Postcards From LA: An Interview With The G

As the #SummerofSynth ramps up, we’ve got another big interview here at Echosynthetic. The G practically oozes summer sun so it made perfect sense to include him in the festivities. More than that, he’s got new music out on TimeSlave Recordings with limited edition cassettes available for as well. Postcards From LA can be purchased right now and those cassettes I mentioned start shipping this week.

Postcards from LA greets you with evening California breezes with Malibu Nights (Radio Edit). It’s a warm track that has an approachability to it that I think anyone can enjoy, something that not all synthwave has. Zuma Beach hits you with a classic hook right out of the gate, continuing the warmth and welcome feel that Malibu Nights established. This one is a favorite, and since it came out I find myself humming that chorus A LOT. 928 sound like sunset drive…leaving the day behind you with streetlights whipping by. It’s a slow builder that has layers that are added over time as well, which I quite enjoyed. On the Rocks…that beat…as soon as the song starts you’re moving. Whether it’s a foot tapping, a head bouncing, or full body involvement, the groove here is too good to ignore. Santa Barbara has a vulnerability to it and serves as a more atmospheric track. Hey, it’s not always sunshine at the beach, and The G shows he’s got versatility as well. Tropical Summer reigns in the close of Postcards From LA with French disco smash. The beat is infections, the higher register synths carry the song well,  and funky guitars keep the song level. I love that breakdown in the middle of the song! As a bonus on the digital album you get Malibu Nights 12″, an extended cut of the amazing album opener. It’s a nice way to finish an amazing audio trip to Los Angeles.

I think the best thing about Postcards From LA is that it feels exactly like you’re looking through pictures from the West Coast. The G has done an excellent job of capturing a visual and translating the image into an audible experience you get to enjoy. Be sure to head over to Bandcamp right now and check it out and get your order in on one of those tapes!!!

But wait! The #SummerofSynth continues with a full interview with the man behind Postcards from LA, The G:

Thanks for talking to us! For those out there who aren’t familiar with you already, who is The G?

The G is an LA guy in Singapore who dreams of driving up the Pacific Coast Highway with the top down, synth music blasting from the speakers of his imagined Porsche 928, as he makes his way to a mansion party in the hills. Where he’s the DJ, of course.

You’ve done mastering work for Vampire Step-Dad, did he bump up your allowance for doing such a great job?

Yeah, but he says I have to put all the toys away before he’ll give it to me.

Seriously, though— seeing VSD blow up, and knowing that I played a small role in that, that’s been wonderful. It’s just a really fun project to work on. The fake sitcom concept is great, and I love that his approach is both ironic and sincere. That’s what synthwave is all about, after all: poking fun at and honestly celebrating the tropes of ‘80s pop culture.

Have you done any other mastering work?

I’ve done work for Goremall, Xenon Arc and some others. I do it part-time, so I don’t take on as many jobs as some other engineers do. But it’s something I really enjoy doing. And I’ve been blessed with great clients too. Like VSD or Xenon Arc—he did a remix of New Zealand hip-hop group Raw Collective that’s really hot. Without giving too much away, that’s a guy you’ll want to have your radar.

I’ve got a few other projects coming up that I’m really excited to be working on as well, but I can’t really talk about them yet.

You’ve got all kinds of goodies coming out through Time Slave Recordings. What can you tell us about that?

TimeSlave just released Postcards from LA, which is a compilation of my two self-released EPs. Then, later this summer, they’ll be doing my first full-on album. This one has a science fiction concept, so it’s a lot moodier than Postcards—but it’s still on the dreamier side of synthwave. I’m really excited about it.

Postcards from LA is a perfect slice of summer fun. What was the writing process like?

Well, it was done in three phases, really. The original EPs, Pacific Coast and Tropical Summer/On the Rocks, were produced separately in 2016. I was never quite happy with the arrangements on Pacific Coast, though, so I went back and started tinkering. Then I remastered both so they’d work together as a single release.

In terms of writing process, I usually start with an image in mind—a place and moment in time I want to evoke. For Pacific Coast, it was this idea of cruising up PCH from Santa Monica, past Malibu, and up to Santa Barbara. I’ve done that route many times, and there’s this incredible romance to it for me.

Tropical Summer/On the Rocks is another story altogether. I visited the Sheets Goldstein House—this crazy modernist mansion up in the Hills. It’s the one from The Big Lebowski, actually. But it’s just so much more intense when you see it up close. A bit ‘70s, a bit ‘80s, and one hundred percent retro. And the owner is a legend himself. I just kept imagining the kind of parties he had there. Guys in pink shirts and linen blazers, girls in white jumpsuits with huge shoulder pads. “Tropical Summer” is for the evening cocktail hour. “On the Rocks” comes on after hours, when all bets are off.

