Interview: Drowse – Three Faces (Cyanoacrylate) (Song Premiere + Interview)

Drowse has delivered some of the best electronic and experimental music over the past few years dating back to their 2018 Flenser debut Cold Air. Now four years later with death, pandemic, and intense introspection all occurring in between, Kyle Bates is back with Drowse’s stunning fourth album, Wane Into It. As challenging as it is dark, Wane Into It explores how we curate the memories we want others to remember us by and how the internet plays an integral role in that. It’s a hyperrealistic and surreal look into loss, death, and all the anxiety that gets wrapped up into it. Today we are proud to premiere the final taste of Wane Into It before it releases on November 11th – the penultimate track “Three Faces (Cyanoacrylate).” A gentle acoustic strum paces the eight-and-a-half minute track before descending into sinister tones, all while Bates airy vocals chronicle what we lose due to distance and memory. But before we get into that, Kyle and I discussed the new record, what spurred some of the themes on Wane Into It, and ultimately what he hopes this record accomplishes. Check that out and “Three Faces (Cyanoacrylate)” below.

Trigger Warning: We do talk a little bit about suicide.

Every time I get a new advance record, I always play in the background. I do other things to see if something will grab me but instantaneously this record took all my attention. I immediately stopped doing what I was doing. I just had to sit down and focus and take it in, which I am assuming that’s kind of the point of this record. It’s such an immersive record, it’s so dense and correct me if I’m wrong, but you’ve self-produced every one of your records? 

Yeah. I kind of started the project initially because, or not, but at the same time I was learning how to record for the first time. And so I think that if you listen to all the Drowse records you can just hear me getting more confident and learning how to record as I go, you know what I mean? But yeah, it’s self produced. 

Yeah, I definitely picked up on it too cause I was, I was pretty certain that every record you’ve released you’ve produced on your own. But yeah, this record sounds so good too. You can absolutely pick up every type of ambient sound or electronic flourish or anything that you put in there. It’s so good. 

Yeah, thanks. This one is, I feel like it’s in a way less hazy or something. It’s almost more immediate, but there’s also more sounds going on and for me that’s cool cause my goal with the production was to have a ton of densely layered stuff but also make everything clear so you can hear every little sound that’s happening 

That comes across right away. And the second song released from the record – “Mystery Pt. 2” – is one of my favorites on it. I love how that thing just builds and builds and it’s fuzzy but it’s crystal clear at the same time. And I dig how it also just completely blends into “(Ashes Over the Pacific Northwest)”. It’s almost just one long song but touching on so many different kind of emotions and feelings. 

Those are actually one song when I recorded it and then I just cut it in half. But on the vinyl it’s actually still one track. So I don’t know, “Ashes” is just a part two and I do feel like they’re kind of two distinct songs in a way. They both have a start and pretty clear ending, but they flow really seamlessly. So it’s kind of a big epic and I almost wish I could have released an eight minute version of that but oh well people will hear it when the record comes out. Yeah, that’s one of my favorite ones too, especially that second half. 

I might be oversimplifying it so I apologize in advance, but basically attending a family member’s living wake kind of spurred a lot of the ideas of this record cuz you started writing this record three years ago essentially. And then the world went to shit and everything, but you went to this living wake, which when I read about too, I was like, I’ve never even heard of that before. And was that your first experience with it too? 

Yeah, so I mean I couldn’t put this in the press release cuz I think that it’s bad to have the word suicide and stuff. But my family member basically told everyone, “Hey, I’m going to kill myself.” Super intense and then invited us all to hang out with them a month before. But he had this plan to do it. So that was really dark and I don’t know if that spurred everything, but that definitely got me thinking about the way that we construct our own stories of ourself,  and the ways that we want to be remembered. And for me, that’s a big thing with this project of course because I’m doing that actively with these records. I’m singing songs about my life and we all do that through, I don’t know, everything mostly on the internet or anytime you make art sort that process too. 

And yeah, it’s weird. It’s kind of hard to explain, but to me that is this system of belief that you create about yourself or a story that you’re telling yourself that can become almost like it’s you start living as if that’s the truth. Right? Yeah, sorry, it’s kind of heavy and hard to explain, but that whole thing was very intense and it kind of made it clear how people actively try to be remembered and then, yeah, there’s so many branches of that, but also how the internet or anything we do is something that will or is an act or memorialization for us to be remembered when we died too. And that kind of freaks me out, that idea. So yeah, a lot of the lyrics are jumping off from those sort of ideas about memory. 

