Welcome, friends, to some millennials’ third installment of a weekly series we like to call Free Music Fridays Mondays (FMFM). FMFM will highlight artists who have decided to release large portions of their music for free and will run with an interview of the artist. For the third FMFM, Brian has interviewed dream pop artist CASTLEBEAT and the interview will be interspersed with music he has released for free.
CASTLEBEAT is 22-year-old University of Southern California student Josh Hwang, and he’s got myriad music projects to his name. In addition to CASTLEBEAT, he makes surf pop as Jaded Juice Riders and runs his own label, Spirit Goth Records. Spirit Goth showcases his impressive ability to curate music ranging from their singular artist releases to his ongoing series HPSTR GEMS, a free offering of the best undiscovered indie music.
some millennials discovered CASTLEBEAT when Brock found his music on Bandcamp, and Brian spoke to Josh via email about free music, running a label in the age of streaming, and much more. CASTLEBEAT’s self-titled album was released on July 23, and continues the eminently breezy music he’s made under that moniker to date. It is one of those rare albums that transports you to a new location; even if you’ve never been to California, the feeling of warmth and the surf is evident. You can follow CASTLEBEAT on Soundcloud and Facebook, visit Jaded Juice Riders and Spirit Goth Records on Facebook, Spirit Goth Records on both Bandcamp and its website, and follow Josh’s personal/CASTLEBEAT Instagram at @joshzboy. Much of the music he’s made is available for free, and CASTLEBEAT is available for just $2 on Bandcamp.
This interview has been edited.
some millennials: what’s been the decision behind releasing your music for free?
CASTLEBEAT: I’ve been releasing my music for free because I just want to get my music out there and heard by new people. And, since I do everything myself, I spend $0 on studio time, producers, audio engineers, and even album art – so I can afford to use ‘name your price’ for downloads. As of right now, the singles for my upcoming self-titled album are available for free but I’ll probably end up charging a dollar or two for the full digital album. However, the album will also be available on spotify/apple/soundcloud/youtube. I think charging a couple dollars for a product you’ve worked hard on is okay and might even psychologically make the music seem more worth the listener’s time.
sm: what would you say is the music scene around usc? is it integrated into the major scene around la or does it have its own distinctly collegiate diy feel like a lot of other universities have?
CB: As far as I know, the music scene around USC[‘s] campus is mostly edm-related so I’m not very into it, although I’m sure if I searched hard enough I could find some people into the same music as me. Personally, I prefer good old-fashioned garage rock house shows over anything, so hopefully we can start making more of those happen around the area. Because the campus is surrounded by downtown LA, there’s lots of room for creativity. There’s definitely a diy scene growing in LA – whether it’s music, art, coffee shops, or other small indie businesses.
sm: when it comes to running your own label in the age of streaming, what’s been the most challenging part?
CB: I don’t see anything as particularly challenging when it comes to running my label, mostly because I enjoy every second I spend with it. I’m just sort of having fun releasing music I like on hand-made cassettes and CDs. I’m also a big fan of Spotify and using that as a platform to share good music; streaming has definitely become the staple for music listeners. As long as there’s a way for my label’s music to reach other people, I’m happy.
sm: garage rock definitely seems to be a big influence on your music, but would you say there’s any influences on your music that wouldn’t immediately be apparent upon listening?
CB: As a youngster I didn’t know how to get music on my ipod so I had to bug a family friend to transfer all his music to my ipod. As a result, all I had on that ipod was music by the doors, the pink floyd, and oasis. I actually didn’t like the doors and pink floyd for the longest time, but since that’s all I had on my ipod, I grew to love them. I’d say my favorite album of all time is piper at the gates of dawn by syd barrett’s pink floyd and the name of my surf rock band, Jaded Juice Riders, was influenced by the song ‘riders on the storm’ by the doors. After that, I got into discovering more psychedelic music from the 60s/70s and not long after that garage rock.
sm: one staple of the music you make is a melting of the vocals into the music being played. with that in mind, do you consciously write your lyrics with the intent of whatever will sound best mixed with the instruments, or do the lyrics come first and you add the instruments after?
CB: All I really care about is the melody of a song. I should and probably will pay more attention to the lyrics of my songs. But I tend to make vocal melodies using gibberish lyrics and then later try to find words that sound like the gibberish. I’m always trying out new methods for putting songs together though. As for the mixing, it’s just a personal taste to have the vocals blend into the music. It just sounds more natural and mysterious which I like.
sm: if somebody came to your city and you had to tell them one thing to do, what would it be?
CB: I’d say to definitely check out the arts district in downtown LA. It’s growing with creative, small businesses and I think it has great potential for diy venues.
sm: what’s your favorite sandwich?
CB: I’ll eat anything with salami in it.