all photos: Rachel Eisley
When Bernard Farley (aka Outputmessage) was but a 18 year old mathematics student (with a minor in philosophy, rounding out the kind of cerebrally exercised education most are not quite brave enough for) at Virginia Tech, he made a track (endearingly) names “Bernard’s Song” which ended up on Ghostly Records’ Idol Tryouts 1 compilation ( followed by “Sommeil” on part 2 of the same series) and he has not looked back since. In 2006 his debut LP “Nebulae” was released to much press and buzz and in 2008 he moved to DC, got his IDM centered fingers into a number of DJ nights (including Marquis) and released his Resurface EP which had electronic music fans in DC getting all hot around their collar, excited to finally have a bona fide original (and prolific at that) artist in their city. In the process Bernard started his own label (Ouput Noise records) and is releasing, his second LP TODAY (stream it for free here).
The songs are as catchy and poppy as ever, and for the first time ever featuring his clear, deadpan vocal stylings, and the future is so bright I almost had to wear shades while typing up these questions.
Get into it:
You started making music early, at 14, what made you decide to use that as a creative outlet?
I’ve always loved music. When I was around the age of 7 my family would always get me to do my MJ dance impersonations at the family reunions. My mother would sing all the time in the house and exposed me to Salsoul disco. My dad played on keyboards in his spare time when I was younger too. It wasn’t really a decision that music would be a creative outlet for me. I think it just naturally happened from my upbringing.
You were born in Queens but moved to Richmond during your formative years and are now in DC. How did these 3 place (big city, small city, medium city) influence your final musical destination? What of each of these locations do you carry with you always?
Queens is where I got my R&B and Hip-hop influence. Richmond was where I got super heavy into IDM. Virginia Tech was where I got fascinated with Steve Reich, Philip Glass, John Cage, Harold Budd, etc. So each location added a new dimension to my influences and styles. I came to DC initially to collaborate with my friend Miguel (Micah Vellian/The other member of Dmerit), but, now that I’ve been living here for four years, I think it’s the best place for me to make music right now in general. DC is big enough to have a pretty big selection of venues to play at, but also small enough that we can create own special music scene here. Electronic music in DC is in a really exciting place right now.
Why IDM as a genre?
I’m not sure if you want me to answer why I made IDM music or why people consider it a genre, but I’ll go with the first one. Aphex Twin’s “Girl/Boy Song” changed the way I heard music from middle school on. I think there is a sense of possibility with IDM because there aren’t very many rules with how it should sound. That’s the way I think when I approach music in general now. I listen to what the song should be, not what genre it should sound like.
How did you get involved with Ghostly at such an early age and what made you decide to go on you own, without label support?
The first week of my freshman year at Virginia Tech, a friend in my dorm took me to his friends show on the college station and this guy’s friend was sitting in on the show just listening and hanging out. We all start talking about production and I told him I’d show him some of my music. I showed him “Bernard’s Song” and he really loved it and asked to show it to his childhood best friend who had recently started a label. I didn’t really believe anything would come of it, but eventually I realized that his best friend was Sam Valenti IV and owned Ghostly International. I loved the music they were putting out and was delighted when Sam wanted “Bernard’s Song” on the first Ghostly compilation.
Now I’ve started my own label because I realized I have a strong vision with my music that sometimes is hard to sell to other labels and that, with my experience, I am capable of doing things on my own. Granted, I’m still learning new things every day about the industry, but I think it was the best decision I’ve ever made for my music career.
It has been 8 years since you’ve been doing this, and that indicates a certain level of perseverence, have you ever considered doing anything else but music? Even when things were not going as swimmingly?
I have a masters in mathematics and totally could be doing some secretive research for the government right now, but in my senior year of undergrad I realized that I could wake up each day and make music for the rest of my life and that I just didn’t have that same level of passion with mathematics. So really, I think I always will be making music and for now I’m trying to make it the only thing that I do. It does get hard sometimes though (mostly with the whole juggling a day job thing.)
You’ve been playing shows very consistently, what are some of the favorite acts you’ve ever performed with and why?
Lusine is a big inspiration for me and it was great to play in NYC with him a while ago. Of course, I played a show with Bluebrain a month ago and I think they’re one of the most exciting electronic/rock acts in DC right now. I also recently played with Shuttle (The drummer from Passion Pit) at DC9 which was a really fun show and I got to nerd out with him over Behringer MIDI controllers.
For fans of electronic music in DC, who do you think are some of the DJs, venues, nights they should not miss? And why? What do you think electronic music in DC is missing and do you think that void can be filled?
The scene has grown so much in the last few years..there are so many DJs doing their thing right now. Of course, you should check Micah Vellian and me out when we DJ at Rock and Roll Hotel every second Friday. Also, Will Eastman’s and Tittsworth new club, U Street Music Hall, will be crazy when it opens this Spring.
Tell us a little bit about the record (this is where the song descriptions will go after and the streams)
This record is about three things for me. First, its a big leap for me artistically. Really, I want all of my albums to be a big step for because I don’t see any point in making new albums if I’m not pushing myself in new directions. This time I was pushing myself to sing and write pop songs. Second, the record was also the first time I could verbally connect with with my audience. All the lyrics on the record come from a struggle or experience in my life, but I wanted the songs to be something that other people could relate to as well. Finally, with this record, I proved to myself that I could completely record, produce, and release an album on my own and that’s also why I called it “Autonomous”.
“Get Away” – This track is for anyone who has a dream and suffers through a boring day job to get to it. It’s about believing you can take control of your destiny and break out of the boring routine.
“N.Y.R.” – Definitely the most personal track on the album. My best friend of 11 years committed suicide while I was finishing up the first draft of the record. The day after he died, I had the instrumental on in my car and sang out at the top of my lungs and these were the words that came out.
“Follow” – For some reason I really wanted to do a track in a 7/8 time signature for the album.
“Syracuse” – I always envisioned this track as being the big uplifting album closer. It’s about that sparkle of hope you have when a relationship has fizzled, but you still have that crazy idea that you could get back together and everything will be better again.
Song(s) you wish you have written?
Things you play to yourself on repeat?
The new R. Kelly album (don’t judge!), The Nightriders recent Through The Night EP, Cloud One’s “Disco Juice”, whatever the latest Siriusmo track is.
What are some of the things you’re excited about in DC for in 2010?
Will Eastman and Tittsworth opening up their own club in DC (U Street Music Hall) is pretty damn exciting! I’m also looking forward to all of this snow going away.
Aren’t we all? Is there a CD release show/when/where?
There will be a CD release party on February 27th at Will Eastman’s BLISSPOP Party going down at The Black Cat. We will be giving away free copies of the CD and other goodies as well.