Nightlife in a Bright Los Angeles: Interview w/ Brendan Baker about upcoming single, "Mixed Signals"
Updated: 2 days ago
This upcoming Friday, May 26 alt-pop musician Brendan Baker’s single, “Mixed Signals” releases. This release will mark the culmination of a decade of hard work for Brendan. Brendan Baker takes his production up a notch and experiments with rap in this single, making it one of his best, most experimental, and most vulnerable tracks yet. The production sounds professional, Brendan’s singing is excellent as always, and Brendan’s rap towards the end of the song marks a shift in his songwriting style, for the better. “Mixed Signals” was written, performed, mixed, mastered, and produced by solely Brendan Baker.
Before we get too far into talking about “Mixed Signals” I wanted to follow up with Brendan, regarding our last interview from about 6 months ago, “Climbing the Summit: an Interview with Brendan Baker." In this interview, we discussed Brendan’s (at the time) upcoming album Summitless. To begin this follow-up, I asked Brendan how he felt about the rollout of Summitless and what he learned from it. Notably, Summitless did very well in my estimation, especially for a freshman album with little-to-no paid promotion. Brendan is rapidly approaching 5K listens on a handful of songs from the album (Spotify). After considering the question for a bit, he stated, “So, one thing I learned is that I don't wanna be releasing, albums anymore. [At least] For a little bit. I wanna have more time to build up each song and give it the credit it deserves. As a whole, [Summitless] did pretty well, but some songs, If I had marketed more specifically towards them, would have done even better.” As a musician myself, I found this idea to be an excellent one– just work on a handful of singles so that you can market them effectively to niche audiences for each individual single. Brendan noticed that he was getting a lot of listens on specific songs through a few European playlists, especially through Finland, and that he’d like to focus on honing niche communities such as these which already have interest in his music. Eventually, Brendan does plan to release an album, but he wants to take a holistic approach to the album creation process–that is, he wants it to happen naturally over the course of a year or two. Once he’s made an adequate amount of singles (somewhere in the realm of 8-10, releasing about one every other month) and garnered enough interest in these singles, then he plans to put together an album with the singles that relate to each other. But rather than have the album be a simple collection of singles, Brendan plans on handpicking singles that relate, adding new songs, potentially creating remixes, and creating an overarching theme for the album, which he’ll naturally arrive at through the creation of these singles. Thus, after “Mixed Signals,” Brendan plans to release a new single (the name is not public yet) sometime in July with lofi musician Clarke John, so be sure to keep an eye on Brendan’s Spotify/socials for that single!
Brendan Baker’s new single, “Mixed Signals” is the beginning of this single every other month roll-out project. “Mixed Signals,” tells the story of Brendan Baker in a hypothetical bar talking to an imaginary girl where he vulnerably struggles with shyness and unconfortability behind club-like, dance-pop instrumentals. At first, he struggles to talk to her, but quickly they find common interests. Once they begin talking and falling for each other over a few drinks, Brendan eventually decides he has to leave the bar/club because he’s not comfortable with the one-night-stand culture that envelops relationships at bars and clubs despite wanting to impress this girl. Regarding the meaning of “Mixed Signals,” Brendan sums the idea as so: “I don't personally feel comfortable going home on a one-night-stand. I feel like there are other people out there that might be like that too, but I still want to like dance with you and have fun and all the good stuff that comes with being at a club… but just not maybe the end result because I don't feel comfortable doing that. So it's kind of like [he’s asking]: Hey, is there anybody out there like me too?”
