While R&B has long been a genre obsessed with sexuality, August 08 is charting a decidedly different path. The singer-songwriter born and raised in LA focuses more on the emotional aspect of his relationships, both with women and with himself. On his major-label debut Seasick, he explores the depths of this mental drama on “Towards the Sun,” celebrates Southern California living on “Cutlass,” and addresses detachment on “Co-Star.” It’s equal parts powerful, catchy, and heavy.
With Towards the Sun, the first installment of that two-part album out now—the second, Towards the Moon, is out in June—we called up August 08 in North Carolina, where the impassioned crooner details the role cassettes played in making Seasick, what sends him down a rabbit hole, and his case for making bad decisions.
On Towards the Sun, there are sounds of birds right at the beginning of the title track. Why did you decide to launch the first segment of Seasick with that?
The whole project is like someone sitting on a boat, and my worst fear is to be on a boat. I’m scared of boats, for real. I'm not getting on no boat. When I was a kid, my cousin Greg passed away on a cruise ship. Since then, I’ve been scared of boats. I got on a boat one time and I was on there for like five minutes. Then I was like, “I gotta get the hell off this boat.”
“With this project I wanted to go into my deepest fears emotionally. This is me in that off-the-deep-end moment. This is me going directly into my fears.”
Given your fear of boats, why do you use so much water imagery? It’s not just with the Seasick title, but then also in your videos—“500 Days” for instance.
With this project I wanted to go into my deepest fears emotionally, and I felt like that was the best way to represent that. This is me in that off-the-deep-end moment. This is me going directly into my fears. That's why on the project, before “Keep Me Around,” you hear there's a storm coming. It says, “That’s OK, it can't be worse than what she's done to me.” It’s about everything that's happened in my life that leads me up to this moment—relationships, friends, family, everything. It can't be worse than what she's ever done to me emotionally. That's why I'm willing to sacrifice my whole life and everything to roll with the storm.
At the beginning of “Towards the Sun” you talk about being so deep in your mind that you get nervous. So much of your music is about really dealing with emotions. When you're getting deep like that, why do you get nervous?
It's like taking a test. Every time you're about to take a test, you're nervous as hell even though you've done it a hundred times. You've been doing it since you were in kindergarten. But you still have that flash of nervousness before you jump into anything, especially with emotions. No matter how many times I've had anxiety throughout my life, which is a lot—and been depressed throughout my life, which is a lot—every time it happens, it still feels like the first time it happened. I think that's why I said, “So deep in my mind that I get nervous.” That's also flashes of realistically being like, “Is this the place I want to be? Do I wanna be lost within myself? And how do I get out?”
“Being from somewhere that’s such a congested place like LA, it’s hard to feel like you have a sense of peace and freedom from everything that’s going on in the world. My escape has been the music, and it’s been that since I was young.”
How do you find that escape?
Talking about it in the music is the escape for me. Being from somewhere that's such a congested place like LA, it's hard to feel like you have a sense of peace and freedom from everything that's going on in the world, because you're so tapped into everything that's happening, and to the future, all at once. So my escape has been the music, and it's been that since I was young.
Given the therapeutic nature of it, even if you just write it and you haven't even sung it or performed it yet, do you get a real release from it? Or is it more of, “Oh man, I’ve got to keep going deeper”?
Sometimes I get a real release from it and I feel like I let it all out. Sometimes I don’t. Sometimes it opens up more questions. Sometimes it sends me down a rabbit hole. The first song on the project, “Towards the Sun,” is what took me down the rabbit hole, honestly. That’s how I got the rest of the project. I was in a very, very, very bad situation when I made that song. As I was writing all the parts for it musically, I literally knew when I was making it what I wanted to say. It just came out so easily. That song was written in, like, five minutes. Then I had my boy Barney Bones tap in with me to change certain things. But that chorus is the first thing that came out with the Nirvana-esque string line.
You also have the sound of scrolling through a tape at the beginning of “Towards the Sun.” Why did you incorporate that?
It's just old school, ’80s and ’90s, how kids used to do it back in the day. I'm not that old to even use a tape player, but all the old school albums that I used to listen to when I was in high school, like the Mac Miller stuff, the Frank Ocean stuff, had those tape stops. It just made me feel so much emotion, so when I was working at the Def Jam studios in Santa Monica, there was an intern there and he brought a tape player to the session that had a modulator to make the tape play faster or slower. I was like, “Bro, if you let me use this tape and what you have on here, I’ll give you $60.” So I recorded bird sounds and ocean sounds into it. Then, some of those little flashes of guitar you hear are from him.
“I’ve always been the person who goes against what everybody else feels. If it’s red today, we’re blue today. I’ve always been the kind of person who needs to touch the stove first to see if it’s hot.”
Elsewhere, on “Keep Me Around,” you mention how you “love a bad decision.” I saw you posted that on IG recently as well. When and how did you realize that about yourself?
I’ve known that my whole life. I’ve always been the person who goes against what everybody else feels. If it’s red today, we’re blue today. I’m that person. I’ve always been the kind of person who needs to touch the [stove] first to see if it’s hot.
I come from gangbang culture, so it’s like you’re the meter. No one else can be your meter, to say, “Hey, that’s bad for you.” I have to be the meter for myself because the bad things where I come from are good things.
It’s interesting how being in different environments can dramatically change your perspective on what’s right and wrong. What made you go to North Carolina?
I’m out here visiting my girl’s family with my girl. I’ll be coming out here to find my peace sometimes before I tap in in the city. FL