Sounds from around the world come together to form Inside, Serebii’s debut album, set to release on September 15th. Of Spanish, Welsh, and British descent, the artist, producer, and multi-instrumentalist draws from different cultures and languages that inspire him both artistically and personally, particularly Japanese culture. Where songs lack vocals and lyrics, he makes up for it in track titles and instrumentation. Serebii puts a lot of thought into the selection of terms that carry a lot of intentional weight and assign them as names of his songs. He uses foreign instruments to create unique sounds that add depth and layers (both literal and metaphorical) to his album, honing in on a cohesive sound and message for listeners.
Thank you for speaking with me today, Serebii. Congratulations on your debut album, Inside. You must’ve put a lot of effort and time into this first record, which is set to be released mid-September. How are you feeling about it?
My pleasure, thanks for having me. I'm really proud of this record! Shitting myself too.
I’m curious to know. Your name (Serebii) is a stage name, I’m assuming. You said it’s a word that means ‘the essence of serenity,’ and it is of Japanese origin. Where did it come from? You’re originally from New Zealand. Why did you choose a Japanese alias?
Serebii is indeed my nom de plume, I suppose it is somewhere between a portmanteau and a neologism. Serebii was inspired by similar-shaped words, but to clarify, it isn't of Japanese origin.
Online, Serebii appears to have a strong connection to Pokémon. As a curiosity, what is your relationship to its universe?
I know… This was completely unintentional, although I kinda like being associated with this little magic forest creature from Pokémon!
I understand that you are heavily influenced by Japanese culture, specifically the concept of Komorebi. The term doesn’t have a direct translation to English, but as you put it, it translates to ‘sunlight leaking through trees.’ What about the concept initially caught your eye and made you want to create art as an homage to the idea?
I definitely feel drawn to Japanese culture, but perhaps not as much as you think. I like the idea of trying to emulate that glistening dance of light through leaves with my sound. Nature is constantly providing inspiration if you choose to listen. I do feel slightly hypocritical as I spend a lot of time indoors making and writing music, but when I do get out into the bush here in Aotearoa (New Zealand), I feel grounded and more in tune with the universe.
You’ve done several collaboration projects with other artists in the past, but Inside is the first time you’ve got the chance to create and output art that is uniquely your own. What was the difference between working with other musicians versus working on your own?
Yes, I have spent the last three years working on collaborative projects with Arjuna Oakes and Skud Gambosi. Through 2016-2019, I had made a lot of my own work but could never get things to a point where I wanted to release them. In fact, I even released some music and took it down. I decided to move to Wellington, New Zealand and work with as many artists and musicians as possible over my three years there. This helped me find my voice and develop skills that have helped me finally share my solo music!
You have tracks titled with terms from different cultures – Enoki (the Japanese mushroom) and Mulu (Ethiopian for ‘Miss you, Love you’). Where did the inspiration behind the names of these tracks come from?
Have you ever tried Enoki mushrooms? I simply wanted to make something creamy like mushroom sauce. This song came together quickly in the space of a day. Mulu was written a few years ago and never finished. The meaning behind the word Mulu gives this song of little words a message that resonates with the feeling and emotion that I was trying to capture in the instrumentation.
Finding inspiration in other languages, and how other cultures understand the world, is very interesting. Do you speak other languages besides English? What motivates you about exploring concepts and expressions in other languages?
I only speak English. I plan to travel and live in many places over the next decade! My family are Spanish, Welsh, and British. I would like to explore some developing countries to really put things into perspective for myself.
Some of your songs showcase silky vocals and some don't, which definitely changes the mood. How do you decide whether to sing on a track? And how do you think it changes the cadence and ambience of the track?
Vocal-driven tracks are always more personal to me; the songs on the album with my vocals are all approached in more of a singer-songwriter fashion opposed to the beat-driven tracks. This album was initially two separate EPs, with one being more upbeat and instrumental-based and the other more vocally-driven and slower in tempo. But I decided to squish them together.
To me, it lacks some cohesion because of this, although I do appreciate the space and diversity that comes with the merging of the two works. Quite often, I’ll listen to an album with a present vocalist throughout, and it tends to bore me at some point. Don’t get me wrong, there’s certainly albums that don’t, but I find myself listening to a lot of instrumental music as a result.
Furthermore, could you expand on how your creative process works? What is the mental frame that you like to work on, and how do you go on about songwriting, composing, and producing?
I generally treat the songwriting, composing, and production as one moving part; when they do work in harmony together, I find myself with something special, a reflection of a moment or emotion worth sharing. Over the last few days, I have been starting my process with a narrative, writing to a visual scene that I either come up with or watch online. I'll then begin to essentially score the visual concept. This has been helping mix up my routine, habits, and processes.
Moreover, to you as a musician, what is the importance of lyrics in music? Are they a tool for clarifying the message you want to convey? Or just another instrument?
The voice to me isn't an instrument; there are too many variables and moving parts for me to consider the voice as an instrument. To me, the importance of lyrics isn't always as important as the delivery of the voice singing it. I find when someone sings with heart and soul, it doesn't always need words to convey the message. The lyrics are there to clarify. Just as our emotional response lands before the thought.
It’s not too common that you find a musician who is also their own producer. Usually, those roles are filled by two different people. How do you find it being both the musician and the producer and having more control over the sound of your record? Pros and cons?
I love having total control of my work, it allows me to inherently solidify my sound across those different roles while avoiding the consumption of time it takes to find people who can help deliver your stylistic vision – mixing engineers, musicians or producers. I have been let down a lot since making music as a teenager, so I decided to learn how to do those roles on my own. Perhaps the con is that working alone doesn't always inspire as much new learning, there’s also something so broad and impactful when listening to music that has a group of people behind it, bringing it to your ears. I do love my solitude though… You need a bit of both.
What’s next for you after the release of Inside?
At this stage I'm not entirely sure. Another album? Moving to another country? So many options.