Interview: San Francisco’s AIR APPARENT Discusses Ethereal “All By Yourself,” Dream Collaborations, & Horizons

AIR APPARENT © @pleasenophotoss
AIR APPARENT © @pleasenophotoss
AIR APPARENT’s tune “All By Yourself” (ft. Krysta Youngs & Julia Ross) transforms heartbreak into hopefulness.
Stream: “All By Yourself” – AIR APPARENT

There’s a bit of sadness in every breakup, whether it’s romantic or friendship. I think there is clarity you get where you recognize we both made mistakes and own those mistakes… I think it is really taking ownership of that part of a breakup, while still acknowledging the sadness.

Sometimes there are those songs that touch you in such a relatable way that you cannot stop listening.

AIR APPARENT’s single “All By Yourself” (ft. Krysta Youngs and Julia Ross) relays a topic that so many can connect to.  Most of us at one point or another have experienced those kinds of destructive relationships that suck you dry. A healthy partnership should be motivating and feed you with energy. When you come to the eye-opening realization that too much of yourself has been taken, there is no freer feeling than cutting loose. Emerging DJ and producer, AIR APPARENT focuses on reflective themes of self-awareness and growth that can come from those situations. The feathery tune delicately draws listeners in with shining synths and rich, silky vocals. Looking back at a past relationship, there are always things that could have been done differently. If you feel you are much happier without that person in your life though, in the end none of it matters. This track stunningly expresses that concept.

All By Yourself - AIR APPARENT
All By Yourself – AIR APPARENT
I’ve been wondering if I could have done things better
Turns out without you I’m a whole lot better
You can break into pieces
But you know you did it all by yourself

Many of the breakup songs we hear are the perfect tunes to open a bottle of wine and have a good cry. What is so unique about AIR APPARENT’s offering is that there is something so empowering in the liberation and optimism of it all. A relationship’s end is a close to that chapter of your life, but it does not always have to be this negative thing. You do not have to place blame. Simply just knowing you are both better off alone than with each other is enough. This is what makes this release so thought-provoking. Seeing things from this distinct perspective really gets us thinking about our own lives and relationships in such a profound way.

The Indian American San Franciscan Neil Sethi, the brainchild behind AIR APPARENT, takes influence from musical greats like CHVRCHES and Purity Ring. His charming, wistful music is so striking and intricate, making it a true joy to listen to. With everything he does he captures a raw magic and “All By Yourself (feat. Krysta Youngs and Julia Ross)” is no exception.  Whether it is infectious upbeat pieces or darker ballads, each one is equally as entrancing. Atwood Magazine spoke with the talent about his new single, the significance behind his name and so much more.

I think there are ways that identity can affect music, both consciously and subconsciously.


All By Yourself - AIR APPARENT

Atwood Magazine: I really like your name, AIR APPARENT. I know it is spelled “heir apparent,” but according to the Google definition, that means “an heir whose claim cannot be set aside by the birth of another heir.” Was your title meant to represent that meaning or did you have a different message in mind?

To be honest, when I was trying to come up with a good name for my project, what I did was come up with a bunch of fun, pun oriented names. That one stood out to me for a couple of reasons. One is, I felt like, in general, the music I was making, and the music I was interested in making had this kind of airy, dreamy feel to it. I thought, well, the word air is very ethereal. I was establishing that vibe. The other thing is, I felt like this whole, heir to the throne thing was kind of funny. It has a sort of aggression to it, that is not really my personality. So I felt like the definition of that, or the meaning of it, in that sense, was a bit ironic. I think those are the two reasons I ended up picking it, a good pun, felt like it evokes the music. It kind of had this ironic definition, heirs to the throne, next in line type of thing.

Being an Indian-American, how has your heritage influenced the type of music you create?

I think there’s ways that identity can affect music, both consciously and subconsciously. I think, subconsciously when I’m writing and producing a song, I gravitate towards melodies that are kind of reminiscent of sounds I heard growing up. So for me, that was a lot of R&B, which I grew up on, but also Indian music, so a lot of Bollywood and traditional spiritual, Indian music. That means a lot of minor keys. Not even so much traditional Western scales, but a lot of fluctuation and melodies. Those are the types of things that feel familiar to me, but I also realize I lean into music I grew up on. The more conscious ways that I think that affects my music is that I love using any new instruments and kind of unexpected ways. So a lot of my drum tracks feature snares or various different types of Indian drums.

Your new single ''All By Yourself'' is a dreamy tune that shimmers with lush, silky vocals. How was the track developed sonically?