The record does a really good job of breaking it down a little bit and just like, yeah, it’s the idea of curating how we want to be remembered and what we wanna have preserved by ourselves when in reality that’s not real life. But there’s a lyric on a, I think my favorite song on the record is “Blue Light Glow.” I love how the pace of that song, I love that the middle portion where it’s just you and just that synth line before it just kind of gets a lot louder. But the lyric that really has stuck with me every time is “time which changes people does not alter the image we have of them.” I feel like if you had simplify what’s this record about I feel like that lyric really does a good job of describing Wane Into It, I feel. 

Okay. Yeah, I can’t actually take credit for that. Cause it’s a quote from Proust, and it’s from In Search of Lost Time.  And it’s kind of a famous quote. And yeah, I mean that’s spot on. That’s why I put that in there because it’s like, oh this kind of sums up or makes this kind of idea concise. But then it’s also how the internet really changed that too because we always can see other people instantly. Right. So I don’t know, I feel like that totally changes that notion of time because now we are totally, I dunno, tapped into a constant now of knowing what’s up with other people. Does that make sense? 

It does. And I just think it’s such a cool use of that quote just cause how it’s placed in the song and where that song’s placed in the record is just that hum of that synth and it gets so loud and there’s so many different sounds. And that song really sticks with me every time I listen to it. I think the last three tracks on Wane Into It are just probably the best three Drowse songs you’ve ever written. 

Oh, thank you.

I love how they build off of each other and encapsulate that feeling of water returning to the sea waiting for that next wave. And the final track “Ten Year Hangover / Deconstructed Memory” I would assume is self-referential to just how your life has changed over the last decade. 

Yeah, I mean for sure I definitely have some struggles with drinking and that song, that last song is just looking back on the start of this project. And I think when I first started this project I was very alcohol and drug addicted in a lot of ways or relying heavily on that stuff . And so it’s looking back on that also that ties into my family member who committed suicide because he was a huge alcoholic and it destroyed his body and that, I don’t know, this stuff kind of freaks me out… genetics and then also thinking of not being in control of yourself and stuff. That last song for sure is addressing a lot of those things. And also I’m glad that you those last three songs, because those are some of the last ones that I wrote. And they’re also kind of all sequenced as this long suite of songs or something. They’re not the same song but they’ll flow into each other. 

They absolutely do. And if you want to, can you share a little bit about the audio recording at the end of that last track? 

Yeah, so that’s my Grandma Betty – she died in 2019 also. And she was probably my biggest influence in my family. She’s the only other person really in the family who’s an artist, in some way. She was a painter and she’s the only person I could talk to about creative impulses or having any sort of drive to do that stuff. And so that last part is just her telling the story about her childhood when she got in a car crash and flew through a window of the car. 

It’s like this brush with death but it’s also the way that she’s talking, it’s really weird cuz she was kind of starting to lose her memory but she’s still remembering these really vivid stories from when she’s, I think she was three or four in that story. And so that whole idea of the power of certain memories, especially ones  like death stick with us throughout things and form our identity too. And I think a lot of that comes from fear but also, I don’t know, from our sense of mortality or whatever gives us a lot of meaning too. So I took that recording from, I was interviewing her about her life a bit and I just stuck it in the end cause I thought it kind of tied up or put together a lot of the other themes that I’m talking about on the record. And I just wanted to have her voice on it. I love her.

It’s a really intense but perfect way to end the record, especially the subject matter of it, it’s a nice little flourish at the end. I also like “Gabapentin,” I love that song. The sound of it makes me feel like it would’ve been featured on 120 Minutes on MTV back in the late nineties. I feel like it’s a refreshing change of pace to how the other songs start on the record.

Yeah, that’s definitely the most straightforward rock song. And I think that one just happened cuz I really love Neil Young, so I was listening to a ton of Neil Young and I was like, I’m just gonna fucking write a two chord rock song  Or try to, it gets pretty weird as it goes on, but it definitely starts out just like, here’s a riff, here’s a really nice simple drumbeat. Yeah, I like that song too. It’s definitely… it’s one of the odd ones out I’d say from the record. But I like the sequencing of that cuz before that there’s the third track, the title track is really slow going into it. And then after that there’s this big kind of ambient piece that transitions into that song and then that song’s the first song on the second half of the record. So I like that idea of someone kind of being lulled into this sleepy feeling and suddenly it’s big rock chords coming at you. 

It’s cool because I like that you mentioned kinda the lull because I feel like for lack betters, that’s been a signature on Drowse records. I listen to it and I feel like I’m lulled in and there’s a sound or a big clash and you’re awoken by it. It’s so cool. And I know you worked with a lot of collaborators on this too. Such as working with Madeline Johnston. I love Midwife. Her records are incredible. So it how’d that come about and how was collaborating with her? 