From those images, I built grooves, filling in the blanks as I went along. Some of the tracks, like “Tropical Summer,” took a while to gel. Others, like “On the Rocks” or “Malibu Nights,” came quickly. I try not to force things.

What do you use in the studio?

Postcards was done “in-the-box,” using Reason. It’s just a wonderfully creative platform—especially for someone with a background in hardware. But I also use Logic. Actually I’ve been using Logic a lot more over the past six months. I go back and forth.

I’ve also got a few pieces of hardware, and might start working toward a more hardware-based studio eventually. But I have some space constraints at present, so I’m keeping it simple and portable for now. I’ve got an extensive suite of plugins, though—including stuff like Diva and The Legend, which sound really close to vintage hardware. You can even mimic oscillator drift!

What do you do for fun when you aren’t creating music?

I’m an avid reader/viewer of science fiction, and co-run a blog called “Nerds of a Feather, Flock Together” that covers science fiction and fantasy across several media. (Plug: It’s just been nominated for a Hugo Award, which is a pretty big deal in science fiction. We probably won’t win, but it’s nice to be recognized anyway!

Other than that, just spending time outdoors with family and friends. Eating good food, going to the beach—that kind of thing. And tacos. I can never get enough tacos.

Who has been your biggest influence musically?

I grew up on synthpop. Groups like New Order, Depeche Mode, Tom Tom Club played a big role in my musical development, and are still reference points for me. Then in college I got hardcore into Chicago house and Detroit techno. People tend to think of house as sample-based, and techno as percussive, and both of those things are true to an extent. But back in the ‘80s and early ‘90s, they were all about the synthesizer. Cybotron, Carl Craig, Mr. Fingers, that kind of thing. They were using the Juno 106, DX-7, SH-101—the same sonic palette people draw on for making synthwave, just used for a different purpose. I think that influence clearest in how I arrange music—basically featuring a single persistent groove rather than a verse/chorus/verse song structure.

As far as synthwave goes, my biggest influence is probably Miami Nights 1984. His stuff puts you in the driver’s seat of a badass Porsche 928, cruising at midnight down a Miami highway. So that’s a clear connection to what I’m doing, aesthetically speaking. And as a producer, there’s a lot to learn from how he does things. “Ocean Drive,” for example: it’s deceptively simple, but everything sounds so big and bold.

What’s on the horizon for The G?

I’ve got the other album coming out this summer. Then I’ve got a bunch of stuff in various states of readiness, including a couple that will feature vocals. Not sure that’ll gel as an album or end up as a couple EPs. We’ll see!

I’ve also got another music project in the works, which I like to describe as the soundtrack to an apocalyptic road movie that was never made. It’s got this early ‘80s feel to it, a bit Carpenter and a bit Fiedel. But it has a more architectural approach to music that you tend to find in the scene. I guess that’s the techno influence shining through.

The end result is different from the music I release as The G—so different I felt like it needed its own alias. Still retro, though! I haven’t decided what I want to do with it, as it sort of fits in-between a few audiences.

Where do you see synthwave music headed?

Hmm, that’s a tough one. Over the past year, synthwave seems to have gone in two directions. The darker stuff has gone in a more ornate, metal-influenced direction, while the dreamier stuff has moved toward more of a pop sensibility. I mean, think about who’s made the biggest impact lately: Carpenter Brut and Perturbator, on the one hand, and FM-84 on the other. All very good at what they do, but each moving away from the core synthwave and outrun sounds that used to define the genre. That’s healthy, I think. If synthwave didn’t evolve, it would disappear.

On the other hand, I sense boundaries emerging among fans of different subgenres, which I never really felt before. There was a post on some metal blog recently that was basically “darksynth rules, fuck dreamwave.” And that’s an attitude I just don’t understand. My absolute favorite artist is actually Makeup and Vanity Set, and his stuff is dark as hell!

So, yeah. Stylistic diversity is good for the scene, but so is listening broadly. I hope we can retain the latter even as we embrace the former.

Is there anyone you’d like to thank or shout out?

Yeah, definitely! Big ups to Enzo and the whole TimeSlave crew, to Vlad and all my mastering clients and to everyone who has bought, streamed or otherwise listened to my music. And a big shout out to my family and friends for all the support!

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