Overall, the process was pretty similar to a lot of my process, especially during the pandemic. This beat and the kind of music I was listening to at the time when I was writing it was the music of  the early 2010s. So a lot of indie rock, summer music as well as some of the more recent electronic music. We’re in this interesting era of music where everyone is reminiscing about music from the past. A lot of the current sound is actually sounds from different parts of the past. I hear a lot of 80s music. I hear a lot of 2000 R&B influenced music. I thought, well, it’s really evoking the 2010 sound, which I think is one of my favorite eras of music. I started tinkering on a synth patch that I really like. It simulates a good Juno’s synthesizer, which is one of the most popular ones used in that kind of era of electronic, Chvrches, really a lot of using Judo patch, Judo synthesizers. So I was trying to kind of evoke that a little bit and I felt like there was something really hooky and catchy. I actually put a couple of samples on splice. I took some vocals and chopped them up, put them on as a placeholder for the vocals. And then I saw Krista was  looking for producers on Instagram on her story. And so I messaged her and said you know I have this really cool beat. I think that your voice would go really well on it. I think we could write a really cool song to it. She’s said, yeah, let’s do it. I sent her the beat and we basically talked about it a little bit back and forth. Her and Julia are a writing team, they work with BTS a lot, which is amazing. They came back with a really awesome top line and a lot of the melodies were based on some of the samples I chopped up. So I thought well actually, the sample melody worked really well here so we’re just going to emulate it. We went back and forth on lyrics tightened up the vocals. And then I finished the mix after that.

It is never easy to tell someone it is time to part ways and learn to find comfort being by yourself. What inspired this offering and what advice would you give to others in that same situation?

So the interesting thing is I wrote about a past relationship and the place I want to be in before I’m in a new relationship. I want to feel like I’ve fully moved on. I want to feel like I can be alone and happy. There’s a bit of sadness in every breakup whether it’s romantic or friendship. I think there is clarity you get where you recognize we both made mistakes and I own those mistakes. I want to be by myself, and I think that’s what I need right now. I think it is really taking ownership of that part of a breakup, while still acknowledging the sadness. Interestingly, around this time, the song came out, I actually experienced it for myself. In a way leaning into the song we wrote, really helped me in realizing this is a next step of relationship. There will be a time where you agree, but there will also be a time where you have the chance to move on and be okay with that sadness. So what I would say to people is take the time to grieve. It’s important to acknowledge that change, but also know that you will find this place where you can be happy by yourself. That’ll open up so much more possibility.

AIR APPARENT © Gianni Gallant
AIR APPARENT © Gianni Gallant

On the song you joined forces with Krysta Youngs and Julia Ross. What was that collaboration like?

Yeah. Overall, it’s like really easy to work with them. They’re super energetic, enthusiastic, very collaborators. It was interesting because we wrote this together during the pandemic, and I think we had a really conflicting schedule. So we ended up doing is pretty much writing it, and collaborating almost entirely asynchronously. So we basically sent emails back and forth, and DMS back and forth. So it would be I send the beat. They asked for the beat, then they send me lyrics, I give some suggestions and lyrics, we go back and forth. They DM me in the middle of the day and say hey, can you just do a guitar part here? And I’d be like, Okay, fine. So there’s a lot of like, back and forth. But it was really smooth, because I’ve worked with them before. We have that trust that if I’m going to take three days to get back, I’ll just say so. So there’s no unmet expectation of  how long it’ll take to turn around something. I think we nailed the whole thing in about a week, which is incredible. Just going back and forth like this virtually.

Mentioning collaborations, if you could work with any artist or band of your choosing who would that be and why?

I think my answer would change on a monthly basis. Right now though, I’d say Japanese breakfast is pretty high on the list. I love Michelle Zauner’s tone. I appreciate who she is, as a person. I just finished her book that she wrote. I think that a lot of her music is really dreamy in a way that I try to achieve with my music. It feels like there’s some good synergy there. I know some other electronic artists who worked with her and her band.

I understand you take influence from greats like Japanese Breakfast as you mentioned and also Vampire Weekend, but who are some other talents that inspire you as well?

I have so many. I think from a production and texture standpoint, I have lots of respect for Flume. I also love James Blake. From a songwriting perspective I take a lot of influence from Mitski.

What would you say has been the greatest accomplishment in your a career thus far?

I am definitely a person who is always trying to look forward. I would say my greatest accomplishment hasn’t happened yet, but I am planning to release an album early next year. I believe by the time that drops, that will be my greatest accomplishment. I would say more recently, I played my first virtual live show, a music festival. That was my first show ever performing. It’s on YouTube if anyone wants to check it out. That was really tough. I had no idea how hard performing would be and how one might prepare for it and how to even think about putting it together. I converted my room into a giant green screen studio, DJ, all my original music. It was extremely hard and took a long time to prepare, but I was really happy with the end result. I think that was the greatest accomplishment I could think of in this year. If I think about my whole career, maybe just releasing music in general is a huge accomplishment. It’s really hard to get over yourself and just put it out there.

What does the future look like for AIR APPARENT?

First of all, an album dropping early next year. We’ll have all these singles that have dropped as part of this project, as well as a bunch of new music. So really excited about that. Outside of that, I’m also going to be spending more time producing for other artists. I just want to experiment with helping other artists tell their story.

Finally, I know we talked about inspirations, but are there any artists you are currently listening to that you can recommend to our readers?

There is a couple that come to mind. One is Luna Lee. She’s a Toronto based indie rock artist. She is currently opening as part of Japanese Breakfast’s tour. I hadn’t heard of her until I went to the tour. I highly recommend. Another one is Demo Tapes. It’s a project by a friend of mine who has just been making really amazing music. He creates really fun, dreamy music as well. So I highly recommend both of those.

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Stream: “All By Yourself” – AIR APPARENT

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All By Yourself - AIR APPARENT

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? © Gianni Gallant

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