SOFT VEIN Talks Inspiration, Aspirations, and Finding Freedom and Solitude in Music BC Exclusive: A TEIA WITH SOFT VEIN Interview
If I wasn’t making music, I wouldn’t feel like a complete person. If I wasn’t performing it… I’d feel equally incomplete.” – SOFT VEIN,
LOS ANGELES, CA- It’s finally Friday: the date is March 4th, 2023. I headed in through the back door at Don Quixote in East Los Angeles as SOFT VEIN, Forever Grey, and This Cold Night began loading in their gear for the show. That night was SOFT VEIN’s fourth or fifth live show as a solo act, so I felt honored and excited to be the one to carry out his first-ever interview.
The venue was kind enough to provide us with access to their usually vacant, top-level 2nd greenroom for the interview. Although the leafy, bright green botanical print wallpaper was hilariously on-the-nose for the greenroom, we decided to scout a better backdrop to match Justin’s distinctive, grainy B&W vibe. We opened one of the many unmarked doors in the room and discovered a top-secret, unfinished rooftop area that practically screamed out our names.
After setting up my camera and audio equipment with assistance from my friend and fellow concert photographer Alejandro Lomeli, it was time to start filming. Because this was my first video interview, and Justin’s first interview ever, I was eager to ensure that everything went as smoothly as possible. After tripping over a few of my first questions, the conversation began to flow naturally, and Justin’s friendly presence quickly soothed any jitters I was having.SOFT VEIN is the dark electronic solo project of California-based musician Justin Chamberlain. He released his debut single, “GIVEUPTHEGHOST”, in late 2022. Justin explains that SOFT VEIN was started as a project that leaned into his “darker influences… [Specifically,] early post-punk, early and modern darkwave influences.” Justin cites a few of his biggest musical influences, including Boy Harsher, Panther Modern, Nitzer Ebb, Selofan, and The Human League.
Only a day before the show on March 4th, SOFT VEIN released his second single titled “VIOLENTIA”, which will be featured on his upcoming LP. “VIOLENTIA” is best be described as:
“[a] cold industrial-influenced darkwave dance track…with distant, distorted vocals haunting minimalistic drum machines, metallic synthetic percussion, and haunting synths. The effect paints a vivid picture of desperation and lust in the dark, but with a strangely romantic bend.” – POST-PUNK.COM
“VIOLENTIA” was written and produced by SOFT VEIN himself, and mixed and mastered by Ewan Alastair Kay, a sound engineer that you may know from his work with KONTRAVOID, another big name in the dark electronic music genre. Whispers of darkwave and EBM influences shine through in the production and mixing of “VIOLENTIA”, complete with SOFT VEIN’s distant, reverb-heavy vocals, all of which ultimately creates the overall, distinctively haunting quality of his music.
When asked whether he tends to feel more nervous or excited before sharing new music with the world, Justin reveals, “I get this wave of nervousness before I drop [new songs], but then [I’m able to] let it go, and then [the music’s] out there, and it’s really exciting. After that, I’m just excited that anyone cares to listen to it, and [hope] that people like it”.
I wondered about the inspiration behind Justin’s visual aesthetics, because after taking just one look at his Instagram, you are immediately hit with consistently B&W, grainy visuals that make up his stylized, curated feed. He explains, “I’ve always been influenced by films, [specifically] John Carpenter and David Lynch films. John Carpenter especially, not just the cinematography of his work, but the way he [includes particular] synth sounds in his scores were really influential to me… I saw a lot of [those films] as a kid, so I feel like [the films] infected my brain in a way that, when I started making synthesizer music, those sounds would come to mind”.
Justin also mentions that early PlayStation games have influenced his work both sonically and visually. He adores “PS1 games in particular, like Silent Hill, Silent Hill 2, Metal Gear Solid… I heard [the] sounds [in those games] a lot as a kid, before I knew what a synthesizer was… I’d just be hearing those sounds, and I feel like they embedded themselves [into my mind] …When I [began] making music, the sensibilities and approach that I have to the sounds that I like, comes from that world”. Justin and I bonded over our mutual admiration and love for John Carpenter’s films, specifically the director’s endlessly iconic Halloween (1978).
I wondered what Justin’s favorite (or least favorite) parts about making music and touring are. Justin explains, “I like meeting new people… [They] tell you little bits about their life, and you pick up these interesting stories. It’s really exciting to experience new things, new people, new places. I really like touring and performing music live.” On the other hand, he says, “I also do really like shutting myself away and making music in a room by myself…” Justin comes to the conclusion that he enjoys both creating music and touring, and thus, wouldn’t be able to choose one or the other. Thoughtfully, he says,
“If I wasn’t making music, I wouldn’t feel like a complete person. If I wasn’t performing it… I’d feel equally incomplete.”
Many music fans assume that touring life is always glamorous, but after talking to Justin and a few other musicians, I’ve realized that most of a touring musician’s working life is spent driving tirelessly on the open road. Loading in their heavy gear in and out of venues with little to no help. Performing in new cities every night is undoubtedly exhilarating and rewarding, but the sacrifices a musician makes in pursuit of their dreams are seemingly never-ending: giving up access to a regular bed, home-cooked food, and family time only scratches the surface of what touring artists must forgo for days, weeks, and potentially months on end while on tour. This kind of insane commitment and dedication to your craft is something that often goes un-applauded for people working in the live music industry, so I urge fans to express their appreciation for their favorite artists as often as possible, whether it be at post-show merch table meet-and-greets, or simply leaving a comment online. Support from fans is one of the most important things to musicians, whether touring or not, and encouraging messages from fans never go unnoticed.
If Justin wasn’t pursuing music, he admits he could see himself being either a truck driver or a lonesome farmer, but he couldn’t see a world where he isn’t creating music to express himself. He explains, “music is the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do, but touring has taught me that I could be a truck driver… and maybe live a very solitary life driving around the country”. While touring, Justin learned that he is capable of driving “[far] longer distances than [he] thought, without sleep and without stopping.” Alternatively, Justin could see himself disappearing to a farm somewhere, living alone and enjoying the company of a few animals.
On a more trivial note, I asked Justin what his chosen superhero (or supervillain) power would be if he was granted one. Mindfully, he responds:
“I feel like everyone wants the power of flight… Flying can either be a really happy thing or a sad thing; you could be in a sad place in your life and just wish you could fly somewhere for a minute and get away from everything… Or flying could be this really joyous feeling. So, I feel like flying is a really appealing power. I think the ultimate freedom is being able to take off into the sky”.
As someone who’s always wished for the power of flight myself, Justin’s ability to introspect beyond the surface of the somewhat silly premise I presented him with impressed me. I had never thought about how a dream of flying could, in fact, be born from either a need to escape or a way to express intense joy. Either way, for the rest of my life, I’ll be patiently waiting for my own pair of wings to magically sprout out of my back one day.
Before Justin had to rush off to soundcheck, I asked if he had any sort of motto or catchphrase he lives by, when making music or otherwise. Almost immediately, he answers: “someone important to me, as a musician, said, ‘if you expect anything from music, you expect too much’, so I try to not have huge expectations, and just make music that I enjoy, and let that speak for itself. And hopefully [it will] resonate with somebody else. The more expectations you have, the more room there is for things to not always go the way you hoped they would… If you just do what you’re doing, and you like what you’re doing… I think that’s all that matters”.
I agree with this sentiment wholeheartedly, and I think everybody reading should implore a piece of Justin’s mentality into their own lives and endeavors.