We caught up with the musician to chat about his new EP The World Isn’t Big When You Know How It Works, his approach to maximalist electro-pop, the visual identity of his music and so much more!
Image: Dan Matthews. Art direction: Daisy King. CGI: Ed Tritton.
Less than 12 months since the release of his debut EP The Storm, Scottish musician Dylan Fraser is following the superb release with his sophomore EP, The World Isn’t Big When You Know How It Works. We caught up with the musician to unpack the release and more!
Across seven tracks, the musician deconstructs the human experience, focusing his lens on the transitional period from adolescence to adulthood. The intimate release offers up moments of introspection and vulnerability, whilst continuing his exploration of maximalist electro-pop. Fraser's vocals run free atop brooding and dark soundscapes, that build to a cinematic climax.
The World Isn’t Big When You Know How It Works is out now! Read our interview with Dylan Fraser below.
Could you tell us a bit about how you began your musical journey, and your background in music?
I always loved music and from a really early age knew that I wanted to have a career in it. My mum loves music and she played in bands with her friends in school, so I definitely got it from her. She handed me down an old acoustic guitar that she had when she was younger and taught me my first 4 guitar chords when I was 11/12 and it kind of spiralled from there. I started posting covers online in 2014 and grew a bit of a following through that. Dropped out of school when I was 15 and went to college for a year to study music, then dropped out after one year (haha sorry mum). During college I started my own little social media company doing marketing. I began using the money I was making from that to go down to London from Scotland and took literally any studio session/meeting I could get. So it’s been a bit of a ride to get to this point and I’m still only getting started but it’s been worth it 100%.
We absolutely loved your debut EP, The Storm! How have you approached creating The World Isn’t Big When You Know How It Works that differs from The Storm? Was there anything you learnt during that time that you’ve applied to making this new EP?
Thank you! I approached this EP in such a different way and I actually think I’ve learnt a lot about my creative process and what works best for me. As much as the last year has been a bit shit with lockdowns etc., I’m actually really grateful for the time it gave me to create. It gave me a lot of space to sit with my thoughts and figure out exactly what I wanted to say before sitting down to write a song. I find that this works best for me. I can’t write a song every day. In fact, I don’t sit down to write full songs that much. I collect a bunch of voice notes and lyrics and stuff over weeks or months and then randomly something will inspire me, and all these little things will start to come together to create a project. The space just gave me more time to think out all my choices with lyrics and production, plus really spend time getting it to where I want it to be. There are a few more intimate stripped back songs on this EP too, which I haven’t really shown that side of my music yet so excited to get them out.
Conceptually, the EP deconstructs the human experience, particularly the transitional period from adolescence to adulthood. How important was if for you to document these themes throughout the record, serving as a time-capsule of a particular time in your life?
I don’t know if it was ever a thought of “this is important information that I need to get out”, I use songwriting as a way to get all of my thoughts and feelings out of my head and on to paper, it all just kind of happened naturally. It has taught me a lot though; I’ll write songs sometimes and think I know what they mean and then suddenly something hits me and they take on a completely new meaning and teach me a lot about myself and how my brain works. It’s definitely important for me to get all of this out though, it keeps me sane (kind of) haha.
Were there any parts that you found particularly difficult when creating the EP, being so personal and showcasing your own life and thoughts to the world?
Creating the EP there wasn’t any difficult parts because when I actually sit down to write the song, I’ve already been through the thought or experience and managed to sit down and deconstruct it so I can understand it better. I guess the difficult stuff comes before the actual creation and then the songs help me fully understand how I feel about something.
You take such an innovative approach to maximalist electro-pop, creating brooding and dark soundscapes. What drew you towards this particular style of music and how did you arrive at the sonic sounds we hear throughout your music?
I listen to so much music and I just find it really hard to stick to one sound or thing to be honest haha. There’s some much I want to create, and I always want to find ways to be creative and see how far I can push stuff. That’s what excites me the most, is that you can just get fucking weird sometimes and pull influence from so many different places.
Could you talk us through your creative process when writing and recording this collection of songs?
It usually starts with a lyric or a concept. I need a good concept as a foundation when I start a song. Once I’ve got that locked in, it makes it so much easier to flow off of that and build the story. Most of these songs were done in lockdown over FaceTime with my best mate and producer, Jonah Summerfield, so that was a new experience for us because we’re so used to being in his studio.
How did the EP evolve and change as you were creating it, and were there any tracks left on the cutting room floor that you think might have a life in the future?
I think there’s one or two tracks lying around that didn’t get on the project and I don’t think any of them will have a life :(. It’s not that I don’t like them I just like to start fresh when I create a new project so I find it really hard to place songs from previous projects in future ones.
Which song off The World Isn’t Big When You Know How It Works would you pick to play to someone who had never heard your music, to make them an instant fan?
Nightmare for sure. I think it’s the most feel good one on the project.
What’s one line from The World Isn’t Big When You Know How It Works you find at times could be stuck in your head? Or a line that you come back to?
“Through the glistening white there’s a hole in the dirt and the world isn’t big when you know how it works”. This line really sums up the project for me.
You’ve released some great visuals throughout all your releases! Talk us through your process when it comes to conceptualizing the music videos and imagery, and how involved you are with the development of the visuals...
I’ve always loved visuals and it so exciting to me that you can make the music and then create this weird world around it too. I used to love photography when I was younger, particularly conceptual stuff because I loved seeing people create these crazy worlds from nothing. I’m really involved in the visuals, all of the ideas come from me and then I flesh them out with my team, and we see what’s possible.
How important are the visuals to you when it comes to conveying the story and meaning present on the track?
I think music and visuals go hand in hand and can help complement one another if done right. It’s really hard to do it right and I’ve done it wrong a lot of times but I’m still trying to find what works and what doesn’t work for me.
You recently announced that you’ll be the special guest on Inhaler’s UK tour following their #1 UK debut album - what will your live shows look like? Hopefully we’ll see you perform on Australian stages soon!
Yes! I can’t wait it’s been so long since I’ve played shows. I’m playing with my band which is gonna be so fun and I’m super grateful that the Inhaler boys invited me along to support them! I’d love to come out and play in Australia!
Thom Yorke, Lorde, EX:RE
Thom Yorke or Trent Reznor
Album that has had the most impact on you?
There’s a few but In Rainbows - Radiohead
How do you define your musical style in 3 words?
A cohesive chaos.
Best song of 2021 so far?
“Hot & Heavy” - Lucy Dacus (had it on repeat)
If you could create the soundtrack for any film, which one would it be?
What was the first song you loved to sing?
Suddenly I See - KT Tunstall or New Shoes - Paolo Nutini
A song you would love to cover on tour?
All I Need - Radiohead
Album you would listen to on repeat on a road trip?
A Deeper Understanding - The War On Drugs
What advice would your current self, give your future self, for a year from now?
“Chill the fuck out man it’s not that deep.”