Ryan Hemsworth Breaks Down His Collaborative Debut as Quarter-Life Crisis
The EP featuring members of Hand Habits, Hop Along, and Hovvdy is out today via Saddle Creek.
It’s almost the year 2021, and I don’t think I’ve heard that take about “artists who just push buttons aren’t real musicians” since dubstep fell off the face of the earth. But history, as we know, will repeat, and when it does, Ryan Hemsworth will have Quarter-Life Crisis to point to should anyone give him a hard time about his wide-ranging production work, covering everything electronic from cloud rap to EDM. Employing the ambitious moniker—which suggests the songwriter will live to see his 120th birthday—Hemsworth has enlisted the cream of indie rock’s crop to contribute vocals to a, yeah, pretty Ryan-Hemsworth-y soundscape featuring the occasional “blazing guitar riffs.”
At just six tracks, QLC’s self-titled debut is a listening experience tightly hewn to Hemsworth’s vision while tapping delegates from emo (Hop Along’s Frances Quinlan), indie folk (Hand Habits’ Meg Duffy), and disparate corners of bedroom pop (Yohuna and Charlie Martin of Hovvdy) to experiment outside their comfort zones. Hinting at a future for the moniker rooted in memories from high school of ripping off Grandaddy and RHCP’s prodigal guitarist John Frusciante, Hemsworth gives us a more detailed concept of the project in the track-by-track breakdown of the rock-infused project below.
I don’t know how this one came together so quickly. Getting through the first barrier of trust when you’re meeting someone, working with them—no two experiences are the same really. But I think Charlie already kind of knew of me, I didn’t need to explain myself or the idea too much. I believe he was in between shows at the time, and this instrumental I sent him was about 10 BPM slower and had a lot less production value, but he wrote and recorded to it in, like, a few days pretty much. Then I got it back and messed with it for a while. It’s just a lot of twelve-string guitar and stock Logic drum sounds. I was really happy with how this all came out.
2. “Comfortable” (feat. Hand Habits)
I was in LA for a week, and a publishing company set me up with a handful of people. But there was luckily enough time in Meg Duffy’s schedule to meet for a few hours at a studio (which I think Flume/his label owns? Weird connection). This was again one of those times where you meet for the first time ever in a studio. Meg mentioned the day before they’d been to…I’m forgetting exactly what it was now, like a play or live performance of some sort, and had a pamphlet from that which they sort of used for inspiration on the lyrics of “Comfortable.” Our initial conversation was basically Meg saying they wanted to sound like Travis Scott. Really the last thing I was expecting to hear, but it was perfect motivation.
3. “Postcard from Spain” (feat. Frances Quinlan)
I’ve been a huge Hop Along fan, and we coincidently had been working with the same engineer, Ryan Schwabe, for years. So I was really lucky to have him make the connection—there’s no one more trusted in this process than the engineer. I still haven’t met Frances in person, unfortunately, so this was done all remotely. The instrumental I sent her originally was pretty different, but she used the arrangement to write to (quickly, again) and from there we did a lot of back and forth, I really wanted her to be 100 percent happy with the song. Both Meg and Frances said that they hadn’t worked in this way before, so I really didn’t want to make it a bad experience for them. But Frances was so open to my ideas, it actually gave me a little confidence boost I think I needed.
4. “You and Me” (feat. Claud)
Claud is such an amazing all-around musician. I started by just sending them a full demo, just acoustic guitar, which they then stripped down even more. I really love working with people that are hands-on with the production. I’m not trying to be the overlord of the song’s production, it needs to be a balance. Claud had such a clear vision for this, and after I got their part back I wanted to just add a million layers of drums and synths, but realized it really was just a beautiful lil’ acoustic song.
I used to try and make songs like this all the time in high school, back then ripping off John Frusciante and Grandaddy blatantly (and not well). So I was just trying to get back into that headspace, and I think this one probably will inform where this project goes in the future. That’s my friend Jon (a.k.a. Swim Good Now) on the voice memo vocals in the second half. Drums are a chopped up sample from Alex of Badbadnotgood. The blazing guitar riffs by your boy.
6. “Stars” (feat. Yohuna)
Yohuna is so so good, and I really love this song. I wanted it to be like a lazy, sludgy lullaby. Again, lots of scratchy voice memo samples. This was one that I really didn’t need to give, like, any direction for. Yohuna nailed it quick and sent me back a million vocal tracks to play with. It was really fun to mix—trying to keep it sludgy but clean-ish and space-y was a fun challenge. Stock drum machine sounds plus rough guitar plus Yohuna’s vocals makes me happy.