Listening to any track on EDEN’s debut album, vertigo, is like visiting your favourite city for the fiftieth time except nothing is quite where you remember it. The hotel is on the river, not by the park, and city hall is upside down.
The Dublin-raised singer/songwriter/producer who began his career as The Eden Project, melted the best of indie, hip hop, and electronica into 13 deconstructed tracks for vertigo. Following two successful EPs, a shout-out from Lorde, and mid-way through the vertigo world tour, we caught up with EDEN to talk about his new record, and the musical evolution that brought him to it.
G—From The Eden Project to the EPs to vertigo, you’ve had some pretty big changes in style. Does it feel that way to you or does it just kind of feel like you’re constantly evolving?
E—I definitely see that. There are similarities [between I think you think too much of me and vertigo]—my voice still sounds the same (laughs) and there are various instruments that I just like using—but it’s about progression for me. I could never be someone to make End Credits 2 or something like that. It’s not interesting to me to stay in one place.
G—Where do you think that progression took you in vertigo?
E—Structurally, I kind of think of [vertigo] like a weird, deconstructed pop album. I haven’t changed the way I write my lyrics or choruses or verses, but the way they appear in the songs is like you took a Lego house and made a car out of it. It’s jumbled up and rearranged. Before I think you think too much of me, I had an idea of what I wanted to make and all of the songs were fulfilling that original idea. For vertigo it was the opposite. I wanted to have no preconceptions or notions and just try to run off instinct.
G—You had a pretty different approach for the EPs than you did for this album.
E—Yeah, it was all about trying to do it in the moment rather than having an idea or a design. There’s a scene in Ex Machina where the character that Oscar Isaacs plays is talking about a Jackson Pollock painting, and he’s saying if [Pollock] felt that he had to know what every single brush stroke was for, he never would’ve made any art. It’s letting yourself be creative and expressive and seeing where that takes you rather than trying to get somewhere with that expression. And that’s kind of the approach I took. I wanted to just see where I ended up.
G—Do you feel like you took risks with this album that you didn’t take with the EPs?
E—On first listen it definitely wouldn’t stick with people as easily as other EPs that I’ve made. I suppose that’s a bit of a risk, and I knew that was going to be a potential stumbling block for the album as a whole—that people would listen to it and go, “I don’t get this.” Or, I’ve had people say, “Where are the choruses?” That could turn out pretty bad, but thankfully even from day one [my fans] were just so open to it.
G—I imagine making a debut album comes with a ton of pressure. Did you accomplish everything you hoped you would with this record?
E—I’m quite an ambitious person, I think, and when I see artists like SZA with a debut album that had huge effects on not only their careers but the music industry as a whole you think, ‘Is there something more I could’ve done?’ But I made what I wanted to make, and no one had any input in it really. If I had to go back and change some of the songs in order to have a #1 debut album I don’t know if those are choices I’d want to make.
G—Something I find really interesting about your music is how you sample conversations and sounds from your own life.
E—Sampling people talking is something I started doing back when I was The Eden Project. I came across these moments in music where there was nothing I could sing that would capture what I was trying to express as much as I wanted to. One time, I was sitting in the car with my parents and there was an ambulance coming by and I thought it would be a cool sound to record. Then halfway through the ambulance passing by, my mom starts finishing the conversation that I thought we had already finished and said some things that were really fitting for the song, “float”—so I put it in. I feel like, in the way that music can speak for more than the lyrics can sometimes, someone talking can speak more than the music can.
G—It’s kind of like 3D music.
E—Yeah, it’s all about creating an atmosphere and mood. It all contributes to this one feeling or idea, whether that’s by music or lyrics or sound effects or speech. It’s all kind of the same thing.
G—If there’s one thing you hope people take away from vertigo, what would it be?
E—vertigo is about small moments and how they can feel absolutely massive, and how sometimes the big moments don’t really matter. And whether or not you get that thing you really want, the world keeps spinning regardless. If you could take away anything from it, it’s that it’s alright. Everything is kind of alright, and will continue to be so. Nothing is ever as great or as grave as it seems.
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