Now, after releasing a string of singles such as “Crying In My Car” (feat. Teezo Touchdown) and “Bad Joke,” he has finally unveiled his new album, Existential Crisis Boy, Part 1. The project is stacked with tracks that once again shine on Cole’s undeniable vocal talent, as well as his gift of blending together various melodies and genres, and it’s guaranteed that everyone will find a new favourite track on there.
For our exclusive Principle Magazine feature, we speak to the artist about how films make you feel, why “Meet Me At Our Spot” was almost not released, and what Shakespeare has to do with his career.
Hey Tyler. How was your time in London?
I did so much. It was so good. I met so many cool artists, made a lot of music, and got to connect with a bunch of friends that I haven’t seen since I was here last, which feels like five years ago, pre-pandemic. It’s been really nice. I had a lot of good food. Met a lot of cool people.
Oh, that sounds great. So are there UK artists that you like, or linked up with, in particular?
Yeah, I’ve been listening to the dude Jim Legxacy. He’s dope. And my friend that I just met while I was here and we worked together, his name is tendai. He’s so talented. And then this kid Sekou has the voice. The voice is crazy. We had a couple of sessions. He’s very incredible. He’s young too. He’s 19. We started a really dope song. We’re gonna do more when he comes to LA next month, I guess.
Sekou is really talented indeed. He is very up-and-coming right now. So, you’ve recently released your recent singles like “Wish You Would,” “Crying In My Car” and “Bad Joke,” to name but a few. Could you tell us about the creative processes behind those tracks and what inspired the lyrics and the sound?
Yeah, so creatively, it is all over the place. “Wish You Would,” we spent almost a day with my friends Zach and Matt, who started the idea. And then I just got on the mic and it all just came out and I was thinking about some of my friends who were trying to express themselves doing cool things, like dying their hair, and people on the internet kind of maybe not being as accepting as I would like people to be.
The first idea of “Crying in My Car” started in 2018 with my friend Yuki and it was a completely different song. It had a completely different hook. It had the same guitar chords that I came up with and the beat didn’t sound as cool as it did as it does now. But it honestly was one of those things where it just kept growing and growing over time. And there were so many different versions of the song. There was even a version with Jaden Smith on it. And it just kind of went through so many different variations of one song until it became “Crying in My Car,” when I decided I knew what I wanted to talk about. It just didn’t feel right. And I knew there came a moment when it felt right, which is when the chorus for that song came to be. And then flash forward to 2022, when I was working with Teezo Touchdown on his album. And I just felt that he would be the perfect person to get on the record. So I played it for him and he loved it. And he related to it in his own way. That’s how that one came to be.
And then, you know, those earlier singles are the “Good Drugs” and “Bad Joke.” “Bad Joke” was another one that was really fast. I was feeling like one of my friends didn’t like me anymore, and that that was really difficult, so I kind of just went in and said those words, exactly how you hear them now. And it was probably an hour that it took me to write that song because it was just something I was feeling and I felt like my friend had a misconception that I maybe said or did something that they didn’t like, but I don’t even know what that was. They just started acting super weird to me and so that’s kind of how I was feeling about that.
Friendship breakups can be so hard, right?
I think friendship breakups are worse than real breakups. Maybe not always but it’s really hard when you just want to be cool with someone.
Yeah agreed! So when you’re working on a new song it sounds like you don’t really have a generic creative process!
Yeah, I was just talking about this with some of the artists I was telling you about and I think it changes for me all the time because sometimes I’m completely by myself when I make a song. I’ll make the whole beat, write the whole song, and then sometimes I am working with a friend who is maybe a producer or a songwriter. And it can go many ways, I can sometimes just start with the drums or I’ll just start with a lyric that I have and I’ll build it from that base. It’s like planting a seed to grow a tree or to grow a plant or a vegetable or something. It’s like there are different types of seeds to get you to a different type of plant. If you have the same process every time, you’ll have similar results. So I think the most efficient way to create and experiment is to try new things and plant different seeds.
I love how you described that, with the seeds. That’s very spot on. Overall, you’re not only an artist, you’re a producer, you’re a songwriter, you’re a filmmaker, you’re an all-rounder. While it all goes hand in hand, how do you juggle it all?
