The sad softboi thing is quite a common occurrence in pop music from young men at the moment. It’s only a good thing, as more and more young men become more in touch with their emotions, feel more okay with sharing them and aren’t afraid to cry, my glass-half-full thoughts say that men are going to be mentally healthier in the future than their even-slightly older counterparts.
The Sydney-born singer, songwriter, and producer Chris Lanzon is leading the charge for that out of his city, making emotionally charged, sonically huge music that doesn’t glamourise or use sadness as a marketing weapon, but as a truly cathartic tool of unraveling his mind.
Almost entirely made in his bedroom on his own, the top and tail of the record were co-written with Demi Louise (responsible for co-writes with TKAY, Japanese Wallpaper, The Kite String Tangle and others), kick-start and bookend a journey. That word is overused, but it’s the best descriptor for this really honest ‘body of work’.
Nic Kelly’s in bold, Chris Lanzon is in not-bold.
How have you been feeling for the last couple of weeks? I know it’s a weird time.
Yeah, it’s been up and down, but I’m just trying to stay productive as much as possible.
Are you putting pressure on yourself to be productive?
I am the kind of person that does that, but it hasn’t really been working amazingly. I’ve had days where I’ll just sit there and feel really uninspired and unmotivated. I’m trying to just kind of learn to accept those days as well. Because not every day is gonna be productive.
The good thing is you got some music done and ready to go before we all went into lockdown, which was a genius stroke from you. When did you kind of wrap up the production on the EP?
It was a long, long process because I was doing it all myself. Along the way I was learning and trying to get better at producing, so the songs themselves I finished probably over a year ago at this point, but to get them sounding right and to a place where I was happy, was probably only about a month before.
Wow. What do you think it is about taking your time… are you are you a perfectionist? Or was it just not quite there for you?
I think I just wanted it to be as good as it could be in from what I imagined when I was making the songs. I think I’m a bit of a perfectionist in that sense and it was important for me to do every bit of it myself, just because I’ve always had that passion for writing and producing. Learning how to do it was a really exciting process for me and it didn’t really matter to me how long that took.
I know Demi [Louise] was on a couple of tracks with you, but when you don’t have someone in the room with you for every track, letting you know that something’s good or being that sounding board, how do you know something’s good? Is it just in your brain? Or does it take a bit of extra courage?
It’s different with every idea. Even through writing and recording I was always questioning that, like, “is this good? Is this what I want to sound like? Is this where I want to go? Is this what I want to say?” It’s a constant thing and not having a sounding board can be very challenging at times, because I get very in my head about it. I bounced off friends along the way, I’ll send a few different people ideas and I’ll listen back to things and give them time to kind of settle in and see how I feel about it after a little bit.
Who are the people you trust when something’s not feeling quite right to you? Who are the people you go to?
Just close friends. A couple high school friends and people that I talk to regularly who know me pretty well. They might not necessarily be very musical people, so it’s good as well to get that perspective, from an outside view.
Totally. When I’ve got a song I’m not 100% sure about. I show my sister, who I live with, who’s just a genuine music fan, not in the industry, just loves music and gigs. That sometimes is the most clear, concise feedback that I can get, rather than taking it to someone who will go “turn the synth down 1.5 dB.”
I totally get that. I find when I go to music friends, they’re often very critical on the sounds and then I end up having even more questions after talking to them about it!
Yes! I think particularly on this kind of music, where you’ve got these exceptionally delicate, exceptionally intimate tracks. Let’s talk about the sound of this record. It’s delicate, it’s intimate – but I think delicate and intimate can be boring sometimes – and what you’ve done is still made these really action packed songs. There’s lots to think about. There’s lots to consider and there’s incredible melodies driving it. Going into this project, what was the kind of music that you wanted to do? Was it always going to sound like this?
It’s nice to hear that you’ve felt that from the sounds. Going into it, I didn’t have necessarily an intention for a project that I wanted to make. I was really just trying to find, I guess, myself and my sound and that voice that I wanted to have, what I wanted to say through my music and I guess the sound kind of shaped itself through the feelings that I was wanting to express, through learning how to produce and experimenting. I wanted those moments that felt like that feeling I was trying to say through words, you could hear that through the music.
