After spending 2020 locked away in his creative space, Saint Idiot (Tomáš Andel) emerges from the incense smoke and potted plants with a new single, “Bubblewrap.” We met this Edmonton-based musician in the first virtual offering of our Artist Entrepreneur program last summer. To celebrate his latest release, we caught up (virtually) to talk about creating in quarantine, personal growth and what to expect next.
Q: “BUBBLEWRAP” IS DESCRIBED AS A “SONG ABOUT HEALTHY ANGER, AND TRUST,” DOES THIS REPRESENT A PARTICULAR TIME IN YOUR LIFE?
Totally. I used to think I’m not an angry person for a lot of my life, as in, I didn’t express anger in outbursts or aggression, but instead, in this frozen, low-key anxiety that I wasn’t even aware was there; slow poison. I read “Anger: Wisdom for Cooling the Flames” by the Buddhist monk Thích Nhất Hạnh (it peered up at me from a thrift book store shelf at a totally synchronous moment), and it floored me to realize that it’s not that I didn’t get angry, I just wasn’t acknowledging or working with my anger. At the risk of sounding dramatic, this realization completely changed my life, and I’ve been incomparably happier since I decided to let anger into my life to work with it.
Anger is also a form of trust. You have to really trust the other person to see you, hear you, and consider whatever issue you’re raising, otherwise it just becomes either a volatile explosion of bad energy that doesn’t help anyone or do anything, or this hidden-away festering wound. So how you broach your anger is a real test of character and a real test of boundaries. It’s OK to get angry, it’s unavoidable—what we do with that anger matters more.
Q: HOW DID 2020 CHANGE YOUR OUTLOOK AS A MUSICIAN? AND IF IT DID, HOW IS THAT REFLECTED IN YOUR MUSIC?
For me 2020 was about slowing down, indulging in being a little idealistic for the sake of creativity, and taking time to imagine a more harmonious world—especially since it seems like the popular imagination is so fascinated with dystopias lately. A huge component of my album (Alternate Utopias from a Nostalgic Future) was world-making. I think when it’s all out, it’ll be worth it to lie down with it and listen on headphones, because a lot of it was deliberately crafted to transport you.
I’m already at my happiest when I’m spending endless nights shaping sounds in the studio. I love experimenting with colors, texture, and space, which has always been my favorite part of making music.
I do like playing live, but given that it’s still unclear when we’ll be able to do that again, I’ve actually been more than happy to double-down on going deeper into being a “studio first” musician.
Q: TELL US ABOUT SOME OF THE CREATIVES INVOLVED WITH YOUR PROJECT
My friend Doug Parth from The Den and With Dogs helped dial in the orchestral arrangements, and it was then mixed and iterated by Hill Kourkoutis, who added additional production, and carved this gorgeous lifeline through what was probably more of an enthusiastic muddle at that point. Kristian Montano breathed the final magic into it—his masters really deepened all the musical space.
All along though, I’ve had so much help from everyone around me. Kelsey McMillan, who has done my photos also helped me workshop lyrics, and has often weighed in on the music and the art direction, as has my friend Holly Pickering aka sodium light. Working on my roommate Anthony Goertz’s documentary really humbled me and inspired a lot of the directions I went exploring after, plus he’s a wonderful, bright mind to bounce ideas off of. A very, very cool Twitter-famous visual artist did the album artwork (the only non-Canadian involved), but I wanna save that for later!
I share my work in progress songs all the time, so I really see the final thing as an accomplishment shared with a pretty huge group of pals. I feel pretty lucky to be surrounded by so many wonderful, receptive people.