Five years ago, in the fall of 2012, I found myself in one of the practice rooms in the music department at Morehouse College. A friend and I were practicing for a gig. He had mentioned that he met a piano player, a freshman, and he would be stopping by to jam. A few minuets later, in walks Tim, a tall, skinny, 18-year old from Chicago. We shook hands, introduced ourselves and got to the music. Later on we talked about our love for Robert Glasper, Kanye West, Hip-Hop, playing in church and more. It was evident Tim’s ear for music was unique, and uncompromising. A a gifted poet and writer, you could also tell he thought about music, and storytelling, in a multi-layered fashion.
Five years later, and Maxey has released his debut album, Baeland a production album, that relies on a variety of techniques: vocal sampling, handcrafted synthesizers, and sound. While much of music has become dominated by singles, Maxey has opted to tell a larger story over the course of the album. I caught up with Tim to talk about his album, the commodification of music, overcoming fears, and much more. Here's our conversation:
Stanley: First off, congrats on releasing the album! It’s really good, and I enjoyed listening to it! What was your creative process like while making Baeland? How long did it take you to complete the album?
Tim: Thanks man. I’d say it took me 23 years to make it. I look at my work as a culmination of all my experiences. Logistically, though I’d say a few months. The process consisted of just meeting my own standard, and not considering what other people wanted to hear, as much as the type of music I genuinely like to hear. I also wanted to reference a lot of my influences and for artists that I wish to work with in the near future.
Stanley: The album is listed as “alternative” on Apple Music, but I’m sure it’s broader than that. How would you describe your sound?
Tim: Alternative is more of cultural statement. There isn’t one particular genre category that defines the entire project. Alternative is my way of saying it’s different than any other body of work that exist. I would describe my sound as sort of setting the atmosphere. People have said I create "worlds" and "settings'.
That was part of the reason why I called it Baeland as well. Regardless of the relationship/situationship its a whole vibe. There's different styles on the LP and I felt it unfair from one to the next to say they were all R&B/Soul or Hip Hop. If anything, they're sub genres. Alternative just seemed the most fitting of the iTunes, Spotify, Tidal etc. options. If I could customize it though I would call it Sub-Pop or something.
Stanley: Sub-Pop, I like that, it’s an interesting take on the fluidity of genres, and the social construction of sound. The instrumentation on the album, is this all you?
Tim: Yeah, every synth, piano, guitar and bass line. Some sounds I hand designed myself. You get bored using the same sounds other producers use, so I created my own sound palette. Songs like Ludes, Bloom…, and Grey Land, have some of these synths from my library.
Stanley: Wow, that's incredible, man. Seeing/hearing you grow as a musician - on instruments other than the piano - and as a producer is inspiring. And the level of depth makes me appreciate album more, too!
Tim: Thanks man that means a lot. We’ve known each other for some time now so I can really appreciate that.
She was comparing Nicki Minaj getting butt enhancements and her daughter being ashamed...
Stanley: You did this really cool thing using voicemails/film clips, which gives the album a cinematic feel. What was the inspiration behind using audio clips?
Tim: Tribe Albums, Kanye albums etc. larger than that though, it’s an audio experience to a silent film I’m working on. The audio in the beginning and on the second to last are from an Uber driver one of my friend's had. She was comparing Nicki Minaj getting butt enhancements and her daughter being ashamed because she herself had a big butt. Not sure if they relate but it provides some comic relief and tied the album like a shoe string. I think that's important when designing anything. Repetition and having a niche. I probably won't do it the same exact way with the vocal samples on the next project, but there will be something that you can take away and say "hey, that's from the such n such album".
Stanley: Wow, an Uber driver? That’s perfect lol. There’re so many interesting layers to the album that make it appealing to me - it’s rebellious against standards of sound and beauty, it’s an ode your influences, it’s cinematic, and so many other things.
Stanley: On “Woman" you use this really interesting clip of a woman talking about the science behind pop/popular music, which talks about why we like certain songs. What were you trying to convey with that clip?
Tim: The song is titled Woman, and there's an audio clip about commercial viability in music. I think they go hand-in-hand. She's describing commercial beauty, one of the largest social constructs we've placed on women in particular. It’s the reason why I put a barcode on the front. The album kinda rebels against current commercial appeal. I understand how to make “hits” but I rather experiment with hits than make similar vibes to stuff that exists.
...I created something to represent me overcoming those fears. The fears of not being "commercially beautiful" is something my music and women, in our societal context, share.
Stanley: The cover art is interesting, conceptually. The bar code, the woman upside down, the color schemes. What was the inspiration behind the album cover?
Tim: Economically, music has devalued over the past couple of years because of streaming. This kind of discouraged my creativity at one point. So instead of giving up, I created something to represent me overcoming those fears. The fears of not being "commercially beautiful" is something my music and women, in our societal context, share. As far as the girl being upside down, I thought it matched the unconventional style of the project. And plus it just looks cooler to me that way.
Stanley: What do you want listeners to take away from your Baeland?
Tim: Nothing in particular. I just want them to feel a wave of emotions. It can mean different things for different people. If anything I would like for them to continue with me as I grow as a composer.