One of the most unique producers that we’ve had the pleasure of listening to is Seraph., a ‘lo-fi wave‘ artist who just released his debut album, Memento, via Tabula Rasa Records on August 31. Shortly before this album came out, Seraph. announced his upcoming hiatus from music production on social media–but never fear! This doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the end for Seraph., as you will learn in our conversation with the artist. (Due to length, you will find this conversation in two parts.)
In addition to discussing his upcoming career change, Seraph. also talks with us about the ways in which he deals with creative burnout, his unyielding admiration for Radiohead, how love was the driving force behind Memento–and so much more.
Without further ado, welcome to Part One of our conversation with Seraph. In this section, we mostly discuss this new album. We also talk about the creative process behind Memento and its curious cover art.
Strap in, and enjoy.
In conversation with Seraph., the UK’s prolific lo-fi wave producer
Ambur Masen, The Electric Hawk: Thank you so much for joining us, Seraph.! Would you please take a moment to introduce yourself to our Electric Hawk readers?
Seraph.: Hey, thanks so much for having me! My name is James (AKA Seraph.), I’m an electronic producer from the North East of the UK, and I create music under the self-defined label of ‘lofi wave’. However, with wave being such a broad genre, I decided to narrow things down when describing my own music.
My music incorporates a lot of elements adjacent to wave, such as pulsing reese-basses, detuned synth-plucks, and emotionally charged atmospheres.
Where my approach to wave might differ from others, however, is in my use of shoegaze guitar riffs, glitchy textures, and lofi percussion samples.
AM: Thank you. So, you just dropped your debut album, Memento, with Tabula Rasa Records. Congratulations! As someone who typically releases singles (but is a fan of the album format), what has this album-creating experience been like for you? What did you find easier than expected? Harder than expected?
Seraph.: Thank you so much! Honestly, I’m surprised at how organic the creative process was for this album. I was in a complete flow-state for most of it, and it felt incredibly liberating since I’ve almost exclusively released singles in the past. As someone who tries to incorporate influences from other genres in my music, I found myself getting burnt out from making standalone tracks.
It got to the point where with each track, I would say to myself, “Okay, now how can I switch this track up in this second section?”
It was definitely a great exercise when it came to experimenting within my sound palette, but it sorta felt like I couldn’t release a single that followed a more conventional arrangement. When I started making music again at the beginning of this year, I wasn’t in the headspace of “Right, let’s make a single for next month.”
I was purely focused on making music that I wanted to hear, and I was completely unconcerned with creating music that conforms to a particular format.
‘I think tuning out the white noise of trying to fit a certain mold as an artist, and just creating music purely for myself is why this album feels so authentic to me.’
Seraph.: Throughout the 9-track runtime of the album, I was able to explore so many influences I’ve wanted to show in my music. I honestly feel like my music lends itself more to an album format at this point; I don’t know how I managed to commit to the singles format for so long [laughs].
It was so incredibly fulfilling to see the album come together track-by-track. I was able to see the progress I made, and it gave me inspiration on where to take the album as it progressed. It gave me the idea of gradually progressing into the darker side of my sound in the latter half.
I would say that “Pulse” is the end of ‘Side A’, since it embraces a more upbeat atmosphere, and the aggressive garage rhythms act as a great climax for the first half of the album. I must say though, I have never felt quite so exhausted as when I sent the final masters off for distribution [laughs].
It was fulfilling, of course, but I’ve never experienced that level of fatigue from sending a single off for distribution.
Listen to the climatic track below.
Seraph.: From there, I knew I wanted to have a bit of the mood shift and gradually get darker with each track–this is where “Ache” comes in. I feel like this w/out collaboration is a perfect tease of what’s to come. It feels like the screeching bassline is almost kept on a leash, with the aggression seeping in and out to keep you on your toes.
Seraph.: It was important to me that this track didn’t go all out with its aggression, as I wanted to build that suspense. I ended up writing “Gradience” as a way to bridge the gap from “Ache” to “Veins II”, almost as a little breather before transitioning to what I consider to be the heaviest track on the album.
Seraph. By the end of “Veins II”, I wanted to bring things home with an ambient guitar composition that served as the emotional climax to the album. For this piece, it was very important to me that I didn’t force any fancy production techniques or subversions in the arrangement. I’m not sure when I’ll next sit down to make music as Seraph., so I wanted this track to feel like a hug to everyone who has supported me and this project throughout the years.
AM: What do you hope listeners take with them after listening to your album for the first time?
Seraph.: Honestly, it sounds cliché, but I hope listeners will hear how much passion I poured into it. In the past, people have commented that my music feels like a “breath of fresh air,” and that they appreciate how I’ve come to approach making wave music.
When I decided years ago that I was going to give music production a shot, I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to make. But, I knew that I wanted to craft a sonic identity that felt distinctly my own. I wanted this album to be a culmination of the Seraph. sound palette, something that I’ve spent so many years refining.
For the people who have followed this project in the early days, I want them to listen to Memento and feel that their support and faith in this project has come full circle. Five years ago, I sent my first beat to the_accidental_poet’s YouTube channel to be played on stream. There was no reason for him to accept the submission… And there was no reason for a handful of kind strangers to be so supportive of what was a pretty basic electronic beat at the time–
Seraph.: I say with full sincerity that I couldn’t have made this album if it weren’t for the support from these people. To have this continued support for years feels incredible. I hope they listen to this album and realize the impact they’ve had on me.