Yeah, so actually there’s a bunch of collaborations on this record. I do think I was kind of more gung-ho about asking people just cuz it was pandemic and I was very alone. And also Alex Kent from Sprain plays on that song “Blue Light Glow” and my friend Lula Asplund plays on a few tracks, but I was more like I’m just alone recording all this shit. It needs some other sort of input and Midwife actually she’s one of the few guitar bands, for lack of a better word, that has really influenced me in the past few years. Her guitar work is just so beautiful. And even on Light Mirror, I think I was listening to the first Midwife record and yeah definitely picking up some of that influence. 

And so when she started working with the same label I was like, oh cool, now I have some sort of relationship I can ask her to play on it just because I love her music so much. But yeah, basically I just sent her the song and I was like, do you wanna do some guitar or vocals or whatever. I really love her production, the guitar sound that she has is super thick. So I wanted to get that sound on that track. Because other than that it’s just bass and electronics and yeah, we just spoke to each other on the phone to talk about it. But mostly it’s just sending files back and forth and the stuff she sent was immediately golden. I was just like, this is perfect, I’m just gonna throw it on there. And this song rules now, I felt like it was an incomplete song before that. But yeah, she really made that song. 

Yeah, I was gonna ask you what song Alex plays on. Cause I love Sprain. I think they’re one of the more underrated bands that just in general, especially one of the more underrated bands on the Flenser label. I love all the records that come on the Flenser. It is such a good label.

Yeah, me too. (laughs)

And it’s great. They’re a label that’ll take chances on anyone. There’s not one sound they really hone in on. You could put out a Drowse record and then you have Chat Pile, then you have Mamaleek and it’s just crazy diverse. All the different styles. And I’m assuming you have to feel just always so supported by the label.

It’s mainly just Jonathan and Brian who run it and they’re both super sweet people. But then the other thing I really like about it is that I’ve actually made all these friends through that – like Sprain. I living in LA right now cause I’m getting my doctorate degree and I hang out with Sprain all the time and they’re my close buds. And then Elizabeth Color Wheel is another band that I’m really close friends, close friends with Tom from Planning for Burial and Madeline, it’s pretty easy to just reach out to people and everybody has sort of like-minded dark, dark interests, for lack of a better word, but also most of the people on there really sweet which I love. And Alex plays on that song “Blue Light Glow,” he has kind of a not very recognizable part. He sings the line with me right before that big noisy part at the end. And then how the very end of the track, it gets super fucked up, crazy noise shit. That was actually Alex, he heard the rest of the track up to that point. He’s like, “you should just keep going with that noise.” And he is like, I want to add all this stuff. So he sent me all those weird sounds that you made. 

Yeah, The Flenser is probably the only label where if I get an email about a band, even if I never heard about them, I’m hitting play right away away. I just trust their taste. Which leads me into one track I wanted to talk to you about. I know I don’t know the timeline of this, but I just got my vinyl of the Send The Pain Below compilation and you did Slipknot’s “Wait and Bleed.” And what’s so cool about that is I’m a huge Slipknot fan, so it was really sick to see that you did that song. But it’s like, it’s a two minute song essentially, and you just stretch it out to five and a half minutes. Why did you choose that song and then how did you approach taking such an iconic nu-metal song and making it your own? 

I actually really Slipknot a lot too. And that record came out a little bit before my time. But I had an older cousin who she was always into nu metal and then Nine Inch Nails and all this kind of nineties dark stuff. And so I remember being a kid and that was some of my first exposure to metal was her listening to that or Metallica. And I was like, “Oh, what is this scary stuff?” Especially Slipknot. Cause they have the mask. So when you’re a little kid you’re like, what the fuck is this? So that was a really early impactful thing for me cuz my first musical love was metal for sure. But yeah, I’m not sure why … I just chose that song because they’re like, “Do you wanna do this nu-metal comp?” And I was like, my first thought was Slipknot, I like that band. 

So I’m not sure why I chose that song specifically. I think I just listened do it. And then I heard all these ideas, places that I could go with it and I was like, this w would work really well, slowed down and if I make it half time. And I also wanted to challenge myself a bit, so I played all the guitars with an ebow – an electronic bow, so there’s no drumming or anything. So it gives it this really weird kind of loose feel or ambient automatically it’s gonna be soft. And then I also listened to a lot of darker dance music stuff like Words of Canada and stuff. So it was just really in the mood with listening to a bunch of that stuff at the time when I was like, I’m gonna make the drums hit it like that too. So it was all just an experiment. It’s like I’m just gonna have fun and cover this track that I like when I was a little kid. 

I love it. And then I know you mentioned you’re in LA getting your doctorate and I don’t know how online you are, but I know the last couple days the discourse has been how financially impossible it is to really tour. Do you have any plans on trying to tour on this record?

