Art of experience: Autograf talk the deeply personal process of crafting forthcoming EP, ‘Love And Retrograde’ [Interview]
Despite the backward motion denotative of the word “retrograde,” Autograf‘s forthcoming EP, Love And Retrograde, is very much a collective step forward for the indie-electronic trio comprised of Mikul Wing, Louis Kha, and Jake Carpenter. Autograf made several successive outings in the 2018 dance release ring, like SNBRN collaboration, “Move All Night,” and fellow joint project with Family of the Year, “Hold Me Down;” however, until now, the group limited the format of their prior releases to standalone singles. With their last EP Future Soup now three-years in the rearview, Autograf prepare to release the project that will end their hiatus from the release of longform productions: Love And Retrograde EP. Love And Retrograde is led by “Hold Me Back.”
A lot can occur and a lot can change in three year’s time: personal and artistic strides are made, creative maturity ensues, and a more adept sense of how to not only confront, but process one’s emotions surfaces as a positive byproduct of personal strife. Autograf members Louis and Mikul can attest to it. When the outfit collaboratively announced the impending release of Love and Retrograde, the group attributed their sonic quietude to the respective “personal hardships” they faced in the three-year expanse from 2016-2019. “We’ve faced personal hardships since our Future Soul EP was released. These misfortunes helped us to grow as a group and reignited our passion for music,” Autograf wrote in an Instagram post. “The songs we created in this dusk have brought so much joy and love into our lives. This creative catalyst has propelled us to construct our Love And Retrograde EP.”
Dancing Astronaut dove into the “dusk” with Louis and Mikul to talk at greater depth about the impetus for Love and Retrograde, the intersection of mental health and self-love, and how the intensely personal–and intensely trying–can translate to music.
DA: Could you speak a bit about your three-year hiatus from EP production? i.e. did you find that taking a break from the production of extended projects allowed you to explore new sound constructions/styles?
Louis: That’s just kind of how it happened. We were touring around, living life and making music. And the music was released as singles. Singles are like mini stories in your life. Whereas a body of work like an EP is a bigger story. It took something more heavy and serious to happen in our lives to make another EP.
DA: You mentioned that you’ve each faced “personal hardships” in your recent Instagram post that announced the impending arrival of your new EP, Love and Retrograde. Being that these hardships served as the “creative catalyst” for Love and Retrograde, would you elaborate a bit on the “personal hardships,” and how they influenced the creative process behind the new EP?
Mikul: It was a really tough year full of loss and heartbreak. My father passed away and my relationship of 6 years ended as well. It left me in a really dark place.
Louis:At the same time, Jake was dealing with mental health issues that took him off the road and ultimately led him to step away from the project to focus on his health. For me, it felt like we hit rock bottom over Thanksgiving. It’s funny because it’s the low moments that really motivate you to do something about it. You can either wallow in defeat or pick yourself up and do something about it. Right after Thanksgiving I locked myself in the studio everyday for 15+ hours a day often not even stopping to eat or sleep. I did this for the rest of the winter up until today. It was really bad for my health but it was the most productive I’ve ever been.
Mikul:For me, all the personal hardships left me really unhappy and confused about what I wanted in life. But eventually it made me realize with Autograf I had a creative outlet to express myself through art and music, and I’m super grateful for that now. It’s what really lifted me out of that hole.
Louis: It definitely gave me a newfound love and passion for music, more than at any other time in my life. And I’m really thankful for it.
DA: You mentioned that this forthcoming EP touches on the aforementioned hardships, and how you “navigated” them. From a technical standpoint, how did you strive to embody this component of personal experience in the sound of the new EP?
Louis: It was pretty simple, Love And Retrograde is the art we made during this difficult time. All the emotions we were feeling at the time are apart of the music. From a technical standpoint, it’s not like we sat there and said let’s write a happier sounding melody or use a more organic sounding piano because that conveys overcoming hardships better. Instead, things just turned out the way they turned out because that’s how we were feeling at the time. It was all pretty natural. That’s music.
DA:How does Love and Retrograde differ from your previous EP, Future Soup? (2016)
Louis: Future Soup was the first creation we made as Autograf both as an art sculpture and body of music. And Love and Retrograde is a rediscovery of our love and passion for music and art.
DA: What is your favorite track on Love and Retrograde, and why?
Louis: For me it’s “Real” or “Be Myself” because I started both of those songs when we were at a really low point but then came back and finished them later when we were riding high again. So there’s a sense of triumph for me in both of those songs. If we would’ve finished them all during that low point, it would’ve turned out completely different.
DA: Could you share a piece of advice for any of your listeners who might be struggling with their own personal hardships right now?
Mikul: You have to figure out what works for you and not force yourself into anything. Too often in society these ideas of hardship are glorified and even marketed to us in a way that becomes detrimental to our health. Think about your own well being and don’t look at movies or social media that puts things on a pedestal because that is not reality. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help or tell someone you don’t want to push forward. Try to surround yourself with people that are uplifting and don’t fall into a self deprecating cycle where you begin to feed off false realities.
Louis:Positivity, gratitude exercises, meditation, physical activity and exercise have all really helped me a lot in life. Every time I’m down, I tell myself “you know what? this is an opportunity to grow, become strong and overcome a challenge. These opportunities don’t come often so here’s my chance to learn perseverance.” It’s ironic because I only developed these habits during the low moments in my life so be grateful of both the highs and lows! Life is an amazing journey.