Always one to blur the lines between captivating electronic music and moving acoustic pieces, Stephen has been a leading force behind the innovation movement since the release of his debut album, Sincerely. From the success of the critically acclaimed project, to a Lyme disease diagnosis, to returning with last year’s it’s too much love to know my dear EP, these last few years have been tumultuous for the talented artist and he is ready to put these experiences back into his music. Gearing up for the release of his sophomore album titled Akrasia, Stephen is back today with the project’s lead single, ‘I Never Stay In Love.’
‘I Never Stay In Love’ is quintessential Stephen, pairing the artist’s poignant vocals, underlying acoustic undertones and an emotional electronic pull. The transition from piano-driven chords to the moving dance elements is seamless, attesting to Stephen’s undeniable evolution as an artist. We had the honour to catch up with Stephen to discuss everything from the lead single, the upcoming Akrasia, the importance of meditation, his social media handle and so much more. The artist did not hold back in his answers, allowing readers to get deep into his creative mind. So dive into the interview below, grab ‘I Never Stay In Love’ here and don’t forget to pre-order Akrasia!
Welcome, how are you doing amidst this strange situation?
I’m doing well. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect for me. I was already finishing this album when the pandemic started, so all I’ve been doing anyways is being tunnel visioned and quarantined in my studio, finishing this music, so this hasn’t changed my life very much. I haven’t been able to see my friends and I haven’t been able to go on the occasional adventures, but as I’m coming back and speaking to my audience for the first time in a while, this couldn’t be more perfect. I’m here in my place alone or with my cousin, and there’s nobody influencing my voice or what I believe in. It’s just me and I’ve had a lot of time to reflect. In a weird way, I’m kind of thankful for this. I don’t know, I’m one of those weird extroverted and introverted people and I really enjoy being around people sometimes and then I really enjoy being alone, so the part of me that really enjoys being alone is just having a ball right now.
I was mainly in Thailand although I flew around a little bit. While I was there, there was no music and I was totally away from my work and my art. I was just experiencing life for two months and it was so so so much fun.
Congratulations on the release of ‘I Never Stay In Love’ and on the upcoming Akrasia. How long has the album been in the works?
This album has been in the works since I moved into this house that I’m currently living in. I came here right after being in Southeast Asia for two months. I was mainly in Thailand although I flew around a little bit. While I was there, there was no music and I was totally away from my work and my art. I was just experiencing life for two months and it was so so so much fun. Then I got back, literally had one day to get ready, and then moved into this house. Once I got the studio setup, it maybe took just a week or two and I started making music. I’d say by about sometime in July I started making some of the first songs on this album. So it probably took about seven or eight months from very beginning to very end. This album is a reflection of all of this, all the things I’ve gone through in that time.
Why did you choose to release ‘I Never Stay In Love’ as the lead single?
I think it’s a good bridge between what I was doing in Sincerely and what I’m doing now. Akrasia has got a drop in it, some instrumental sections, and it’s pretty sound design driven. I think it’ll be palatable and easy to digest for my fans. I also have played a lot of these songs for people, and ‘I Never Stay In Love’ always seems to be a song that people gravitate towards. But personally, I think that the song embodies a lot of elements that the album as a whole possesses. It has the crazy instrumentals, the distortion and the overdrive, the big drums, catchy melodies, singing, rapping, some folly cinematic kind of vibes. It feels like it’s a good starting point and a good entryway into the album.
Akrasia is essentially the struggle of giving into instant gratification. It’s that weakness of will. It’s when you know what you have to do so clearly and you know what’s going to make you feel fulfilled, in love with life and excited.
You said in an interview in 2018 that it’s usually the hard times in life that inspire your music. Is this the case for Akrasia? Is there a story behind the album as a whole?
