Chillwave Is Dead, Long Live Chillwave: A Chat With Millionyoung
Chillwave was dope. That is fact, and no amount of Hipster Runoff jokes will change that. The mini-trend was maligned from the start, probably because it was the first true internet-driven genre (other than celerywave), but what the fuck is wrong with some warm and melodic low-budget electro-pop, anyway? The vitriol for the genre has always been slightly vexing, especially since those very same characteristics that were derided are now celebrated when they show up elsewhere — from the purple, airy beats of cloud rap and alt-R&B to the DIY looping and wavey vocals of fringe pop like solo Charli XCX, to the entirety of Youth Lagoon's output. SZA is chillwave with soul, y'all. #staywoke
One of the first artists slapped with the blessed/cursed chillwave scarlet letter back in 2009 was Mike Diaz, the man behind Millionyoung. But Millionyoung's new EP Materia (out July 29) is a cool, crisp breeze of whispered vocals and crystalline beats that has more in common with Pet Shop Boys than it does with Neon Indian. Nothing is buried under layers here; the word "gauzy" does not come to mind. And yet, it's built from the same raw materials as chillwave.
We recently spoke to Diaz about the new EP and being a chillwave survivor.
You're known as one of the original chillwave artists. For people that have maybe not checked in with you since that era, can you describe the Materia EP?
All of the music is original stuff. I know a lot of people in the genre like to sample and stuff like that but we try not to do too much of the sampling on this. I think the palette of the sounds is similar to the previous work, but it's been more minimal. Like the vocals and stuff, too, it’s been more exploring and doing less effected vocals on certain stuff.
Why do you think the chillwave label has a stigma?
I’m not really sure, I feel like it came up in a lot of different places at the same time. A lot of what was driving it in the beginning was mainly blogs and internet stuff, so it wasn’t like other genres where you have a little sound that will come out of the city and there’s people talking about it in person. It was very online and had interactions between people sharing stuff. It’s just, there’s something different about it, I guess. It almost seems surreal in a way. It’s hard to give it that foundation like the Chicago house scene has, or hip-hop in New York. But I know the guys that have been doing it since 2009 or so, they're doing the music for itself, so the people who really are into it keep supporting it, which is great.
Were you ever hesitant to use the term, or ashamed to be considered part of the genre?
Not really, I wouldn’t say so. I don’t see an issue with it. It’s cool to have a community or way to describe something to somebody else. I don’t think there’s anything necessarily wrong with that. Even when heavy metal came out there was a lot of people being labeled heavy metal that didn’t really think it was an appropriate name to call it. I think that’s something that kind of happened with chillwave. It sounds a little made up.
Let's talk about Materia. Previously, you've incorporated guitars, sleigh bells, and other elements into your music. This one has more of a streamlined electronic vibe.
It’s definitely more natural sounding. We tried to strip the different layers down with this one. I’ve just been listening to a lot of funk stuff and a lot of hip-hop actually. I listen to a lot of J Dilla and Madlib and things like that. Trying to channel some of those vibes and types of things they would sample, that was a pretty big influence on it.
Maybe this is me reaching, but I feel like there's a little '90s house in there?
Yeah, absolutely, a good amount of that. I’m really into Stardust and things like Mojo, too. There have been a lot of new acts that I've been listening to that have been doing the same type of thing like Cartel, Cherokee, French house producers, and other things I’ve been listening to.
The song "Tell Me" stood out, because it was so... sensual, which is so odd for this type of music. Did it feel strange coming up with it?
I mean, not strange, it kind of felt natural. I wasn’t really going for sensual in there distinctly, but yeah I tried to explore different vibes and different sounds. I feel like other genres of music are good to mix up — soul music or pop music, rock music, there’s definitely reinforcement of the legitimacy of it if there’s different moods being explored.
Millionyoung is basically a duo at this point, is that correct?
The Millionyoung stuff is still me. My friend Kristof Ryan, we work together on Chévere, but he helped produced this EP.
Have you ever thought about producing for other artists or singers?
Yeah, I’ve been curious about it and with Chévere, it’s mostly beat-oriented, so then we’re interested in the idea of working with other people on it. Haven’t really done too much at the moment, just because we’re focusing on the EP for a while. But it’s something I’d like to explore for sure.
Is Materia leading up to an LP? And is any of this material going to be on it?
As of right now, its just going to be on the EP. There’s another five or six songs I’ve been working on that are pretty much in a similar vibe to it, maybe more on the '90s house end of things, but there will be an LP. We’re planning on doing another single before the end of the year and some remixes.