Diamonds On The Water is one track I particularly like, I like that it’s kind of got a little bit more kick to it. That was one of two tracks that you wrote with Demi, what was the difference between the tracks that you wrote entirely on your own and the tracks that you jumped on with her?
Demi is amazing, she’s a great friend of mine and really great at – as we were talking about, having my sounding board – she is just, like, phenomenal at that. Whenever I work with her, we’ll just have a long conversation about where I’m at and what’s going on in my life and she’s so good at turning that into words that really mean something. I guess the difference between those two songs, we wrote them at really different times in my life. With Still, I was largely in this weird place and feeling a bit down and then with Diamonds On The Water, I was in a more hopeful place coming out of that. It was really nice to write those two bookend songs with her.
It’s almost like Still kind of opens everything up for you, then you kick Demi out of the room, make even more intimate moments and process all that energy by yourself, then come out the other end and Demi allows you to make this slightly more hopeful track. I think I want to talk about why you were sad, but I don’t, but there’s lots of fucking sadness in this record. How did you feel about putting all that into songs? Did it just feel like the right thing to do, put it into music?
Yeah, music’s always been that outlet for me. This project came together over about a two year period of just lots and lots of writing and amongst that, I was often battling with the fact that a lot of the songs were very sad, because I felt listening back to them they were so cathartic and so personal, I almost thought “this is too sad.” Like undeservingly sad! It got to a point where I wasn’t sure what to do. The idea came to embrace that sadness and make it a journey, summarise that failing and put it into one project. That’s kind of how the idea of Melancholy came to be.
Melancholy is a very interesting feeling, isn’t it? There’s a weird, like, hope in the back of your mind. And a wishing for something from the past, but also you’re just depressed as shit. It’s the weirdest combination of emotions, isn’t it?
Yeah, I guess it’s sadness without necessarily knowing why. It’s just this weird kind of blur of working through everything, that’s what it means to me, I guess.
Do you feel like you’ve achieved what you set out to do once you realised this was going to be a sad record?
I think so. The main thing for me was to just communicate those feelings and in a way it’s almost like therapy for me getting them out. Having that out in the world now is a weight off my shoulders and it’s nice to have other people able to connect with those stories and those feelings. I’ve definitely come a long way I think, since writing those songs.
I know that this is not the end for Melancholy. There’s now going to be a visual accompaniment to everything.
The visual side of things has always really interested me. I’ve just always had a passion for visual storytelling as well as music. So it felt natural for me to want to make a visual counterpart to this project. Basically, it’s a music video for each song, but it follows that journey we’ve been talking about from start to finish. It’ll be a visual telling of what the story means to me. It’s a bit more metaphorical and a bit more of a fantasy world that we’re creating. So I’m excited for everyone to see it.
Did having to go into lockdown change any of the plans of making this stuff?
I want the film to come out with the EP. Everything going on right now has really slowed it down. But we’re trying, it’s just me and my friend Andrew, just filming and putting everything together ourselves. We’re just trying to get around as much as we can with all the restrictions.
I think there’s something nice about the fact that it didn’t come out with the record, though. There’s something nice about having a chance with the music, to kind of interpret it in our own way and see our own visual representations and then we get an actual display of what it looks like through your lens, as well.
100%. I was thinking the same thing, when it did end up that way, I thought, you know what, maybe it’ll be good for people to just sit with it for a bit and then digest the film later.
I’m excited about that. Okay, so we’ve had the sad EP. Are we gonna continue the sad music or are we feeling a little bit more chirpy now?
We’ll get it upbeat a little more! Like I said, I was writing a lot of different things and this project kind of came about when I became aware of that sadness that was in my music and I thought I would play into that a bit, but moving forward, we’re definitely moving upwards. My music is a reflection of where I’m at, I guess. And at that point in time, I was very melancholic. But now I’m a lot happier. So expect some happier music!