5 writers, 5 questions, 1 band, hand-picked by MWA. Welcome to FIVE x FIVE. This week: meditative indie rock artist, Anti/Beyond.
Out of Chicago comes the solo project of Andrew Masters. The first full-length album, aptly titled Anti/Beyond, was released in late December 2016. We’ve meditated on it since and have finally chatted with Andrew Masters about Anti/Beyond’s roots, creative process, and more in this week’s FIVE x FIVE.
Where did Anti/Beyond stem from?
The name Anti/Beyond emerged from a creative writing class I took in my final year of college. We were making poems using “cut up technique” where you cut up whole paragraphs of text in to individual words and rearrange them at random. The two words “anti” and “beyond” just happened to fall together as I was doing this, and it immediately struck me as… well… really fuckin’ cool. It also resonated with me because, having grown up in a religious environment and studied philosophy in college, I spent so much time thinking about the “beyond” whether it be Gods, Heaven, Beauty, Morality, Reality, Quality on and on. Anti/Beyond was symbolic of a turning point in my life where I started pursuing simpler questions: What if I focus on me? What if I focus on my body, my mind, and the little tunes that I love to create? I later added the “/” as an homage to my favorite Elliott Smith album Either/Or.
What is your inspiration for using cell phone recordings “from the field” in your music? It adds another really interesting layer to your songs.
My main inspiration for using cell phone field recordings comes from Ogilvie Transportation Center in downtown Chicago. After buying your train ticket at OTC, you walk through a row of glass doors to a cavernous terminal where all the trains are parked. At the head of each track is a numbered sign “Track 1, 2, 3, etc” stretching all the way to 13. Each sign has a feminine robot voice calmly but persistently announcing each track number every 3 or 4 seconds. Five years ago I found myself in the middle of the station, eyes closed, listening to the symphony of all of these robot voices speaking over each other at random all rolled together with the normal bustle of a train station–it was beautiful and I immediately took my phone out to record it. I ended up using this recording as the backdrop to my album’s first track “Android Tracks.” Go to the beginning of that song and turn it way up to hear what I mean, or better yet—go mill about at OTC for a while!
After that I began collecting all kinds of voices, whirs, beeps, hums, and natural sounds. In the quiet sections of “Piece of Glass,” for example, there is a cell phone recording of a rain drop on a gutter. Ultimately these little recordings are like watermarks on my music. Purely as music, I don’t think what I’m doing is incredibly unique or revolutionary. I figured if I can blend these little phone-recorded moments of my life in to my music, that’s the way to make it a truly unique experience.
It’s got to feel really good to write the music you write, it must to feel like a release. Creatively speaking, what keeps you going?
Oh wow, this is a huge question! I think the thing that keeps me going is that writing music is one of the only places in my life that still feels full of mystery and magic (except for memes, of course). I swear this is less depressing as it sounds! As I grow up, I learn about things and develop a deeper understanding of the world, but in exchange I think the world seems a little less magical. For example, as a kid, the leaf on a tree was green just by some magical force. Maybe a fairy anointed each individual leaf or some dragon in ancient times breathed green fire all over the earth… who knew?! But eventually, I learned that leaves are green because the chlorophyll in them absorbs red and blue light (I did have to Wikipedia the exact explanation, so maybe I know less than I think I do). But even if I don’t understand something, I believe there is a logical explanation behind all of it that fits in with everything else. Which is cool, we as a human race understand so much more than past generations! But with the ability to explain away everything, then some of the magic is gone. I’m never going to find that portal to another world in a dumpster after being chased in to an alley by bullies. I’m never going to one day discover that I can move things with my mind.
Sitting down to write music is still such an inexplicably magical experience to me. I don’t know where it comes from and I don’t know how it works, but I know if I make a space for it in my life it just blossoms in a really rewarding way. I couldn’t imagine life without it.
You recently revisited Anti/Beyond, resulting in your December 2016 self-titled release. What caused you to take a hiatus from the project in the first place?
So from about 2012-2014, I didn’t do much music because I didn’t know if it was worth the struggle. I couldn’t get over the fact that I might pour countless hours and my entire self in to a 3 minute song that someone might hear, shrug their shoulders and go “meh.” But ultimately I found that what really mattered for my happiness was that I was creating and progressing—“mehs” be damned! So in the fall of 2014, I took a deep breath, sat down and started writing.
Which bands are you keeping an eye on in Chicago?
There is seriously so much great music coming out of Chicago right now. I’d say I’m most closely watching Jamila Woods, Ravyn Lenae, Dan Durley, Oshwa, Family of Geniuses and BARDO.