Approaching digital duality: Huron John talks process for upcoming music releases

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Huron John writes music about the internet — it’s what he knows. 

“(The internet) goes beyond inspiration, because it’s the environment that we’re in. It looks us straight in the face every day, and we look it back straight in the face. It’s the landscape we’re living in at this point,” said John Conradi, the artist behind Huron John, in an interview with The Daily Californian. 

Akin to Plato’s allegory of the cave, which Conradi alluded to at one point, the internet has been the starting point and future projection for his lyrics. Conradi’s discography, especially his first album Apocalypse Wow, is flush with a mix of tongue-in-cheek quips and darker commentary about the dependency provoked by the digital dialogue between consumer and computer.

As he prepares for the drop of his new single, “Arthur,” which will hit major streaming platforms Feb. 10, Conradi spoke to how his upcoming sophomore album signifies an even greater departure from his previous style. While Conradi witnessed great traction with his initial hit singles “Friendzone” and “Yoko,” he communicated his discontent with being tied to the bedroom pop genre, and greater culture. 

“I made those songs when I was 18, 19 years old, and then now being 21, it’s just sort of different, I think it’s the natural progression,” Conradi said. “I think leaving that term (bedroom pop) in the past is just a good thing for a lot of artists out there because a lot of people are going beyond that scope.” 

Even though the sound of Huron John is evolving, Conradi still wants to stay authentic to his origins. 

“I still try to stick to my roots and try to stick to those foundational aspects and foundational quirks that brought people to me in the first place,” Conradi said. 

One thing that Conradi will be bringing with him to his next album, Cartoon Therapy, is the zany narrative that flowed throughout Apocalypse Wow — the story of a boy named Andy who attempts to save Earth from giant robots from space. Or something like that.

“I wanted to conclude the Andy story because I wanted this new album to be closing a door on this first era of all my work, this more introductory kind of goofy bedroom pop phase going into some darker stuff, like with Apocalypse Wow,” Conradi said. 

For Conradi, Cartoon Therapy was born among chaos in hopes of bringing closure. The material Conradi originally conceptualized was a Daft Punk-inspired dance mix, but when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in spring 2020, Conradi lost touch with the tracks amid a harshly contrasting climate to his upbeat lyrics. 

“I just hit a brick wall,” Conradi said. “I basically stopped making music until early August, when I moved back down to Nashville for school, and then I wanted to make music again.” 

Cartoon Therapy came together in a few short months, and “Arthur” is set to be the grand introduction to Conradi’s genre-bending experimental second album, which he describes as something that “goes beyond” his previous work, both visually and musically. 

The inspiration for “Arthur” came to Conradi through the iconic scene of Joaquin Phoenix from “Joker,” in which Phoenix’s Arthur Fleck prances his way down a shadowed staircase in an alleyway, his bright primary-colored suit offsetting the anger in his steps and the bombastic backing music. 

“I wanted to capture that funky and confident (feeling),” Conradi said. “It’s this really thick two-step kick, snare kind of beat with a heavy, sludgy synth bass, but contrasted with this bright and sunny guitar chords, and a pretty catchy hook.”

Along with “Arthur” and Cartoon Therapy, Conradi has other irons in the fire — he is developing a double LP, an accompanying magazine and his own independent creative label. Perhaps this is because the internet, to Conradi, stands as a double-edged sword: an expansive archive of content that has the danger of dissipating into a series of zeros and ones. The fragility of connectivity has created an archive fever in Conradi. 

“I kind of have this frantic feeling inside of me. One day, there won’t be Spotify, and music streaming on the internet will be completely different,” Conradi said. “I really am so excited to get the vinyl out there and in people’s hands, because that will immortalize the projects forever.”

One of Conradi’s silver linings to cyber connectivity is found community. Conradi often holds Discord channels to chat to his listener base, and held one last week in preparation for the “Arthur” drop. 

“I want to be interactive, and have this community for people to join and make it feel like a much more immersive experience,” Conradi said. “I want them to feel like I’m having the same experiences as them.”

Contact Francesca Hodges at [email protected]. Tweet her at @fh0dges.