You mentioned earlier the idea of songs reflecting emotion. What kinds of emotions were you trying to get at on this album?
It’s funny. I think as a listener, it depends on what you’re going through yourself. A lot of people react to it in a positive way, it sounds really positive to them. It’s like the happiest music ever, but I don’t get it because it’s not, to me. For me it was just kind of a rough patch of my time, living in San Francisco. I don’t know, it was kind of a bummed out sound, you know, bad vibes.

So did it surprise you, then, when people were like, “Wow, this is a really positive record?”
Yeah. I mean, I guess when you listen to the whole record, it’s kind of impossible to say that it’s positive. The whole second half is a fucking bummer. But “Places,” the single, it might be hopeful, but for me that came from a very dark place.

Was it easier to make the music when you were feeling down?
Most definitely. I think that’s when I’m most inspired to do anything creative is when it’s in reaction to shit that I’m trying to fix or something. Like, when shit’s not right but you can’t do anything about it physically, I’ll make stuff that tries to get at some idea of making it better. Or not even just not even making it better but just kind of relaying that idea onto my computer. This album was the first time I kept any type of journal or anything. It really feels like that part of my life last year. It’s weird.

So I hope you’re in a better—
Yeah, definitely. I’m like making dance music now. I don’t give a shit!

Marvin’s Room (Shlohmo’s thru tha floor remix) – Drake by shlohmo

But is it weird to listen to that and have you reminded of the bad stuff that was going on?
Yeah, it’s really weird because, some of it, I remember what I was thinking about when I was making that shit, and I’m just like, “Damn, that sucks. I’m glad I’m not there anymore.” But none of it’s too dark, you know.

Yeah, I don’t think I would use the word “dark” to describe it. It is heavily instrumental, so it’s weird that it’s very personal music to you and reminds you of a certain time and place in your life. Its instrumental nature makes it seem open to interpretation.
For me, I’ve never been very articulate. I don’t know if you can tell, but I’ve always had trouble speaking. I say “um” and “like” all the fucking time, and it takes forever for me to get a thought across, so writing lyrics, for me, has never even been an option. I think last time I tried writing lyrics, I was like 11. I was like, “Fuck this.” For me, it’s kind of like, the more intangible shit is easier for me, almost. I know a lot of people don’t connect to music unless there are words, which is still kind of bizarre for me, when people are like, “It’s cool, but where are the words?” And it’s like, “Are you fucking serious? Like, are you 5 years old?” You know, it seems like that, but it’s a real thing for a lot of people that they need that more human aspect to connect with music, but it was never like that for me. So I think it’s because of that, you know, my inability to articulate. That’s why.

So it just sounds like this stuff is kind of inadvertently autobiographical for you, in the fact that you’re so much happier now and you said you’re making dance music—I don’t know if you’re joking, but—
I’m not joking. I’ve been making a lot of dance music. [Laughs] I’m dead fucking serious.

What kind of dance music?
A lot is like steppy shit, like U.K.-influenced two-step kind of stuff at like 60 BPM or 120 BPM, whatever. And I’m never giving a shit about BPMs, so it’s just funny that I’m even talking about dance music BPMs. I’ve fucked around with juke a little bit, made some sort of hard style of juke shit. It’s really bizarre, but I think it’s kind of just the people I’ve been hanging out with here, too. We’ve all been vibing and exchanging on that tip, so it’s definitely been more electronic and pop influence going on in my life right now.

Shell of Light (Shlohmo Remix) – Burial by shlohmo

You’re very much influenced by the things around you.

I wonder what’s going to happen to your music if you move here.
Dance music. [Laughs] I don’t know. Maybe.

This is a stressful city. Are you going to be OK?
I don’t know. I don’t know if I’m OK now. I think it’s OK. I was really freaking out a week in, and I was like, “Fuck, I don’t know if I can do this.” But I think you start to get into the groove of things and start being able to multitask crucially, like, even just, I’m really slow. I’m a slow ass motherfucker, so even being able to talk to you and look at other things going on is like, a crucial mental fuck for me, but I can sort of do it now. So I’m getting better at that, and, like, knowing when to cross the street and shit is very crucial.