Vocals are at the heart of most music we listen to, but for years multi-instrumentalist and producer Tycho built an incredible project without them, instead choosing to express himself through a mix of synthesizers, guitars, and drums. That all changed with the release of his latest album Weather. The project featured nearly end-to-end vocal coverage from Saint Sinner, introducing lyrics, hooks, and choruses to the Tycho discography. We had a chance to talk with Scott Hansen (Tycho) and Hannah Cottrell (Saint Sinner) about the album, discussing their vision, process, and collaboration on Weather.
This vocal project was a surprise from an artist with four instrumental LPs under his belt, and incorporating this new element forced Hansen to revise his production process.“[My process] changed a lot,” says Hansen. “That was the goal, to challenge myself and find a new voice for the project (literally), a new conduit for the ideas and the sound. I wrote a ton of music over this six-month period. At the end I was realizing, ‘oh this track is missing an element and vocals might be that element.’ I put those ones off to the side and sent them to Hannah (Saint Sinner). She wrote the lyrics, we recorded them and then having that as a framework to mold the instrumentals around was really cool. It changed the way I thought about the structures of the songs.”
Cottrell brought an air of confidence when approached about adding her voice to an instrumental discography. “I didn’t see it as a challenge,” Says Cottrell. “I was given the opportunity of collaborating with an artist I love, so I did. I wrote honestly and didn’t think about [it].” This confidence may have been one thing that led Hansen to choose her as the voice for Tycho. Hansen was increasingly realizing that there was a gap in his music that he couldn’t fill with the instruments he knew. Once he decided that this space should be filled with vocals it was just a matter of finding the right voice.
“When I met Hannah, it was really cool because her voice matched so well with the sound and the ideas I was going for,“ says Hansen. “Before I was thinking about working with multiple vocalists or having features, but I really wanted it to be this powerful statement, like ‘this is the current iteration of Tycho. This is the vocalist…’ It’s a very simple and cohesive statement.”
Their musical styles came together naturally, capturing an effortless compatibility to bring Cottrell’s vocal style to the Tycho soundscape. Cottrell explains, “There were no adjustments made, however there of course have been things we pick up from each other along the way. Combine natural flow with ambition and you’re unstoppable.”
This ambition and natural flow came together to create an album that felt much more intimate and less abstract than Tycho’s previous work. This comes through in the album name, Weather, which contrasts previous album names (Epoch, Awake, Dive, and Past Is Prologue) as something much more tangible in the human experience. Hansen happily explained how he explored the relationship between humans and weather with this project.
“I wanted to speak to things that are outside of our control, things we kind of have to accept like dealing with adversity… And even when positive things happen in your life, it’s not always something that you own, it’s something you’re experiencing,” says Hansen. “Weather and nature in general has always had a humbling effect on me and it’s something I think that’s larger than us, especially in the times we live in. It’s kind of a tumultuous time, so I think I was trying to speak to that on some level as well.”
This shift in focus back to Earth took place in the album art as well. A talented graphic designer as well as musician, Hansen adorned previous album covers with geometric designs and cohesive color pallets that invoked a distant landscape or outer space. For Weather he chose a photograph for the first time.
“There’s always been a deep connection between the visual elements of the project and the music… With this album I wanted it to be human,” says Hansen. “It’s a more intimate connection to the ideas instead of these ethereal, open-ended spaces. These are literal ideas and literal emotions that are built into these songs. I wanted the artwork to reflect that and I wanted it to feel vulnerable and intimate like someone was inviting you into a personal space. To me, that image says that. I found that image while I was working on the record and it always stuck with me.”
The ideas and emotions that Hansen and Cottrell channeled into the project came from their own life experiences and worldviews, and they saw themselves most clearly in different parts of the album.
Hansen goes on to explain, “I think on the vocal side, ‘For How Long’ speaks to me the most. It’s really the stylistic core of the record. It was the first song I wrote for this record and that was the moment where I realized this was the sound I wanted to capture. And once we put the vocals in it was perfect.”
“On the instrumental side I think ‘Weather,’ the title track, is really special to me and that was the song where I really wanted to channel an earlier version of my writing style and incorporate some of the new ideas that have come out over the past couple records and put it all in one song,” says Hansen. “That’s one of my favorite Tycho songs ever now.”
When asked her favorite song, Cottrell replied: “Probably ‘Skate’. The verses vulnerably display a longing for love yet not having found it yet, and wondering why at times. The rest of the song was written to someone else, a love of mine, but it’s a song I listen to as if I was singing to myself. Happens often in my songwriting.”
While these ideas all came together beautifully on Weather, Hansen has previously shelved music that he felt was missing something and considers revisiting some unreleased production with a new vocal lens in mind.
“I set out to do this and failed earlier in my career. The album never came out. It just didn’t click. ‘Past Is Prologue’ was supposed to have vocals,” explains Hansen “The instrumental path was clearly laid out at that time and I definitely followed that for a long time. With this one I started writing these songs and they started calling out for vocals and I met Hannah just through serendipity and we just vibed. Her sound and the texture of her voice was exactly what I was looking for. It was like ‘don’t question this. Accept it and just keep going and see where it leads.’ It was definitely one of the more inspiring and creative periods of my life…
I actually have some songs from the ‘Epoch’ era that I really feel strongly about and I know, one way or another, that I want to put out. And now with this new way of thinking, yeah, maybe vocals are something that could make them all work.”
Fans won’t need to wait for a vocal exploration of Epoch-era production for new musical inspiration from Tycho. He recently launched an app that creates playlists based on your local weather. Hansen personally curated all the songs and will be adding to it as he finds new music.
“I had this blog called ISO50 where we would create these playlists every few months and I always loved that,” says Hansen. “We don’t really do that anymore and we started to do it on Spotify, which is cool in its own way, but I wanted there to be another element to it, a way for the listener to connect with the music in accordance to their mood, something that could predict what they wanted to listen to at that time. With the album being called Weather, I was like ‘oh wait, that’s it. We should connect the playlist to the current weather.’”
For their tour, Tycho curated an incredible musical experience you’ll have to catch for yourself to fully appreciate.
When asked about the live show on this tour, Hansen explained “This is the first time that I’ve ever really had the opportunity to really step back and rethink the whole thing from the ground up. I just always added elements as we went along. You can put more into a show but if you don’t think about holistically, then it might not all connect. This time we’re really thinking about that, redesigning all the lights, changing the way the lights and visuals work, and trying to find a deeper connection between the two. That whole side has been rethought and then of course Hannah’s inclusion is a really compelling new element and just from the few shows we’ve played so far in Australia and Japan and the one in San Francisco, it felt like that was a much more powerful element than any of the production elements. There’s a lot of new things happening on this tour and I’m really excited about all of it.”
“It’s really incredible,” says Cottrell “And completely comfortable and unforgettable for me.”
Tycho plans to be a lot more prolific in the wake of Weather than he has in the past. Expect lots of original music, both instrumental and vocal.
“I’m working on the instrumental record right now which is almost done,” Hansen reveals. “That will probably be out in November. It’s an instrumental version of Weather. All of the vocal songs existed as instrumentals before, and I really want those to be expressed in that form as well. But I just want to put some space between those two releases so people have time to digest the vocal one and then this one will come out.
Other than that I’m pretty focused on the touring. There’s another instrumental record I was writing in parallel to Weather, completely separate songs. That’s definitely something I’m excited to get to work on. I mainly just want to put out more music this time around and stay busy with production and the live show.”
We’re loving this new chapter for Tycho and are excited to see where he goes from here. Thanks for Scott and Hannah for chatting with us! Enjoy!