posted by Lu
December 2021

Glacier... That was the name of the album which served as my gateway into the complex world of Teen Daze. If you dive into his discog and hit shuffle, you're bound to ask yourself "hold on, this can't be the same artist?". Even though Jamison Isaak's sound refuses to stagnate, it's generally the RICH atmosphere with strong roots in ambient and the world-building he achieves that helps us recognize his sound. However, for anyone that's become a bit too familiar with that description of Teen Daze's aesthetic, you're in for one hell of a surprise when you hear the latest works off his upcoming album Interior.

Teen Daze went from being compared to Washed Out, to potentially having his name tossed into a conversation with DJ Seinfeld and Ross from Friends. From the singles we've heard Teen Daze ventures his music into a more club-like landscape, but still heavily diluted with ambient textures. It's a mistake to think of the upcoming project as just an album as an entire world crafted around that's aided by the chromatic visuals. I could tell you so much more about Interior, luckily we have the opportunity to talk to the man himself about it. In this interview, Teen Daze speaks on the new album, motivations, the rise of DSP's and social media, and much more.

Teen Daze Interview | Stereofox

You've been making music for so long, you've dived into a range of genres, and you've performed in various countries too. At this point what would you say motivates you and keeps your passion for music alive?

Great question! There's a few answers to this question: first, it's always been the only thing I've ever wanted to do. For as long as I can remember, it's just been that. I guess there were a few years when I was really young when I wanted to be Michael Jordan (I grew up in the 90s, in a family of Basketball obsessives), but yeah, being a musician was the dream from a very early age. I think something kicked in very early on in doing Teen Daze, where I realized that this was my chance to actually live out that dream. So I'm constantly looking for new ways to sustain this lifestyle. 

As my personal and familial responsibilities grow and change, it's certainly presented new challenges, but the older I get, the more I study/try to emulate career artists, people like Brian Eno or Herbie Hancock, who have been able to reinvent themselves, and stay relevant throughout the changes in not only their own lives, but also in culture. That's the dream for me: to be able to do this forever.

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I'm also ALWAYS listening, and going down new rabbit holes. I'm constantly inspired and challenged by what I'm listening to. 2021 was such a fruitful year for new music, it's hard to not be motivated to keep creating.

Something I’ve always been interested in is your relationship with collabs… Throughout 10 albums only 6 features appear (5 from 1 album). What does creating music solo give you that collaborating doesn't?

CONTROL! Hahahaha, I mean, that is what it boils down to if I'm being honest. I've been a solo artist for so long that I definitely feel like I'm in my comfort zone when I work by myself. But that being said, collaborating has been such a rewarding experience. Every collaborator I've worked with has brought something so incredible and unique to the table. I've only learned this in the last few years, but it's so important to find people who can do the things you can't do, and learn to work with them. Every feature you see on a Teen Daze track, that person has brought something to the table that I just can't, and I think that's a truly beautiful thing. We all view things through our own lens', and when a collection of different experiences can gel on a song, it opens up an entirely new world. Learning to ease up control can be scary for an artist, but it can also result in some of the best works.

I think it's worth noting that this applies to so many different collaborative relationships outside of the actual music itself: my manager, my agent, my publicist, the people that are making album art, music videos, writing my bio. The entire ecosystem works best when everyone is in harmony, and that requires me to know how to collaborate.

Teen Daze Interview | Stereofox

What encouraged you to create "ambient music that you can dance to", and what were some of the works you were listening to that helped you craft this sound?

I think it comes from the fact that I didn't learn about, or have my formative experiences, with dance music by going to clubs. It was never a live thing for me. It feels funny to write it out actually: dancing was never a part of the experience of dance music for me. So the lines between dance music and ambient music were never that established for me. Both were about (sorry for the overused phrase) the world-building. I would listen to Discovery in my bedroom, and dream about what it might be like to dance to "Digital Love" or "High Life" in a real Parisian club. And in the same breath, I would listen to Eno's Ambient 1, and dream up different (albeit more mellow) possible experiences. So to blend those two worlds always felt really natural.

How did the name Interior come about and how does it best reflect the listening experience of the new album?