I think creating with other people and creating multiple different types of art, they just influence each other in more ways than one because I think a lot of my music is inspired by films, films that make me feel something. Because at the end of the day, my whole goal is to just make people feel with the art. If I see a movie that I really like, and I go, oh, that made me feel this certain way, then I’ll maybe approach a song, trying to make someone feel the same thing that a film made me feel. Because the feeling is something you just know when you experience it. And it doesn’t really matter how you get there, what makes you get there. Like in films, a lot of things that we feel in real life can be reflected in films. And a great piece of art can make you feel something that you felt in real life. You know, sadness, nostalgia, laughter, whatever it may be. So I think they all influence one another. And then, with music, I’ve met a lot of the artists that I’m friends with through producing and writing songs with them. Like the Teezo Touchdown one, we met because I was working on his project at first and then that turned into him featuring on my project. So, it’s all sorts of different routes to get to influencing the music, influencing whatever projects that we’re doing. But at the end of the day, it’s just about creating as much as possible and creating art that’s meaningful.
I’m glad we’re talking about the filmmaking because I can finally talk about that. I haven’t been able to talk about that because of the writer’s strike and it just ended the other day. So I can say, I am working on my film projects, working with someone like Spike Lee who is, in my opinion, one of the greatest directors of all time. I think that’s just a fact at this point. But, he’s someone who’s integrated music into all his films for his entire career. So he’s kind of helped me understand the relationship between music and visual art and how important they are to help each other. Except for maybe silent films, music is one of the most important aspects of filmmaking. And it’s like, how do you marry the idea of something visual, something that you see, something that you feel, with something that you hear and make them go together? And I think that’s why music videos have been really big for me. Making music videos that are cinematic is really fun because I get to combine the two different things that I love the most.
Oh, I love that. So you said that you get inspired by films that touch you a lot. Which films are we talking about in particular?
While we’re on the Spike Lee topic, Do the Right Thing. His film Do the Right Thing is one of my favorites ever. I’ve been watching some random movies recently. I just saw The Departed. Martin Scorsese is crazy. I thought that was really good. I love that. I’m a big fan of Ari Aster, so Beau Is Afraid, which came out earlier this year. I love that film. I’m a big Wes Anderson fan. Moonrise Kingdom, films like that. I’m very into the visual aesthetic of Wes Anderson. But, Spike is my favorite director and I was a big theater nerd growing up.
Fellow theater nerd from high school here.
Really? Yeah, I was the biggest there. I still am. Honestly, I’m really into Shakespeare. It’s funny, Shakespeare actually is the reason why I started making music because I was into the sonnets that he would write in the iambic pentameter. So I started writing poetry. And then I got really into underground hip hop. There was a lot of cool underground hip-hop happening in LA. And my friend who was a rapper got me into it. And so I started all the first raps that I wrote were in iambic pentameter. So I was like, how do I do something different? And so I would write it in syllables, that was my whole flow and then I turned that into a melody. I’ve never told anyone that. It wasn’t very good, none of the songs were but it was a cool idea. It helped me understand rhythm really well. You’d never think that, especially if you hear my music now, it was inspired directly by Shakespeare but it really was.
That is the best fun fact ever! Go Shakespeare.
You’ve also obviously had quite a lot of success with “Meet Me At The Spot” alongside Willow as THE ANXIETY, which has millions and millions and millions of Spotify streams, and a few of those million are probably from me. But, first of all, for those who don’t know yet, what was it like working with her and how did you start working with her so closely?
