Holidays to me are literally all about cooping yourself up at home and music-binging all day, discovering smaller artists and being genuinely stoked on hearing new tracks. Cue CASTLEBEAT.
Josh Hwang, under CASTLEBEAT, is a totally self-produced Californian based artist with such a stunning lo-fi, dream pop sound that it'll immediately make you want to pack up all your bags in an old school VW van and cruise down the West Coast. I fell in love with this cool cat's demo when I came across it on Spotify, followed by his self-titled album. Especially with all this snow going on in Vancouver right now, I can't help but immerse myself in this catchy but definitely chill vibe. A sort of vibe that makes you long for summer nights and endless road trips. The sort of vibe that transports you to an entirely different time and place.
I caught up with CASTLEBEAT for a quick lil' interview, and we talked about his rad DIY recording process, 90s-inspired nostalgia, running his own music label, and of course, Twin Peaks.
I did a little bit of research on you and your music, and I'm curious to know, do your Californian roots inspire your beachy vibe? What else would you say has influenced you?
I honestly don’t try to have a beachy vibe. Maybe it’s something I do subconsciously since everyone around Southern Cali is big into the surf rock scene. But I’d say that garage rock in general has been a big influence on my music. The EP I’m working on right now will have a new sound though.
Your music totally has this nostalgic feel that takes you back to perfect carefree summers. What sort of music did you listen to growing up?
I think I really started listening to music when I got my first iPod (iPod Nano I think). I didn’t know how to put music on it so I had a family friend transfer his music onto it. Basically all I had on that iPod was the Doors, Pink Floyd, and Oasis, which I was forced to listen to. I remember thinking that the Doors were really weird for the longest time, but then they later became one of my favorite bands. From then I started getting into garage rock and then shoegaze/postpunk, anything with a good melody honestly. but this is basically what I Iistened to growing up – old psychedelic pop music.
I want to know a little bit more about you recording everything in your bedroom. That's really rad and gives the whole album such a cool, raw sound. How was that process? Was there a reason you decided to skip the studio?
Basically just me recording in the garage/bedroom, trying to sound as good as possible with mediocre equipment. In most castlebeat recordings, I kinda whisper sang since I didn't want to wake people/be heard singing. Kinda like how Elliott Smith does vocals.
Other than just being a lot cheaper, I think it gives the music a different, more authentic feel. I know some people that pay a lot to get their stuff produced, mixed, and mastered, and then they just end up with a generic sound. I also like to be able to say that I recorded everything myself, then people will know that what they’re hearing is all me and not some producer or sound engineer, and they will hopefully excuse the minor imperfections. But I’m not totally opposed to studio recordings, maybe I’ll try it one day.
From what i understand, you run your own record label? what made you decide to go that route?
Yeah I started spirit goth last year because my old project, Jaded Juice Riders, had a subpar experience with a label we signed with. I just thought that I could do it myself, especially since I had my two projects that I could release. I also kinda like running a label; it’s become a hobby and a way to discover new music and help promising bands that are upcoming/unknown. I initially started with releasing my music and some friends’ music, now starting to release bands from different countries. I want to keep the label relatively small and diy though, no intention of scaling it up or anything like that.
I noticed your label put out a video for Falling Forward with the first episode of Twin Peaks (my all-time favourite show). It was so fitting and melancholy. Really brings you back to that early 90s vibe. I'm really curious, are you a Twin Peaks fan?
Huge Twin Peaks fan, might be my favorite show too. I even got to visit the Double R Diner, The Great Northern, and the waterfall from the intro when I was in Washington for a family vacation. But yeah, I always wanted a Twin Peaks music video, I just had to make sure it was the right song.
Even with your album cover art, it also seems super 90s inspired. What other 90s gems in music or film would you recommend people check out?
I literally just went to my backyard and took a picture of some flowers that looked cool. I just like vintage things in general. I'd say to definitely listen to Elliott Smith's self-titled album. And maybe some films to check out are: "High Times at Ridgemont High" (one of my fav), "Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure", and ‘The Room’ by the great Tommy Wiseau (don't think it's 90s but has a 90s feel). Another thing, my fav car, BMW 1985 325e. There’s a picture of it on my instagram (joshzboy), which I’ve been trying to use more lately.
*imagery all from CASTLEBEAT