Pretty unceremoniously actually. This is something I've come to learn about the creative process for myself: I make decisions based off a gut feeling early on, and realize that these seemingly passive choices have become the foundation for the whole project. Interior, the title track, was the first song I worked on for the project, and it was just what I named the Ableton session. Simple as that. As I worked more and more on the record, I started to realize that the word would become emblematic for a bunch of different themes I was exploring: being stuck inside for the last two years, the interior life of a person, the power of listening to music in different spaces, what it means to listen to 'club' music in a home setting. In the end, all of these things can be filtered through the word Interior, which is still wild to me. There was no grand concept at the beginning of the process, but it all fell into place.

For a long time actually, your music has been quite far from a clubbing environment, I'm super stoked that this is an avenue you're diving into. What would you say was the biggest challenge when it came to going in this direction?

Easily the biggest challenge was the sonic aspect of it. There's a certain kind of mixing/arranging that goes into dance music production, which is why I was so happy to have Joel Ford mix the record. I was totally up for the challenge to make my version of 'dance music', after spending so many years making music that was more club-music-adjacent. But there are so many masters of this craft, I didn't want to make something that sounded weak in comparison. That's where Joel comes in; his ability to take the tracks I made in my modest home studio, and make them club-ready is so impressive.

What aspects of your production changed going into the making of Interior? And what were your studio habits like during its creation?

I get lost in adding layers and layers of tracks in my recordings, and with this record, I really did try and strip things back a bit. It's so easy to muddy up dance tracks, when really the kick drum and the bass should really be front and center (of course, there are no RULES, but you know). I tried to be conscious of that in my arrangements. The function of the song plays such a huge role in this process: Considering I haven't made much music that is specifically intended to be played in clubs/to be danced to, I was very much still in "song" mode. I would find myself working on something that was feeling a little static, and I felt this constant need to throw in left turns. But then I realized that so much of the music I was being inspired by was pretty minimal and repetitive in its arrangements. Sometimes, it's okay to just make a solid groove and let it play out.

As for my studio habits, they were all relatively similar to any other project really. Other than the fact that half way through the making of the record, my wife gave birth to our son, and so my time spent in the studio became MUCH more efficient. I didn't quite have the space to just spend all day experimenting in the studio, which is how I used to operate. I had a small window of time, and I had to see results. Thankfully that happened!

I'm curious as to what it was about "Swimming" that made it the ideal first single to tease the album?

It felt like the perfect introduction to the sound of the record. There's glimpses of a few of the different sounds you hear throughout the record: the chopped-up microsamples, the modular synth melodies, that in-between we talked about earlier, of ambient sounds and dance music. The overall tone of the record is somewhere between hopeful and melancholic, and "Swimming" just seemed like the best example of that feeling.

I noticed that the lyrics on "2 AM (Real Love)" tread towards uncertainty in the verses, and they exude conviction during the chorus. Can you elaborate on this duality and share the inspiration behind the songwriting?

I wish I could speak on this, but my friend Cecile wrote the lyrics (and the melodies…and she recorded the vocals herself…she's the best) so you would have to ask her!

On the subject of love, it'd be great to get your thoughts on what love means to you, and what your ideal union looks like?

Love is a light that shines through darkness. Love is inclusion, tolerance, acceptance, forgiveness. I sound like a fucking bible verse hahaha. I'm so fortunate to get to be married to my best friend, which means I get to experience love in all its various forms on a day-to-day basis. From a macro to a micro level, I want love to be the catalyst for every decision I make.

How are you trying to make people feel, or what kind of space are you wanting to put people in after they've experienced the project?

This is something I've thought a lot about throughout my career. I've spent lots of time trying to control that experience, but as I get older, it's so much more freeing to let it be open to the listener. I was to be inclusive of all experiences. If this is music you lift weights too, or listen to on your commute, or dance to in a club, or fall asleep to, or even play quietly during a dinner party, I'm honestly just happy to get to reach people's ears.

The dream, of course, is that the music would help bring some calm, or some joy, or peace, to people's lives. But again, it's not up to me to decide that for people.

