Hot off the heels of 'LOVE + POP', Current Joys sat down with Mixdown to chat about everything from making the most of the gear you have to an unreleased rock opera he currently has on the boil.
Current Joys, the moniker of Surf Curse member Nick Rattigan, has recently released his invigorating new album LOVE + POP via Secretly Canadian. A multi-hyphenate force of creativity, Rattigan is a prolific songwriter, producer, performer and music video director, with multiple credits across every discipline.
Read all the latest features, columns and more here.
His tenth record to date, LOVE + POP sonically conjures the project’s halcyon DIY days, showcasing the deeply emotive, highly textural lo-fi production fans have come to know and admire.
Rattigan was heavily inspired by Lil Peep’s music and process when setting out to make the new album. Though the record radiates with the distinctively warm sonic crunch that has amassed Rattigan an ardent following globally, it is dually punctuated by percussive, hardcore hip hop flows sure to peak the ears of fans of Death Grips and DIY indie alike.
Opening the record with a cover of Peep’s “walk away as the door slams,” LOVE + POP hosts collaborators from across Rattigan’s career into his once insular creative process. Notably, Lil Yachty, Lily West (Lala Lala), & Slow Hollows are listed among the album credits.
Hot off the heels of this fantastic release, Current Joys sat down with Mixdown to chat about everything from making the most of the gear you have to an unreleased rock opera he currently has on the boil.
To start things off, I’d love to ask whether you made a conscious effort to expand your sound when approaching the latest releases we’ve seen from you – while the low-fi aesthetics CJ is beloved for still permeate the tracks, these cuts are certainly punchier and have this fresh sense of immediacy and clarity, I’d love to know what kind of sonic palette you were working from when you began writing and recording this body of work? What inspired you? What was the vision?
I’d like to say this was a conscious effort, but it feels like this project poured out of me the same way all my records have. It came from a place of discovering modern music like Lil Peep, Drain Gang, Skrillex, 100 gecs ect. I guess those influences are very different from what I’ve been inspired by in the past, but the method of writing and recording felt just as natural as making A Different Age or Voyager.
I did have certain goals that I wanted to push myself to achieve like having a hip hop song or a 10 minute house track (I only made it to 8) but the process felt very familiar to all of the music I’ve ever made.
Could you tell me a little bit about the journey that led you to producing your own music in the way you do? Would you say that the deeply involved process of a DIY production ethos has ultimately helped to foster the sense of interiority and emotional depth so many fans have connected to in your work?
I’ve always just worked with what I have. Never worrying about the “quality” of the recording but the emotion it produces. I like to call it emotional production. Instead of focusing on getting a super polished product I focus on making sure the song conveys the emotional colour that I have in my mind.
For many of the records I would say that it is DIY – but records like Voyager or this new one I have coming out East My Love were recorded in proper studios. However, this still goes with the idea of working with what I have. These records were made because I’ve been able to afford higher production than I have on previous albums.
Tell me about your songwriting process – is it a collaborative affair, do you tend to tinker alone and build from those skeletons, or is it a combination of both?
For this record it was very different. I was sending demos to people or taking things that they would give me and twisting it in my own way. Obviously there are many collaborations on this record with friends of mine who are really excellent producers in their own right. But even when I’m working by myself the process has always felt like it comes from a place beyond me. Once I start thinking too much about a song it’s like I’m trying to follow a recipe and that’s when you lose the song.
Talk me through your recording workflow from demo to track completion. Do you begin in the bedroom or head straight to the studio? Any preference of DAW/special demo set up that goes the extra mile?
For this record I felt it was important to start a song and finish it as soon as possible. To pour all of the emotion and feeling into that moment. I’ve been a big fan of using ableton for the last 5 years. To me it feels like the most creative DAW. I still work with a very minimal setup that I have in my house. I’ve never been much of a gear head or expert in the realm of producing. I still couldn’t EQ something to save my life.
Which pieces of equipment are the most integral to you when it comes to translating the project’s essence from a recorded to a live context? Are you trying to replicate your studio sound when you perform, or do you prefer to let the songs breathe and find their own live groove?
Honestly, I think Jackson Katz (my drummer) really helps bring these songs to life. His drumming on top of the tracks brings this tactile element to the electronic production that I believe creates a tactile and for lack of a better work punk element to the live performance. The live performance right now feels like Death Grips is trying to sound like Green Day.
I’ve never attempted to just mimic the studio recording for my live sets. To me they should exist in two different worlds.
Are there any pieces of gear you’ve acquired, be it something cheap that punches massively above its weight, or a less-wallet friendly splurge, that have tangibly influenced the way you write and record music to this day?
I really love using my Shure 57 mic. When I’m recording I honestly just put that thing right up to my mouth and sing / scream whatever it is. No pop filter. I love the way it sounds with layered vocals and feels like it takes some pretension out of the recording process.
What are the visual mediums that you find best allow you to express yourself as an artist outside of music – I love the almost blair witch-esque VHS aesthetics of your recent music videos, for example – is it important for you to be able to display your creativity in every aspect of this project’s output?
Obviously film is extremely important to me. One film that really influenced me in the visual language of this project was Love + Pop. The whole movie is these very interesting DV camera shots. I wanted to try to get as creative as possible as I could using cheap equipment. I feel like it requires you to think outside of the box a little bit more.
I’m also so stoked on the album art painted by Carly Goldstien. I feel lucky that all the visuals turned out the way they did. In the past I’ve felt somewhat limited in my abilities to translate the ideas in my head – so I reached out to people whose visuals I really admire like Julian Klincewicz or Leia Jospe who brought their own personalities into the music videos.
How do you recharge your creative batteries? What in your life inspires your music that isn’t music? It could be as logical as watching a film or listening to records, or as obscure as gardening or taking a long walk.
I always say that a song is just a cocktail of all the things you’re consuming. Whether that’s music, film, books ect. My personal life just seeps into these influences in a way that I don’t know if I could tangibly explain.
Jacob Rubeck gave me some advice once. He said if you are stuck on lyrics just go for a long walk and don’t come back till the lyrics are done haha. Seems daunting but it really works sometimes. Nothing works quite a long walk listening to the instrumental tracks to write lyrics.
What’s on the horizon? What exciting things can we expect from you for the remainder of the year?
I am working on several projects right now. Finishing up my folk/country album. Working on some more hip hop stuff with this producer Fear Dorian. And I really need to finish writing my rock opera ~ but that feels like it’s going to take a lot longer to complete.
Keep up to date with all things Current Joys here.