Bed-Stuy-based experimental pop artist Noah Drieblatt spoke with former high school classmate Girl Wunder on the eve of the debut of his solo album, Doomscrolling. Interview by Girl Wunder.
GW: Noah, congrats on your first solo album, Doomscrolling! First off, can you share what inspired the title of this release? It’s very compelling!
ND: This is indeed my first-ever solo album! It’s been a dream of mine to release something under my own name for a long time. I felt drawn to the title when I first heard the word. I think because my mind’s a little chaotic, and maybe I was “doomscrolling” before it was cool. I’ve always been a news junkie, so it can be hard for me to look away from social media. I remember thinking, “There’s a name for this thing I do…I guess other people do it, too.”
Part of the goal was to make the record feel like a newsfeed. You see tiny, disparate fragments of other peoples’ lives and somehow they’re all connected; they coalesce to form a bigger, messier narrative about times, places and the people who inhabit them.
GW: What was it like to produce full-length tracks and orchestrating all the musical sounds for your very first project?
ND: I’ve actually written a ton of songs over the years, but I hadn’t taken the time to fully flesh them. I’ll be working on a demo and think “it’d be great to hear this part on pedal steel,” but I don’t play pedal steel! And normally I wouldn’t bug my friends to take time out of their busy lives, so it was great to have an excuse to say, “Hey, I’m working on an album! Could you help me out?” It’s a joy to be close with such great singers and instrumentalists— folks who can hear my thoughts and breathe life into them.
GW: I’m captivated by the sounds you’ve included in these tracks. What aspects of your musical background / experiences have influenced your current style?
ND: I wear a lot of hats, and part of the joy of this project was getting to put all those hats on [at the same time]. I got to play composer, producer, instrumentalist, singer, engineer, lyricist and sampler. I also got a ton of help from other people wearing some of these hats, but honing each of these skills has been an important part of my life at different times throughout my career. Touring has opened up my ears a lot, and so have my friendships with too many people to name… But there is one name I want to mention, and that’s Jason Disu — a brilliant soul who pushed me to play my instrument at the edge of my ability and to hear the connection of different sounds. He’s gone too soon.
GW: You mentioned that some of your songs in the album “tell stories from your life, and some are based on “fantastical dreams.” Would you be willing to share one of these stories or dreams with us?
ND: I’ve been saving the eponymous voicemail on “Haunted Voicemail Interlude” [from Doomscrolling] since my freshman year of college, when it arrived mysteriously on my phone. I know this sounds completely nuts, but that voicemail defies my understanding of the physical universe. Amid the bizarro sound shuffle, there are voices of people I’d known in the past, people who I knew at that moment, people who I’d meet in the future, robots—and people I’ll never meet. It was a glitch in the matrix, something truly and profoundly baffling—and I knew it as soon as I heard it! So it has just been sitting and haunting my phone for the last 12 years. Then I realized it had a place on this album, which seeks to explore the digital spirit-realm…or something!
GW: When I listen to your album I get this sci-fi dystopia vibe. The lyrics and sounds are pointing at this awkward reality we are in, as our lives are becoming overwhelmingly reliant on technology and our relationships are changing because of it. But it’s like you’re bringing light to it and even some comedy. Is there something you hope listeners can feel from listening to your music?
ND: This is an intense time! Indeed, I think sci-fi writers have been trying to warn us about the dystopia we’re currently digging ourselves deeper into forever. I thought it was important for me to address that, and I also feel really compelled to participate in it—despite knowing how messed up it all is. I’ve always thought “if you can’t laugh into the abyss, it’ll laugh into you.” So yes, I want this album to make you feel angry and sad and joyful and hopeful and overcome with laughter and full of questions.
GW: Can you tell us about your music video?
ND: I’m actually still working on two others! But I’m sure you’re asking about the video that’s already released, which is for “Celestial Bodies!” The tune itself is an outer-spacey sci-fi country western duet (I took inspiration from Johnny Cash/June Carter). And I thought what better way to represent this visually than a space-western? So I called up dear-friends-and-video-wizzes Morgan Greenstreet & Lollise Mbi, and we hatched a plan to shoot Mayteana Morales and Attis Clopton at Fort Tilden. I cooked up a treatment for the video and scouted with Morgan for locations. Then Lollise made incredible costumes for the protagonists with the help of Maria Eisen. The weather that day was beautiful and strange: a huge sun, an endless haze. Morgan and Lollise and I worked together on editing the footage, and I set out on an endless journey of learning After Effects from YouTube to do the VFX. In the end, I’m really proud of what we got!
Tune in to hear Noah on Girl Wunder’s Virtual Voyager Friday, 5/7 at 1am; rebroadcast: Tuesday, 5/11 at 4pm.