An Interview with Vaporwave Artist Perla Blue
Perla Blue is a U.S.-based vaporwave artist. He creates vaporwave that has a unique, distinctive sound and is a reflection of who he is and of all of his various influences. I asked him about how he got started with music, his creative process and where he finds inspiration.
Karl Magi: How did you first start making music?
Perla Blue: My first real exposure to music production came in the form of experimenting with the sample library on Garageband when I was around 8 or 9. I didn’t know what I was doing at all, but the idea of creating my own music excited me. I’d devote my recesses and after school hours to the craft for a time. Eventually though, because I was a little kid who had trouble retaining interest in something other than video games and I ran the sample library dry, I stopped and didn’t touch music production for years. The idea always remained in the back of my head however, but my lack of a musical background and the slow and overwhelming learning curve regretfully discouraged me from it for a long time.
It wasn’t until my freshman year of high school when I began producing again, and developed the persona Perla Blue. One evening, I stumbled across the song “summer night” by ESPRIT 空想 while exploring YouTube and from there discovered the amazing world of vaporwave. Upon realizing that all the songs were just chopped and screwed edits of 80's songs and video game soundtracks, I thought to myself, “Hey, I can make this stuff.”
KM: What drew you towards creating music in the vaporwave genre?
PB: Everything about vaporwave drew me towards it: the visual aesthetics, the community during its golden age, the music itself. It spoke to me on a level that no other type of music ever had. People used the genre as a platform to create these ethereal and alternate realities, which completely captivated me. A good vaporwave album was a portal to another world where everything was perfectly and aesthetically in-tune. As I said in the last question as well, I was also drawn to how easy it was to pick up. Vaporwave was very friendly to newcomers, and anyone could gain recognition and a following regardless of how much of a musical background they had. Even the most popular producers were just everyday people, and I was able to take advantage of that and strike up connections with many of the artists I listened to. Even if it was only a followback on Twitter, just the fact that I was acknowledged by someone I considered myself to be fan of made me feel super important.
KM: Who are some of the artists that have inspired you and why have they done so?
PB: Just by the nature of genre, I didn't really have many vaporwave influences. I idolized artists like Skylar Spence and Blank Banshee, but I wouldn't say they had a direct impact on my music. For ‘Sleepless’ I honestly found most of my inspiration from playing Vice City, but I would be lying if I didn’t say I took a good amount of cues from bl00dwave’s album “ULTRADREAM” and the gloomy mood of Klimeks’s music. With the music I’ve been working on since, I have been influenced by many artists all over the map. The colorful yet enigmatic lyricism and bright feeling of Neon Indian, the entrancing instrumentals of rap producers like Metro Boomin and Pi’erre Bourne, and the mellow vocals of artists like Mac Demarco and Trevor Something are a few places I’ve been drawing inspiration from.
The artist who has had and has the biggest impact on me however is George Clanton. Everything about him and his music is what I strive to one day manifest in myself and my own music. His work as ESPRIT 空想 is arguably why Perla Blue exists today, and his eponymous material lights the path on the road I want to take my music down eventually. His music is consistently catchy, yet not at the expense of emotional or lyrical value. I think that guy is a crazy genius.
KM: Talk about your approach to creating new music?
PB: Well, in terms of vaporwave I think it was pretty uniform for everyone: go searching for samples online and then go about mutilating your findings in your DAW. Sample-hunting got me into some the deeper corners of YouTube and the internet, which was fun to navigate through. With my newer music however, it’s more or less just messing around on the computer and on my synths and until I come up with something of value. I do a lot digging through MIDI preset libraries and a lot of trial and error with sound combinations.
Sometimes I have a feeling or idea of what I am shooting for and other times I let the experimentation guide me. I also always export my works in progress onto my phone so that I can listen to them when I’m out. I find this really valuable in the process, because it forces me to have to take whatever the music sounds like at that moment for what it is without being able to immediately manipulate it. It lets me sit on my ideas before I am able to test them out. I am the kind of dude who writes lyrics after the instrumental; it’s just easier for me and I feel I am able to write better lyrics when I already know the exact vibe of the music.
KM: What are some of the projects you're working on currently?
PB: The next Perla Blue album is in production right now. I don’t want to reveal too much, but it will be a big leap for me as an artist: all original compositions (produced by me with some help from others) with lyrics written and recorded by myself. It’s been a long process but that is because I have been learning much of what I am doing as I go and I refuse to release anything that I don’t believe can stand on its own two legs. I’m not entirely sure what genre I’d put it under, but I have taken extensive measures to make sure it is cohesive to my established sound. I also have begun working a lot with my friend Brendan Munnelly on material. I started playing keyboard in his band Room de Dark and the two of us have started working on a duo project. I’m not sure when we will begin releasing that stuff though, because my main priority right now is finishing my own album.
KM: Where do you want to take your music in the future?
PB: There are so many loose ideas I have for things I could do with my music in the future, but my main goal is just to hone in my songwriting sensibilities and evolve as an artist. I hear amazing songs by talented musicians and songwriters and say to myself, “one day I wanna have the skillset and intuition to be able to make music this powerful.”
I see every future project as an opportunity to experiment with new sides of music I haven’t tapped into much yet such as dissonance and irregular time meters to develop my understanding of music. In terms of a direction though, I want to figure out a more homogeneous fusion of my influences and develop more of a definitive sound. I put a lot of effort into keeping my music within the realm of a cohesive visual and musical style, but I hate the thought of being repetitive so I want to push the boundaries of my aesthetic without falling too far away from its core. A couple of ideas for themes and narratives for potential upcoming releases are sitting on my mental back-burner too.
KM: How do you recharge your creative batteries?
PB: No matter how passionate you are, creating art is mentally draining and switching your brain into input mode and appreciating other people’s work is very important. I’m always listening to music and looking for things I like in other people’s music that I could incorporate into my own. I’m someone who finds a lot of value in alone time, so night drives and walks accompanied by a nice playlist are very therapeutic for me. These things don't necessarily recharge my batteries, but they definitely give a nice break from producing.
I wish I could say I had a specific method for recharging my batteries, but it’s honestly just time. I don’t really have control over the strength of my creative flame. In reality, more often than not I'll be in the middle of an artist’s block. I'll go months without producing anything or writing any lyrics that I am actually proud of. Then all of a sudden, everything I come up with will just fall into place for a time and I have no explanation for it. All of my music comes from real places and experiences I’ve had in my life, but sometimes the inspiration from these things doesn’t come to me until a while after they’ve happened.