The definition of Akrasia is the state of mind in which someone acts against their better judgement through weakness of will. The first time I ever heard the word Akrasia, and the only time I ever heard that word used, was at a Sam Harris lecture in downtown Los Angeles. He was talking to a Tibetan monk and he dropped that word. I actually don’t even remember the context but I wrote the word down and was like “what does that mean?” and looked it up. This was like two years ago.
Akrasia is essentially the struggle of giving into instant gratification. It’s that weakness of will. It’s when you know what you have to do so clearly and you know what’s going to make you feel fulfilled, in love with life and excited. You know what you need to do to thrive, yet you succumb to distraction, instant gratification, and escape. I think that being happy, fulfilled, and living a colorful and adventurous life is hard fucking work. It is not easy to be happy. Akrasia is a story of my struggle to do what’s best for myself. It’s a story of my struggle with all sorts of various addictions from relationships, video games, drugs, and how all of these methods of escape are really our escape into fantasy. It’s not wanting to deal with my life. It’s not wanting to do the hard work that it’s going to take for me to be full. I’m still finding exactly what it is that I created, and it’s crazy how the way I make music is so unconscious and accidental that it’s really me just not wanting to deal with my life. But yes, this has been a struggle for sure.
I think I’ve realized that playfulness and silliness is incredibly disarming and incredibly attractive. It draws me in and Akrasia is me wanting to present these issues that have the same intensity, magnitude and the same weight as Sincerely.
What are the similarities and differences between Akrasia and Sincerely? Was it difficult staying true to the essence of Stephen while continuing to innovate?
The differences are that Sincerely is really really solemn and serious. It’s incredibly reflective and revealing. Akrasia is just as intense and honest, dealing with darkness on the same scale. But Akrasia is way more playful and is embracing a way more playful part of myself, which wasn’t expressed in Sincerely, and this side of myself has always existed. I’m an incredibly intense, reflective and thoughtful person, and I question everything. I do have a very serious passionate side, which was really the focus point in Sincerely. But I’m also a total cornball. I love being silly and I love playfulness. I think I’ve realized that playfulness and silliness is incredibly disarming and incredibly attractive. It draws me in and Akrasia is me wanting to present these issues that have the same intensity, magnitude and the same weight as Sincerely. But now presented in Akrasia with a more inviting and playful energy. So yeah, I’d say there’s a big difference.
It wasn’t difficult staying true to my essence, as that is the only thing I really am good at. All I need to do to stay true to my essence is to make music that I love. It’s easy. I guess what’s difficult is getting inspired sometimes. For me, I think it takes personal challenges, personal roadblocks and things that I have to contest with to push me to make me grow to be inspired to make music. I also have to be inspired by things happening in music. What’s really inspired me on this album is the raw energy, and the unstructured and unfiltered energy that a lot of urban music actually has with artists like JPEGMAFIA, 070 Shake, and FKA Twigs. Music that breaks a lot of rules and doesn’t fit into a box. That really inspired me here.
The music industry has somewhat halted due to the ongoing global crisis. Have any of your personal plans regarding the release of Akrasia been affected, and what’s the best way for fans to keep supporting you?
It hasn’t been too bad. Our release schedule hasn’t changed due to the pandemic. Some assets have been delayed, like we were gonna shoot some music videos and things like that and now we have to do things a little differently. But we’re adapting and it really hasn’t been too much of a hindrance.
What’s the best way for fans to keep supporting you?
I would say the best way for fans to keep supporting me would be to keep connecting with my music, keep listening to it, and keep sharing it with their friends. I think I’m going to start using social media more and more as a tool to engage and challenge people and share what’s on my mind, so we can definitely stay connected there. Hopefully there’s going to be merch and shows that can all be supported, but for now just keep listening.
Your blog ends around May 2018, do you still write? What other creative means do you like to explore outside of music?
