Getting in touch with his emotional side, Seb Wildblood channels his internal fear of abandonment and uses it as a strength in his newest record, Separation Anxiety. An album of ambient sounds and complementary vocal tracks, Wildblood collaborates with several artists including renowned Laraaji, Tess Roby and Sir Was to deliver a collection of songs that are true to himself and invite listeners to a lo-fi, easy-listening world. Streaming now, Separation Anxiety is a Seb Wildblood adventure that you do not want to miss.
Thank you for taking the time to speak with me, Seb! Congratulations on your third studio album, Separation Anxiety. How are you feeling about it?
Thank you! I'm currently writing from the bullet train, on the way from Tokyo to Osaka, in the middle of a pretty busy touring schedule. It feels great. There's always a weight off your shoulders when a substantial project is finally out in the world, and the timing of these shows has been perfect as you can really gauge the response on the ground. I haven't toured like this since 2019 (pre-Covid), so it's taken a little bit of acclimatisation, but I'm loving it.
The record carries a very ambient sound, with traditional dance beats to support it, though you definitely give them a fresh take. I can't help but be reminded of a slight sound resemblance between your tracks and lo-fi music. Is there any correlation between the two genres for you? Do you listen to lo-fi music?
Thinking about the tracks individually, the influences range from electronica, trance, and indie to jazz, and even some classical tones. I think, as an aesthetic, perhaps the tracks all share some lo-fi sensibilities, but it’s not a ‘sound’ that I’m aspiring to achieve or that has inspired the album in any way. My sound has changed somewhat since I started out in 2015, but I’d say there are still a lot of similarities in the palette that I use if that makes sense. I use a mixture of hardware, soft synths, and organic samples I record to give it more of a human feel.
How much does your personal music taste inform your musical creations?
My taste absolutely informs my productions, knowingly or not. I mean, I’m pretty sure no producer starts out to make something they’re not into, if they’re writing it for themselves. Inspiration comes from a pretty wide scope for me. I was chatting with someone the other day about this. I think what has changed most for me in the last few years is my location and how that affected my sound. I lived in south-east London for the best part of twelve years, in a hotbed of musicians, producers, and label heads. Everywhere you look, there is so much to digest in a relatively condensed area, and while everyone is very much doing their own thing, the things that are happening directly around you are naturally going to feed into your art in some capacity, especially as it’s such a tight-knit scene. You’re really living it. I found since moving to Los Angeles, there’s not really a dominant sound or scene here, it’s just so scattered, similar to the layout of the city, so my influence has become a little broader.
You’ve collaborated with many artists on your tracks for the upcoming record. What was it like working with so many different artists? What do you look for in other artists to add to your own sound?
Well, firstly, I generally believe that the artists I reach out to collaborate with share a lot of similar sensibilities with me as an artist, so creatively, it can be pretty free-flowing, honestly. What I look for is something I can’t do myself, and also someone I’m a fan of and excited to bring into the project. Creatively, I can be a bit of a control freak, so there are definitely challenges to it, but I think every track with a feature was elevated substantially. The narrative of the album is very singular, and I wanted to bring people in as a way to counteract that.
I’m still pinching myself at the results. I mean, I could never have dreamed of working with Laraaji before this record. He’s a bit of a hero of mine, so that’s been a total bucket list moment. The collaborations all came around in their own way. It felt full circle to link up with Mauv again. We worked on the lead single, Amelia, off my first album together, so it felt great to explore where we're both at currently and feed that into the record. Also, massive shouts to sir Was, Tess Roby & Lawrence, who absolutely nailed it. Cliché, but the most fun part is the friendships you make along the way. A lot of the time, the same goes with running the record labels.
Furthermore, because you incorporated influences from so many different artists, how did you go about making sure that you were able to maintain an overall cohesive sound and message?
With this record, I wanted to toe the line of what a ‘dance’ record could be. I obviously run a dance-oriented record label and have been DJing for years. Only one of the featured artists comes from a similar place musically, so the fact that I was bringing the sauce from such a broad range of artists really fed into what I wanted to do.
