up album/mixtape situation to drop after this record and doing a lot of meditation and just getting the fuck out. You were talking about Planet GRiZ earlier? I gotta get off that GRiZ shit for just a little bit before I send it fully to that planet for the next few years. I’m starting with a one-way ticket to a mountain town called Pai and then be back at a certain time and date that I don’t even know yet. Eventually I gotta come back for the tour. Maybe this is the last time you guys’ll ever see me - maybe I’ll run away to the beach.
We’ll send the office magazine search party.
Don’t worry about it!
Last year was a great year for new music releases - what have you been listening to personally?
One of my favorite tunes has been that new Gucci Mane, Bruno Mars joint - ‘Wake Up In The Sky’. Fuck yeah. That’s the collab that nobody knew they needed.
Anything involving Gucci Mane is a blessing.
That’s true. I thought the new Travis Scott project was cool. KOD (by J.Cole) was my favorite album of last year. Was it my favorite? It was up there. Kids See Ghosts was amazing. Daytona was amazing. I listen to a lot of hip-hop music, that’s my thing. My boy Yoshi Flower dropped a mixtape last year that was fire. He’s also featured on my new album.
We also cover a lot of fashion here at office - are there any designers or labels getting you excited these days?
I really really like Palm Angels, I think their shit is fire. Rhude is coming back with the coolest shit. Heron Preston, I fucking love that. I love Virgil Abloh - I think the new Louis Vuitton line is sick. Whoever’s in charge of the Gucci line right now is also really fucking sick. They set the trend. Before it was assumed that only old, European white dudes can afford and are purchasing their brands but that’s not the case. That’s been the majority of my shit. And of course Vans is always cool, such a staple. And if you want good jeans, All Saints for life.
Anything else you’d like to share with office readers?
It’s a pleasure to hang with you guys and make some cool shit happen.
'Ride Waves' is out now.