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Slidin’ Thru: Wicca Phase Springs Eternal

Wicca Phase Springs Eternal is here to make sure his music is heard in the most authentic way. Putting on the subgenre of “emo trap,” the singer-songwriter paved the way for the rise and reign of Lil Peep. Hailing from Pennsylvania where he most often records, real name Adam McIlwee is the founder of the GothBoiClique, recalling the early days when Peep had just joined the collective, singing background harmonies to everyone’s songs on stage. Read more…

Contrary to what people may think, Adam actually doesn’t do drugs. His music touches on real life emotions, thoughts, and feelings, all the things we all go through on a daily basis. Just earlier this month, he enlisted Clams Casino for his Spider Web EP, preparing fans for the release his Wicca debut, Suffer On, on February 15th.

Why the name Wicca Phase Springs Eternal?
I didn’t really choose it. I used to be friends with all these Tumblr people and one of them was an artist. I had these early demos and she was super creative. I emailed her like “what do I call this project?” She just said “Wicca Phase Springs Eternal,” and that was it. That was her email. I’m like “that’s perfect.” It’s a dark name, but it kind of fits the mood and branding of the project. No one else has it.

Where do you fit in the realm of R&B, trap, and hip-hop?
It’s just normal singer-songwriter type stuff, but over trap beats. I like really any electronic sounds but with trap music. I like the fast and hard 808s, and the fast high hats. It’s kind of punk, that was always the music that I was into. If no one has any idea what I sound like, I say I sing over trap beats and that works. I tell them I’m just an underground Post Malone or something. [laughs] Even though I’m not, of course.

You’re from Pennsylvania, how does that play into your life and career?
Well it keeps me isolated largely. Everyone I work with is mostly LA or New York based. In Pennsylvania, I can keep to myself and stay focused on how I want my project to sound and keep the same themes, and not get caught up in the social aspects of music and being an artist. It keeps me focused and grounded. It’s not that exciting there. It’s boring, but I kind of like that.

How important is it to come to LA as an up and coming artist?
It’s super important. I didn’t think it would be until the first time I came out here in 2015. It was the first good show I played. There’s so many people here interested in different scenes. Even if there’s 100 people that are into my music here, it creates a good environment. You can explore any scene you want to, everyone passes through LA. There’s so many creative people here so you can find people you fit in with, which is what I did.

You just meet so many people that are into different things, run brands, make music, etc. There’s no shortage of creative people. In Pennsylvania, there is. It helps to be around those people, and stay energized and motivated.

What keeps you there?
Having a place to myself where I’m isolated. I like coming to LA for a week at a time and then going back home. It’s more manageable. I’m a pretty anxious person in general, and big cities don’t do it for me really. I just get stressed out, so it’s that aspect of familiarity. I have less friends there, so I have my routines there. That’s so important to me.

What’s the dynamic in the studio with Clams Casino? How did you guys link?
When I first started getting into this kind of music, he was one of the producers that stood out. Was just obviously so talented at creating airy landscapes, dark moods and textures with his music, so that’s what I gravitated towards. I wanted to make music like that. I didn’t meet him until recently. I was a huge fan of his from Lil B and A$AP Rocky, their use of his beats were super influential.

I met him through Fish Narc, who co-produced that EP with him. He’s in GothBoiClique, they had been working together. They’re both based out of New Jersey, but I jumped on it. Fish Narc sent me a beat they did, and mentioned they recorded a bunch of other ones. I said he should send me those other ones. I was super excited and it came together quick. He’s super easy to work with. He’s mature, smart, and doesn’t waste time. That’s how I like to do stuff too, so I love him for that. I’ve FaceTimed him twice and we text sometimes. It’s still pretty early in the relationship.

So it was done online?
We were really just FaceTiming a bunch. He would send me beats and we would talk about it. I record everything from home ‘cause it’s cheap to live in Pennsylvania. I have a studio in my basement. I was just locked in there, pacing back and forth listening to new songs and trying to do them justice. It’s a big opportunity of course, and a dream. I didn’t think I’d be working with him for another 10 years, so I was trying to be super serious and focused with it. He was really supportive and smart. I would send him bad songs, and he would make corrections and rework the beats around it. It was very productive.

You recently released “Just One Thing.” Talk about your mindstate in creating this one.
Dark and heavy. That whole album is depressing. [chuckles] It’s 10 songs. I had 4 written for a while, and had to write 6 or 7 others. “Just One Thing” was one of the last ones. There was just a 2-week period where I was just writing for 12 hours a day every day, trying to come up with new stuff. Really locked into a heavy, emotional mindset. Isolated pretty much, in my basement for way too many hours a day. You kind of start to go crazy. That comes through. The high hats in that song are anxiety-producing. I also just wanted a fast song. I wanted a fast, dark, heavy song that was super simple. It worked, I think.

You say “it’s so hard to make out, when my head isn’t on right.” Talk about how music has been a form of therapy for you.
It’s easy. Going back to being isolated, I have a close group of friends at home but I’m usually not trying to weigh them down with heavy conversation. [laughs] Music is the easiest way to let that out. It helps when people relate to it, you get feedback that other people are feeling the same way. You realize “alright I’m onto something here, these are feelings that other people have.” There’s therapy in that. There’s a reward from hearing not only positive, but reassuring feedback that you’re not the only person.

