This Is My Jam: Bobby Sutton

Monday, December 14, 2020

This Is My Jam: Bobby Sutton

By Nick Canchola, Edited by Myles Dement, Produced by Raven Yamamoto, Simone Soublet

In their new podcast, “This Is My Jam," Simone Soublet and Nick Canchola are getting down and personal with student musicians. Through their conversations, they hope to shed light on these artists’ past, present, and future and of course — listen to some music along the way. For the second episode of the show, host Nick Canchola is joined by Bobby Sutton to talk about his latest album, Sheesh!


Nick Canchola (NC): I’m Nick Canchola and my Jam. The place where we get down with our favorite student musicians to shed light on their past, present, and future. And of course — listen to some music along the way. 

NC: Today’s guest is Bobby Sutton.

Born and raised in Austin, TX, Bobby is best known as a member of Curbside, a popular art collective on campus. But in his free time, Bobby makes some music of his own. Under the stage name Sobby Button, he released his own debut album this month titled: Sheesh! 

Sheesh! is a sonic collage, featuring influences of rock and jazz mixed with a dash of rap and electronic music. It’s basically a portfolio for Bobby’s wide range of musical abilities. And I mean this dude can play. I’m talking piano, organ, electric and acoustic guitar, bass, synths, and if that wasn’t enough? He’s looking to learn his way around a full drum set. These instruments grounded him in his sound and paved a path for him to bring Sheesh! to life. While he grew up learning how to play classics on the piano like most musicians, Bobby’s true love has always been writing and playing his own music. In high school, Bobby started toying around with digital music software and Quarantine got him to pick up the guitar heard throughout his album.

NC: The album had a very lowkey promotional roll-out, which involved Bobby burning over 50 CD’s and distributing them to homies throughout LA so he could create a more personal connection to the listener.

Bobby Sutton (BS): It was just fun just to get people to interact with my content and make things more personal really. And then there was also one song that I wanted people to hear.

And it was the title track that obviously I couldn't put on streaming sites because it has a lot of samples in it and I didn't get them cleared, but it's off the record. Yeah. 

But I really liked the idea of having a CD. Even if you don't have a CD player, I wanted you to have this now. Just keep it and then you can look back at it. And feel like, wait, what is this Bobby? I haven't seen that guy in 15 years. 

NC: Since college, he’s an old college buddy. Huh? 

BS: And then you throw it in. You find a way to listen to it. And you're like, Holy shit. this is cool. And it's The same way when we went to Brother [Brother], and I got the cassette player to have a shit ton of my parents' cassettes that I had never listened to. And they've just been sitting in my room for the last year and a half. And finally, I was like, okay, I need to listen to these, because there's music on here that I've never heard. There's so much music to hear. And I think an album listening to something all the way through.

Instead of going mind if I cue up a song, it's Oh, like everyone's hungry for the AUX it’s just like oh, this is how it's going right now. And then you can get wrapped up in the conversation of the car and not even pay attention to the music.

It's just, I'm in the background. But yeah, I really want to continue making music. I would like to cut like a collab with some people, but. I don't know, I've been slow at making new music just because it's how it's going to happen organically. Yeah. Also no rush, but I think I'm going to do a more organized release next time.

Maybe submit some new stuff to a potential playlist. maybe send this around as a demo tape to other people. A lot of artists do EP, single and finally album. And I did [a] single → album, which I don't know, maybe it could have planned it better, but I think I just wanted to get it out there.

NC: I was curious about how much music was made digitally vs. live and what that process looked like.

BS: There are drum sounds and presets that I played like through MITI and the drum controller, and then other drums I wrote in, so most of the drums were digital. but all the pianos and organs and guitar and vocals and samples were recorded live with my USB mics. I would say it's 70/30 live [vs.] digital.

NC: Was that intentional or just…

BS: I like the way live stuff sounds. I think it's cool because sometimes I'll record something live and if it's not good, I can go in and treat it like a sample digitally. Like the bridge in “More Than You Think,” I needed this more than you think and then it goes into the guitar bridge [immiates guitar sounds] that was because I was trying to record a solo and I had originally had in the chorus there, the chorus that's right before the solo, in that middle part. And then I recorded that in Logic [Pro] through my amp and then one of the presets that have a Logic and then export it and put it into Ableton. And when I put it in the Ableton, it just lined up perfectly. Then I was listening through it and I was like, Oh shit, that sounds cool. That sounds really cool.

