Updated: Mar 31, 2020
The Bigger Picture (London and Tokyo) — Singular Balance is making waves in the lofi ambient community on Spotify and Soundcloud. And this is just the beginning.
Singular Balance, a Tokyo-based 20-year-old student, has been releasing music under the moniker for around two years. Already he has accumulated hundreds of thousands of streams on several Spotify hits, such as Shine, All I Know, and Fazed, and boasts more than 60,000 monthly listeners on Spotify. He has become known for his ambient tracks, which feature melodic percussion, ethereal guitar loops, and more recently, his own vocals, creating a dreamlike, nostalgic atmosphere. He has collaborated with a plethora of well-known artists such as Middle School, Bonjr, Yutaka Hirasaka, and Thomas Reid, recently remixing a track from Instupendo’s Boys by Girls EP.
The Bigger Picture had the pleasure of conducting an interview with Singular Balance ahead of the release of his new album, Aura, on the 29th of November, which he says is his “true artistic debut”. Read the full transcript below.
The Bigger Picture: When and why did you start to make music?
Singular Balance: I started to mess around trying to make beats in maybe sophomore year of high school, but I never really got too into it. I think in junior year I bought an acoustic guitar from a friend and started to teach myself, using YouTube and chord books. During my first year of university (I moved to Japan for college after graduating from high school in North Carolina), I hurt my knee really badly skateboarding at this park in Yokohama. I couldn’t really run or skate or do anything, and I was so sad. Up to that point, skateboarding was basically all I did, I would spend like 7 hours at the skatepark after school with my friends in North Carolina. I’ve had so many skateboard injuries in the past and they always made me so depressed because I basically did nothing but skate. I decided to buy a looping pedal for my guitar and got a Jazz Chorus amp by Roland, and started to make fun ambient loops in my room. I realised I could record them into Ableton with my interface, so I did that and posted them on Soundcloud. One of my good friends now, Sav, who goes by Palence, found me on Soundcloud and reposted one of my songs and all of his friends found it and followed me. This was like the spark of everything, it was so cool because I really looked up to them and was such a big fan of all of their music. They had this cool collective/group called Fount that I really liked.
I did a lot of guitar only stuff early on with that looping pedal, and that was all super cool. I started combining guitar with other stuff and making more instrumental type of music with drums and stuff. People on Soundcloud and stuff would call them beats, but that’s basically what I’m trying to shift away from now - it doesn’t fulfil me in an artistic sense anymore and I want to develop more as an artist I guess. My new stuff is a shift towards a much more singer-songwriter based sound and that makes me feel so much better.
TBP: Who or what inspires you to make music? Do you have any particular inspirations you draw upon in the music community?
SB: I guess all of my life experiences inspire me to make music. Like all of the feelings, emotions, heartbreaks, etc that I’ve come to feel. The past two years of my life have been so emotional and that’s something I hold a lot of value towards because the feelings I feel; the things I experience; are what shape me to be who I am. All of my music is just me channeling these emotions into a materialistic medium or an output, I guess you could say. It really helps me to be able to do this. With my album Aura, I kind of just channeled all my feelings and emotions about heartbreak through this medium and materialised them I guess.
I definitely have to say that my number one inspiration is one of my best friends Rick who makes music under “Kogane”. I found him on Soundcloud a couple of years ago through my friend Derrick Boo’s likes and was so baffled with his music, it was so sick. I found his twitter and saw he posted a picture of plane tickets to Japan saying he’s living there for a year, so I dm’d him and we started talking. We ended up meeting in Tokyo and he became one of my best friends. His influence on my music is literally so huge and he’s taught me so much, without his influence, my sound wouldn’t be what it is now at all. I would go to his share house in Tokyo every Saturday and he would give me production lessons and teach me so much stuff, it was so sick and I learned so much. He taught me how to properly mix, song structure, and so much more. Something about being around other artists on the same frequency as you makes you realise “oh it’s not just me feeling this”. Even when he wasn’t really teaching my anything, just seeing him make stuff was so awesome and inspired me a lot. Another huge inspiration to me is my friend Eddie, who goes by “Lontalius”. I listen to his music so much, haha. Everything about it is so perfect. Also one of my best friends Sol, who goes by “Nuum” really inspires me and has taught me so much. I also really like Lux Natura and D33J.
