FEATURED FIND: NAME CHANGE - PROCESSING UNCHECKED BAGGAGE ON “MONOCHROME”
Name Change, in his own words, is a mirror. Music from him has a quality that will immediately make you look inward. Hailing from Las Vegas, he has a sound that reminds us of Mac Miller, Dominic Fike, and Kanye mixed with Mac Demarco. The emotions are heavy, but the music feels light and easygoing. The vocals are layered and cool, with the poetic lyrics coming out casually. His first release, “Mirrors Without Reflections,” was buzzy and groovy, and hit Spotify with a splash. On his brand new EP, Monochrome, he gives us that same feeling but adding some newfound wisdom.
NAME CHANGE - MONSOON HEART
This song went immediately onto my fall playlist. Currently at number one on his Spotify, “Monsoon Heart” is engrossing. The guitar and synth fill up your ears with a fullness Name Change is just mastering. Listen to hear him convince you to “let out a smile… it’s been awhile.”
NAME CHANGE - CHILDHOOD’S END
In an interesting departure from airy moments, Name Change changes things up brilliantly on “Childhood’s End.” It could be described as a mesh between Arctic Monkeys and Mac Miller and I mean that as the highest compliment. With its darker club mood, its title references a theme on the EP… growing up.
WE ARE: THE GUARD: Hey! I'm so excited to hear about this new EP, thanks for talking with us! I noticed that your Spotify bio is "name change is a mirror." Can you elaborate on that? Does the idea of being a mirror apply to this upcoming project, Monochrome, in any specific way?
NAME CHANGE: Name Change is about looking inward for a brief moment and finding bits of yourself everywhere else. I hope that in some way, the music can serve as either an escape from reality or a way to augment it, and that it can help people become whatever it is that they’re searching for.
WE ARE: THE GUARD: Are there any particular themes you noticed emerging while writing this collection of songs? Were there any particular themes you knew you wanted to touch on before you had written them?
NAME CHANGE: The focus for Monochrome was to chronicle a period of intense reflection & change in my life, and to tell that story through song. I’d just started to live on my own for the first time- away from family and friends, facing what I really wanted out of life. In the process, I felt like I was shedding the final moments of my childhood and processing any unchecked baggage from along the way. All of the joys, the traumas, everything in between. By the time I finished this project, I felt like I had reflected upon a lot of what it means to grow up, to grow down, and to hold onto my youth throughout it all.
WATG: What inspired you throughout the process of making this EP, whether that be the music of other artists, film, art or life experiences? Where do you see that influence emerge the most over the course of the EP?
NC: At the end of the day, the most inspiring thing for me is always real life. I don’t live in a vacuum and neither does the art that I create. It’s all tied very closely to my heart, my mind, and the world around it all. The music is just a reflection of my experiences & imagination combined, and the core of the inspiration comes from mundane beauties such as getting off the phone with a loved one, driving with no destination, seeing a friend smile for the first time in months. Stuff like that. Then below all that is the deeper sort of processing of subconscious emotions over larger periods of time and letting all of that bubble up to the surface when making the music.
I think it’s easiest to see the way that plays out through the project by looking at it with a macro lens through where the project starts and ends. The opening track, “Circles,” was a song that I wrote when I was still very much a kid in more ways than I wasn’t, having just turned 19 at the time with no clue what I was doing in life. Conversely, the tail end of the project is “Goodnight Goodbye,” which is more of where I see Name Change going in the future. Airy sonics, wheezing synths, heavy drums, endless possibilities.
WATG: I saw that your first official release, "Mirrors Without Reflections," came out a little over a year ago. How do you think you've evolved as an artist since then?
NC: “Mirrors Without Reflections” was one of the first songs that I made where I felt like I could really execute my vision in totality within the world of Name Change. Since then, I have just been trying to refine every detail of the process. Lately, I have been working on honing in my skills as a vocalist and pushing that as far as I can, whereas when I wrote and recorded much of Monochrome the focus was to just flesh out more songs with a clear vision and see where I could take the indie psych adjacent sound I started crafting on “Mirrors.” Comparing a lot of the new stuff I am working on to that feels almost night and day to me now, while at the same time still feeling like they belong in the same room.
WATG: You wrote, performed, recorded, produced, mixed, and mastered this entire EP yourself! What made you want to be the sole creator in this way? What were the main challenges?
NC: To be honest, there was never a real decision made to do it this way. I’ve been recording and producing since I was 13. So much of the songwriting and production process is innately intertwined and all blurs together. I’ll have an idea, record it, produce around it, add vocals, and mix everything as I’m going. Everything is happening all at once and happens pretty fluidly and ends in the same way. Most of this stems from necessity and the need to create whatever I am hearing in my head as quickly as possible. Ultimately I hope to bring more trusted people onto the creative team as time passes and the visions become grander.
The biggest challenge has probably just been the sheer amount of hours I’ve had to invest to feel proficient at every part of the process. Focusing on each aspect of it all takes time. I’m finally starting to feel confident enough in doing it all myself and think I am still always trying to find new ways to improve and grow the sound.