And so that was unintentional. So it's like those happy accidents you get from recording live, and then you can move them around and tweak them as such.

NC: What is the best thing to do while listening to Sheesh!?

BS: Go on and drive.

NC: Where are we driving to? Paint the picture.

BS: So there's two drives I have in mind. One is, you're making your way to San Diego, but you're along the road along the coast coming down towards San Diego. And that's cool because it changes down into like bigger, taller trees. You're not so much as going up towards the Pacific Northwest, which has a lot of evergreen trees, You're going down and it almost becomes more tropical in a way. I don't know what type of trees those are. They're like by…

NC: More like desert-y trees?

BS: No, I don't know why my dumb ass wants to say eucalyptus trees. No, they're not eucalyptus trees, but they have the white bark and they're very tall and really flowy leaves.

NC: But more than anything, I wanted to know how Sheesh! came to be and what kind of music Bobby listened to growing up. 

BS: I think quarantine propelled me making it. And just the fact that looking at it a lot of time. And then we would just sit inside and, you know, a lot of different things going on to deal with, but I've always wanted to make an album ever since I was like 15. I remember listening to different types of music.

So I remember having a Pandora radio station and let's see if I can into it, but a Pandora radio station that had, I don't know if you listened to The Heavy, but The Heavy is one of my biggest influences and I had a J Dilla radio station and they had an MF DOOM station and it had like a Sun Ra station. I was listening to a lot of stuff that made me feel something really, and just a lot of different genres and melodies and harmonies.

NC: Was this like in high school or a little bit younger? 

BS: I think Pandora, I was like 13. 

NC: Yeah, that was the peak of Pandora. 

BS: Yeah. I was 13 and then that's when I really found music. Or I started listening to my own stuff. Because other than that, I was kinda just a byproduct in a way. I was actively seeking out music, you know, other than like music being played for me, whether it's my sister's music or my dad's music and my mom's music, I was like, I am kind of finding my roots and like what, you know, what I like to listen to more.

NC: So you just have one sister, an older sister? 

BS: Yeah. My sister's older than me. She's older than me by three years and I think that's a pretty good gap. She was listening to a lot of stuff that was popular that I was just unaware of, you know. I remember her playing 3OH!3, Rihanna, Jason Derulo, Kanye West, that kind of stuff. That was like two thousands, really? Almost like, like really substance. Like when, when, yeah. When everyone listened, like Jimmy Eat World, you know, when everyone listened to the radio and pop music. There wasn't so much of an Indie (music) scene.

It was the precursor to streaming and all that stuff. I’m trying to log in to Pandora. Oh my gosh. I got it. Let's see. Look at all these stations, African Music Machine radio, the Heavy radio, James Pants radio, Otis Redding, the Meters, Notorious B.I.G.. Alan tew, and Odd Future. I think that and Tyler, that's kind of what...

NC: Jurassic Park films score. You were just listening to dinosaurs roaring. 

BS: Yeah, bro. Because there was also a time where I was very into electronic music, like almost EDM type stuff, just because I thought it was crazy. I was like, how are you... what are you using to make that sound? It's not just someone's four-piece band.

They're bringing in synths. They're bringing in different drums and a lot of it's just happening from someone's laptop. I think that's kind of what propelled me to really embark on making music. It’s just the fact that it could be very personal and alone.

[MUSIC: More Than You Think]

NC: What was the process like for making that song [More Than You Think]?

BS: That was cool. I had the acoustic guitar. And I had just a simple pattern down and I wrote that, honestly I was going through some shit and I read this Facebook post over the summer that my friend Maya had sent to me.

It just really struck a chord. I had just come back from Germany and my parents were living in Germany. And when I was there in Europe, I was just very, I felt very quiet and it felt very, just in my own little world so I would just listen a lot.

And a lot of the lyrics came from different things I'd heard, like “You took the express train through the nursery.” Is just something I heard somebody say at the train station. And that's also why there's like a train motif throughout the entire album, just because trains take you somewhere.

