Zürich based experimental pop/rock, drone and electronic infused artist DEBUTANTE has a penchant for glitchy and avant-garde sounds, dipping into the digital realm with heavy use of organic tools drawing from noisy posst punk and rock. Experimental, dark, psychedelic, and deliciously weird, the latest offering from Chris explore the bounds of standards and begs us to step out of our comfort zone and into something that’s entirely his own. He was gracious enough to speak with me not only about his creative background, but about how composing and performing has been therapeutic for him. Chris offers up some advice to those currently going through struggles like anxiety and depression, issues that inspired him to create his latest EP 3, or gender dysphoria, a condition that inspired his lengthier drone/post-metal track with lots of glitchy synths called No Mirrors (listen below).
Hey Chris! Thanks so much for sharing some time with us. I’m really impressed by the well-thought combo of your latest track “No Mirrors”, including its atmospheric feel, amazing artwork and serious content. It’s kind of weird to discover your art through just one track, but please tell us about it, what it means to you and how it reflects your identity as DEBUTANTE?
Thanks for the kind words! Yeah, the reception for the single has been very positive and I couldn’t be happier about it. On one hand, it sums up my general work as Debutante pretty well musically; it’s a dronier shoegaze track with a lot of glitchy chiptune synths and a pop song structure. Trying to fuse more abrasive sounds with a sense of catchiness is a pretty central element of my music after all.
On the other hand, it’s definitely one of the more personal tracks I’ve released, the lyrics are fairly straight-forward: Me contemplating my gender expression and identity. What does it mean if I put on make-up or want to wear stockings? Does that make me genderfluid or just a cis dude that happens to enjoy putting on ‘girlier’ clothes? Am I just confused? It’s questions like this that are being discussed in the song.
I can’t really take credit for the artwork though. That was done by an artist called Gato. Their art style is really unique, it’s well worth checking out.
Is it a forerunner of a full record?
It’s just my side to a split EP. I guess you could look at it as its own record in that sense.
Is it hard to tackle such tough subjects? How do you define this storytelling through your work?
Oh definitely, it’s hard as hell to vocalize feelings of confusion or discontent without coming off as overly corny. I’ve also been terrified of sharing my work with others for a very long time due to its personal nature, but that either became easier with time or I’ve gotten kind of jaded, haha.
What do you think you have gained from it for yourself?
I can vent about these things instead of letting them bottle up. On top of that, a handful of people have told me they relate to my lyrics quite a bit, so just knowing there’s some folks out there that can really identify with the stuff I write blows my mind.
Did you find that some other art-related practice was helpful for you to have a proper background and eventually reveal your personal struggles? Tell us a bit more about what led you to try your hand at composing.
It’s hard to pinpoint an exact moment where I got into songwriting. I used to be in ensembles and bands throughout most of my teens and I messed around with bass recordings in GarageBand a bit during that time, but I could never be bothered to put out anything full-fledged until I was around 18.
What kicked things off properly for me might have been an assignment in senior year of high school, come to think of it. The basic idea was to just get a first grasp of songwriting and home production but I went way overboard and ended up handing in a 35-minute album. I still have it on my backup HD and it’s awful in almost every way, but I still hold it pretty dear, haha.
Outside of music, I’ve been trying to get myself into drawing for a while now. I’m terrible at it, but it’s nice to have some sort of other output when I can’t be bothered with music stuff. And there’s things you can’t convey too well in a sound-based medium so it’s fun to have a go at visual stuff.
Do you fancy sharing some of this work here? :)
Maybe there is one thing. I had a short-lived noise rock project back in high school, we didn’t practise a ton and played only two shows but I came across an old live video the other day that I still kinda dig. Here you go (see below).
Outside of this video though, not currently. Maybe ask me again in five years but for now I’m still far too embarrassed of my angsty old high school demos.
Awesome, thanks so much! I bet it’ll be worth millions sometime in the future, haha.
Heh, we’ll see about that.
Sound and style-wise, what led you down this specific path and what motivates you to stay the course? Tell us about your motivation to compose in this specific niche and style.
I’m both into abrasive doom/drone music but I also really like pop tunes with a good beat and a catchy chorus. I guess trying to fuse the two was just the logical conclusion here.
As for staying on this path, I’d like to think my music changes quite a bit with each release. EP3 was way more straight-forward and riff-heavy in comparison to No Mirrors, which had far more glitch and slowcore elements. I doubt the drone and pop sensibilities will disappear entirely but I definitely want to pursue that slowcore/glitch blend more on future releases.
How do you work on your tracks structures? Technically speaking, can you lead me through your creative process?
I spend a lot of time improvising on bass or guitar and tend to write down/record nice chord progressions or riffs I come up with pretty much immediately. Then I try to find other progressions in my sketches that would fit well and arrange them in a catchy song structure. Once I have that basic structure down, I start recording it properly. In most cases the order is bass/guitar, vocals, drums, synths, textures.
My sketch backlog is huge by now though, and only around 1/30 of all my recordings ever see the light of day. There’s probably way more efficient ways to go about it, haha.
What do you hope people universally receive from your work? Do you have such expectations in the first place?
Not really, I mean different people will enjoy my tunes for different reasons. I can imagine there’s some folks out there that don’t care a ton about the lyrics and pay more attention towards textures/sounds, for instance. Honestly, I’m just glad it brings people some kind of enjoyment or happiness, as corny as that sounds.
What about your biggest inspirations and sources of musical joy? Tell us about some of your biggest discoveries and best records you’ve come across recently.
I think any artist that is brutally honest about their feelings in their work is inspiring to me. Bands like HAVE A NICE LIFE and TEEN SUICIDE also really influenced me back when I got started with songwriting with their approach to lo-fi recording and home production.
An exciting discovery I made recently was this artist called I AM A LAKE OF BURNING ORCHIDS. They make a fairly unique blend of harsh noise and shoegaze music. Oddly enough, they deleted their entire catalogue off Bandcamp a while ago so the only way to listen to their music was through reuploads by other people. There’s three new EPs out this year, but the older releases haven’t been reuploaded for whatever reason.
Aside that, the new PLANNING FOR BURIAL, BLANCK MASS and MOUNT EERIE albums are all very good in their own ways. The latter is utterly heartbreaking though, I almost feel like a grief tourist listening to it.
Alright Chris, thanks so much for your time. Feel free to add anything you like and share your final words. It’s been a pleasure talking to you.
Can’t think of any final words here, but thank you very much! This was fun.