What can we expect from Suffer On coming in February?
It’s incredible. Very depressing. Once it was finally recorded, I listened to it of course a million times over. I just kept thinking “man, this is way more depressing than I anticipated.” At the same time, there’s a lot of fast songs on it that still translate well live. People can enjoy them without being weighed down. ‘Cause you go to a concert, you don’t want to be standing there depressed right? You want to be drawn in, and this album does that.

It’s also the first album that I wrote from scratch before getting beats from people. I wrote the whole thing on guitar and keyboard, then sent them to DØVES who produced it. He’s my favorite. I would record everything to a click track, and he would do the beat under it. His production’s awesome. He’s underrated, but he also doesn’t do that much. For the first time, you get a solid chunk of his music and my lyrics on top of it. If you like his music, you’ll like this album. There’s some pretty heavy songs too. A lot of guitar, more on this album than I’ve ever done. It’s all acoustic guitar that I tracked myself. No features or anything like that, it’s self contained. Very heavy.

I was watching the video for “In Providence.” Talk about what goes behind your visuals.
I hate shooting visuals so much. I hate it. Normally, they all seem fake to me. The only videos that don’t seem fake are Lil B videos, where it’s very obvious that he’s being filmed. He doesn’t try to hide the fact that he’s being filmed, so I like that aspect. Otherwise, I try to keep some mystery about myself, which is hard to do because it’s just you in front of the camera. But I try and create an atmosphere that suits the brand: dark, moody, foggy. As much of that as possible. That’s where using VHS cameras come into play. It’s kind of overplayed but at the same time, it’s a cool aesthetic. A cool way to try and create a barrier between just watching someone being filmed.

What is it you want fans to get from your story?
I try and think about this project as not being defined by the rap influences that are behind it. I’ve done some acoustic stuff. I’ll probably do a full band album at some point. It’s hard to be taken seriously in this scene. Someone might take me as a SoundCloud rapper or an emo rapper right? When you think about great emo singers, they’re not really considered in the same thing as great songwriters like Bob Dylan or Leonard Cohen. I’d like to show that you can make cool moody music, music that young people can identify with, with the same seriousness traditional songwriters have brought to their music.

It doesn’t have to be about jumping on trends. You can just use the backbone of trap or punk music to create really powerful narratives. I hope people think that I’m able to do that. I don’t know if I’m there yet, but hopefully it’ll be regarded in the same way as great songwriters. Like Kanye doesn’t want to be called a rapper, he just wants to be called an artist or Ye. I totally identify with that: just remove any kind of preconceived notion of the genre. Look at this project as an art project and take away what you will. People might think I’m Lil Pump if you just hear a description of my music, but there’s more to it than that. No diss to Lil Pump because he’s great at what he does.

What are some goals yourself as an artist at this point of your career?
A Lil B collab was the biggest thing that I wanted. That happened this year so now I’m kind of stuck. That was the highest thing on my bucket list. I’d like to collaborate with other artists who are outside of the genre. There’s a girl named Nicole Dollanganger I’m working on a song with, she’s super good. I’d like to do more stuff with traditional songwriter types, but bring them in and have the undertones of this world in the song. I’d like to do more visual stuff, videos that are accurately depicting what I’m trying to do with my music. I want to do more with GothBoiClique too. We’re going to record another album. It’s just a matter of getting everyone on the same page, but I think we’re there now. That’s the plan.

What did you do with your first check/advance?
I put it in a savings account. I didn’t spend any of it. I invested it. [laughs] Because I had money. I used to work a real job up until January of this year, so I had money saved and just used that. The merch money and money I saved paid for my first album. I just gave the advance to my finance people and told them to hold on to it. It’s the most boring answer. I didn’t buy a chain, a cool outfit, a car. I didn’t buy my mom anything.

How important is social media for your career?
Super important. This whole thing started with Tumblr and Twitter early on. It helps develop the brands and the aesthetic of the project aside from the music. It’s just a good way to let people know you’re still alive and working on stuff. I wish I could be one of those artists that doesn’t ever post, or posts once every 3 months and gets a huge reaction. At the same time, people want more, so it doesn’t hurt.

3 things you need in the studio?
No one can be around. It’s easier by myself. A ton of water (this is so boring). Complete isolation and a hard deadline, like I have 20 minutes to record this. I need that or else nothing will get done.

What would you be doing if you weren’t doing music?
Oh my god. Well I used to do social media for corporate companies. I was blogging and other digital marketing things. I’d probably be doing that because I like it.

Favorite song to perform in a set?
“High Strangeness” is a good one. I like performing that because most of my songs are dark and pretty heavy, and that one is super upbeat. It’s kind of a relief to play, it lightens the mood. “Just One Thing” has been good. I’ve been playing that recently. It’s so fast and that bass is so heavy. The high hats are so fast, so it’s hard for people not to react to that.

What’s the best encounter you had with a fan?
I had a fan in England see me after a show. I was going into a club. It was Halloween this past year, and a fan asked me for $20 for the cover of the club. That was pretty good, just asking me for money. Someone gave me roses the other night. The show was kind of bumming me out. There was a lot of people there but the crowd was just kind of stoic. Then someone gave me a bouquet of flowers, that was totally uplifting. I felt good about that.

Who’s the most played artist on your phone?
Grouper. She’s probably my most played. Or Kanye. One of those two.

What’s your advice for an aspiring Adam?
Just write as much as you can, and try to define what you want to sound like. Don’t just find people that you want to sound like, but identify what you’re trying to get across in your music and what you want people to know you for. Then just keep writing until people start to pay attention.

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