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Conversation With: Billy Changer Salty mutant pop from the bassist of Corners

Photos: Tony Accosta

We’re big fans of the dudes over at Crap Eyewear. They make great shades, sponsor our parties like a bunch of bosses and have great taste in music, which, for me, is a major turn on. So when Brand Manager Tony Accosta sent me Billy Changer’s album, I couldn’t wait to swallow the jams.

Billy Changer, the bassist for Corners, definitely wasn’t afraid to step out from behind his bass axe and take the reigns on his own solo project. Last year, with the help of Lolipop and Burger Records, Billy wrote, produced and recorded his debut self-titled album, Billy Changer. The ten-song hitter oozes all sorts of different influences, from Velvety post-punk beats to salty surf licks worthy of one of those umbrella’ed cocktails on a warm sandy beach. What Youth asked Billy some questions recently, and also thanked him for playing our Issue 12 launch party back in September. Keep an eye on this guy, he’ll definitely be on our record players for a while. –Maya Eslami

WHAT YOUTH: Tell me about “Billy Changer”? 

BILLY CHANGER: As I was starting the solo record, I knew I wanted to create a new landscape where my imagination could run wild. I couldn’t just be myself, If I was going to record, write, and perform all the music on this record I needed to distance myself in some way so I could gain perspective on what I was listening to. So I essentially went under the cognomen Billy Changer, but it really changed my personal situation a lot more then I thought. I guess I was trying to separate this thing I worked very hard on at home, something that was so personal to me from my actually legal and personal identity, but it didn’t work. Maybe it’s cause I thought I was a bad person at the time, so it was an escape to start over. Maybe I just wanted to have a rock ‘n’ roll name.

You played guitar in your band 3 ½ and then switched to bass for Corners, and now back to guitar. What was that transition like for you? 

I enjoyed the transition from playing guitar to being a dedicated bass player. A big moment me was trading in my Gibson in for my first Yahama bass. At the time, I didn’t have a guitar so I later built one myself out of parts from a nearby music shop that I would eventually use for the album. I guess I play the bass like a guitar, but playing bass in a band has taught me a lot about rhythm and focusing on the drum beat.

Do you play all the instruments on the record? 

I played all the instruments on the Self Titled record. I cherished that alone time where I would pick up an instrument and play around listening to records or create loops with my Jam Man. I decided to record my loops and I liked what I was hearing, so then I started to record what I was playing to my loops and that’s what started the beginning of the album w/ “Island fever”. While writing that song I developed a certain style and approach that I used for all the songs. It was sort of a natural feeling like.. ‘let me record my alone time.’ Every song has a story and was written to tell it. Sometimes I would record the drums first without a song and build everything around the drums like I did for “Sweet Time” but I knew what the song had to be about and how I wanted it to sound. It’s hard to describe that process because it all happens in my head but you can hear the result.

It was recorded on a Tascam 244 and Tascam 388, a breakthrough technology at the time – they are portable recording machines and use magnetic tape to capture sound. They became my family and I spent a lot of time learning how they reacted to certain microphones and amps I had. My little 5 watt Magnatone amp and RE 10 Electrovoice microphone sounded the best with those machines so I used them a lot. It wasn’t because they were vintage sounding but more that they had a signature sound that helped me tell the story.

I didn’t spend much time with mic positioning or gain leveling, I just kinda put it where it looked good and pressed record. With those machines you mix as you go and by the time i recorded the last track the song was complete, no mixing involved at the end. This allowed me to record and write very fast, most songs on the album were written spontaneously and finished in a couple days. I wanted to capture that “in the moment” feeling, I thought i could connect with people on a one to one level if I shared something very personal to me.

Your record has this great mix of surf licks, psychedelic guitar accents and post-punk rhythm. Where did all these different influences come from? Was it a conscious decision to combine all these different genres? 

I like all kinds of music, When i was younger I had a hard time understanding the words so I would just focus on the music. Velvet Underground influence my psychedelic guitar licks, and bands like The Gang of Four, The Clash, and Warsaw taught me a lot of rhythmic elements. I’m not a drummer so I would slowly add layers and layers and the end result sounds like a drum beat but the process with rather unusual. I got most of my energy and gathered most of my thoughts at Dockweiler Beach, which was a few minutes away from my apartment at the time, and talking to my grandfather… I’ve always heard and been fascinated with 1950’s california culture. So I knew I wanted people to get that beach So-Cal vibe in my music, and I especially focused on it for some songs like “It’s Blue” and “Barbarella”. I also learned a lot of surf licks playing with Tracy Bryant (of Corners).

I hear you’re a deejay. What’s your go-to record you always spin? What are you currently listening to? 

I DJed at KXLU 88.9 FM for three years on the “Co Wave” radio show with Anna Soffer. I always brought my John Maus and Women LP because there was always going to be a point where I needed to put on a longer song and just tune out for a second. Right now I’m currently re visiting all The Clash albums and been LOVING my Kraftwerk “Autobahn” record. I go through phases and revisit my favorite albums because there’s always something to learn and you feel differently listening to them at different times in your life. My favorite bands are Ariel Pink, Broadcast, Animal Collective, Beach Fossils, Joy Division, The Ramones, Kurt Vile, Howlin’ Wolf, The Beatles,  The Clash, The cure, Kraftwerk… the list could go on and on.

Did you have fun playing the What Youth Issue 12 party? 

Yeah, What Youth’s party was bad ass. Half of my band is very anti-social, so I was mitigating all the paranoia most of the night, but its good for us to get out of our comfort zone.

Check out more from Billy Changer at the Lolipop Records site here:

Billy Changer_What Youth Party


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