At the heart of it all, Wellington-based Neil MacLeod just wants to make you feel something. Intricately blending electronic and acoustic elements to form a euphoric sense of soul, his music is truly one of a kind. He’s found fans in Drax Project and Shapeshifter’s Devin Abrams, the latter of which has become a vital mentor and collaborator; and he’s on the rise to become a serious force in NZ music.
With one EP already under his belt (To Unfold) and another on the way (We Have Known Lost Days), MacLeod has already successfully secured himself in the world of indie electronica. His raw, soaring vocals give his songs an emotional depth and bring them to life, and they fit effortlessly into the melodies he creates.
His brand-new track ‘Openly’ dropped on Friday and it serves as a teaser for what we can expect from We Have Known Last Days. A jolt to the electronic music scene in NZ, ‘Openly’ sees MacLeod strengthen his unique voice and explore with more elements to really sharpen his sound.
We caught up with the rising star to find out what the inspiration for the new track was, what we can expect from the upcoming EP, and just what exactly he loves about electronic music.
How would you describe your music?
For a long time, I’ve described my music as a soulful blend of acoustic and electronic textures. But with this new release the acoustic elements are slipping away, and the electronic/pop influences are coming to the forefront. I would describe this new release as my first real step into the electronic/alternative pop realm.
What do you hope people gain from listening to your music?
My main goal has always been to make people feel something personal, something real. For my music to evoke an emotional response. This has been my aim with everything I’ve released, and my hopes for how this record is received are no different!
Who are your main musical inspirations?
My key influences have been really diverse in terms of genre. Early on it was folk music, singer-songwriters, wordsmiths. As time passes, I find myself being influenced heavily by musicians who bring different worlds together in exciting ways; bands like Radiohead, who are fearlessly reinventing themselves on each record. I love that attitude.
Talk us through a bit of your journey. Have you always known you wanted to be a musician?
While music has certainly been one of the longest lasting passions in my life, it wasn’t always where I wanted to go. When I was younger, I was convinced that visual arts would be my focus, but when I moved to Wellington it became clear that music was the path forward for me. I began collaborating and working with some amazing people in those early days, whose mentorship helped me take the first steps toward a career in music.
What do you love most about electronic music as a whole?
What excites me most about the electronic music sphere is how such incredible emotion can be generated by machines. I am constantly blown away by the endless sounds you can make. Electronic music also offers a unique counterpoint to traditional music making, in that the songwriting process is wholly intertwined with and often informed by the production. It also lets me hear sounds that I’ve never imagined and create the sounds in my head that are impossible to make acoustically.
What can we expect from We Have Known Lost Days?
We Have Known Lost Days has marked quite a turn for me in terms of sonics and production. This music is bolder and more visceral than anything I’ve ever made, while still aiming to deliver the honesty that is an important constant for me. I wanted the sound of each song to evoke how I was feeling, rather than trying to communicate the feeling purely through songwriting. I feel it’s my most unique record to date.
Is there a story behind the single ‘Openly’?
The inspiration for ‘Openly’ took hold of me as I sat in traffic. It was so sudden and so gripping that it almost felt like a panic attack. So, I pulled over and started trying to sing the sounds in my head into my phone before they disappeared. I pulled the phantom of an idea from my phone into my digital audio workstation and created the blueprint for ‘Openly’ within an hour.
The song reminds me of how crucial it is to take action when inspiration strikes; it’s not always convenient, but ultimately, these ideas are gifts.
What’s the music making process for you like?
As with ‘Openly’, a lot of my music comes from voice notes on my phone, or poetic phrases and song ideas I’ve written down. Every now and then when I have a day to myself to write, I’ll investigate those folders. Otherwise the process tends to be spontaneous, messing around with synths, or recording vocal patterns until suddenly something sticks and inspires a new idea.
I heard a fantastic analogy comparing creative practice to fishing, which really resonated with me. You must be patient, cast your line, and have the sensitivity to tug when you feel a bite; have the courage to determine if the fish isn’t worth keeping, and to once again re-bait and cast another line. Eventually if I work hard enough, a big fish ends up in the net.
After the EP’s release, what’s next for you?
One thing I can say with certainty is that there is a lot more music to come! I have an amazing bunch of collaborations happening at the moment, both on other artists’ music and my own projects, and I am so excited to see what the coming years bring. I want to continue pushing my own sonic boundaries and keep creating music that makes people feel something.
Listen to ‘Openly’ now.