Gimme Your Answers: An Interview w/ Craft Spells

Craft Spells
San Francisco’s Craft Spells released a sophomore album Nausea in June. Unplugging himself from social media, putting down the guitar and playing the piano, and focusing solely on the music, Craft Spells’ Justin Paul. Vallesteros had an interesting creation process with the new record. With two upcoming shows for Toronto’s NXNE Festival (one at GAP at 4pm and The Garrison at 12pm on the 21st), we gave Justin a call to find out more! Read the new interview below as we discuss the influence of Ryuichi Sakamoto, spending time with his parents, falling in love with piano, playing NXNE Festival, and how he’s all about the poutine.

AMBY: Hey Justin, cheers for having a chat with me today. I wanted to start off by saying congrats on the recent release of your sophomore album Nausea. What’s your favorite memory from the writing or recording process?

Craft Spells: Mostly it’s the time I spent at my parents house and hanging out with old friends. I was living in San Francisco and wasn’t visiting home all that much, which is only fifty minutes away, so shame on me for not visiting my parents! But I spent three months at my parents’ house where I recorded and hung out with my family and that was my favourite part.

AMBY: I’m really enjoying the new direction of the record; it’s very lush and the lyricism is great. Who were your biggest influences songwriting-wise when it came to this album?

Craft Spells: Shit…

AMBY and Craft Spells: [laughs]

Craft Spells: I think Ryuichi Sakamoto, the piano composer. Without him I wouldn’t have fallen in love with playing the piano. Most of the album was written on piano. I also can’t ignore the fact that I’m a huge Brian Wilson fan, too. So Brian Wilson, Ryuichi Sakamoto, and The Beach Boys because they’re such great composers and I wanted to compose an album rather than write a record.

AMBY: The creation of the album is pretty interesting and I’m happy you brought up the piano there. I read that in the making of the record you attained writer’s block, which is the absolute worst.

Craft Spells: [laughs]

AMBY: From there you started training yourself on piano rather than guitar. What was that initial switch like? Did it come naturally to write songs on piano instead of guitar?

Craft Spells: It came completely naturally, mostly because I put myself through hell while learning piano. I wasn’t the greatest piano player before that; the only class I’d ever taken was music theory in high school. I listened to a lot of music and had to formulate things. I ended up watching a lot of YouTube tutorials on piano and made my way through that, too.

AMBY: For the making of the album, you practically unplugged yourself from the internet and indulged right into music, and this process seemed to work out pretty well for you. I know you’ve been asked about why you did this, but I was curious: do you think you’ll take this approach of isolation when writing your next album?

Craft Spells: The next couple EPs or records that I’m going to do are going to be a bit more lively. I’m going to want a lot of friends around me and get a really groovy feeling to it. I might skip out on the isolation part this time. But, if it’s proven to be shitty to hang out with people and record…

AMBY: Ditch it!

Craft Spells: [laughs] And go back to isolation.

AMBY: You have two upcoming shows in Toronto for NXNE. What’s your favourite part about being on the road?

Craft Spells: My favourite part of being on the road is definitely eating and trying out different restaurants or whatever the city provides best. Coming from a small town and stuff, I never really left the country or West Coast the first time we ever toured. I’m still kind of in awe of travelling and food is always a good way to spend time.

AMBY: Absolutely. When you’re in Toronto, you’re going to have to grab some poutine. I don’t know if you’ve had it before but –

Craft Spells: I am all about the poutine. I love the poutine.

AMBY: [laughs]

Craft Spells: I make that shit at home.

AMBY: There are some really good spots here. Aside from eating, while in town, do you plan on catching any bands for the festival?

Craft Spells: There are so many bands playing that I want to see. Fuck, I can’t even think right now. Name some bands right now.

AMBY: There’s Sleigh Bells, Dan Croll, Eagulls, Mac DeMarco, St. Vincent.

Craft Spells: Wait wait, hold on. Annie Clark is playing?

AMBY: Yea, she’s playing Dundas Square on Friday night.

Craft Spells: I’m fucking… Oh yes I am going. I love Annie Clark. She’s my favourite guitar player.

AMBY: [laughs] It’s going to be a good one.

Craft Spells: It is.

AMBY: If you could be a fly on the wall at any given time or event, where would you want to be?

Craft Spells: Probably during the recording sessions for Smiley Smile, The Beach Boys record. I would have loved to sat there and check that out, I mean, for a day. I would only live for a day if I was a fly [laughs].

AMBY: Lastly, what’s something about the band that most people don’t know?

Craft Spells: A band that most people don’t know yet…

AMBY: That could work.

Craft Spells: There’s a band called Fishmans, who are kind of like Japan’s Radiohead, and they are really groovy. They kind of have a re-born sound, it’s really good.


Thank you Craft Spells, for giving us your answers!

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Interview by Alicia Atout | @AliciaAtout

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