January 13, 2020Feature

For Issue 006 Eric Davidson spoke to Ontario native Night Lovell about creating music that stands the test of time. With Photography from Faolan Carey taken in Dublin before his show in The Academy.

“I wanted to create timeless music and timeless music creates a cult community.”

 

In 2012 hip hop experienced a seismic shift and it came from a new type of underground. The term SoundCloud Rapper has mutated and distorted since it was first coined approximately six years ago, but the influence the platform has had on not only rap music but also mainstream culture cannot be understated. There have been pieces written about ‘SoundCloud Rap’ in publications as varied as The New York Times and Pitchfork, and some artists like Lil Uzi Vert and Denzel Curry have gone from a couple of hundred followers to being on the Billboard charts and the cover of magazines.

The dawn of the Age of SoundCloud changed what it meant to be an independent artist. Suddenly creators on the fringes, musicians who didn’t live in epicentres like LA, London, New York or Berlin, were finding an audience. All you needed was a mic, a beat and some basic software. YouTube tutorials replaced a formal studio education and the potential for viral success was one upload away. Back then, 12 hours of new music was uploaded to the site every minute.

Night Lovell first downloaded Fruity Loops in the summer of 2013. A year later, in his mid-teens at the time, the Ottawa artist released ‘Dark Light’, the earliest track of his on SoundCloud. It’s a song he produced as well as rapped over, which has since racked up a tidy 18.3 million listens.

There’s something more macabre, almost sinister, about Lovell’s music in comparison to the slew of other artists who found success on SoundCloud. It’s what has set him apart from the pack and helped build his cult following of fans from Moscow back to Ontario.

An interview on the influential modern rap podcast No Jumper in 2016 was one of the first big milestones for Lovell. On the episode he discussed the fact that he still had reservations about how much hype was really surrounding him. Since then he’s racked up dozens of co-signs from rap media’s most respected gatekeepers, as well as millions of listens. There can be no more doubts.

“It’s something I never thought would be a real thing,” he tells me in a photography studio along Dublin’s River Liffey.

“It was always this fantasy. Personally, I feel like I’ve been doing good adjusting to it, I think I’m made for it.”

His latest record ‘GOODNIGHT LOVELL’ arrived in early 2019 and features collaborations with $UICIDEBOY$ and Lil West. The album is by far Lovell’s most cohesive project to-date. Previous mixtapes and albums gave a glimpse into his work as a musician, but with ‘GOODNIGHT LOVELL’ we’re seeing a young artist find his feet. It’s a concept album, exploring the parallels between dreams and nightmares. The bad and the good in life.

“I remember at one point I was thinking of doing a self-titled album, but I wanted to do it in a cool way. So, it still is a self-titled album, but a play on words with my name with ‘GOODNIGHT LOVELL’ , because I make music at night time too.”

“I feel like the most pivotal moment has been not the album dropping, but the roll out of the album that happened afterwards. That’s when it really starting gaining traction. Before that I dropped a song here or there, but when the album dropped it was consistent attention. Now there’s stuff coming from all directions all the time.”

Lovell has described this work as his “most mature” yet, however he still has trouble deciding when to let go and release it to the world.

“I don’t know when I’m done,” he admits with a smirk.

“If it was up to me I’d keep adding songs. To me a project is never done. I remember when I dropped ‘Concept Vague’ around four years ago, on my release date I recorded a song that day! I was done with the album, but I heard this beat and I was like, ‘Nah, this has to be on there’, so I did it quick and put it on right away.”

From working alone on a laptop producing, mixing and rapping over beats to now being an internationally recognised artist, the dynamic has changed and patience is something that he’s had to learn over the last couple of years.

“I’ve had to learn that not everybody moves at your pace, not everyone thinks the same way, everyone’s different. You just have to be patient, especially with yourself. When I do find someone I trust, I just let them do whatever they want. If I trust you as a producer, you can do whatever you want.”

“That’s why Ginseng is the perfect guy, there are other producers on the album, but he was the first one to send beats that made sense, that sound I was looking for.”

Californian beatmaker Ginseng produced 14 out of 18 tracks on ‘GOODNIGHT LOVELL’. Both him and Lovell have expressed how easy the process of working together is for them. This is another example of the internet’s power over the current generation of not only hip hop artists, but young independent musicians of every genre.

Today’s musicians don’t have to put a ‘Guitarist Wanted’ sign on their school’s bulletin board, they can now find collaborators from the safety of their own bedrooms. This method suited Lovell as a self-described “reclusive kid” in school.

“I feel like that’s why [being on stage is] made for me too. In school I was that person who hated presentations, talking to people, but performing is just easy. I always reference school because it was a cliquey, judgemental place, but with shows there’s no judging. People just want to have fun. It’s the perfect place to be.”

Our conversation took place at just one stop of a multi-city tour of Europe and Russia. As I write this he’s staring down the barrel of another few months on the road in North America. The once withdrawn kid is now an artist in demand. I ask him how he avoids the pitfalls of fame and attention.

“It’s about who you surround yourself with. You have to be surrounded by the people who know what you want and what you do this for, then everything falls into place.”

Staying grounded is also down to his fans. He has established something of a cult following.

“I wanted to create timeless music and timeless music creates a community. If it’s fashion music then it’s just whoever’s a fan at the time, then it’s, ‘Alright, peace’. On to the next one. If you make timeless music then they’re always there, they’ll remember that this or that track made them feel this way, and they grow with you. That’s better to me than kids just saying, ‘Oh, he’s cool’. I want to build a fanbase.”

“You get messages every day being like, ‘Bro, you saved my life, I was about to…’, you know what I mean? That’s what I do it for, to inspire, to make people feel comfortable with themselves. Everything I say is directed at them.”

Does he feel the weight of that responsibility his shoulders? Night Lovell doesn’t see it as a burden.

“Everything is supposed to happen the way it’s supposed to happen. It’s inspiration for me. I see it and it makes me want to go harder.”

‘GOODNIGHT LOVELL’ is out now.

Words: Eric Davidson / Photography: Faolan Carey / Styling: Eric Davidson 
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