I definitely still write and I’m starting to write more and more again. While making this album, it has actually been a pretty non-reflective process. When I was making Sincerely I was writing in my journal every day, constantly reflecting on my life, constantly reflecting on my past, constantly reflecting on every single day. Akrasia has been much more of a madness and a chaos. I think I’m way more present. I’m less reflective and more based in the experience that I’m having now. But now that the album’s done, I am starting to reflect more. As I’m reflecting more, more writing is starting to happen. But I also think the nature of my writing has changed. I don’t think my writing is necessarily coming from a place of trying to encapsulate the past, understand things or label things. I think it’s just becoming more of a free form thought dump and just writing for fun.
What other creative means do you like to explore outside of music?
For creative input, I love watching good movies. I love going on YouTube and just seeing any art, like watching an artist draw or watching a rock climber climb. It’s all art to me. But in terms of creative output, music kind of takes the whole chunk out for me. I feel like maybe humor, or maybe just being weird and connecting with people.
My whole universe rebuilt upon the foundation of meditation. What that really means is that the only thing that I know is that I am here, and I’m breathing. When I start with that simple truth, everything becomes okay.
What role does meditation play in your life? How does it benefit you personally and how do you think people who don’t meditate could benefit from it?
Thank you for asking this question. Meditation is the foundation of everything. When I was 21 my foundation was based on a lot of beliefs that I held from being a kid, that I had never questioned, such as ideas about myself, ideas about the world, a persona, and any idea of myself. Through some experiences that I had, all of that shattered and I felt like I was falling. I didn’t know who I was and I didn’t know what I was doing here and I was just massively confused, in a perpetual existential crisis, having panic attacks, not knowing what the fuck any of this means. I had been a meditator before that, and thank God I had that, because I rebuilt my everything. My whole universe rebuilt upon the foundation of meditation. What that really means is that the only thing that I know is that I am here, and I’m breathing. When I start with that simple truth, everything becomes okay. Everything is a blessing. When you start from zero, even if you just have one or two or three, it’s just amazing. So meditation for me is key to being calm and being happy. It’s a key for being more honest, being less reliant on other people’s judgements. It frees you from judgement. Both you judging others and others judging you. It is what I look forward to the most sometimes. It’s my best friend in every moment. It’s like, no matter what happens, I feel like I’m always gonna be okay because I can have my breath and my peace. I could talk about it forever. I think that for people who don’t meditate, we’re such victims of our thoughts, we’re so caught up in this moment and what we’re thinking and what we’re feeling. We don’t know how to step outside of that and let it go and we’re trying to control everything. Meditation helps you let go, it helps you get outside of that. It helps you accept what’s going on. It helps you find really really simple and creative ways to solve problems. It’s the most powerful tool in my toolkit. I think it would benefit everybody, make them a calmer person, make them happier, and make them more in love.
I’ve always wondered what’s the meaning behind your social media handle ithinkimcrashin?
I sometimes wonder if I should tell people this because I think it might actually devalue the word. But I guess you guys can decide. It’s kind of a funny story. When I was living in Silver Lake, Los Angeles, working on Sincerely, I lived in this artist commune with five or six people that actually lived there. But most nights out of the week, we had many friends and creatives crashing on couches or closets, sharing beds and it was a madhouse. It was amazing. It was exactly what I needed being in my early 20s. But anyways, during the day we’d all be creating in our own corners making music. Then at night we would come together and crack a beer, smoke some weed, and share what we had created that day and tell stories, share videos and have community time. Every night at that point in my life ended the same, which was me in a blanket sitting on the couch. Everybody would still be engaged but I would be exhausted. I would fall asleep on the couch, wake up, fall back asleep, wake up, and then I would get up and start walking up the stairs with this blanket wrapped around me. Everyone would still be hanging out and I’d be like, “alright guys, I think I’m crashing”. Everybody made fun of me because they’re like “you think you’re crashing bro? You’ve been crashed for like two hours.” And it was just a funny joke that everybody would make fun of me every time I said that. When I was thinking of Instagram handles, that came up and it was perfect. I think ithinkimcrashin is cool but I think if people don’t know what it is, it sounds kind of strangely poetic.