LP Walkthru: Howevever - Phenakistoscope

LP Walkthru: Howevever - Phenakistoscope

The Boorloo based singer, songwriter, and producer takes us track by track through the creation of his second album

Boorloo/Perth bedroom indie electro-pop project Howevever follows on from their bubbling The Art of Not Telling Anyone (read more) and the reminiscent Squirrel with a meaningful, well produced sophomore album: Phenakistoscope, a 7-track release that is out today.

Written over two months in 2021 and self-produced by Howevever himself, Phenakistoscope describes, unpacks, and timestamps the personal life of singer-songwriter and musical mastermind behind the project Isaac Lee, whilst still remaining centred around an approach to artistic freedom that comes with not taking yourself too seriously. Isaac explains “The relationship between lyrical content and the overall production of a song is really important to me” as he weaves lush textures of synths with the strums of guitars, beats, and bass, creating a beautiful balance between the electronic and organic to back thoughtful lyricism delivered through crisp pop melodies.

“When I wrote the songs, it felt like I was writing about the same things over and over again, like my life was repeating itself and I was getting nowhere. But as I look back on them all at once, I can see gradual change in the form of subtle improvements in my manner of dealing with things.” explains Isaac, an important revelation into the naming of the LP: Phenakistoscope, which by definition is “a disk with drawings on its outer edges that look very similar when viewed while stationary. You might at first glance think that they’re just a repeated pattern. But when the disk is spun, those drawings blend into each other and form movement. I think that’s the underlying theme throughout the album. Dealing with things as they come and trusting that hindsight - like that disk when it spins - will one day make sense of it all.”

To celebrate the LP’s release, and give us some more insight into the creation and meaning behind each song on Phenakistoscope, we asked Howevever to break it down track by track. So be sure to hit play, as you take a read through what he had to say below.

The Art Of Not Telling Anyone

The Art Of Not Telling Anyone came from a place of frustration and anger toward myself and the mistakes I kept repeating. So it’s about trying to be positive about those mistakes, and really rooting out the underlying thought process that led me to repeating them. One thing I’ve learned is that a lot of people - myself included - mostly just want recognition for the changes they’re making. So when you plan on making some kind of self improvement and you tell everyone about those plans, then you’ve already got that recognition and now you have no real incentive to go ahead and follow through with the changes. That’s where the name of the song comes from - The Art Of Not Telling Anyone. Just letting everyone see the changes you’ve made for themselves.

Beach Day

This is the most collaborative song I think I’ve ever released. That’s a big deal to me because for years - like nearly a decade - I didn’t tell most of my friends that I made music, let alone work on it with any of them. My process is very introverted; I just sit in my bedroom and mess around with things until they sound right to me. But Beach Day actually came from a session with my friend Elijah Henare. We came up with this chord progression together that kind of trips over itself a little bit. He recorded some electric guitar for it, I wrote some lyrics and it quickly became something we were both super happy with. I got another friend, Tom Baker, to record drums for it, and then I got another-nother friend, Kaelah Williams, to record some violin. What she recorded was beautiful, but I didn’t end up using it and as of writing I still haven’t mustered the courage to tell her. I guess that’s one part of the collaborative process that I am yet to master.

Squirrel

I have a folder in Notes on my phone full of random phrases I think of during the day. One night I came up with this vocal melody and just started singing some of those phrases as I scrolled through them. Somehow the stars aligned and a lot of it just worked, so I messed around with the wording a little and within about an hour I had written and recorded basically everything you hear in the final version. I originally recorded the bass line using my brother’s old acoustic bass and it sounded awful, so I payed a guy on Fiverr to record what I had written. Oddly enough, although the lyrics were originally somewhat random, the events that followed in my life soon after writing the song happened to directly correlate with it. Weird how life does that.

I’m Just Like You!

I wrote I’m Just Like You! for a friend of mine; it’s about how fun life can be if you allow yourself to be vulnerable from time to time. Obviously there’s a lot more to that idea than the song would have you think, but it’s nice to briefly escape into a world where that kind of maturity and nuance isn’t necessary. This one also came quite quickly. I recorded it all in a day and had my fifteen-year-old sister in my bedroom recording the vocals for it at 1am on a school night. It’s fun to intellectualise the music-making process, but really it’s moments like that that keep me coming back for more.

Howevever

All’s Well That Ends

This song is about being sad on an airplane. The lyrics are from a poem I wrote while I was sad on an airplane. There’s a line in there that goes “when I pressed predictive text / the sentence started making sense / so I hit send”. That actually happened. I overthought sending a message to someone so badly that I ended up just using predictive text to slide into their DMs. That went about as well as you might think it would. There’s a reason the next line is “so the words were not mine / won’t you let me try again”.

Here It Comes, There It Goes

Here It Comes, There It Goes was one of the last songs to be finished on the album. I wrote it at the end of 2022 about how quickly the year had passed. When I was a kid, I was terrified of time passing. I was scared of one day becoming an adult. Most of all, I was scared that once I did become an adult, it wouldn’t bother me. I think that that’s exactly what happened. That phrase “here it comes, there it goes” captures that callousness. I don’t think about each individual wave when I’m at the beach. I just notice the waves, plural. I don’t pay attention to every single gust of wind. I just subconsciously recognise that it’s windy. And as I get older, I pay less and less attention to singular days, weeks, months or even years as they pass. I’m just vaguely aware of the fact that I’m gradually moving through various stages in my life. Here they come, there they go.

Buzzwords

Before I got into songwriting or even knew how to play an instrument, I was making beats in my bedroom. There was a period of time there between the ages of about 12 to 14 when I really just wanted to be Deadmau5. Even my approach to songwriting and recording nowadays is still deeply influenced by that. I’m most comfortable when I’m bent over a laptop tweaking a 4 bar loop for hours on end. So to close off the album, I wanted something a little jarring, that leaves the door open for that kind of experimentation. Buzzwords was actually the first of all the songs on this album to be started. It was just a short loop for a long time, until I returned to it months later and eventually fleshed out. I love writing lyrics, but it was so refreshing to forget about that world and just make weird sounds in Ableton for a little while.

Howevever Phenakistoscope

Howevever’s sophomore album Phenakistoscope is out 3rd of February 2023.

Follow Howevever: INSTAGRAM

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