AM: What did you take away from your first full listen of the album, once it was completed?
Seraph.: Oh man, that’s a tough one… it depends on how you define “completed.” I honestly felt like it wasn’t completed until it was actually live on all music platforms [laughs].
When I first got the masters together, I made sure each track transitioned into the next seamlessly. That first listen afterwards felt so satisfying. I spent so much time stressing over the tracklist–the pacing–the tonal shifts–and making sure I sprinkled in some hidden samples throughout the runtime.
That first listen when everything was in its right place was an enormous relief, to say the least. I remember just exporting the album as a single .wav file, listening to it on a walk with my dog, Charlie, and realizing that it all came together the way that I wanted.
I remember I was walking along a field, and I had to take some time to lay on the grass and process it all.
And I was just hit with a wave of exhaustion…
Seraph.: Yes. Between sending off the album for distribution and the actual release date, I kept listening to the whole thing over and over again, to make sure it was all working as intended (and because I like to torture myself apparently).
Honestly, I feel like my ‘first full listen’ was as soon as the album dropped on streaming services.
I stayed up ‘til midnight because I wanted to listen through to make sure all was in order (again– torturing myself).
‘That first listen [on release day] felt so incredibly surreal; it just felt like I was finally done and it was out of my hands. The album was finally out there. I was finally able to enjoy it as a fan, rather than as the artist, and it was absolutely worth the labor of love–I had finally achieved something I’ve dreamt of for years.’
Seraph. One thing I wanted to achieve was to make someone cry during their first listen of the album. If I can make someone cry by the last track, I will have done my job.
As I listened to the outro of “Ourre”, I couldn’t help but tear up myself– so I guess I achieved that goal in the end [laughs].
AM: In what ways is this album itself ‘a memento’?
Seraph.: For me, this album is a memento to the last five years of my life. Back then, I had just graduated, and naturally, I had no clue what I was going to do with my life whatsoever. All I knew was that I had some time on my hands, so I bought some monitors and an audio interface, and figured I’d try my hand at producing electronic music.
I feel like my life post-graduation has been defined by the pursuit of this music project.
While these last few years have felt aimless at times, they also allowed me to explore something I’m incredibly passionate about. This project has been the most creatively-fulfilling endeavor of my life up to this point. Being able to express my emotions through music has allowed me to understand much more of myself. I’m honestly just so proud of where I’ve managed to take this project throughout the years. I used to really struggle with confidence, and making music as Seraph. has helped me embrace the fact that maybe I do have something good to bring into this world
As I said previously, I don’t know how I could have made this album without the support from so many people. These supportive messages have echoed throughout the years, and have manifested itself as a huge source of inspiration when I struggled to overcome burn-out.
This album is a love letter to those people–
And many of them are featured on this album in the form of voice samples.
AM: Will you tell us about that album cover? It’s beautiful.
Seraph.: Thank you! For me, making artwork to accompany my music is one of the most therapeutic parts of the creative process. I often like to go for scenic walks as a way to disconnect from being glued to my PC all day. On these walks, I tend to take a few pictures on my phone if the scenery captures my attention. I ended up buying an app called “Kuji Cam” where I process these photos with a vintage touch. It’s sorta like Instagram, but there’s a lot more you can do to alter the aesthetic of a photo. I ended up playing around with this app because it was a lot of fun, but I also really liked the results of what I came up with. I felt like it was a perfect visual representation of my music.
What started as a hobby to take the stress off my music ended up helping me establish more of my brand as an artist. It was really cool taking these scenic photos, editing them together and thinking, “I want to make music that sounds like this image.”
That way of thinking really helped inspire me when I hit periods of burnout.
Seraph.: For Memento, I wanted the artwork to perfectly mirror the range of styles explored through the music. Having made artwork for each individual track, I printed off each one and tried making a physical collage. I found some leftover cardboard from my dog’s food delivery, so I used that as a basis to hold all the photos together [laughs].
I just glued each photo onto the cardboard until I filled in all the gaps. Then I wanted to decorate things a bit more, so I stuck some polaroids on top of the collage. That’s when I felt like the artwork was really starting to come together. It made perfect sense to include these nostalgic photos as part of the artwork, considering the whole premise behind this album.
From there, I wanted to play around with making origami moths as a way to complete the artwork. I’m not sure where I got the idea for moths from. I just thought it would be a cool idea, so I stuck with it. Once I was happy with the placement of the moths, I took a bird’s-eye view photo of the collage and edited the photo using Kuji Cam.[The album’s cover] started out as a fun little arts and craft project, but honestly I’m so happy with how it turned out. I still have the cardboard collage next to my desk. I’m so attached to it; I refuse to throw it out [laughs].
Want to know what’s next for Seraph.? Stay tuned… for Part 2!
In the meantime, make sure to give Seraph.’s new album, Memento, a few listens.
You can find a seamless version of the album on the artist’s SoundCloud. If you prefer your music with no gaps, we highly recommend you give this version a try. It’s 36 minutes of pure emotion.
Check it out.
Looking for new music? Keep up with our weekly Spotify Playlist, Fresh Hunts. Updated every Friday with all the latest releases. Whether it’s the newest drops from Seraph., all your favorite artists, some old-school, or underground…we just want you to hear it.