Her and I were really good friends before we ever started making music together. My best friend and her best friend were also best friends so we all just hung out and that’s how we met and you know she’s someone who produces a lot of her own music and she does her own thing. She’s just unapologetic, I think she had to trust me enough to allow me to come in and help her with the music that she was doing and the first project that we worked together on was her project from 2018 called WILLOW. It was a self-titled one. And I did a lot on that. And we were just having fun but the songs were really good and she wanted to do something. It was kind of a pivot for her so she did that project. Some of my favorite songs that we ever did together are on that, like “Time Machine,” “Overthinking It,” and “Female Energy Part II.” Those are still some of my favorite songs that I’ve done. And then from there, while we were doing that project, was kind of where we started THE ANXIETY. THE ANXIETY was kind of us working on her stuff and then in-between, we would be in the studio making really aggressive punk rock music. And we would do that for fun, but there was no goal. We weren’t saying, oh, we’re going to make a band. We’re going to make this album. After we finished that project, and maybe another one, we went, hey, actually we have a lot of songs, and some of these are really, really good. Maybe we should flesh them out. So it all started just from fun. And “Meet Me At Our Spot” specifically was one that I was just kind of doing for fun, and she was like, “Oh, this is cool.” But there was a point where we were almost like, “Oh, this isn’t gonna fit on the album.” This doesn’t really work for the album. We wanna do something a little bit different. And I don’t know, there was something about that song. Me and my friend Zach, who mixed THE ANXIETY album, were like, “I don’t know, this one’s pretty cool. I think people will like this one.” And we obviously had no idea it would be what it is now, but it was one that was almost not even gonna make it onto the album. And then, it became the biggest song ever for me. It’s really funny how that works. You never know how people will receive things. I remember at one point being like, “I don’t know about this, I don’t know if this works. I don’t know if I like how it sounds. Like it’s a cool song, but if we include it on the album, it’ll ruin the album.”
Oh my god, I can’t believe that. Thank god you put it on there. But I feel like so many times when you think something is not quite right and you release it regardless, it will be such a success. I feel like that happens a lot.
Yeah, it’s so funny to me. And I think that that was something that taught me how artists and labels, and kind of everyone on the business side of music, work. There’s not only a way to predict how these things are going to perform. Especially with the artists that may be the biggest artists in the world. It’s really hard to predict how certain songs will perform because the way that the industry is now, the people kind of decide and tell you which ones are going to do it, that are going to do well, that people will respond to. And you just never know what that song is going to be. So you kind of have to create the things that you like more than the things that you think other people will like.
For me, now with this new album, people were like, “Oh, are you gonna try to make another really successful song like ‘Meet Me At Our Spot?’” And I was like, no, actually, because that came to be by just having fun and making something that I thought was cool at the time. And not that I don’t think it’s so cool, I still think it’s cool. But I think the reason why I did so well is because it sounds like we were having fun, and it sounds like it wasn’t manufactured to be a pop hit. Because it doesn’t sound like that at all. If you listen to the production, it’s actually kind of under-produced, it’s me playing bass and drums. It just sounds very small and indie and kind of like it was recorded at someone’s house or something, even though it wasn’t. But yeah, I’m just making the music that I want to hear, that I think is cool. And hopefully, people respond to that. I think it sounds more evolved than pretty much everything else I’ve ever done. But everyone who’s appreciated the music that I’ve done before will still feel that it’s me. It’s like a new variation of me. And I’ve done a lot of sounds, working with a lot of artists and trying to figure out who I am as an artist over the years. And I feel like this is kind of a step into what I’m really trying to do with my solo career. But it’s funny because, you know, I’ve worked with lots of artists that do a lot of different things from WILLOW, Weezer, to Teezo to J.P. There’s a lot of rock, just straight up rock, Weezer are rock, a legendary rock band. It spans so many genres. Like Teezo coined the term Rock & Boom, which is very much like a mixture of R&B and rock and hip hop and has all sorts of things. And I think we’re getting to a point where artists are allowed to do more than just one thing, and not just have one sound that they’re known for. So I kind of wanted to lean into that and be unapologetic and kind of flex my versatility with this record. There’s one song that sounds like the Gorillaz kind of. And then there’s one that sounds like maybe something out of Frank Ocean. Then there are some that sound a little more like R&B leaning. And when you put all these different influences together, it becomes something new. I was once told, good artists borrow and great artists can be built on. And I think that I’ve taken all my favorite artists through history.
Your album sounds incredible, congratulations on the release. Hopefully, see you on tour soon?
Thank you, I appreciate it very much. It’s funny because I met some people here. I actually got stopped on the street yesterday and someone asked me if I was doing any shows when I was here and I was so sad that I had to say no, because I really want to. That’s the plan.
You totally should. Thank you so much for your time!