Who: Owl City, the solo electro-pop project of Minnesotan daydreamer Adam Young began three years ago, when he began recording warm, shimmering tunes in his parents’ basement in off-hours from his job at a soda warehouse. His songs quickly became a MySpace phenomenon and his devoted online following helped Owl City score a deal with Universal Republic Records, who released Young’s major label debut, Ocean Eyes.
Sounds Like: Owl City’s sound is often compared to the Postal Service thanks to his combination of hushed, lovelorn vocals and chirping synthesizers (and Young’s uncanny vocal similarity to Ben Gibbard). But for Young, Owl City owes its sound to a combination of extremes, describing his music as a mix of the pure pop of Taylor Swift and the lush ambient techno of the German electronic label Kompakt. According to Young, “There’s something about that kind of electronic music or that kind of pop that allows me to mix melody and melancholy.”
• As with lots of escapist art, Owl City’s music was dreamed up in the most mundane of settings. “About two years ago I was working at a Coca-Cola warehouse all day,” Young says, adding that he worked with nice people, but the tedium of loading trucks led his mind to wander. “It allowed me to sort of dream up these projects. One wound up being Owl City. I thought through how I wanted it to sound, how I wanted the records to look, everything. Sometimes working in a monotonous environment can really free up your imagination.”
• While Ocean Eyes is rife with aquatic imagery and a sense of adventure, it was recorded in the total seclusion of a windowless basement. For Young, the two are related. “A lot of it has to do with me being by myself while creating it; no producers, no engineers. And that approach allows me to think more freely, I think.” While recording alone in a basement might not sound like the most inspirational of settings, Young used simple decorations to inspire his creativity. “I have a lot of landscape paintings to look at; lots of ethereal, dreamy nature photography. Having that stuff around really creeps in subconsciously to impact the music.”
• While Young owes Owl City’s early success largely to MySpace, he never thought of it as an Internet-only project. Despite the fact that individual songs like “Hello Seattle” have racked up over 6 million plays, for Young, it was one part of a whole. “I never wanted to let the platform limit me. I was always thinking about songs coming together as an album, and eventually having actual physical distribution, rather than just MP3s online. I think the connection you can make with people over the internet is pretty unique and spectacular, but I also think it’s a means to an end; you still want people to be able to hold your music, and you want them to be able to see you play.”
Get It Now: Watch the video for Owl City’s “Fireflies” above. Ocean Eyes is out now.