Charming and churning, warm and wondrous, Isaac Watters’ ‘Extended Play 002’ is a contemplative collection of gentle giants: Intimate reflections that sound sweet and hit hard.
for fans of Sufjan Stevens, Leif Vollebekk, Ken Yates
Stream: ‘Extended Play 002’ – Isaac Watters
“Can you hear me now?” Isaac Watters asks toward the end of his new EP, his voice full of an intense ache as he sings into the ether – an abyss that promises more questions and no answers. “Can you hear me now? I was trying to understand how the sunlight slides through your hands…” And while Watters may not get any direct response from his rhetorical targets, we can hear him, and we can see him. Charming and churning, warm and wondrous, Watters’ Extended Play 002 is a contemplative collection of gentle giants: Intimate reflections that sound sweet and hit hard, demanding our undivided attention as the artist spills his soul.
Let’s make it easy, let’s get out of town
Where you can, sit me down
And tell me stories,
remind me how we got here
‘Cause right now, all I see,
piling up behind me is a cloud
A fire on either side,
and in front just the daylight dying.
Can you hear me now? I was trying so hard
Can you hear me now? I was trying to
How the sunlight slides through your hands
To understand how the sunlight slides
Atwood Magazine is proud to be premiering Extended Play 002, Isaac Watters’ captivating four-track sophomore EP (out August 30, 2023 via hi-res records). The follow-up to this past January’s Extended Play 001 continues the Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter’s introduction, finding him in a spacey and contemplative mood as he weaves together stirring sounds that feel at once intimate and distance, near and far. With a light touch that falls somewhere in-between the indie folk and psychedelic pop worlds, Watters’ songs are as cathartic as they are utterly entrancing – and he’s still just getting started.
“I started working on these songs with a few different producers, but started working with Matt Linesch shortly after another project fizzled,” Watters tells Atwood Magazine. “It started as a combination of some songs that I had written a long time ago and newer songs. It was mostly written around 2018, but some of it was written in 2020. “All I Need” was a song that we went back and forth on and worked on together. The other three songs on this EP I wrote by myself over a few years. Everybody that played on it really made the record what it is, Josh Adams and Gabe Noel, Mitchell Yoshida, Mark Noseworthy, and on background vocals Crash Richard and Sydney Wayser. We made it over the pandemic. So we started initially in 2018, and then when the pandemic happened, there was almost a whole year of nothing happening. When we started going back in, it was slow. Mixing took a long time. We finished the record at the end of 2021, and then hi-res records eventually came on to help us release it.”
“A lot of the songs changed, and part of that was working with Matt, and part was working with Josh and Gabe. Every song would start with tracking me with a scratch guitar track and vocal, Josh on drums and Gabe on bass – which is why so much of the record ended up being these crazy bass lines that are starting songs. It let me play around with the phrasing in ways that I wasn’t doing before. Some of the songs became double time, and some of the songs became slower. Just feeling it out, singing along with drums and bass, that’s how we started every song.”
“I think that lent itself to the way that the whole record ended up sounding. I think I was also at a point in my life where I felt like I was just doing whatever I wanted to do, and not necessarily trying to sound like somebody that I really like. Just doing my own thing, and I think it feels like my own thing, more than a lot of the other records that I have made. The vision that I had going into it was, “How do I make this thing that will really satisfy me, that feels like me, without worrying about what it’s going to do?” Or if it’s going to be something that a lot of people will listen to, or if it would sound like something that’s successful or anything like that. I just wanted to make something that I would be proud of, and that I could give to my 10 friends.”
The resulting record is radiant and relaxed, beating to the tune of its own drum and nothing else.
Watters’ easy gait makes him come off as a man with little care in the world, and yet his lyrics tell a different story. That dichotomy comes to life in four songs full of enthusiastic energy, each an island unto itself beckoning our ears and hearts to come closer.
I know the earth’s land mass is mostly antipodal
To the lonely sea, to the lonely sea
Oh yeah, but maybe that’s the only way to talk about heartache
When you’re out in the grasslands when you’re wild and free
Maybe somewhere there’s a shore where
i could wash up on you
And you’d let me float you, and you’d say i was strong,
Maybe somewhere there’s a coastline
where you could look out on me
Say i was magnificent, say nothing was wrong
They say the earth’s oceans are mostly getting warmer
That the ice is melting, and i know it’s true
Maybe someday soon, maybe sooner than later
The whole world will be ocean, and you’ll be lonesome too
“My hope would be that people would listen to it and then go see it live,” Watters says. “I feel like my live show captures more, and people can get a better sense of what I’m doing and what I’m putting on the line when they can see it live. It’s hard to get that on a record. Hopefully people are at least like, “Oh, this is interesting. He’s dealing with some weightier themes.” Maybe it makes them want to dig deeper and try to understand what I’m trying to do. Hopefully these are songs that people want to listen to more than once. “
As for favorites, the EP’s latest single “My Heart Is an Ocean” is a clear standout for its maker. “I really like this version,” he smiles. “I’ve done a couple other versions before, and this is the first one that I really wanted to put out. It’s easy to make it feel like a folksy country song. But the synths add this extra layer to it. When we were making it we were talking about it sounding like the Santa Monica Pier falling into the ocean, a sort of decaying. There’s this movie [Southland Tales] with Justin Timberlake and The Rock, and Justin Timberlake is a sniper on the Santa Monica pier after the atomic bomb goes off in Texas, and the U.S. is under Marshall law. It was kind of a terrible but amazing movie.. But we were trying to make something like that.. There’s all this synth stuff, all this clicking, feels like the roller coaster descending and crushing into the ocean.
