Interview With Indie Electronic Artist M. Vaughan

An interview with artist M. Vaughan on the creative process behind his upcoming album Keep in Touch set to drop on June 14th, and the compelling personal journey that has shaped his artistic evolution.

By Chris RoditisMusicngear Lead Editor

Article photo - Interview With Indie Electronic Artist M. Vaughan
 

From his indie rock beginnings to his foray into electronic experimentation, and now his poignant return to emotional Indie Rock, Vaughan's trajectory has been nothing short of transformative.


Chris Roditis, Musicngear: Your journey from Indie Rock bands to electronic music production and now back to a more emotional Indie Rock sound seems quite dynamic. How has this evolution influenced not just your approach to music production, but also your songwriting process and lyrical themes?

I think in the world of Indie Rock, there’s less of an emphasis on being a “mad scientist.” You just pick up the guitars, the drum kit, and maybe a dusty keyboard and you write songs. No one ever really cared about what gear you used very much.

By contrast, gear is a rabbit hole in the world of electronic music. I used to make29* musical playdates purely to go over and twiddle knobs on my friend’s new modular synthesizer. Synths, plugins, and processing were what got me into electronic music. I used to spend hours perfecting the tone of a kick.

Having spent years making dance music, I feel like I’ve picked up a lot of techniques on mixing and sound design and have applied those techniques to this more songwriting-y project. I still have the same studio and setup from when I made dance records, it’s just now being used to make indie stuff.

For this EP, I wanted to fret less over the sound design and simply write good songs, with lyrical heft that felt more honest.


"Keep in Touch" appears to be a deeply personal project, exploring themes of transition and finding a sense of home. How did your own experiences during this period influence the creative direction of the EP, both musically and lyrically?

Article photo - Interview With Indie Electronic Artist M. Vaughan I moved from NYC to Berlin to Lisbon in the course of writing this record. In the process, there’s been a lot of questioning about which place feels like “home” and where do you “belong.” A lot of the songs on this record wrestle with those questions.

I had to learn two languages, change jobs multiple times, and make a home in two totally different cultures. I feel like at the end of the day, I’ve made a new home in Europe and I’m happier and richer for it. These songs are documents of each stage of that.


Relocating from Berlin to Lisbon seems to have played a significant role in shaping the direction of your music. Can you discuss how the change in environment impacted not only your songwriting but also your overall creative mindset and artistic vision?

Berlin was dark and grey and obviously very techno-forward. I felt like there was a latent frustration and cold mechanical precision to the music I was hearing there. I felt like you coudn’t be silly or uncool. Perhaps because of that I felt like I had to dig even deeper back to stuff that was dorkily rock and out of place, like Tom Petty.

I felt out of place in Berlin. It was cold, grey, and felt way more foreign to me than I had been expecting. It was also COVID for my entire time there so I was in a kind of solitary confinement for a lot of it.

Moving to Lisbon was a breath of fresh air. My best friend from childhood was living here at the time and I visited him and it just clicked. However, musically, I found myself living in this sunny happy place and I couldn’t get music to come out. If you’re happy, why write songs about it? Who gives a shit? I’ve always associated music making with emotional suffering. I moved my studio to a room with no light so you can’t see the sun and know the day is beautiful and you should be drinking wine in a park. I’ve gotta go into the cave to be productive. But hey, good problems to have.

Since moving to Lisbon I’ve gotten very into Brazilian music. Jorge Ben Jor, Os Mutantes, Caetano Veloso. I loved the way how they mix traditionally light/happy instrumentation with more heartwrenching lyrics. I think that showed me a new path forward musically.


Your statement mentions using electronic music tools to craft rock songs on "Keep in Touch." Could you delve deeper into your gear setup and share how you integrate electronic elements into your more traditional rock compositions?

Article photo - Interview With Indie Electronic Artist M. Vaughan My synths and drum machines are my bandmates. I let the limitations of each tool drive the songwriting process. Bass duties come from my Novation Bass Station II. My leads come from a Korg Minilogue. My drums come with drum breaks and an Arturia Drum Brute. I have a shitty plastic shaker I use on most tracks. I like using outboard synthesizers when possible as more happy accidents happen in front of the keyboard. I also love recording to audio as soon as possible in order to force decisions. When I’m in writing mode, it’s better to work fast and loose rather than spend hours pixel-poking MIDI.

Regarding electronic elements, I think I’ve just developed an affinity for electronic production techniques over time. For example, in the techno world, one of my favorite artists is Shed. I love his sound design and drum programming. So, when I start putting a song together, and working on drums I’m definitely looking to artists like him for inspiration.

Vice versa, I love the weird experimental recording techniques and lyrics of Phil Elverum from the Microphones, so I might borrow inspiration from him as well. It’s a hodgepodge.


Your music draws inspiration from a diverse range of artists, from Mount Kimbie to The Cure. How do you navigate these varied influences to create a sound that feels uniquely yours, and how does your gear selection contribute to this process?

I think we’re all a big smoothie of what we’ve listened to. The one thing that feels common to all my inspirations, whether it’s the Cure or Mount Kimbie or Shed or Axel Boman, is this sense of melancholic emotion and introspection. The tools and genre conventions that they work in are secondary, but I feel like that melancholy has always resonated with me. I’ve always been drawn to it.

I definitely steal sounds from artists I like. For example, I bought this Alesis drum machine because I heard the snare in a few Cure records. I use a Mellotron plugin because it reminds me of The Sea and Cake. I like to use CR78 drums because I like the way Mount Kimbie uses them for stripped yet punchy drums.

At the end of the day, I just listen and borrow and make a little patchwork of sounds of stuff I like :)


Following the release of the lead single 'Tire Swing', which offers a glimpse into themes of disconnection and rediscovery, 'Cold Read' drops on May 17th, paving the way for M. Vaughan's album 'Keep in Touch' on June 14th. Stay tuned!

Connect with M. Vaughan
Facebook / Instagram / Spotify / Soundcloud


Article photo - Interview With Indie Electronic Artist M. Vaughan

About Chris Roditis

Chris Roditis has been an active musician since 1995 in various bands and projects across a variety of genres ranging from acoustic, electronic to nu metal, british rock and trip hop. He has extensive experience as a mixing engineer and producer and has built recording studios for most of the projects he has been involved with. His passion for music steered his entrepreneurial skills into founding MusicNGear in 2012.

Contact Chris Roditis at chrisroditis@kinkl.com

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