eric wells is a fixture in wisconsin’s diy scene right now. he gigs constantly around the state and frequently crosses the state line to rap in the minneapolis/st. paul area; when he’s not performing, wells dedicates a majority of his time to tirelessly promoting the other local musicians around him, enthusiastically sharing their new work via co-ordinated social media blasts and plugging all-ages events. this tireless networking has yielded fruitful results; much of this past year has been spent developing lowkey radical, a burgeoning record label that hosts many of wells’ most-trusted collaborators.
one of the label’s first releases will be body pillow, a four-track co-op between wells and alex tronson, a minneapolis-bred producer who performs as north house. the duo chose to eschew conventional release format, opting instead to slowly share each song individually before sending out pre-ordered physical copies; so far, body pillow has featured “pink pistols” with its searing macklemore slam and “a formal apology to grandma wells,” a non-sequitur-laced commentary on awkward family vacations with a prominent guest verse from wealthy relative.
the project’s third single, “maybe god is afraid of us?”, is comparatively introspective, defined by a murky, futuristic north house beat and a heartbreaking display of vulnerability from wells as he anticipates the inevitable end of a relationship. compounded by an indelible guest hook from baby blanket, the track is a pensive comedown, providing extensive levels of depth and contrast to body pillow as a cohesive unit. “maybe god is afraid of us?” is streaming for the first time ever right here on dimestore saints; listen to the premiere above, and read on below for an exclusive interview with sayth about the creation of body pillow and his plans for the new label.
you worked with north house a bit on bad habitat last year. what led the two of you to want to make a fully collaborative project?
since the release of bad habitat, north house has become one of my best friends. last winter i started performing with him more and more, just to have someone else to jump around with on stage and hang with in green rooms. i have a lot of respect for his drive as a producer. he’ll sit down and spend whole days working on one beat and he’s constantly posting them on places like reddit’s r/futurebeats, searching for critique and feedback. i’ve seen his production style improve and evolve solely from having the ambition to ask for help and take advice. this ep just felt really natural; i’d have new raps and be like, “you got any beats?” he’d play me something and i’d jump around and just start rapping to it. that’s how the whole thing happened; we just did whatever felt right. i love working with him because he has his own lane and an impressive body of solo work. he’s also one of the easiest people to travel with and likes to party just as much as i do, so that doesn’t hurt.
what’s the ethos behind body pillow? what frame of mind were you in when writing its material?
the bulk of this project was written in late 2014/early 2015, in the cold wisconsin winter. i was drinking a lot of whiskey and living on a shoestring budget. to me, each track on body pillow seems to have a more concrete theme than bad habitat’s songs did, though that was never my intention setting out. for example, i wrote my verse for “a formal apology to grandma wells” about a vacation i took with my family to north carolina where i basically just drank johnny walker red and sat by the pool the whole time feeling like a loser. when we took the trip i had just turned twenty-one and was living illegally in a tiny shared room near downtown eau claire, still unsure if dropping out of college was the right choice. pair that with a week-long family reunion in a house with all of my cousins and you get a verse full of self-doubt and uneasiness.
the two tracks released so far lean heavily on outside contributions, be it videography or a guest verse. how important have your friends been to the shape body pillow has taken?
very important. in the last year i’ve really started surrounding myself with friends that create music-related content in some way, whether that’s design, video work, beats, raps, whatever. a solid portion of navigating my place in music has been figuring out what i’m good at, and what my friends are better at. i can rap, but i can’t design my way out of a paper bag or storyboard a video – well, i could, but not on a professional level. i feel very blessed. dan forke, whom i’ve been friends with since middle school, has done wonders as my art director. my brother spencer is a professional photographer and is super experienced with video work. north house knows how to master a track in a flash, and make it sound radio-ready. that’s the idea of lowkey radical: we all contribute our strengths to each other’s art so that the content we put out is the best it can be. sayth on a surface level is just me rapping, but there’s a squad of people helping me out.
the production on “maybe god is afraid of us?” feels a bit darker and more cerebral than other tracks on body pillow. did this inform your lyrical direction at all?
i actually wrote those two verses to a riley lake beat. i played two shows with him in early november of 2014 and he gave me a beat tape he had produced. after i wrote it i asked him about the beat and he said rory (ferreira, aka milo, aka scallops hotel) had already claimed it. so then i found this north house beat and i thought the verses fit really well. i wrote the hook in january and tried to sing it with some autotune but it was sounding really goofy. then we added luke (baby blanket) recently and it felt solid right away; his voice already sounds autotuned.
“maybe god is afraid of us?” feels very tender. can you speak to your headspace for this particular track, abstractly if need-be?
i wrote that song while i was in a relationship and essentially predicted its expiration. the song is about losing productivity to love and the anxieties that come with that. love is expensive.
what’s next for you? are you going to play out with the body pillow material for awhile, or are you looking ahead to new projects?
we’re cutting more tracks for a november or december release. i moved to minneapolis recently; i’m living at a basement venue called green greens with alex adkinson (formerly of soflty, dear) and he basically has a studio in his room so we can record whenever we want. i love living here. i sleep in the basement and it’s grungy and i feel like a pirate. tickle torture is playing here in september; i love that i can sit in my bed and watch bands play. luke, wealthy, and north house are always around so we’re cooking up new songs all the time.
as far as immediate releases go, i’m focusing most of my effort on getting out eps for the rest of the label. dan has one set to go for late august, astral samara is dropping his debut tape in september, and we have a lowkey radical compilation tape coming out in october.
one more collaborative track from sayth and north house is due soon. we’ll also be following the developments of lowkey radical closely as the fall progresses. stream “maybe god is afraid of us?” one more time to let it sink in, and then visit sayth and north house on all of their socials.