Yeah, I’ve been reading about that stuff too for sure. But for me with Drowse… I’ve never been able to tour that much anyway or that’s never been my… I like recording a lot. I like writing songs and I do like playing live, but that’s not the main reason that I do music. I for sure want to, I’m probably gonna tour this summer if I can. But yeah, part of the reason I’m getting a doctorate right now is cuz I need to have another job (laughs). So at a certain point … I was working at all these random jobs. I used to be a preschool teacher and I worked at a bookstore for a while and I was working in kitchens and always quitting jobs and going on tour, and so in 2019 I was just like, I’m just gonna go back to school and try to become a teacher cuz then I can still do stuff that’s related to music and I still have summers off and time to tour around that that’s built in. But yeah, I mean I would rather play music as my full-time thing if I could. But the next best thing for me is, oh, here I can do something related where I get to be engaged with people talking about music all the time.  

Another thing I picked up on Wane Into It is a reference back to Cold Air about getting your nose broken. Were you trying the pull referential stuff from that first record? Because I know it’s not similar, but I know that Cold Air record was also a lot about just the memory and the past of your life and what you had gone through at that time of your life too. 

Yeah, for sure. I kind of view all of this project as one big thing more than just first record, second record, third record, etc. To me it’s when I’m writing songs, it’s all the same kind of world or ideas that I’m explaining. There’s themes that I’m like, Oh, this is how I felt about it when I was 24. Let me think about how I feel about it now when I’ll be 30 in December. So you know what I mean, it seems like memory or death, whatever. Those are eternal things that you can absolutely think about and talk about forever. But yeah, there’s images like that from Cold Air and this one, and then there’s also “Mystery Pt 2,” that song that came out has a lot of references back to that song between “Between Fence Posts” from Light Mirror. And so when I’m writing lyrics, I’m always looking at all my old stuff, “Oh what was I saying? What was I trying to get at?” And also Cold Air, I think I was in a much darker place than when I was working on this record. So it’s interesting to look at things from a different perspective. And that lyric specifically is about when I was 19 or 18, I was having some psychotic issues and I got punched in the face by some bro for no reason when I was very drunk and it broke my nose and it was something that I couldn’t really remember that well and woke up the next day with a broken nose and face and that whole idea of not being able to know yourself or remember parts of yourself was a consistent theme. So that just became pretty powerful image for me to talk about that stuff. 

I like how you describe that. Whenever I listen to Drowse, I mean, it does feel kind of a living breathing kind of thing from record to record to record. You definitely hear and feel the flow of all the stuff you released and that’s really cool. It’s really rewarding as a listener. One of the things I dig the most about Drowse is I always just feel like, alright, I’m right back immersed into the world but each record also features new soundscapes and flourishes – a black metal tinge here and booming synths there. And I’m sure you feel this way, but you should feel really proud about this record. I think it’s your best album by far. 

Oh, thank you. Yeah, I mean, I feel like that too, but maybe that’s, I feel like people always feel like that (laughs).

Yeah, I know. (laughs)

This one for sure took me the longest and I think I worked the hardest on it out of anything. So I could say that. Definitely.  

I guess I’ll just wrap up by saying the old cliché: once you release a record it’s not yours anymore it’s the listeners. So what are you hoping listeners get out of Wane Into It and what they get out of it once they listen to it the first, second, fourth, fifth, 10th time? 

I mean, there’s a few things, like sonically, I try to make every record like this, but I think this one does it really well specifically where it’s like you can listen again and you’ll always find a different sound or like oh, those two parts interact in a weird way that I didn’t notice before. Or there’s this weird snippet of vocals, what the hell is that? There’s a lot of hidden stuff on there. So I want it to be something that people can listen to and immediately grasp onto, hopefully how it pulled you in. But then as you continue listening to it, it’s not like, oh, I’ve heard this song before. It’s like, oh, I’m entering and kind of exploring a little bit more like what’s happening. That’s always my hope with my music. But I think this one definitely does that better than usual. And then with lyrics and themes, I mean, there’s so much stuff I could go on about it forever, but I think my whole…everything that I do is partially about kind of an intense, intense self-examination. 

And I think that would actually be good for everyone to do. And when I listen to my favorite artists, they do that. And to me it’s really cool cause it’s like, oh, I can kind of feel connected to this other human getting glimpse inside their mind, but also inspires me to do that. And I don’t know, I think the world would be better if people actually looked at themselves more, if that makes sense. So in terms of an actual thing, that would be cool if people listen to this record and they’re like, oh yeah, I’m gonna try to think about my life intensely.