Andy Pop Talks 'Through Mine', Being a Perfectionist, And Frank Ocean
Andy Pop’s music is personal. So much so, in fact, that he’s getting the flower from his Unsaid album tattooed on his forearm. It will be his first tattoo, and serve as a reminder of all that the album stood for—details that will likely stay private due to his penchant for keeping the mystery alive. Luckily, the themes that his tracks touch upon are about as universal as they come—think love, heartbreak, and straight up happiness—so there’s no shortage of meaning to glean from them. Exhibit A: Unsaid was undoubtedly a breakup album for Pop, but as far as his listeners go, the opportunities for interpretation are endless.
On the heels of his debut album release, Pop is now turning back to a simpler strategy, releasing singles in pairs to continue the momentum of a rising hip hop artist on the cusp of something great. We sat down with the musician just prior to his latest release (titled Through Mine) to talk being a perfectionist, pairing songs, and Frank Ocean; keep reading for the full interview (and listen to both new tracks) below.
Can you remind me what “NFD” stands for?
No further discussion.
Why that name?
Well the inspiration for the song is just about reassuring someone, and being like, “Ok, I’m gonna tell you this this time, and I don’t want to hear anymore about it, because I want you to be reassured.”
Who are you reassuring?
[Laughs] Emma wants names!
[Laughs] I’m just curious!
I can’t give you any names, obviously, but I definitely write from personal experiences. I think it gets more universal when I actually get to writing.
Do you feel like sometimes you’re talking to other people and sometimes you’re talking to yourself? Does it ever become introspective advice?
Definitely. It is, but I won’t tell you where those are. [Laughs] I’m kidding. I just want it to be interpreted the way people are taking it. Obviously, for the most part, I will tell you it’s usually me talking to somebody else.
So you don’t want others people’s perception to be affected by what you originally had in mind? Leave that to mystery?
Yeah…I guess Frank’s my favorite artist so everything’s mysterious. [Laughs] But yeah, I just want people to think what they are going to think about it, and not be like, “Oh, this is exactly what he was thinking when he wrote this,” or “This is what he feels like.” But I don’t mind telling people what the inspiration was behind stuff. To a certain point.
Do you ever get nervous to release something because it’s personal?
Yeah, for sure. But I think I kind of had that conversation with myself like prior to releasing Unsaid, and I was just like, “Look, if you’re really gonna do this and go after it the way you’re trying to, you kind of have to just let that stuff go.” But obviously I still get nervous, but I think I’ve gotten to a point recently where I’m just more open to sharing with people. I know that that album is already out in the world, so at this point, I’m not worried.
How do you feel like you’ve changed or evolved since the album came out?
I definitely have a better sense of production. Obviously I produced all that stuff, but I just feel like once the album dropped, I kept working, and really went back in and honed in more on production. I was making beats everyday, sometimes two or three a day, just to get better at producing, ‘cause that’s what I wanted to do. I knew that if I wanted to one-up some of the stuff on Unsaid, I needed to go back in and up my production. And definitely working with other people. Unsaid was 95 percent me, so I’ve been working with other musicians now, still playing the producer role, and kind of orchestrating, but definitely more open to collaborating and having more people touch the track than I was before.
Is it weird to have more people touching the track, like are you less precious about it now?
No, still super precious about it. I’m still the owner of the session, if you will. Like if I have to send it to someone, I’ll definitely want it to be sent back so I can see what they added or whatever. But for the most part, it’s me working with people in the same room, and this newer stuff specifically, is working with musicians who are adding stuff to what I already produced. So I’ll have my friend come in and play the drums and have my other friend play the guitar and essentially I’ll just be like, “Go in, try this, try that, and then also do whatever you want,” ‘cause then I can take that stuff and chop it up and use it in different parts. It might not be where they actually played it, but I’ll use it in different ways.
Yeah, I was going to ask, do you feel like it’s important for the people you bring in to really understand and vibe with the whole meaning behind the music? Or you just want super skilled stuff that you can drop in later?
I think a mixture of both. Obviously the person needs to be into it in order to work on it, I think. If they’re not into it then I think it will reflect in their playing. But for the most part the people who I’ve been working with are into it, and believe in the vision and everything. For me it’s just so fun, because it’s essentially someone giving me original pieces of music for me to then incorporate into my own music, and being really free with it and saying like, “You can do whatever you want with it.” I really have creative control. So it’s so fun. My friend will come in and lay drums down, I’ll chop those up in a million different ways and use them, and use what he played in one track, say “NFD”, and then I might chop that up and end up using it in a different track. It’s a lot of repurposing.
So I know you’re releasing the tracks in pairs, what’s gonna pair with “NFD”?
It’s a similar type of love song. Same kind of elements, with live drums and guitar, but it’s a little different. Similar theme in that it’s all about one person and just being confident in them.
