Soft Vein Speaks About His Upcoming Debut Album Pressed In Glass
Justin Chamberlain on balancing darkness and romanticism, his love for 70s and 80s horror, and how the live testing of tracks contributed to the evolution of his sound.
Soft Vein, the project of California-based musician Justin Chamberlain, started out in late 2022 and has so far released a collection of singles that draw from a diverse range of influences, encompassing cold wave, industrial, and modern darkwave. His upcoming debut album, Pressed In Glass, gets its finishing touch and lush polished sound thanks to the mixing and mastering skills of Ewan Alastair Kay, known for his work with acts like Kontravoid and Zanias. Before the official album release on October 20th via Artoffact Records, he told us about his creative process, his biggest influences, and his approach to album aesthetics.
Being your first album, have you been searching for a specific sound or was this more of a process of seeing how things developed?
Well, I’ve been working on this album since around 2020, and it’s been quite an organic process. It’s been a bit like a musical mix-and-match game, drawing inspiration from artists I admire. Sometimes, I’ll borrow elements like drum patterns or synth lines and put my own twist on them, blending them with new ideas. I always aim to let the music develop naturally, so if a simple drumbeat resonates with me and fits the vibe, I keep it. For me, it’s all about capturing that authentic, emotive essence in the music.
As the sole creative mind behind your music, how did the experience of collaborating with a mixing and mastering engineer in the studio alter your perspective on your own work?
Working with an engineer actually struck the perfect balance for me. I could handle tasks independently while also engaging in collaborative efforts. With a background in sound engineering, I initially noticed that studio work could easily consume a lot of time, especially when obsessing over a single snare or drum sound. Therefore, partnering with Ewan Alastair Kay as my engineer enabled me to concentrate solely on the music and the creative process, making the workflow smoother and more efficient.
Since your debut single “Giveuptheghost” in 2022, you’ve been wowing fans with unreleased material. Do you feel your sound has changed at all between your earlier and later work?
I’ve noticed a definite evolution in my sound throughout this journey. What played a pivotal role in this transformation was the live testing of my tracks during shows. There were instances where I’d expect a track to get the crowd dancing, but it wouldn’t – and vice versa. This constant feedback loop allowed me to make adjustments not only from month to month but also from one show to the next.
“There were instances where I’d expect a track to get the crowd dancing, but it wouldn’t – and vice versa.”
Working alongside Ewan proved to be immensely helpful because it liberated me from the technical aspects, allowing me to work more organically. This freedom enabled me to send him a track, declaring it as complete and ready for engineering, only to send a completely different version a few weeks later, saying, “Can we work on this one instead?” Ewan gracefully accommodated this fluid approach, contributing to the collaborative process.
Your single “Bloodletting” has a real balance of dark and light, and I really noticed how you balance darkness and romanticism in the same song. How do you choose sounds in order to do this?
Lyrically, it delves deep into what some might term the essence of the human experience. It explores the intricacies of love, its profound impact on our actions and emotions, and how it shapes our relationships, both with ourselves and others. The narrative encompasses the rollercoaster ride of being in love, with its highs and lows, and the dual nature of the desire to hold onto someone indefinitely, revealing both its beautiful and challenging facets.
Even the choice of the name “Soft Vein” reflects this theme. I aimed for a name that would evoke visceral imagery and a sense of embodiment while maintaining a soft and romantic undertone, striking a harmonious balance between these contrasting elements.
There’s intensity, intimacy, and romanticism in your music. Do you have any lyrical influences besides other artists, such as books or films?
I’m glad you asked that because it ties into my early exposure to influential elements through my older sibling. From a young age, he introduced me to a treasure trove of 70s and 80s horror, X-Files, and other captivating content that left a profound impression on me. One of my paramount influences is John Carpenter, although it’s not a deliberate choice. Instead, it manifests organically when I select synth or drum sounds. Upon later reflection, I often realize that a particular sound resembles something you might hear in a John Carpenter soundtrack, illustrating the depth of his influence on me.
“One of my paramount influences is John Carpenter.”
There are also literary influences, such as Kafka, although I don’t insist that everyone must recognize these references. Personally, I believe that lyrics should resonate with my own experiences, yet when you listen to them, I aim for them to evoke a sense of personal connection for you as well. It’s a delicate balance where the lyrics maintain a degree of universality, enabling listeners to relate, while also carrying a unique significance for each individual.
How do you generate ideas for aesthetics and your album covers? Do you do your own photography?
Yes indeed, all the album covers so far feature my own photography, with one notable exception on the horizon. The genesis of this unique collaboration stemmed from an encounter on Instagram. I stumbled upon the work of a talented artist, who had created a captivating piece named “Teeth” – a title that resonated with my track “Perfect Teeth”. So I decided to reach out and they thankfully allowed me to use it. My hope is that this visual creation moves people and makes them feel something in the same way as the music does.
Lastly, is there an overall concept behind the new album, or is it a snapshot of how you’ve been working?
The title, Pressed In Glass, encapsulates the complex dynamics I discussed earlier in the context of relationships. It symbolizes the desire to keep someone close and never let go, while also recognizing the dual nature of such closeness, which can bring both joy and challenges. In a way, this album serves as a personal time capsule, capturing not only moments and emotions but also the evolution of oneself.
It’s a reflection of preservation, acknowledging that as I venture into the studio for future recordings, I’ll be a different person crafting new songs. Therefore, Pressed In Glass represents both a snapshot of time and a poignant testament to the inevitability of change.
Pressed In Glass is currently available for pre-order on Bandcamp, before being officially released on October 20th via Artoffact Records.
Soft Vein (US)
Featured Image by Alejandro Lomeli