Sweater Beats on His Obsession with Miyazaki and What It Means to Make Music with “Feels”

A growing number of producers are embracing the sexy, synth-laden style often labeled “future RnB,” and using terms like, “baby-makerz”, “emotional 808s”, or “feels” to describe their sound. A prominent innovator in this genre has been Filipino-American artist Antonio Cuna, aka Sweater Beats. Since his debut single in 2012 (“MLLN DLLR”), he’s come out with a number of notable releases, like last year’s ethereal Cloud City EP, and his most recent remix of JoJo’s “Love Hurts.” We caught up with Sweater Beats last week to talk about Miyazaki films and his ideal Thanksgiving plate. He headlines this Friday (11/27) at 1015 Folsom.

Your tour has been pretty grueling this Fall! Where are you taking these questions?
Currently I’m at my sister’s house in Maryland spending some quality time with my family.

What was the first beat you ever made?
It was this weird synth pop track. I don’t even know what software I was using, but I got all my sounds from this cheap Casio keyboard with cheesy drum presets on it.

[jump] A lot of the RnB/hip-hop/808 melodies have been classified as “feels,” and your current tour is called Future Feels. How does that word represent the genre you're playing?
For me, the term ‘feels’ isn’t really about describing a type or element of music. Its more about those moments when you listen to music and you get goosebumps because the melody and lyrics are so striking, or it reminds you of your ex, or maybe you’re really drunk and sweaty and hearing the release of a build into a drop makes you lose your shit and then you think everything is just so right in the world right now. There’s an expression that I think sums it up pretty nicely that goes, “Some people feel the rain. Others get wet.” Ya feel me?

Set up the ideal scene for your music to be played in.
So you’re at this secret part of a beach no one knows about with a bunch of your friends. There’s a fire pit and one of your friends just came back from Costco with hella graham crackers, milk chocolate, and marshmallows. It’s sunset and it starts to get a little chilly but you have your sweater on so it doesn’t matter. Then someone starts jamming a Sweater Beats mix on a dope ass boombox and off in the horizon you spot these two dolphins jumping out of the ocean, perfectly silhouetted by the setting sun. Or something like that.

What do you think is important in representing Asian artists in the EDM scene?
We’re really underrepresented in this industry, so I think its important to be supportive and encourage the kids who are just starting out making music. For a lot of us growing up with immigrant parents (I’m straight up from the Philippines) we kind of have a different perspective on things, so I think it’s also important to wear our culture with pride because we can bring something different to the table.

How did your parents initially react to you wanting to become a musician?
I actually never told them I wanted to become a musician. I was still in college when my stuff started popping off on the internet and I started getting shows. They saw that I was spending more and more of my time on music, but they made it a point that I needed to finish school first. When I graduated, they were really supportive of me doing music full time. They knew it's what made me happy.

When did your obsession for Miyazaki begin?
I remember when I was a kid, my dad rented Princess Mononoke. I had never seen anything like it before. I was really only exposed to Dragon Ball Z and whatever else was on Toonami growing up. I remember being like, ‘Whoa, WTF?’ during the scene where the boar demon was dying and his skin was melting off. That really stuck with me.

What's your favorite Miyazaki film, since you are often seen sporting a No Face sweatshirt (as seen above)?
Spirited Away of course! Kamaji is my favorite character though.

You recently moved from NY to LA. Has that influenced your music in any way?
I moved to LA two months ago and being there has already affected how I work and my approach to making music. Being in LA, I’m in sessions with other artists and writers more often than ever before, and I’ve been learning a lot through that whole collaborative process.

Tell us a little about how you connected and remixed a track for JoJo.
My manager sent me three tracks and asked me if I’d like to remix any of them. I saw JoJo was the first on the list and I replied back that second. I mean who doesn’t want new JoJo acapellas? 
Now, since you're headed our way during Thanksgiving, what would your ideal Thanksgiving plate look like?
I’m a classic man, so for me it’s turkey, stuffing, and my sister’s cranberry apple crisp. The holy trinity.

You have anything new up your sleeve for your upcoming show at 1015 Folsom?
There’s some new tunes and bootlegs I’ve been sitting on and I think I’m gonna take them for a test drive next week.

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