TBP: Previously, you have collaborated with musicians like Yutaka Hirasaka, Instupendo, Middle School, Bonjr and Killedmyself. How have these collaborations come about and generally, how does the process of collaborative music unfold?
SB: Just by me making friends! :) The process depends a lot. Yutaka is such a nice guy. He always takes me out to dinner and pays for my food. Whenever I get sad about stuff or get my heart broken, he’s always there for me to talk to. Hahaha.
TBP: I seem to recall that you recently stated on your Twitter than you took a break from your studies to focus on music. If possible please explain the reasons behind this decision.
SB: It’s basically that I just want to pursue music and I’m in no rush to graduate and join some company and work. Especially at the university I go to, so many students aim for those top companies and stuff, and the concept of uniformity/conformity is super strong. A lot of my friends at university have fulfilled their goals of getting into those top companies, but it seems like they’re so miserable after. They run out of free time. I decided I don’t want to go down that path, I’ll feel like a prisoner to society if that happened to me.
"A lot of my friends at university have fulfilled their goals of getting into those top companies, but it seems like they’re so miserable after. They run out of free time. I decided I don’t want to go down that path, I’ll feel like a prisoner to society if that happened to me."
I’m not in a rush to graduate and I realised that my life goals aren’t parallel with what everybody around me at school was aiming for. My hopes and dreams are much more different. That doesn’t mean that one dream is better than another though. A huge thing I noticed in the past couple of years is that there are rarely any people/business men smiling on the train in Tokyo. At least from my experience. So many people have frowns on and that really scared me - I don’t want that and I won’t let that happen to me.
"There are rarely any people/business men smiling on the train in Tokyo. At least from my experience. So many people have frowns on and that really scared me - I don’t want that and I won’t let that happen to me."
It’s so nice to have music friends on the same wavelength as me that I can talk to about things like this (shout out to Rick, Sol, Eddie). They really inspire me so much and help me be unafraid to stand out/go down a different path. Especially Eddie (Lontalius), I’ve talked to him about this type of thing and he’s a big influence to me, seeing what he’s doing with his life really inspires me. Sol (Nuum) also is so inspiring to me. I met him through Kogane. They became friends through Soundcloud and Rick told him he could stay at his place if he came to Japan, and Sol was like “okay” and just saved up money and actually came. Seeing how Nuum isn’t scared to do things like that and move around really inspires me, I tend to be afraid of doing things like that and making big changes. Seeing how Sol isn’t afraid to do things like that helps me see that I can make my life into what I want regardless of what some people say.
TBP: Additionally, on Twitter, you announced that you were planning to delete (and have since deleted) a number of your albums, including Everything and Forget, from your Spotify and Soundcloud profiles in order to "make way for new beginnings". You have also hinted that in Aura you will be making your "true artistic debut". What kind of stylistic shift can we expect?
SB: I just really want to shift away from the beat type of stuff and more towards singer-songwriter based songs. Stuff like that doesn’t artistically satisfy me anymore. I just want to develop as an artist.
TBP: Other than your new album Aura, and your collaboration with Instupendo, what can we expect from Singular Balance in the coming months and years?
SB: Lontalius and I should have a song coming out in early December. We’re both so excited about it. It’s so easy to work with him, I feel like we’re on the same frequency. So sick to work with someone I look up to so much. I work on music so much, I have so much new stuff coming and I really feel like I’m developing as an artist. I just don’t want to dilute my music by releasing things that aren’t my 100%, like in the past. That’s why I’m taking down a lot of old projects.
Special thanks to all of my friends who I’ve made through this - especially Seamus, Derrick, Dawson, Evryn, Brennan, Grant, Jacob, Abi, Ellis, Sam, Garrett, Park, Yutaka, Stu, Daniel, Eddie, Sol, Rick, Ken, Lassi, Sav, Aidan, David, Kantaro, Maxwell, and Shikada.
Singular Balance’s new album, Aura, is set to be released on the 29th of November - it can be pre-saved here. Stream Singular Balance’s music on Spotify, Apple Music, Soundcloud, and Bandcamp, and follow him on Twitter and Instagram.