Music Spotlight: Unknown Caller
Meet Alex Lichtenstein, the mastermind behind the midnight-pop music of Unknown Caller. Unknown Caller released two singles Sayonara + see you again last year, and we can’t stop listening to his hypnotizing mix of synth-pop + jazzy beats. We chatted with Alex about midnight pop + the inspiration behind his sound + visuals.
Asymmetric Magazine: Thanks so much for talking with us! Tell us about your current work as a musician, including your two singles Sayonara and See You Again.
Alex Lichtenstein: Thanks for having me! Since Unknown Caller’s first show in May of this year, we’ve been playing a lot of fun gigs at some of my favorite NYC venues. Guitarist Jake Webb and I have also been focusing on expanding our live band. As for recording, a trip across East Asia really inspired me to start writing again, and these two singles are a result. Sayonara and See You Again are sort of two sides of the same coin thematically. As a producer, I felt like I was able to experiment more with my production and expression on these songs.
AM: For first time UC listeners, how would you describe your sound and the genre 'Midnight Pop'?
AL: Midnight pop is dreamy—it’s funky, it’s emotional. My best writing and production often start late into the night, and I think this reflective time comes through in my music.
AM: You mentioned you're inspired by Japanese city pop and the Memphis design movement. Can you tell us a bit about those and how they come through in your work?
AL: City pop is basically popular music of 80’s Japan that pulls from elements of synth-pop, funk and jazz. I first discovered city pop through vaporwave, which typically samples interesting 80’s music, and this often compelled me to explore the source material. I’m taken to such a specific place when listening to city pop, and both singles I released this year have certain sounds inspired by this genre.
For me, visual art is an inherent parallel to music. From a young age, I always found myself drawn to art from the Memphis design movement. I love how it’s so eclectic, yet geometric, and I think these aspects often appear in my music. I was fortunate enough to have my sound visually represented by the artist, Air Geometry, on the two singles I released last year.
AM: What themes do you typically pursue through your music?
AL: I just try to write about what I’m feeling in a way that’s interesting to listen to but still true to how I perceive the world. I’ve definitely gotten much more emotional in what I express through my music as of late. My first EP Columns was still personal but focused more on my thoughts than my emotions.
AM: Where is one place that you feel completely in touch with your creative self and your music?
AL: Transit—especially at night. I work in Chinatown and cross the Williamsburg Bridge going home every evening. When crossing over, there’s a window of time when the Brooklyn skyline is in perfect view. Those few minutes always put me in touch with myself and help me focus creatively. Even when I was growing up in the suburbs, I would listen to demos driving around at night, and my mind would feel so clear.
AM: What other musicians are you currently listening to?
AL: I’m honestly such a fan first. Ever since dipping my toes into A&R a couple years back, I’ve become a huge music nerd and love to learn everything I can about an artist’s backstory and persona, even if I just like one of their songs. I’ve had Sidney Gish’s Sin Triangle on heavy rotation. I’ve also really been into Shawty Pimp, who seems to be an elusive southern hip-hop artist from the 90’s. Video Age, Men I Trust and Sean Nicholas Savage are a few others. Oh, and Yves Tumor’s Noid. So much great music recently.
AM: What will we hear from you in 2019?
AL: We’re kicking off the year opening up for Computer Magic at The Knitting Factory in Brooklyn on January 12th. It’ll be my first time performing with a full live band, and I couldn’t be more psyched. The day after the show, I’ll be locking myself in my studio to continue working on my first full-length.