Sputnik is the alias of the Swedish musician that currently runs two music projects: Weatherday and Lola’s Pocket PC. Both projects have generated organic attention via rateyourmusic, r/indieheads, and Facebook's Patrician Music Chartposting. Critical attention has been positive for the Weatherday debut, Come In. Sputnik has been largely silent on their own success, fostering a small following with their tweets and new singles. We reached out to the enigmatic DIY figure, and our editor Young Fenimore Lee sat with them for an interview.
Young Fenimore Lee: As you’re aware, your online identity is quite enigmatic - it’s not clear, for example, what your gender identity is, whether Sputnik is your real name or not, etc. So firstly, what are your pronouns? What is your gender identity?
Sputnik: Yeah, I’m kind of a private person. Sputnik became my artist name, since I don’t really want to share my name. As for pronouns, I prefer they/them, being non-binary.
Young: On Bandcamp, you’ve tagged the album as LGBT. Would you align your music with queercore music? From my perspective, the androgynous nature of the vocal performance (you perform vocals in vastly different vocal ranges throughout the album), the LGBT tag, as well as the mysterious nature of the narrative have made the album inspiring to queer people such as myself. Do you identify as queer?
Sputnik: I’d consider Come In aligned with queercore, sure. There’s a heavy focus on gender throughout it, but sexuality is a theme too, hence the LGBT tag. In terms of sexuality, I’m attracted to all genders.
Young: It may not surprise you that most of the online reviews of Come In so far have compared the album to the original Twin Fantasy by Car Seat Headrest, based on the fact that they’re both home-produced, lo-fi, noise rock, emo, and explicitly LGBT albums. There are obvious differences, but I certainly can see the connection. How do you feel about the comparison? Is Will Toledo an influence of yours?
Sputnik: I have seen that comparison and understand why people compare the albums. Twin Fantasy has a special place in my heart along with other albums of his. I did not, however, take any conscious influence from Twin Fantasy. From my point of view, it’s easy for me to hear where my music has its roots, so my mind goes there [first]. For instance, in hindsight I’ve noticed how I took partial inspiration from The Cure for a specific part of a song. Overall, post-punk tropes ironically sounds like Car Seat Headrest to some people. People also say there’s a Nouns influence, when I hadn’t heard anything by them before shortly after releasing the album. I don’t mind the comparisons to Twin Fantasy, because songs are always going to sound different to different people.
Young: Along those lines, I’d love to hear more about your influences. From your twitter “fav album” thread, I see that the music you listen to is a lot of electronica essentials, Bandcampcore (of course), and some indie emo essentials (Brave Little Abacus, Transatlanticism), with a good mixture of Swedish bands I had never heard of (like bob hund). How do you feel about the designation of your music as “emo,” and can you elaborate on your own reasons for tagging your album on Bandcamp as “emo”? How would you describe the music that influences you?
Sputnik: Oof, that twitter thread is never going to get finished, it got out of hand too quickly. Well, Come In is emo + noise pop to me. Those are the genres I had as a starting point and the reason I tagged it as such, thinking it explained the emotionally charged, poppy noise music with less twinkle guitar than you’d expect. My big influences were Brave Little Abacus, Shinsei Kamattechan, my friend White Spine Shore’s unreleased work, and My Chemical Romance. Then every song has inspiration from classical music, where melodies and structures often came from. My first instrument and the one I’ve played for the longest is the cello, so my mindset somewhat comes from that. Anime openings were a big influence on a lot of the songs. There are a lot of different things which went into Come In, but to me it’s just the type of music I’d make, not wanting to emulate anything specific.
Young: What’s your musical process? How do you write a song and how do you produce it? I’m especially intrigued by how you manage to get those crappy mics, like the ones that come with headphones and laptops, to get the sounds you manage to create! I’m also especially curious about your approach to when to break your voice and use noise level clipping and when to use which vocal ranges, as well as how you create your electronic noise-scapes.
Sputnik: So, usually I have lyrics written to some extent because they help me set the song’s tone when making the intrumentals. Sometimes I have an old unused idea that I find fitting for a new song, and build off of that. The program I used to record the songs on Come In was GarageBand for iPhone, since I didn’t have a computer at the time. I used the headphone mic because I didn’t have a better one and thought I could do without one. In the late stages I got a computer with access to the desktop version of GarageBand, which was essential for the album. The album was almost unlistenable before I cleaned it up with A LOT of EQ adjustments and panning (those things are its secret). I had no real prior experience from producing, mixing, etc. before making Come In, so it took me a long time to teach myself how to do it somewhat properly.
As for my performance, there are some thought put behind the vocal ranges and such to match the concepts and whatnot, but mostly I went with my emotions and first thoughts when deciding how to do all that. My 500 million hours of playing with a loop pedal is probably the source of why I wanted to make a maximalist sound for so many parts. I’ve had a lot of practice with how to make counter melodies, arranging after space while having many tracks, how to layer different timbres. I had those things in mind when doing that.
Young: What personal significance, if any, do the phrases “come in” and “sinking feeling, weatherday” have to you? What do they mean in the context of the album? Does the album have an overarching narrative that you can elaborate on? (Who is Agatha? Who is the “she” referred to throughout the album? Why do you switch between first and second person at times? Who is “you” and who is the narrator?)
Sputnik: “Come in” has several meanings on the album. Each theme on the album has its own way where the phrase fits in. Some ones I’ve heard come to many people’s minds, which I intended them to mean, are letting someone into your life, letting someone into your personal space, embracing your true self, and being an introspective version of “come out”. “Sinking feeling” is pretty much what it sounds like, having the feeling of sinking. Weatherday is something I’ll leave up to interpretation, because revealing everything leaves no mystery.
The overarching narrative is kind of flowy. It’s not fully chronological, because some parts or even songs are flashbacks from the point of the album they’re on. “My Sputnik Sweetheart” spans over 3 years during its runtime, where the next song picks up somewhere earlier than where it ended. The album as a whole is set up like my webcomic which I sort of based things from the album on along with my own life. The character Agatha is from that comic and same with Oswald and Ines. Even Lola from Lola’s Pocket PC. The narrative is difficult to summarize since there’s so much going on, but maybe some will be explained for those curious when I remake the webcomic. It is possible to get a pretty good picture of what’s going on when looking closely into the lyrics, but since some lyrics are written from up to three different perspectives at the same time and because some parts are surreal and dramatic depictions of events, it can get overwhelming trying to keep track - “she” and “you” and the narrators perpective switching meaning and point of view in the middle of a sentence or suddenly having another scenery in the middle of an encounter. Again, I don’t want to give away too much, because I want the listener to have their own interpretation and experience, it’s not as fun to have everything explained.
Young: Finally, I’d just like to thank you for making this album and for being willing to do this interview with me. This was all truly inspiring, and Come In is an album I’ll be listening to for a long time to come :)
Sputnik: Thank you for listening to my music and taking the time to write questions <3