Things are pretty bleak right now. Listen to some music.

No doubt, we are living in a weird, scary moment. A sense of creeping dread and anxiety has kept me confused about pretty much everything. I try to maintain a baseline level of functionality through all of this. It would be a goddamn lie if I told you that was easy. 

Through all of the difficult times in my life, music has been there for me. Alone, in my room, with headphones on. Nothing better. Sometimes I feel like as long as I can listen to music, I’ll be OK. Maybe.

The last thing anyone needs is a 30-something lifer musician telling them about the current state of the world, especially when they are constantly bombarded by darkness. I don’t have much insight to contribute to most conversations. Maybe all I am qualified to say is that listening to music has done — and will continue to do — so much for my well-being, ever since I was a kid.

Back then, I spent a lot of energy thinking about what constitutes musical innovation, whatever that really means. With the help of writers like Simon Reynolds, I formed ideas about why Top 40, British dance music, noise, and Southern rap were among the truly “cutting edge” zones in culture. I put a lot of stock in things like sonic innovation, energy, and some kind of populism–the ability to make music that could be both radical and in some way, accessible. This took the form of everything from The Neptunes to Dizzee Rascal to Wolf Eyes; basically, anything but traditional rock & roll. Although I loved a lot of garage and punk, I don’t think I believed that they were all that “relevant” compared to the other things that were blowing my mind in a different way.

The ideas that I formed as a kid still ring out in the back of my head as I make music that has slowly shifted from a sort of rap hybrid to something that currently sounds like a skewed take on pop rock. What am I doing? Shouldn’t I be working on material that sounds like country-trap or 100 gecs or whatever other new music I am currently excited about and feel is “pushing things forward” in the same conceptual way I prized back then? 

It’s complicated. I love all sorts of music, both old and new, vanguard and irrelevant. There is maybe nothing interesting or cool for me to say about listening to and being inspired by The Ramones or Fleetwood Mac or Wu-Tang or The Breeders, but who cares? In this moment, a lot of things that used to feel like they mattered maybe don’t matter that much. Around eight years ago, I started playing shows with a band. In the wake of that, I began to write songs for that context. Things developed from there. In the future, I might make music that sounds different, but that is almost besides the point.

If you step back a little bit, all of this can actually be pretty simple. You listen to music because it makes your life better. Then you get inspired and do your own. Finally, you share it with the world. If you are lucky, you get to make something else. The act of listening to music and in some small way adding to that history is its own reward. It can have nothing to do with limited edition vinyl or niche music beefs or larger trends in culture. It can just be about doing it. 

The world currently feels bleak, and I do not know what will happen in the future. What I do know is that no matter what, music will be there for me. All sorts of music. I would probably be fine with just an FM radio, as long as I can pick up a few signals, but the last thing I want to do is argue about it. Things are too fucked up. Ultimately, I want to listen, enjoy, and maybe make a little bit of my own – alone, in a room. 

Juiceboxxx is an American artist from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His forthcoming LP is slated for release on Dangerbird Records in early 2020.

(Photo Credit: Brad Dececco)