Equal parts genuine and talented, Illenium caught up with Liz Tillman after his set at MysteryLand this month. Read below what the talented musician has to say about his craft, his thoughts on SoundCloud’s evolution and thumb wars!
EDM NYC: For most people, they assume the average “EDM Listener” to look like a buff dude-bro with sunglasses and a neon tank top, but could describe what an “Illenium” listener looks like?
Illenium: Oh man, they’re eclectic… I feel like it’s just everything; you could really feel it in the crowd today. There was not one specific type of person, and I think that’s kind of what my music naturally attracts. It’s emotional, so anyone who has those intense emotions and connection with music, that’s what it’s attracting. It’s not just one type of “I just want to party” music, which you know attracts a certain type of person, or “just chilling” – it’s all different. So I feel like you get the burners, and all different kinds of people, you know?
EDM NYC: If you weren’t a musician right now, what other job might you be doing?
Illenium: I’d probably be like, some form of creative. Whether it’s digital arts, or something. I really like that kind of stuff and I love creating pretty things, whether I try creating PhotoShop shit – I’m not really good at it – but stuff like that I can find passion in.
EDM NYC: You’ve cited that Porter, Odesza and Bassnectar are some of your greatest influences. Which one of the three do you think you could beat in a thumb war?
Illenium: Ummm…. Probably Odesza. I could take them in a thumb war.
EDM NYC: Why do you say that?
Illenium: Because they’re the only ones I’ve actually kicked it with, and I feel like I sized them up.
EDM NYC: SoundCloud has played a large role in springboarding your fame. What are your thoughts about how the platform is changing and the negative feedback it’s been getting from artists?
Illenium: I think it’s getting a lot of negativity and every blog will write up like “SoundCloud is dead,” when actually it’s insanely growing. It’s not getting the number’s that Spotify is getting, but it was huge for me, so I’ll always support it and I’ll always use it when I can. I don’t like their whole “Go” platform. I think it’s stupid to do only previews, and it’s run so poorly that they fuck it up all the time. Like they put my whole album on preview when it wasn’t, or they didn’t even have it available for a week. I was like, “This is bullshit,” I mean it’s not tied to a major or anything. So I think there’s definitely areas they should fix, but for what they do, it’s pretty great. I am excited to see what Spotify does though because they’re supposedly supporting unreleased DJ mixes, so I’m definitely interested in doing more Spotify stuff. The whole album actually performed better on Spotify than it did on SoundCloud, which is crazy.
EDM NYC: You’ve had the opportunity to tour with your roommate, Said the Sky. How has your friendship/ roommateship evolved from being on tour together?
Illenium: Oh it’s great! Trevor and I are very compatible. We’re both pretty simple and easy going people, and we’re not crazy partiers or anything. We’re not “dramatical” so it’s very easy. And so it’s been nothing but strengthened it by letting us get to know more about each other and stuff.
EDM NYC: Obviously your music is emotional, but do you find you have to be “in your feelings” in order to compose your best work?
Illenium: Um, no. I don’t need to be “after a break up” to compose my best song. I think you can find it in so much shit, just living life literally. I need to do more of this, but just getting out, like going on hikes. I try to do activities like that all the time, not because it’s just going to lead to music, but because it’s a big part of me just feeling good about life. I have a problem sometimes of just needing to make good music for me to be happy, so sometimes it’s kind of scary because if you get in a rut, then it’s like, “Oh what am I just going to be depressed?”
EDM NYC: Like a Picasso blue period?
Illenium: Hahaha yeah, and so I’m lucky. It’s all just living in the moment, and being more grateful for what has happened.
EDM NYC: Tell me about Kasaya Recordings, the label you started in tandem with MrSuicide Sheep. What was the most challenging aspect to launch this project?
Illenium: So Kasaya is my own label, so we’re going to be releasing tracks soon. We’re just slowly getting into it. And then MrSuicide Sheep is just- I love them. They’re really passionate people, and they were willing to work with me with whatever I wanted to do, and I didn’t want to do a major label thing. I think there’s some benefits to doing a major label thing down the road, but the integrity of the music has to stay the same, so that’s why Suicide Sheep was just perfect for it. They had what I needed in terms of outreach, and are such great people.
EDM NYC: Diplo recently came out saying that “EDM” is a sinking ship and a really lame culture. Do you agree with this comment?
Illenium: It’s just shifting. I don’t think people are going to stop going to festivals. I think young kids look up to this, like a right of passage. And they look at it like, “Oh my god, I can’t wait to do this!” Everybody’s going to want to party at some point. I think the music is changing. I think it’s getting more melodic and musical. Whether that’s live or whatever, I think I would be totally okay if the whole “Big Room-House-Festival” music died. But I don’t think bass music will; it’s too deep rooted. I could see it like Metal, I could totally see it sticking around for a long time. I don’t think it’s going away, just changing.
EDM NYC: You often say that you hope your music remains timeless, but how do you, Illenium, want to be remembered as an artist?
Illenium: Umm, that’s a good question! I just want it to be like, “remember an experience.” Whenever you think about not necessarily me as a person, but just the first time hearing it, or hearing it live or the feeling you got, to be so impactful that you remember it. So if you’re at a show or a festival and it’s sundown, and it’s your first festival or something, sometimes shit hits you hard because it’s just like “Oh my god!” and it takes that feeling. So it’s not one specific song. I want my music to be able to last, and in ten years people will be able to put it on and be like, “This is still fucking good.” I do that with a lot of stuff. I listen to Blink 182 on the regular. It’s a different timeless, but I think there’s a good balance of it. I mean there’s music we listen to from the ‘60s that’s still like “Holy crap!”
EDM NYC: Do you have any “Festival Survival Tips” for MysteryLand-goers?
Illenium: It’s June, but be warm! Be ready to be cold because it’s a little chilly for sure- and be yourselves!