War of Art
An interview with Boaz Roberts
San Diego raised musician Boaz Roberts talks to Profet's Chief Ideologue Filip Lindström about beating the Resistence, criticism and his newest project Sun Sic. As an exclusive feature, Boaz also puts together a playlist of favorite tracks for Profet.
Boaz Roberts and I know each other through our mutual friend Adam Odelfelt, a Swedish musician also known as TVc, whom I interviewed in the two pieces »Stöldens Vassa Tänder« (»The Sharp Teeth of Theft«) and »Porträtt För Dem Vi Porträtterar« (»Portraits For The Ones We Portray«). Adam and Boaz met in Patagonia (an extreme sports clothing store in Los Angeles, not to be confused with the shame worthy meat lover’s restaurant in Stockholm) and came together over a shared interest for synthesizers. Boaz has a long running relationship with Patagonia, from working retail to writing music for their commercials. Raised in San Diego, where one of the Patagonia stores is located, he is almost religiously devoted to the surfing culture. Alongside music, the surfing is what has built and does build him as a person. In music, he has gone through as many monikers and projects as other artists do in a lifetime. The one he’s using at the moment is Sun Sic, a name under which he recently released the songs »Coward« and »Pink« .
When I listen to or in any way experience music, I need something quite spectacular to get me going, probably because I’ve heard too much of the ordinary and require something out of it to even raise an eyebrow. It’s usually a fairly painful existence, being indifferent to most things getting thrown at you, but that’s the cost of exquisite taste. The reward of this cursed musical nirvana is the excitement that arises when something interesting finally passes my way. I get the feeling, based on no other proof than a hunch, that Boaz Roberts has equal requirements on quality in his consumption of music.
- You have studied music and composition, and I assume that you have listened to a vast amount of music in your days. Would you say that you are hard to amuse when it comes to music?
- I would say that I’m not easily impressed but I’m highly excited about music. I often just listen to music my friends make. I’m really excited about music and I’m really excited about art. I often times get most excited when I listen to something and I hit a point in the experience where I say to myself »What if they had done this or that instead« or »What if I did this instead«.
»It demystifies the complications and the internal crisis of output«
- Boaz Roberts on his favorite book
Boaz happens to think about a Morton Feldman interview, where the New York composer claimed to want to go in the opposite direction to where his fans wanted him to be. In his own craftsmanship, Boaz partially goes by Feldman’s philosophy.
- It’s not so much that I want to fight with the music, but I want to hash out and wrestle with as many different ways of presenting something as I can. When I make music, like the Sun Sic stuff I just put out, I’ll go through twenty or thirty drafts of one song before that’s the song. If something comes too easily, I might question it and think that might not be what I’m supposed to do. I love listening to things that feel natural, that have a beautiful aesthetic or a challenging aesthetic. Everyone loves the feeling of looking at art where you are confident that the artist knows what he or she is doing. Even if it makes you feel really unstable. I love feeling out of my comfort zone.
Music can place you outside of a comfort zone, but it can certainly also create such a space. Witnessing others plating music has a comforting effect on Boaz.
- When I play a show, or I’m on tour, I usually listen to every opening band. Nothing gets me more excited than standing in the room where we’re going to perform later and hearing all the bands. I love it, it’s such a rush.
Music gets Boaz excited, but he’s the most excited when it makes him reconsider his own work, and think of new places to take his own creations. When you yourself are a creator, you look at the material that others produce with your own always in mind. I let Boaz in on how I get affected by things which I have a personal relation to the making of.
- If I read another writer’s work, I can see the flaws and the qualities in it. That’s a beautiful thing. Sure, you experience a work of art in a different way than a »normal« person would, but that adds another layer of value to it.
- The easiest thing to do with music or art is to be over critical and not allow yourself to be involved or have a part in it, says Boaz. The hardest reaction is to read an interview, read a novel, look at a piece of art, look at a piece of music and let yourself love it or hate it, and in turn flip that to an outward experience. If you only take in an experience for yourself, it’s very one dimensional. I’m hyper critical, I’ve been critical my whole life.
- Of yourself?
- Of everyone. I used to be the worst person to deal with in high school, talking about music, because I picked too many sides. To me, everything used to be »I love this« and »I hate this«, but it’s not about that. If you don’t believe in something, you need to make something better. I want to make things that are challenging to listen to, even if they´re within a pop aesthetic. This project that I put out now, I wanted to dress it up as pop as possible, because I really like pop music. Who doesn’t? I try to make fairly cynical lyrical content that is interesting to listen to and I like things that are not what they appear.
- Would it be possible to call it »musician’s music«?
- No, I wouldn’t call it that. I need to be very stimulated when I listen to music, but I still love pop music and I want to make pop music that’s interesting for other musicians to listen to. But that can’t be your main audience. That’s just a group of people stroking each other’s backs.
- And it’s excluding.
- Yes, that’s a perfect way of putting it. I hope that musicians do enjoy my music, and that they can be intrigued by it, because I am. I’m always excited when I find something new. At the end of the day, it’s a very exciting field to work in. You just have to make sure that your open to it. You can wrestle with your ideas and what you’re trying to do, but don’t wrestle with the structure of showing up. I might question everything I’m working on, but I still show up and put the time and effort in. Something great will come out of that.
- I just started reading »The War of Art« by Steven Pressfield, and I was thinking of his thoughts on »beating the Resistance« when you were talking about »showing up« and »putting in the time«.
- I love that book, it’s my favorite book ever. It’s amazing, I recommend it to as many people as I can because it changes the way you approach what you do and that’s important. It demystifies the complications and the internal crisis of output.
Pressfield’s »War of Art« can speak to anyone, not just creative minds trying to grab a hold of opportunities. »Beating the Resistance« implies defying everything that is in your way of getting where you want, and the Resistance is mostly within yourself even though you surely can project it on external disturbances. In my case, beating the Resistance means simply giving myself the time to write, putting in the time as Boaz puts it. I’ve thought of the Resistance as laziness or lack of luck before, but after grasping Pressfield’s theory, I know that only I can change my situation. The fight against the Resistance is where two people from opposite ends of the world, like me and Boaz, can connect. We don’t have to understand or know each other’s work or merits, but we can identify with what gets us there.
February 24 2018