Track x Track: Robert Baxter - 'you wouldn't expect cupid to cry' EP

Track x Track: Robert Baxter - 'you wouldn't expect cupid to cry' EP

Naarm/Melbourne-based multidisciplinarian takes us through their deep and diverse debut EP of electro-pop abstractions, track by track

Image credit: Carlin John Stephenson

Robert Baxter embodies creativity. With a background in dancing, acting, modelling (and naturally, ballroom performing), Baxter’s creative juices were fuelled by music, before turning their hand to creating the sounds that inspire them, learning music production while also finding their voice/

Musically living in the same world as the likes of Ryan Beatty, SZA and homegrown faves Cub Sport, Baxter’s debut EP you wouldn’t expect cupid to cry takes us on an emotional, personal and evocative journey through cinematic, experimental electronic pop. Across seven songs, Robert explores concepts relating to the human condition ranging from desire to depression, all through a queer, authentic and relatable lens.

With their EP out now and a launch party coming up at The Gaso on April 21 (details below), Robert was kind enough to take us through the EP track by track:

blue

The lyric “I tore my heart out to wear it proudly on my sleeve” sums up the whole EP/my whole life in a way. I can’t help but to feel. This song takes place historically in the period after I broke up with my last serious boyfriend, I was seeing a few people, some of whom were not honest or forward with their emotions, leaving me hurt. It made me miss my ex which was bad, but in a way it felt like I needed a reminder of what I deserve and how good my relationships could be. When he spent lockdown with me in my room he would always turn the LED lights blue, in my old room at my parents house before making the move to the city. In the song I detail missing everything I left behind. A lot of my producing is luck, I got a bunch of samples and sounds from a producer I worked on with some of my old songs, so I don’t even know where they’re from.

I used to not think of myself as a producer at all, I felt like I was a singer/songwriter who was doing what they had to to get their songs out there. Some friends got mad at me for doubting myself, so I call myself a producer now. This is one of those songs I kept coming back to, I’d worked on it for a year and couldn’t tell if it was done so I asked Alex Garla (WHOISLEXI) to finish the production for me. I didn’t have a reference for production because I couldn’t think of anything that sounded similar - maybe it was the no-rhymes hook. When I was brainstorming some references to give to Alex, I thought of the crunchy synths and beats of anymore by Scratching. One of the craziest parts is that Scratching then went on to create a rework of the song with new vocals called blue pt. 2 last year.

adonis

Not every song on this EP is about relationships, but this is not one of them. I had a friend who everyone thought was so gorgeous, a stereotypical white boy with curly brown hair and muscles, got lots of attention for being hot and also really kind. One night he gave all of that attention to me, and we ended up getting together, and it was really strange, I felt like I almost achieved something, because everyone wanted him and he wanted me. This is my sexy song, because maybe in some weird way being with someone who was so up to society's beauty standards made me feel hot and powerful. That’s pretty vulnerable for me to put out there, I am known for (and usually am) confident and love myself without needing validation. He is a gorgeous human and a good friend and he knows the song is about him. Pretty sure on this ep every song is about a person - five of them know, and two don’t. My friend Jaiman Long who helped me with some of my older songs is a guitar player so he sent me some guitar parts to sample in the production. I said “SEND ME SOMETHING THAT SOUNDS SEXY”.

Once I cut up the takes and added the reverb, I achieved that Rihanna Kiss it Better sound. I used the same tom and pitched it up and down for the drums, and then added pitched water droplets every 4 counts because what is sexier than water droplets? One of my friends told me she had sex to my song Tamagotchi (2021) and I thought: damn I can definitely do sexier than that. Are you supposed to say your song is a sex song? adonis is my sex song. I had been working on this song for maybe a year, and my vocal performance sounded somehow a little lazy, maybe I had heard it too many times, or couldn’t match my old take when I updated lyrics. So I pitched it up and resung the whole thing 2 days before I sent it off to mix and master. The high vocals in the last chorus were inspired by ZAYN - I’m trying to feel more comfortable with using my falsetto.

kiss

kiss is a fan favourite when I play live. People have been asking me to release this song for a year now! I tell the story at my gigs - “I was at a party and I was single and looking around and the host said there's this gay guy here you should talk to him. He was really cute, definitely my type, and he was talking about how big his bed was and how big his bath was and could fit two people and stuff, then it turns out he has a boyfriend." Maybe there’s lots of songs about being cheated on or being a cheater, but this is about being the person someone wants to cheat with. When I wrote this song it just poured out so quickly, the hook “Why are you talking bout your bed if you don’t want me in it?” was a certified banger from the moment I sang it. I was loving PinkPantheress at this point in time and that’s where the inspo came to use some UK Garage elements in the production.

There was a point where this song had a feature but it didn’t work out, I might release a remix with a new feature after the EP though. I had a lot of fun producing this one, I love the wonk bass specifically and I love that it’s just a fun time. I'm not super good at writing happy songs, I think it’s very easy for happy lyrics to turn cheesy, but this one at least feels happy. There were times I tried to change lyrics but just couldn’t get away from the original, so this is the complete original lyrics from a couple days after that party. “Why are you moving so close if you don’t want to get a kiss?” is the line where the title came from, and it just sums up the whole story. I like that the song ends with “What am I supposed to do?” as if I haven’t decided, it’s a mystery.

supernova

supernova is the most recent song I wrote by far, this song came out within six months of writing. It’s inspired by a best friend who I was repeating the same patterns with, we would get too close and then not want to ruin the friendship - but be simultaneously ruining the friendship by wanting to be more. I got this from google: A supernova = a star that suddenly increases greatly in brightness because of a catastrophic explosion that ejects most of its mass. Lowkey I thought it was when two stars collide but a star exploding also works for the metaphor hahaha. I really wanted this song to be a story, it starts more sparse in production, and really builds. I made a guide for Alex Garla, but he ended up remaking all of the sounds besides my vocals so I give him full producer credits on this.  Back in high school, I had an amazing singing teacher/music teacher/ choir leader named Ryan Black and he did cool things before he was a teacher, he toured and had great stories to tell us.