I also owe a lot to Coolhand Jax, Kaiya Crawford, and Stephen Handy for helping out on “Making My Way To You” (Coolhand Jax) and “Childhood’s End” (Crawford & Handy), in which they contributed various production and vocal elements that really helped everything come to life.
WATG: “Monochrome” is such an interesting and emotionally moving track. What made you choose to include it?
NC: A lot of this project was made with the guidance and help of my dad, so it only felt right to sample an interview that he did with Google a few years ago and incorporate it into the story and the music. While he had very little hand in the music itself, I would share songs and ideas with him as the project went along and we’d reflect upon everything and he’d give me ideas and guidance along the way. It was a very meaningful part of the process, given that the entirety of the project was made in solitude away from my family. I was able to reflect upon that absence and leaving, while also working together to create something lasting.
The story told in the song is about my time in high school as a swimmer, and as a child with my bone disease, perthes. It isn’t something I talk about much anymore, but it was all a big part of who I am and who I have become. I had 4 surgeries over the course of 3 years and spent most of my early childhood in a wheelchair, on crutches, or rehabilitating in the water.
The final track on the project, “Goodnight Goodbye,” is also a nod to Sydney In Theory, the project of artists Personal & UnkleLuc. Goodnight Goodbye was originally a short film they put out, and I remember the visuals and music having such a lasting impact on me, really studying Personal’s work over the years as I developed my own sound. The thing about Personal that always struck me as poignant is that he had perthes, and is to this day one of the only other people that I met who also had the disease.
Something that I could never shake was that both of our dad's names are Ramon, and they both also go by the nickname Razor. So ultimately, I think having had perthes impacted my life and united me with certain people in special ways over the years and that is inseparable from my story of my childhood and upbringing & is in many ways the crux of “Monochrome.”
WATG: I love your cover art for "Holding On" and "Monsoon Heart!" What visuals do you associate with this EP? What is the story behind the cover art?
NC: Thank you! In many ways, the visuals are a reflection of the journey I took along the way of making the project, as I shot and edited almost all of the cover art over the year or so period in which I was recording everything. The only cover that I didn’t shoot myself was the EP cover, which was shot by Sasha Cheechov. Photography has slowly become a passion of mine over the past four or five years, and I think it’s found its place as a way to further continue the narrative of the music as things progress.
For example, the cover for “Monsoon Heart'' was shot shortly after I wrote that song - I was in Santa Barbara driving home just before sunset, and a huge sort of catastrophic looking thunderstorm was rolling in from the east. I was perched upon a large hill that people were hang gliding off of, and on one side of the horizon you could see the ocean and beautiful sunny blue skies. But, on the other, was a foreboding and dark amalgam of clouds that couldn’t be more the opposite. I snapped a photo, drove home in the rain, and didn’t think much of it. Fast forward, and that’s now the image you see on the cover for “Monsoon Heart.”
“Holding On” came together by accident, as I was on set with my friend Coolhand Jax shooting a music video with a group of about a dozen friends at an old house in the middle of nowhere Nevada. I was working as the gaffer on the video, handling all the lighting, and during one of the setups of a shot I took a couple of the extras aside and set up a light and shot some photos with them because everything just looked too cool not to. James Baby, who directed the video, also designed these incredible costumes and masks by hand and they ended up looking so incredible. Fast forward a few months after the shoot, I was looking through my catalogue of photos & saw this one and felt that it fit “Holding On” perfectly. Something about it felt so haunting, seeing an amorphous couple voyeuristically staring, almost like an Eyes Wide Shut alternate universe thing. In a lot of ways that’s what the song is about - holding out for something that may never come, watching from the outside in.
WATG: Do you consider anyone to be your musical heroes?
NC: Definitely. When I was 12, it was Kanye West. He and Pharrell made me feel like nobody could stop me from making music, so I illegally downloaded FL Studio and started producing. When I was 14, anybody who could play an instrument in an orchestra was my hero by default. At 19 I discovered Tame Impala and psychedelic music and fell deep into that hole. Now, anybody who is doing something wholly unique and deeply personal is my musical hero. That being said, some artists that I've been deeply inspired by recently have been Frank Ocean, Alex G, Vegyn, Bickle, & underscores.
WATG: How do you hope people feel while listening to this new EP?
NC: I really would hate to wish a specific emotion upon anybody in that way, but I do hope that they feel something. To listen to the project and feel nothing would be disappointing. Other than that, yeah, awesome. I’d love it if somebody hated it and their best friend loved it. Isn’t that what life is all about? Looking at the same picture and seeing two totally different things.
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Mary Ruth is a Nebraska-native currently studying Songwriting and Music Business at Berklee College of Music. Right now, she’s probably reading about the Beatles, creating her new aesthetic (with a corresponding playlist, of course), or explaining what Taylor’s Version means to someone who didn’t ask.