The idea of constantly moving is cool and reassuring. And like we were talking about earlier, it's just there's so much to see. And there's so much to do that I really wanted to make this kind of an experience in and of itself. Iit just kinda came about from hearing people say different things and then they were almost reassuring in a way, like the final kind of chorus, if you will, “If you can't buy it, achieve it, date or delete it.”

So maybe that's talking about memory, maybe that's talking about love, maybe that's talking about friendship, maybe it's talking about just everything that people experience. This is all these things and I cap it off with “That’s the horrible truth,” because honestly the truth isn't horrible.

Yeah. And it's ironic in a way. 

NC: And then those keys at the end on the piano or...

BS: Yeah, so Jacob one day was watching a Sunday service and he was like, bro, I really want. I really want an Organ. And then he went on Craigslist and 30 minutes later, some lady in Pasadena was selling one, that's 120 bucks.

And he was like, dude, do you want to go get this Oregon? And I was like, yeah so we just got in his truck. And so we went, it was me, me and Jacob. Jack, Carter and no Luke wasn't back yet. So it was just us. And, we went to Pasadena and we were out there none of us had legitimately played in Organ before.

So we got to Pasadena and we’re talking to this lady and she was like, Oh yeah, the woman who lived here before he used to play it all the time. And then when she left, she just gave it to us. And she, and. The woman who he bought it off. It's I don't play the Organ. My brother doesn't play the Organ and we have no use for it in our new apartment.

And so we were talking and we got her down to 80 bucks and then Jacob and I both split it.

NC: And what’s the importance of J Dilla to you?

BS: Because [J] Dilla never quantized his drums, he humanized all of his music. Like you could hear the imperfections. And then all of the stuff you did with sampling, I thought was so cool because you're taking something that already exists even with that's just a lot of art in general is, obviously someone's done this before, but they're not going to do it.

Like I'm going to do it. So I think that's cool. That's really cool that The Avalanches is that entire album is made out of samples. It's just like how you. I can see where the line gets drawn, where someone's, Oh my gosh, you're sampling. like where a lot of people say is sampling cheating.

They're like, you're taking someone else's work. And some people say yes, but for something like that, it's I think you can't, you couldn't even tell that there's almost. 3000 plus samples on their records since I left you, just because they're taking so many different sounds. And even if it's half a second, it's just it's something that registered subconsciously and you're creating this entire world, this whole new soundscape, but from other people's sounds.

NC: It's so listening to the avalanche to the song it's so layered. And textured and that's where I see those comparisons with sheesh is also very layered and textured and like you listened three times and then you hear like new little audio clips or like little, just like little like static-y sort of things.

There's these very intricate details. And that's what I really liked. Working on it, it was the super freak details. And the small parts for me, I know that's there. So anytime I'm listening, I'll look for that to see if I can hear it. And if anybody catches it, it's just icing on the cake.

[MUSIC: Dayshift/Recall]

NC: And what about the song “DayShift/Recall?”

BS: “[Dayshift/]Recall” is my favorite off of the entire project.

NC: Interesting, That song is like night and day

BS: Yeah, it's cool. 

I really played with the idea of splitting it into two separate songs and then I thought, no. I have to keep this one, two-part song, just because the transition would have been a bitch to make it work. But also one song it's about ignoring your obligations - And I skipped my fucking day shift -  I'm busy being useless. And the other song’s a love song, there's a duality to it. And even the vibes are very different. Like the other is just me kinda like slightly rapping and then singing over just guitar versus the first one's that’s like screaming and guitar tones and drums. 

NC: That would be a very fun live song.

BS: How does that song make you feel? 

NC: Dayshift or both of them? I think as a whole, it really feels like a full cycle. It's a full rinse and dry. You feel everything in one whole swoop. it's interesting, but I definitely do the second half a lot more.

BS: Really? Why is that?

NC: I don't know, that soft strumming in the background and kind of what you talked about that little bit of like rap-singing. It's almost like a lullaby.

BS: It's very loose. It's very easy, it's an easier listen.

NC: And then we were talking about it and you hear that little stuff that you throw in there, whether that's like a record scratch, three quarters through the song, just because, or towards the end, the audio starts to become a little bit more disordered. Like it's a couple of stacked on each other or something like that.