How do you feel like they compliment each other?
As far as instrumental goes, the underlying melodies are a bit different, ‘cause one track is this reverse melody, and “NFD” is kind of a straightforward electric piano, but I think where they really tie together is the live drums and live guitar that I used.
It’s funny because, I don’t know if Unsaid was a break up album, but it felt like a break up album—
Yeah, it was a break up album, for sure.
And now you’re coming out of that with all this nice, happier stuff.
I just felt like, I can make the sad boy stuff, even not being in that headspace. ‘Cause I feel like I kind of mastered doing it by making all of those songs.
You got a lot of practice in. [Laughs]
[Laughs] Yeah. And I like that stuff, I tend to gravitate more towards the dark, sort of sad stuff, even when I’m just listening to music, but I just wanted to switch it up, and make it different, and not be in that mode. It’s summer, it’s nice out, I don’t want to be putting out anything too dark. We can save that for the fall.
So do you find it harder to tap into the happy stuff rather than the sad stuff? Are they different parts of you?
I guess I could say that they’re different, but it all just depends. I’m in a good place right now, I feel good, I dropped the album and I used to kind of feel like, “Oh the production isn’t good enough, or I don’t feel like I’m as good of a producer as I could be,” but I feel that I’ve worked really hard and then listening back to the album, it’s like, “Ok, I produced this whole thing, it’s time to stop feeling self-conscious about production” Just with that, and just being in a better place mentally, it’s definitely easier right now to tap into ‘being happier,’ I guess.
And so there’s two more pairs coming after this one?
So yeah, the plan is to release music as much as possible throughout the rest of the year. I definitely have two more that will be a duo coming after these two, and then I have some other stuff in the works as well. What I’ve been trying to do recently is work harder on a bunch of different things, because I feel like the way music works right now is, you know, people have a short attention span, so especially for me as a new artist, it’s important for me to release more frequently. It’s difficult sometimes, obviously, just not being able to get the time, especially doing mostly everything just me, but I’ve been trying to really discipline myself. And also not thinking too much anymore. I used to think way too much and psych myself out, getting too deep, and these days I feel like I just wanna let songs fly. Finish them up, not think too much about it, and put them out.
Would you call yourself a perfectionist?
[Laughs] Yeah, for sure. When I really get into the nitty gritty of production, when I have everything set, I’m going in and tweaking the most minor things that no one would ever notice, and no one would ever care about, but for me, since I can hear it, it’ll drive me crazy and I’ll have to fix it.
When you’re doing everything yourself and kind of in your own echo chamber, do you worry that you’ve listened to it so many times that you don’t even know anymore what’s good or not?
Oh totally. But I feel I have a good group of people who I can send it to and be like, “Hey, what do you think of this?” But I also think that that’s kind of important if you want to do that. Not everyone wants to do that, obviously. Not many people want to just be in their own element and make everything from scratch, but for me, it’s just fun. I love being able to create a beat, even if it’s something only I hear, that no one else will ever hear. I wasn’t able to do that previously, a few years ago, I wasn’t able to make a good beat that I could sit there and rap with.
Did you teach yourself everything?
Yeah, for the most part. I grew up playing the violin, so I was musically inclined, took lessons for seven years, and in that time my sister was playing guitar, my other sister was playing piano, so I think I was able to pick more things up. And then my really good friend Nico, and one of the only other people that touches my music, I watched him produce for a really long time, like literally just sitting behind him watching, and so finally picked up stuff from there. But yeah, I was always in the program trying to learn it, and it got to the point where I was like, ok, I know what to do now.
When you’re feeling uninspired or in a creative rut, how do you push yourself out of it?
I don’t think there’s really a state of being uninspired, in my opinion. Even if you’re not really feeling it, just sitting down and creating something, that will give you the inspiration to keep creating. Because for me, even if I’m not really in the mood to make something, even if I just sit down and do it, I’ll be happy that I did, because it might be a piece of music that I really love and believe in. Force yourself to just make something, because the key is to just keep on working. Obviously breaks are good and important, but I feel that even when I’m not feeling it, I’ll still sit down and making something.
And part of it is just force of habit and exercising that muscle of putting yourself in that zone—even if nothing good comes out of it.
For sure. ‘Cause if you sit down and nothing comes of it, at least you were working and practicing.
What are your biggest sources of inspiration?
Obviously Frank Ocean, from an everything standpoint. I just really love how Frank moves. I don’t love him taking four years off to make an album, I feel like he should have said a few more things to reassure the fans. I mean we knew it was coming, but yeah, so Frank’s definitely biggest, and I would say just living my everyday life. My relationships obviously, and I’m just kind of a super music nerd, so always scouring for new artists, listening to everything new that comes out, so whenever I hear something that I’m excited by, I’ll get inspired.
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