For the past couple of months New Zealand native Tom Young has uploaded a series of songs under the moniker Spirit Soup. Throughout the span of his releases, Young has showcased a sound that spreads wide across the melodic palette. The evident influences of psychedelia are tangled with hypnotizing bass lines and rhythmic drums to paint an airy space that leaves listeners in a trance.
In his latest work Down, Young was able to present these elements once again, allowing us to listen to his signature style of meshed sounds unravel before our own ears. We were able to sit down and discuss the new record, growing up in New Zealand, his creative process and future endeavors with Spirit Soup.
Hey Tom! I want you to introduce yourself for those who may not know who you are. Where are you from and what do you love to do?
AKA Spirit Soup
I’m from New Zealand, currently living in Auckland. What do I love to do? I suppose music is the only thing that really gets me excited.
The aim was to set aside my logical brain and make music from a subconscious place.
D Music gets me excited as well. One thing I really wanted to touch upon with you was your musical influences. After listening to both of your tracks I can definitely draw the parallels between psychedelic rock and arena rock. Is that a sound that you strive for when creating songs?
T I don’t really strive for a particular sound, but I definitely am influenced by psychedelia and dance music. Spirit Soup started as an experiment. The aim was to set aside my logical brain and make music from a subconscious place. The only consistent ingredients I aim for are rhythm, melody and a nice splash of vibe. The rest takes care of itself.
D The subconscious mind really bleeds through in your music and gives it this dreamy effect. What time of day do you sit down to create the sounds in your music?
T Nighttime is definitely the right time for me. Something about it makes me more aware of my own subtleties. Maybe it’s the lessening of activity in the outside world or the lessening of senses that strengthens that subconscious bond.
D I feel the same exact way, I think many people do. It’s a very stress relieving activity that just causes your brain to go with the flow. I’m interested in learning about how you began writing songs? What triggered that interest in pursuing music?
T Yeah that’s it! When I was around 8 our family had a shitty piano in the living room that I would tinker on all the time. My grandfather would show me stuff from time to time and I just started making up melodies etc. It wasn’t until I got into punk music (then melodic stuff like blink-182) that I actually picked up a guitar and started “songwriting”. I think my first few songs were about food haha. I remember a song a friend and I wrote called Who Stole My Sandwich? That was before girls came along of course…but yeah, pop punk taught me about melody and how simple it can be.
D How has living in New Zealand affected your music and the music you love? A lot of pop punk was coming out of the United States in the early 2000’s, what was it like taking all of that in?
T Hmm. I’m not too sure, I have nothing to compare it to. I definitely loved the American sound as a teenager, that melodic punk stuff was exactly what my friends and I needed at the time. There was a small punk scene in New Zealand that we were a part of, but trends move so fast in New Zealand because the population is too small to sustain anything.
I’ve written an albums worth of stuff for Spirit Soup and that’s definitely the running theme. Reaching up, striving to be joyful and content.
D You touched upon the melodic side of pop punk and how it made you feel, how did you feel about the lyrical content in punk music? The lyrics in Spirit Soup tracks are very minimal but hit home in a very melodic way.
T I’ve never made a huge fuss over lyrics. I get more emotional content from the music itself. That’s good that they hit home! Those two songs I put up are kind of about the same thing. Like anyone, I struggle with my mindset, and getting depressed etc. So those lyrics are about transcending the world of flesh and being enveloped into something higher. I’ve written an albums worth of stuff for Spirit Soup and that’s definitely the running theme. Reaching up, striving to be joyful and content. The lyrics write themselves, definitely a part of that subconscious flow state we were talking about earlier.
D Those themes of transcending into a different state definitely tie in with the titles of the tracks Low and Floating.
T Haha yeah! Two sides of the same coin. I guess one thing I do think about with lyrics is showing not telling. I like visual words and phrases, like that spoken part in Low. I listened back to that after I did it and was so embarrassed. “Spoken word?!? What am I maaan…”
D You should definitely pursue a career in recording audio books.
T Haha yeah I should look into that.
D In terms of production, I noticed your drums are very big, but very subtle. Do you prefer using live instrumentation over electronic sounds?
T No, I don’t really have a preference. I aim to walk the middle path between electronic and guitar music. That’s what I find really exciting.
D Let’s talk about Down, it has a more upbeat tempo but the relaxed tone still remains. Can you talk about how you structured and built the track from a technical aspect?
T I built the percussion loops from another song I did last year. I sent the raw drums through delays and filters then sampled the wet signal. I structure for Moments. I’m a big fan of stacking lots of simple layers, and imagine each part stepping into the spot light when it’s their turn to shine. As for vibe, I tend to go for motion and transcendence. The way I usually test songs is by driving or skateboarding at night. I like the place it takes me.
I believe there’s a lot of power that comes when embracing that darker side of yourself, yet many people tend to miss out on it due to fear of the confrontation involved.
D I know you have multiple unreleased songs done for Spirit Soup, why did you choose to release this one out of all songs?
T It’s quite transporting. Its also slightly dark due to the lyrical content which I like. Although that whole “mental struggle” is a theme some people may not be too keen on as it’s something we usually try to avoid; especially with dance music. Which I think is a bit of a shame, because I believe there’s a lot of power that comes when embracing that darker side of yourself, yet many people tend to miss out on it due to fear of the confrontation involved.
D That’s a very interesting point of view. I’m looking forward to hearing more tracks from this project just to see how that combination of dance music and dark themes grows. When can we expect a full project?
T That’s hard to say! I have an albums worth of material in a “draft state”, the guy who helps me do the final touches is also in our “other band” and he just had his second baby, so Spirit Soup has been out on the back burner a bit. I’d like to think I’ll get another song out within a months time. There’s a lot going on and a lot to come!