He - and another teacher Jason Giulianni - were the reason I got into songwriting, they’re too nice to take credit but I wouldn’t be the artist I am today without them. Jason played guitar in one of my old sad songs Summer Is Over, so I asked Ryan to play keys for this track. I went over to his house in my hometown and I didn’t have the right cord to record MIDI so we just had to do it in one take, I played my vocals through a headphone and then he played along straight into a guitar cable, he did 3 or 4 takes, and I just chose my favourite one and that’s what you hear in the song from start to finish. I referenced some singer-songwriters (Reneé Rapp, Ryan Beatty, Phoebe Bridgers) best sad songs, and was so excited by the idea of this intense building - I love drama in music.

tied

I was dating this person and things were moving fast, but they eventually told me they weren’t over the trauma their ex put them through which hurt but was fair, and that is where the line “You were loving with both your hands tied” came from. This song started off with texting Jaiman Long an idea and he replied with the guitar samples. I wrote a storytelling vibe, but I wanted to add some electronic glitch elements in the vocals inspired by the PinkPantheress song Just for Me. I guess something was slightly off, so I wanted to convey that in the production: it’s not sitting like a regular guitar singer/songwriter song. I loved layering harmonies and I always intended for that to be the case with this one. I had an original bridge which has one line repeated over and over - I always think I have too many words - but I ended up hating it, and I wrote, in a way, a second mini song.

The song builds and then after the second chorus it sounds like a tape rewinding (which reminds me of my dad, when we were really young and would listen to cassettes in the old car). The second half of the song is angrier. After the feeling of understanding came anger - that I lost an almost-relationship. I had a friend tell me this is why I shouldn’t date Geminis, so I wanted to put that in for her “Know I’m overly emotional, blame that on being a water sign, and you’re a fucking Gemini, illuminated exit signs”. Then I sing the chorus in a different melody, as if I was always speaking the truth but just my attitude is different. Again I love drama and this is another example, I want to go on a journey with a song.

tokyo

tokyo is the first song I wrote for this EP, it was born out of real emotion. My best friend who I spent a lot of time with was battling depression and feeling worthless, he would feel like he was burdening me with his emotions when he talked about it. I wanted to express that I need him in my life, and if he wasn’t going to get through this for himself, I would love it if he would do it for me. We had recently watched this Pixar movie Big Hero Six, and the main character soars over Tokyo with this robot who was invented by his brother. I think a song with such a serious message having the central line “I want to see the sun set on Tokyo, with you” inspired by a Pixar movie is a nice juxtaposition of sweetness. The relationship I have with him feels wholesome and natural and I wanted to explain to him the wonderful life we could have together.

I started by writing this song on the piano, just some simple chords I looped and sung whatever came to mind, I eventually took it to production and made this beat, which in retrospect was so ridiculous. I had stacked harmonies and a pop hook. Eventually I realised some of my favourite songs that evoke longing, empathy and hope like when the party’s over by Billie Eilish were in 6/8, so I started producing the minimal atmospheric track that we have today inspired by that soft, simple energy and flow. When I showed my best friend he cried, for a while before it was released we went to a little viewing area to watch the planes take off while we listened to it. Writing a song for someone and then asking them if I can release it feels like such an honest way to songwrite to me.

itnl

This track serves as the outro to the EP. I started writing itnl (in the next life) after I watched Everything, Everywhere, All at Once. That movie changed my life, made me feel so seen. It’s magical and gay and chinese, it’s my favourite type of movie/my favourite movie of all time. I took the idea of the multiverse and multiple chances on their relationship, and I applied it to a person I was dating for a while, but growing distant from. When the second section begins with the moving building synths, I say my favourite line from the movie, the translation is “In another life, I would have really liked just doing laundry and taxes with you” but it’s said in Mandarin so that’s how I said it too. This is really a tribute to my mum, she taught me Mandarin as a child and I wish I kept it up more as a teenager, but I’m trying to get better for her.

I thought about Flume’s remix of Lorde’s Tennis Court as a way to use a repeated melody to build an atmosphere, like a running scene in a movie. On the day I started writing the song, I ran into the person I was dating’s housemate and she was really nice to me; much like the person I was dating, they like me but don’t love me. That’s where the first line came from “Your roommate likes me, so do you, but I’m dying to fall completely”. In the build up of sounds at the end I also have wings flapping. I think the final line (spoken in mandarin), is the perfect ending to the EP. It encompasses the way I want to love and be loved, simply and honestly.

          - Robert Baxter, April 2024

Packshot Robert Baxter you wouldnt expect cupid to cry EP

Robert Baxter's new EP you wouldn't expect cupid to cry is out now

Poster Robert Baxter Club Cupid Apr 21 The Gasometer

Follow Robert Baxter

Listen: Bly - Rosey

A fresh new duo out of Sydney called Bly drop their first single, Rosey.

9 years ago

Introducing electro duo EARTHLINGS, and their bangin' new single, Forever Alive

"It’s almost like The Presets drank too much vodka red cordial." - Yep, in.

6 years ago

Close
-->