No Constraints

In June 2022, Stuff by Melissa HowsamLeave a Comment

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Animalweapon’s newest album drop of laptop pop is a sonic boom worth tuning into.

Imagine Phantogram, Nine Inch Nails, BT, and Baths had a sonic baby. That’s how Animalweapon describes his sound—the “if you had to slap a genre on it, we’ve landed on electronic dream-pop for now” brainchild of local Patrick Cortes. After tallying some acoustic gigs and time with a band—and inspired by Toonami and Adult Swim (“if you’re a ’90s kid, you’ll know how those two things are directly related,” he says)—he started playing around with electronic stuff in Logic by himself—and “there’s your Animalweapon origin story.” Now, on the heels of his new album drop, Set of Constraints, Cortes chats artistic interpretation, anxiety, Raleigh and more.

How does Set of Constraints show your range? My good friend and collaborator Marlon Blackmon of Foxture told me recently I’m ‘in the pocket’ when I do more atmospheric stuff, and I think I leaned into that in completely different ways across this album.

You make a point of leaving your songs open to interpretation? Yes—so that people can connect it to whatever they’re feeling. Ideally, I hope it resonates with anyone who is working on themselves. … 

Writing somewhat vaguely also gives you space? It has afforded me the opportunity to address personal stuff while still maintaining privacy—and allowing whoever listens to the project their own meaning, or to just vibe. … Unless you’re a good songwriter, spelling things out can sound lazy, cliche or even cringey. Rule No. 1 with lyrics is: ‘Don’t write like an angsty 16-year-old.’ 

Constraints also deals with some heady lyrical themes of mental health and anxiety. [My last album,] Tyrannosaurus—without me realizing it—was me being a hot mess and leaning into it in ways that don’t feel healthy looking back. Finishing that album was really heavy—not just because of how much work I put into getting it ‘right,’ but because doing that meant a lot of late nights ripping the same Band-Aid off over and over again. This album is about starting to move away from that, both thematically and sonically. 

Riffing on that, how does the album dive into new sonic territories? This one has much more sampled ‘found sound’ I recorded myself. Some of it is percussion and background noise, like on ‘Summer’s Over (Coda),’ but there’s other stuff in there that I turned into major melodic parts of a song. 

Like what?The chimey sound on the title track was sampled from a big ceramic plant pot during a ‘creative session’ with Alina Patel (who did all my promo shots, by the way).

Your lyric “Everything, everything, exactly the same” really sums up the vibe of your album and mindset? It’s the last line of the title track, which in a way is kind of the last line of the album, since ‘Summer’s Over (Coda)’ is kind of the ‘end credits.’ I can’t put my finger on why, but that song feels hopeful, and the idea of me being different, but still me, wraps everything up in a bow.

Photo by Alina Patel

Fun Facts

A favorite lyric: ‘When I’m at the pearly gates/this will be on my videotape’ (Radiohead, ‘Videotape,’ In Rainbows). It’s just an impossibly perfect line.

Fave podcast: Hands down, Bodega Boys. Desus & Mero have been making me laugh since 2016. … The last few months I’ve been listening backward… and it’s done absolute wonders for my mental health.

Book you’re reading: Anthony Bourdain’s book, A Cook’s Tour. That man was one of a kind.

Something no one knows about you? My ‘happy place’ is the bridge of a giant starship, all to myself, in the middle of deep space. 

Fave band: Anyone who knows me knows it’s Nine Inch Nails, and, that feels like it should be obvious to anyone who’s heard enough of my music too. … I got to meet and actually hug Trent Reznor at a show—and I recently saw them two nights in a row in New Orleans. It was the best they’ve ever sounded. 

Fave song: The last six years it’s been ‘Matches’ by Bas and The Hics. I’ll never forget the first time I heard it—I wound up listening to it on repeat all night.

First concert: My dad took me to The Beach Boys when I was 5. At that time I didn’t know who Brian Wilson was or that he wasn’t still in the band—and I wouldn’t have cared anyway because it was a great show.

Fave Raleigh dish: Oysters at Hummingbird

Fave hangout: Aunty Betty’s—Scot Dunlap and I also shot some of the video for ‘Deserve’ in there.

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