“Mixed Signals” marks an instantly recognizable new phase of Brendan Baker, with top-notch production and an upbeat, pop-rap verse towards the end. Though all of Brendan’s previous songs had strong production, this one really takes the cake. It just sounds unbelievably full, the instruments are layered, and there’s absolutely no clutter. It sounds like the instrumental of an Ariana Grande song– that level of professionalism. I asked Brendan what tips he has for production, especially for newer artists, and he suggested that everyone should take a mixing class. He explained that he had some experience with mixing, but in his six-month mixing class in his final semester of college, he got to “dive deep into the essentials of mixing. And build up that foundation really well. I had kinda known how to mix but not really and so my last semester I focused really hard on learning how to mix and I leveled up so much. It was insane how much progress I made in six months.” I also asked Brendan if it was hard to create the rap verse towards the end, especially since he hadn’t really experimented with rap in his previous songs. Baker said, “not really, I've kind of been working at it [for awhile]. And this one really just felt natural.” To explain how his rap was created, Brendan recalled how he begins the creation of any song, “the way that I write is I get the beat down, like the bare bones of the beat, and then I go in with my vocal melody and I do like two or three passes of the song and whichever one feels the ‘hookiest’ and the coolest to like be singing and saying then that's the one I stick with. Every time that I did this song there was always a breakdown at the bridge where I started like speaking faster and I was like, ‘okay, well, this needs to be a rap.’ And so the hardest part of it was figuring out what words to say and how to convey this message of mixed signals. I knew from the start that's what I wanted to talk about just cause I had been going to a lot of [clubs and bars] at the time and it’s just been like ‘yeah, like this is maybe not working for me?’ So figuring out how to fit those rhymes in, in ways that just sounded fun and were cool to say, but also were exposing how nerdy and like anxious and shy that I can be.” And he kills it– it certainly isn’t gangsta rap or anything super shocking like that, but Brendan does a stellar job of bringing himself, his genuine personality, and the theme of the song (the idea of mixed signals) into the words and sound of the rap. The rap is fun, light, awkward, playful, and conversational– it’s perfect for “Mixed Signals.” Though potentially not experimental in its own right, this rap is certainly an experimental step for Brendan, and in my estimation, a successful one that we’ll likely be hearing more of in future tracks.
Aside from “Mixed Signals” and his single roll-out, I’ve seen Brendan Baker putting a lot of work into his social media these past 6-8 months. Brendan Baker’s official social media pages are on Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, YouTube, and occasionally he live streams on Twitch. He’s been creating all kinds of engaging reels, videos, and posts including music-related posts (IE where he shows how he created a song or what layers are on a song), aesthetic posts (IE promo pics & filling up your homepage with tiny pictures of your album to create a big one on your homepage), and community/fun posts (where Brendan shows people how to create custom “Mixed Signal” shoes or interacts with popular memes). Rather than focusing on getting thousands of views/followers, Brendan is focused on each individual video and tries to see how this might attract one or a few followers– a niche, interested audience. He believes that his biggest growth will ultimately come from Spotify and that it’s better to showcase his personality on his socials, that way people who enjoy his music will check out his social media pages and enjoy them because they’re genuine, rather than just chasing followers or trends. Brendan said, “I really think [Spotify growth being greater than social media growth] speaks to the fact of letting the music speak for itself. But, I think those socials are also a really important way to get people into your music as well because it's more common for or it's easier to just get on Instagram explore feeds than to get on a Spotify playlist.” I also want to make a special mention of what Brendan’s been doing on Twitch, because I think it’s awesome. Brendan’s been doing live streams where he just creates or practices music: complete with production, singing, and/or instrumentation depending on the live stream you tune into. Keep an eye on Brendan’s socials and Twitch account, because he plans on doing a few of these live streams coinciding with the rollout of “Mixed Signals.”
You can pre-save Brendan Baker’s single “Mixed Signals” here. If you do pre-save Brendan’s single, you’ll be automatically entered in a contest to win a 1/1 shirt T-shirt that Brendan designed himself (US only). If you miss the pre-save, be sure to check out his single! All of the pre-save links on this page will be updated to current links starting Friday, May 26– as soon as the single releases. Brendan also plans to release a music video for “Mixed Signals” around a week after the single initially releases, which you can find on his YouTube. It’s also linked directly here [it has released now]. Additionally, be on the lookout for Brendan’s upcoming single with Clarke John releasing sometime in July! Finally, you can find the full interview embedded below on the Fatty Strap Youtube Channel.