EP Walkthrough: upsidedownhead talks his debut EP, complex
Featuring E^ST, Dave Jenkins Jr., and more, the Sydney producer's debut EP is a moment of self-reflection.
Last week was a big one of Australian electronic newcomers releasing their debut projects, whether it was Luboku with his charming and craftful The Surface or UK-via-AU beat-makers Antony & Cleopatra, whose clunky, vocal-driven house sound found a perfect home on their debut EP, Hurt Like Hell. Another one joining the ranks is upsidedownhead, who after years of touring alongside Eves Karydas, Vera Blue, Chet Faker and more, puts himself forward on a driving and cathartic release of his own, complex. Born as the production project of Sydney's Ross James, upsidedownhead's gradual climb is one marked with friendly collaboration and slick songwriting, with his debut EP combining warping, percussion-led productions with charming guest features from a collection of friends, pop rising-force E^ST, multi-instrumentalist Dave Jenkins Jr and Flight Facilities live collaborator Ric Rufio among them; each song pulsing with a dark, brooding force that tells a story of self-reflection and thinking.
"complex has been a journey to create and is a cathartic description of my journey in life to date," says the producer on the EP. "Through many years of trying to find a sound and myself as a human, complex is the result of many late nights toiling away at this process." While the process of finding yourself as a human may be complicated to convey on a release largely built around left-of-centre productions, you can clearly hear upsidedownhead attempting to navigate a sound and rhythm on complex, whether it be the intricate, Four Tet-esque percussion loops of midnight and the swelling chords of the moment or future loser, which sees E^ST add a woozy, R&B-leaning touch to upsidedownhead's elaborate production. There are moments that act as a flexing of his production prowess, while others, such as Dave Jenkins Jr.-featuring my cave, are more-so a masterclass at songwriting and story-telling.
At points, complex finds itself to be quite its namesake, with the delicately-built chords and swelling percussion occasionally masking these cathartic moments that upsidedownhead aims to build on his debut EP, requiring a bit of a deeper listen beyond the 'let's just chuck on some headphones and give this a spin, shall we?' that many electronic EPs simply require. In celebration of the EP's release and to better grasp its creation and themes, we got the Sydney musician himself to walk us through the release track-by-track, which you can read through alongside the EP below.
In general, this project is my personal reflection on the inner workings of my mind. Most of the stuff I focus on is related to mental health, self-identity, faith, life experiences. I guess lyrically;, it’s meant to be a cathartic recount of my journey in life. Musically, I’m trying my best if I can to do something unique hopefully! I guess also, you know… I’m a pretty happy guy, but you know these inner workings I talk about can really be below the surface for anyone.
Is a song about social anxiety; whether you’re amongst a large group of people or whether it feels like your world is burning down around you. Sometimes the best way to deal with it is to ‘get low’, it’s a play on “get low and go, go go” which is kind of dorky but Dan (Ric Rufio) and I loved the idea of it almost ironically.
This doesn’t have many words, but it’s reflecting a period when I had a tad of insomnia. I was wired and couldn’t get to sleep. I actually wasn’t a big reader and took up reading years ago when it was an issue, now I sleep well and read heaps which have helped in so many other ways too.
The lyrics literally and figuratively speak for themselves.
This is about being ok with who you are. The lyrics read “Maybe I’m just a future loser…” and the following line is “There’s nothing like it”. This song is about feeling second best, but being able to own who you are and knowing that you have a place. This song took a few turns. Mel (E^ST) and I spoke a lot about these feelings and how we’ve both had them without the positivity of owning yourself. It was originally just going to be like an ode to the feeling of Future Loserism, but recently I was of the opinion, that’s not how I feel or what I want to portray. Therefore, it turned into, yeah, lets own who we are.
The key to this song is a self-proclamation of “I’m not broken…” followed by “…just chokin'”. I’m saying "I’m ok, even if I’m drowning in it all a bit." Trying to be real, but knowing I’m never broken and this is rooted in my personal beliefs. Also, if anyone knows what anxiety feels like when its bad, it literally feels really tight in the neck; almost like you’re choking and if it gets bad it can cause you to do 'stress coughs.' There’s no point not trying to be real with yourself.
This song is about trying to stay present in life and not get too far forward or behind in my thinking but stay in the now. Sometimes I can ruminate on the smallest details in the past and the future, causing all sorts of confusion and inner strife. Finding a balance and focus on the present was important to not getting too up or down essentially.
weekend drive/couples retreat
This is still in the works, but this is a story from Steph which I’m happy telling through this project. It’s basically about a friend of hers that recently died. She’s recounting a time when she was 18 and was dating this guy and first discovered he’d go on these massive drug binges. They were trying to make it home from a weekend away after he’d been on one of these binges, she didn’t drive and he did (scary). It’s also recounting being the one person, friends would call when he’d go missing on these binges and she’d be like I’m coming… hold on.
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