I think the biggest example of this is the penultimate track, It's Sky Time, which is a 136 bpm peak time thing, before closing out with Slice ft. Laraaji, which is one of my most downtempo tracks to date. But somehow, for me, they work together. It makes sense. I want to push my boundaries, and I guess you try and think, what hasn’t been done, or overdone? Why hasn’t it been done? Perhaps it doesn’t make sense… Well, how can we make it make sense? To me, if you listen to the album from front to back, there’s a broad range of influences and features in there, but it retains a spirit throughout. That was the aim anyway.
Could you speak to that process a bit more – creating a cohesive sound and message without a big presence of vocals and lyrics?
By my standards, this is a pretty vocal-heavy record. I think it’s just about communicating with the vocalists, sharing as much as you can about the narrative while being careful not to stifle their creativity. There’s a real beauty in ambiguity, and I think you’ve got to allow space for that.
On Instagram, your page is predominantly filled with promotional material for Separation Anxiety. You have the flashing album art on several posts and continue to use that theme to announce show dates and locations. The record cover looks like an empty tracklist. Where did that album art inspiration come from?
My first album was photography-based, and my second was graphic-led, so I always knew I wanted to say what needed to be said within a type of structure. I worked with Jayson on the album art. If you consider the spacing of the type, it suggests separation. We also added subtle flashes of colour within the artwork to represent the glimmers of hope and light that one could experience when trying to get through hardship. In this particular case, it was referring to my issues with abandonment that stem from my childhood. Personally, it was perhaps the worst thing to ever happen to me, but I’m almost sure I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing without it happening, so there’s a tension there.
Also, what is your relationship with social media like? How has it evolved over the years?
I do what I can. I’d be lying if I said that sort of thing came naturally to me. I think there’s massive value in that direct connection with your audience, but also a lot of toxicity induced from it too, with the comparisons one will naturally draw with others, but it’s all rose-tinted. I mean, this could be an entirely separate conversation.
In regard to my posts, for me, it was important that this record had a very defined visual identity, like an era of Seb Wildblood that you can see visually. I’ve always felt that the records I release are like a personal diary, but I don’t think I’ve visually represented it in a manner that creates that clear separation from the campaign before, so I guess it’s all been a lot more intentional than previous campaigns in that sense.
You've announced tour dates in North America and Europe. Is your music received differently by different audiences?
It’s hard to tell. Generally, it feels pretty similar to me territory-wise. I think the biggest difference that I personally experience is people who have been following me for years and then people who might have just discovered the latest record, in terms of the sound they are expecting from a Seb Wildblood DJ set. I think if you’ve heard most of my catalogue, and record label, and listened to some mixes, you’d be expecting a bit of a ‘journey’, as I kind of take it all over the place. But maybe someone just has a favourite track and expects all the tracks I play in a DJ set to sound like that, which to me would be pretty boring for everyone.
What does a Seb Wildblood live show look and feel like?
To be continued – I had a live show ready to go with a band pre-pandemic, and inevitably, that got cancelled. I’m planning to do a solo show, you know, I’ve been holding it back for a while now, so I’m just waiting for an opportunity that feels right. I would love to debut it at a festival. Until then, it will be DJ sets.
You’ve composed music for fashion shows while also working on your own individual projects throughout the years. What is the difference in your approach for these two different project types?
It really depends. Generally, with the fashion stuff, they will have an idea of what they want, and the fact that they’re reaching out to me generally means they want my sound. It just needs to be tailored to the concept a little more. I guess it’s almost like a remix in a way, as you have set boundaries that perhaps you wouldn’t have if you were writing a track for your next record. I have to resonate with the brand to get on board; I need to feel inspired by it for it to work.
Last but not least, what’s the thing you’re most excited about Separation Anxiety?
The vinyl. We didn’t press the last album, so it feels great to have a tangible version this time around. And the fact that it’s not delayed, which, after the last few years, is wild to me :-)
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