Lyrically, Watters cites moments in all four tracks that resonate with him.
“For “All I Need,” my favorite lyric is “I see myself in an old spaceship / Further out than Mr Collins went” – the astronaut, but then it turns into me flying that spaceship inward, into a vast internal loneliness. That separate loneliness, that even if you’re in a loving relationship and have lots of good friends, you know you still have. Who doesn’t enjoy an outer space / inner space metaphor?”
“And there’s a similarity in “My Heart is an Ocean.” The chorus line, the idea – if I’m the ocean, maybe there’s a point in life, or point in a relationship where they could look out on me as if they were the land, and say “there’s nothing wrong with you,” or “you’re magnificent.” On “Coconut in the Street,” it’s “plastic bag.” This is the most fun to perform. The repetition of “plastic bag” and the phrasing of “living in the median, I can see you drive by” – that part is really fun. And then in “Can You Hear Me Now,” it’s the last verse. The way that last verse breaks down and the drums come back in. The line “I’ll call you again when i’ve figured it out / How the pain still seeps in behind the glass / You said, “all you need is one perfect paragraph.” It’s this idea, what if something could be better? What if it could be perfect?”
Short though it may be, Extended Play 002 is a stunning snapshot of an artist coming into his own.
Together with 001, Watters’ new EP is a fun fever dream that defies easy categorization; a record that comes to life with warmth and wonder, graceful melodies and glistening vocals full of turbulence and raw turmoil.
“I loved writing and making this record, and it feels great to have a version of these tunes that sounds this good,” Watters shares. “Putting it out is a whole other conversation. How do you get anybody to take the time to listen? There’s just so much good music that’s already out in the world. But I hope people who take the time to listen feel comforted by it.”
Experience the full record via our below stream, and peek inside Isaac Watters’ Extended Play 002 EP with Atwood Magazine as he goes track-by-track through the music and lyrics of his sophomore EP!
Stream: ‘Extended Play 002’ – Isaac Watters
:: Inside Extended Play 002 ::
All I Need
I started writing “All I Need” in Joshua Tree. I was staying out there for a couple of weeks in a tiny cabin. It was part of a longer stream of consciousness that just came out. And then when I was playing some of it back for [producer] Matt Linesch, he really gravitated to that opening chorus. I took that and reworked it a little bit.
Coconut In The Streets
When I was writing this record, I would get up and write before I did anything else, or looked at any screens or anything. I would just write for an hour. This song came out of one of those morning writing sessions. When you’re driving down Alvarado where it crosses Glendale, there are always those guys selling mangoes from a grocery bag. I see them every day, and sometimes buy from them. That’s where that one breakdown chorus part came from. That’s what I always picture when I’m singing this part. The rest of the song is other scenes around LA, people stumbling onto the edges of the freeway. It’s the saddest thing, but I see it all the time.
My Heart Is An Ocean
This one I wrote a long time ago. One day it just came out all at once. It was just a cheesy metaphor, but then I thought, if I could take it all the way then it’d not be as cliche. Everybody says “my love’s an ocean,” or “my love is as big as the ocean,” or “my love is as deep as the ocean.” But what if it really was an ocean? Then what is the ocean doing right now? I felt like when I took it a few steps further, it’s also about ice caps melting, the violence of nature, the age of the anthropocene, the Gulf Stream dying.
Can You Hear Me Now
There’s a couple different ways you could think about it. Maybe the first half is a conversation with God moment, wrestling with fate. And then part of it could be describing a phone call with my brother. I wrote this song a while ago, when I was still single and I had a lot of time. I would just wander around the neighborhood that I lived in, Historic Filipinotown. The last verse is a specific image from one of my long walks – there was an abandoned lot that had really bright green grass from the rain. It was in the winter when LA gets rain and everything’s clean, it was really beautiful. But there was still sadness. That lot isn’t there anymore, it’s now an apartment building, which is a good thing, but I always see that fresh green grass when I’m singing, and the fading graffiti behind it.
Stream: ‘Extended Play 002’ – Isaac Watters
— — — —
© Stone Shannon
:: Stream Isaac Watters ::