BS: So I have the chorus that's [goes] “Cause you…blah, blah, blah.” And then the first one just has some reverb, chorus and a compressor on it. And then the second one, I ran through autotune just to give it that weird, artistic choice. And it's just because none of the other vocals on this project have autotune just because I'm not very good with autotune. I don't really know how to use the autotune program. 

NC: Opened up for T-Pain, not really good with auto-tune...

BS: but then also I think there's beauty in someone's really raw vocals, I think. like people who aren't totally trained. I guess it was like what we were talking about with J Dilla, like the humanization of something.


NC: So kinda speaking of the humanization of music, there are a couple of experiential tracks on this album. Can we talk about “I Am for An Art,” a song that’s like super raw and natural, almost to the point of slam poetry?

[MUSIC: I Am For An Art]

BS: So I didn't write that. That is written by an artist named Claes Oldenburg. For an assignment in my modernism class, we had three sections to choose from, and I chose this one just because it was tough. I Am For An Art. I was like, “what's this?” And it's this huge essay that he wrote about this store he had as a gallery, questioning, the legitimacy of what people call art in same way that like Duchamp was like, he'd put it urinal on a pedestal and say this art

NC: Write his name on it and say it's art. 

BS: And so it's just like “I am for an art that is everything,” and there’s art in a lot of different things. “I am for an art of…” but there's one line in it that I really like... It's 

I'm for an art of the conversation a blind man has with his stick walking down the street. I am for an art that is like torn limbs in crying babies. I'm from art where knees jostle when the bus traverses down the street.

Really, what is art? So that's why I read that and put it in there because people would, people would just say “Is this even a song? What is this?”

No, it's supposed to be more. For me, I wanted to do it because it's more than just like superficial music rights. I like to think of it as a project or like an art piece. and kind of a textures thing we were talking about earlier, all these different layers and all these different textures, what can I get people to really listen to. 

If they skip the song, okay. They skipped it. They felt something. They might've hated it, but at very least they felt something or they're like, “What is he saying? Or why does it get confusing at the end? Why is it so claustrophobic? Why do I feel this way? Who are these people talking to the beginning? What are they talking about? What are these drums or what is this weird, like bossa Nova [imitates drum sounds] in the back.”

NC: And I heard that Jack in the beginning of that, 

BS: Yeah, Jack was in the beginning of that.

NC: Do you remember what you guys are doing? 

BS: Yeah. We were sitting outside and we were talking. We were talking about dogs. It's just stuff like that where you don't know what they're talking about, but you hear all those people laughing and you just want to laugh with them.

And then the other, the precursor into it, someone says “Piece of shit motel” in there. We were playing monopoly and someone landed on my space and I had one tiny village in the lowest tier and they were like, “All right, pay $4 for Bobby's piece of shit motel.” I'm like, “Yes, come to me!” 

NC: Yeah, I'll take anything. 

BS: And it's just good memories. 

NC: Are you going to look back at this album almost like a scrapbook of the times?

BS: Yeah. I think that's what music is for me does. It marks a period of time, like a memory almost and like feeling associated with it. So I think that's how I create some of these songs where a lot of people are exposed to what is shown to them. And I think that's what boils down to making music that's good or music that you like because it makes you feel something because It's registering on a subconscious level.

NC: Yeah. 

BS: From things you can't even remember. You just know it to be true, like inside - in a way. And then of course you understand Oh, this is of course these chords are crazy. they're good. The structure is incredible. That string section is awesome [and] they hit that note perfectly, but when it comes down to the bare bones of it all, it's just at the end of the day you made me feel something.

I even got Bobby to share some unreleased music. Take a listen.

[MUSIC: Unreleased Music]

NC: You can stream Sheesh! by Bobby Sutton on Apple Music and Spotify or you can hit him up on Instagram @sobbybutton. He might even have a couple CDs left!

Thanks for joining us! I’m Nick Canchola, and this interview was brought to you by Agency LMU. Hope you enjoyed listening to This is my Jam. This episode was edited by Myles Dement, produced by Raven Yamamoto and Simone Soublet and our intro music was brought to you by Bobby Sutton.

Graphic: Nick Canchola

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