Music Spotlight: Crywolf
Meet Justin Taylor Phillips, the mastermind behind the hauntingly beautiful music created under the moniker Crywolf. The LA-based songwriter, producer + vocalist’s most recent track Cephalotus is composed of vocals that exude a beautiful, soft rawness + instrumentals that paint an abstract, otherworldly atmosphere for the listener. Consider this track a taste of the dreamy album we can expect from him in the new year. Speaking of Crywolf albums, if you’re a first-time listener, we suggest submerging yourself in Cataclasm. We chatted with Justin about Cephalotus + his creative process.
Asymmetric Magazine: We've been huge fans of yours for a long time, and Cephalotus is so beautiful. What's this track mean to you?
Justin Phillips: Thanks so much; that means a lot. This track really cuts deep for me. Sometimes I write songs and realize they are about certain situations that have happened to me, certain relationships… more specific content. Other times, something much deeper and more broad expresses itself—more of a life ethos. Those tracks make my hair stand on end, because they reach down to truths that I am not even consciously aware of prior to writing the song. Cephalotus is about my refusal to run away from the dark parts of my soul—my desire to face them head on, to dive into the shadow. It’s such an important principal in my life—one that has dictated the places I’ve gone, the people I’ve known, and the art I’ve made.
AM: All of your work over the years exudes such a unique and genuine rawness. Are there consistent themes that you pursue through your lyricism and sound?
JP: The main consistent thing I pursue is cultivating the process of my creative expression to make sure I am channeling the realest, most vulnerable place inside of me. I don’t like pursuing specific themes or trying to write about anything in particular, because I feel like that obstructs the flow of expression—tries to fit it in a box.
AM: You've done a few noteworthy collaborations (we love EDEN!)—do you have any others in the works?
JP: Yes! Unfortunately, I’m not able to talk about them at the moment though.
AM: Who's your dream collaborator who you haven't worked with yet?
JP: I would say Alt-J is my top. Bon Iver and Sigur Ros are right up there, too. Electronic-wise, I would love to work with Nero.
AM: You wrote Cataclasm in Iceland. Do you find that you have a place where you feel completely in touch with your creative self and your music or do you feel you need to get away as a part of your creative process?
JP: The more foreign the environment, to me, the more it stimulates my creativity. I feel like my writing often deals with surreal, imagined worlds, and nothing feeds that theme more than actually visiting a world that seems surreal to me.
my writing often deals with surreal, imagined worlds, and nothing feeds that theme more than actually visiting a world that seems surreal to me.
AM: Does Los Angeles play any role in your work or writing process?
JP: Los Angeles is primarily just the place where I attend meetings. It doesn’t factor in or help with my creative process much at all, if I’m honest. I feel like the ‘industry’ stands pretty starkly in contrast with my philosophy of art. Making music a product. I understand the need for marketing and the entire business side, but I really try to involve myself with it as little as possible. I want to be making my art 100% separately from any sort of success or numbers or sales.
AM: What other musicians are you currently listening to?
JP: I’ve been revisiting a bunch of my favorites from some Scandinavian artists. Namely múm, Soley, Fever Rey. I’ve been diving into a lot of Daughters’ catalogue (the noise band, not the indie band, though I also love the indie band), The Japanese House, Death Grips’ old stuff. I also have a sweet spot for extremely over-boosted over the top hip-hop stuff like Ic3peak, Suicideboys, and Ghostmane.
AM: What can we expect to hear from you in 2019?
JP: I’m going to be releasing a lot of stuff. My new album will be out near the beginning of the year, and then a lot of other stuff throughout the year. I’m really excited for 2019. 2018 was a year of writing, and 2019 will just be tons of new stuff.