Meet the LA-based multi-hyphenate pushing pop to its most sensitive of limits.
Raven Artson is the definition of a DIY popstar on the rise. Over the past few years, he’s worked with everyone from Sevdaliza to Cosima, took time to unite underground labels such as Hardeman and Hanger Inc. with musical talent at specially curated multi-disciplinary events, scored a film soundtrack and even produced and self-directed all the visuals for his own musical offerings – he just doesn’t stop!
This cross-pollination has, evidently, made Raven a serious force to contend with, not just a master of performance but also a deeply introspective lyricist too. Returning to the fray with “Whatever”, the singer takes us to the stars on a journey laden with synth-fuelled melodies with a sprinkle of funkadelic autotune as he enters a new chapter of his life. Speaking on the track, Raven reveals, “Whatever was written in a stream of consciousness, the words just poured out of me. When finished the brutal honesty struck me. I created a mirror, forcing myself to look into my own eyes.”
The release signposts a new era for the woozy artisté, with a new EP in the pipeline and plenty more tricks, and dreamy singles, up his sleeve too. We caught up with the multihyphenate below, and spoke sonic influences, his upcoming EP and ways music can empower us all.
Hi Raven, how has this uncertain time been for you? How has it impacted your music and creativity?
Hi Wonderland! It’s been weirdly good. My regular lifestyle is awfully similar to quarantine so luckily I don’t have to explain myself to anyone right now. If anything this period has made me dig deeper into myself. From social privilege to relationship struggles, it all starts with me.
Where are you from and how did it influence you sonically? Who did you listen to growing up?
Originally I’m from Eindhoven, an industrial city in the south of The Netherlands built around the invention of the light bulb. My pre-teens were filled with pop icons: my parents showed me The Velvet Underground and Michael Jackson, my brothers played me N.E.R.D and The Doors, I indulged in Avril Lavigne and Kanye West.
How would you describe your genre?
Imagine Talking Heads and Frank Ocean in the studio together. Groovy and emotional with steady pop-melodies, experimental structures and a mixture of sounds: Avant-pop.
Your songs have an empowering centre to them – how do you want your music to make people feel?
Hopefully anyone that relates to my work will feel comfortable tapping into their emotions, accepting the dark parts, being a little dramatic and inspire themselves to move on.
You bare your soul on your songs with a brutal honesty – is this integral to your lyricism and messaging?
As a person I’m trying to be honest with myself. Sometimes, and specifically on Whatever, I need to write to learn how I really feel. It feels only natural to share these experiences.
You also direct your own shoots and produce for other artists, as well as collaborate with fashion designers – creativity seems to spill into every aspect of your life, but does music infuse every aspect?
Definitely! Music is the core where everything else gravitates around. It’s the perfect ground for cross-pollination between different disciplines because it’s so accessible.
Congratulations on your latest single “Whatever” – what is it about?
Thanks! “Whatever” is a break up song – simultaneously a crack of frustration and a reminder to listen to myself like a friend would. The song is about a toxic situation where I didn’t appreciate my instinct. It’s empowering to know that it’s possible to befriend yourself.
Where do you pull most of your lyrical influences from?
Everyday life, and Herman Hesse.
And what were you trying to convey with the music video?
For this video director Jeroen Dankers and me stayed true to what I sing about. A moment in time where I just moved to Los Angeles and was ready to move on. The locations in the video, like the rooftop of my music studio in Koreatown, played an integral part in that process.
Ultimately how do you want your music to make people feel?
See earlier question “Your songs have an empowering centre to them – how do you want your music to make people feel?”
What’s next and what are you looking forward to?
Don’t we all look forward to a world where empathy isn’t radical and borders are open? In the meantime I’m preparing for my upcoming EP Whatever, that releases October 16th.