Teen Daze Interview | Stereofox

Throughout the rollout of the project you and your team have created a world that listeners can become lost in and I'm sure your fans are super appreciative of that. In which ways do the animated and somewhat trippy visuals created by Scott Gelber and Nicole Ginelli tie into the themes encapsulated in Interior?

This is so good to hear, because we worked really hard to establish this visual world for people to experience the record through. I've been really fascinated with early metaverse (a word that has become completely ruined, I know) concepts, and really exploring the ways in which we live and present ourselves online. In the same way that when I was dreaming up worlds listening to Daft Punk as a kid, those dreamed-up worlds are now becoming these pseudo-digital realities for people. Mostly I just love the aesthetic that comes along with early concepts of VR and digital art. Nicole's music video absolutely nails this aesthetic, and in the chats we've had, it's been so cool to vibe with her on these things. She's so dedicated to the process, and I think it really shows with that video.

In the same vein, Scott's visualizers and María's artwork play on the feeling that can only come from seeing something animated. Sorry for continually going back to Daft Punk, but seeing Interstella 5555 for the first time was so mindblowing for me; it felt like someone else was dreaming up a world for this record, and we actually got to live in those dreams. Something about the fact that it was presented as an anime has always stuck with me. It's such an immersive medium. My favourite animes all have these incredibly immersive worlds, it only felt right to try and tap into that energy with some of the visuals for this record.

How has the rise of DSP's, and social media changed the way you release music now compared to the early days of your career?

Like I was saying a little earlier, it just means that there's so much more stuff vying for people's attention. You have to be very accepting of the fact that it will take longer for people to hear the thing you want them to hear, or potentially not at all! Plus, our collective memory is so short, that you then have to also hope that it will stick with people in a meaningful way. I'm up for it though. I've been way more 'on camera' this time around, living out my dream of having my own Adult Swim show. So if it means that making dumb videos for Reels or Tiktok is now a part of the job, I can't say I wouldn't rather just stick to making music, but I'll still do my best to have fun with it.

The one thing I long for from my early days, though, is the communities that would form around music. The halcyon blog days of the early 10s were so beautiful. I made so many friends through it, and it felt like I made some lifelong fans too. You miss out on all that now. 

Teen Daze Interview | Stereofox

You must be stoked about your upcoming release parties mate. What would you say you miss most about performing live?

I'm actually on my flight to New York right now! I gotta say, I'm feeling a wide variety of emotions. I was fortunate enough to play a party in Vancouver a few weekends ago that prepped for the feeling of being in a club again. The party was so special, the vibes were truly amazing. The feeling of playing music for a room full of people that are fully committed to the experience is a POWERFUL feeling. So with that in mind, I'm really, REALLY looking forward to feeling that a few more times in the weeks to come.

I've had a few friends reach out today and wish me a good trip, and in the conversations I've been having with them, I've been distilling all the different ways I've been feeling today. There's a sense of catharsis, after a very long time spent at home. I actually performed my last shows in the spring of 2019, as my wife and I were expecting the birth of our son in Sept 2019. The plan was to take a 6 month paternity leave, where I said no to any show/tour offers. The pandemic turned those 6 months into 2.5 years. So needless to say, there's going to be some rust to shake off. I've also developed a really strong routine at home, and my son, who's now 2, and I spend a ton of time together. So while I'm so excited for all the things I mentioned, it's also just a bummer to be away from my family. 

A quote that's been impactful for you lately?

Herbie Hancock, speaking about improvising with Miles Davis:

We can look for the world to be as we would like it to be, as individuals. 'Make it easy for me.' But I think the important thing is that we grow, and the only way we can grow is to have a mind that is open enough to be able to accept situations- to be able to experience situations as they are, and turn them into medicine. Turn poison into medicine. Take whatever situation you have, and make something constructive with it.

15) So... 1) An artist/band you would have a D.M.C (Deep Meaningful Conversation), 2) An artist/band you’d love to party with. 3) Artist would like to be your mentor? You're welcome to pick from artists/bands who are retired/dead.

1. Herbie Hancock

2. Turnstile

3. Brian Eno

Teen Daze Interview | Stereofox

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