Tom Krell aka How To Dress Well may have just produced 2012’s standout album – that’s if the early reviews are anything to go by. The Brooklyn boy creates haunting, R&B-inflected soundscapes that manage to be both mysterious and completely affecting. Wonderland sits down with him.
You’ve been blogging about your music and thoughts for a while, more so than most musicians and bands. Why so open?
You know, for a long time, I sort of remained in the shadows, not doing much press or communicating with fans much. I wanted to remove my own personality from HTDW and let listeners develop their own interpretation without any influence of my own. I wanted them to feel the melancholy in Love Remains as if it was their own sadness, rather than listening to my own melancholy. But I think I’m starting to realize that it’s easier for people feel these human emotions I’m trying to convey if they’re coming from a human, not some mysterious ghostly figure. So, I’m much more open about my emotions and I interact more with people, letting them know that, yes, these emotions are very real.
You’re touring everywhere in the next 3 months: North America, Europe, UK… Do you like travelling and performing, especially alone?
I do like to travel and perform, especially if people are attentive. Some amazing things can happen if you just pay attention in unison for that hour. However, I won’t be alone. I did enjoy that for some time, but I’ll be bringing Aaron Read and Cameron Reed out on tour to fill out the sound.
You mentioned on your blog that Ocean Floor of Everything is about a friend who passed away… Are there any other songs on the album about personal stories?
Yes, virtually all of the songs are personal. But they’re ambiguous enough for listeners to have their own interpretations.
You studied philosophy and you’re clearly a pretty deep thinker – so what’s the philosophy behind your album?
It’s an album about mourning – mourning the loss of love, people, dreams… Although, I do know that mourning generally maintains a negative connotation, I hope people recognize that mourning, ultimately, is the precursor to recovery. And, thus, the album is strewn with moments of clarity – call them flashes of light – that may be that end of the tunnel you’re striving to find.
Some people refer to your music as “hipster R&B”. How do you feel about the label? Is R&B a big influence?
I think that the first album was difficult for some people to digest because it was a very sad album and it used lo-fidelity to really tear apart these melancholic affects expressed on the album. A lot of people understood what I was going for and I think those that didn’t have cast that label on my music. C’est la vie though. Maybe they’ll find Total Loss to be more appealing. R&B is a big influence. I’ve loved it since I was young.
What was the first record you bought and how do you feel about it now?
Ummm it was Bacadafucup by Onyx and it’s pretty okay, yeah. Not my fave shit now, but I LOVED it when I was little.
We think the songs on Total Loss are your best yet. How do you start writing a song? Do they start with an image, an event?
They always start with a melody and an affect. The final product is achieved via many different paths but they always start with melody and affect.
You’ve covered Janet Jackson and Call Me Maybe – what other R&B/pop songs would you like to cover?
Love Kate Bush, The-Dream, I mean, I could go on and on. I’ve always wanted to do Mariah’s “H.A.T.E. U” with just snaps.
Total Loss is out 18 September. howtodresswell.blogspot.com
Words: Zing Tsjeng
Images: Andrew Volk