With a roaring sound and so much intense energy strewn through the speakers, we sat down with the incredible San Diego-based music producer/artist Agent Envy. Guiding us deep into the truth and telling us how it is, we find an artist who is ready for the next step.
It’s a pleasure to chat with you today, Agent Envy. First, how have you been keeping and how did you come up with your intriguing artist name?
Agent Envy: Thank you so much for having me! I’m really excited to be releasing my next string of songs and I feel so, so proud of No Friend. This song has been a long time coming and started nearly a year (and a few thousand miles) ago. I can’t believe it’s finally out for everyone to hear.
My artist name, Agent Envy, came as a reflection of my sources of inspiration for my music. I gravitate towards the cinematic, both visually and sonically, and wanted something that reminds my audience of the dark, retrofuturist movies of the late 90s, whose soundtracks had such an impact on my taste in music. My career outside music has taken a bit of a winding path through programming, graphic novels, and private investigation, so all of these things led me to Agent Envy.
Gosh, you’re quite the talented multi-instrumentalist. How did it all start for you in this game and please let us know which instruments you can play?
Agent Envy: I’ve been singing since as long as I can remember, to the point where my pre-school teachers would grumble about me constantly singing to myself. But I struggled with learning other instruments, and I think a lot of that stemmed from having a good ear and relying too much on memorization. Because singing was so effortless, I wasn’t motivated to learn to read music, develop the discipline to practice, or really get my theory down, since I could just hear it and sing it. It’s a habit I still work against regularly.
After years and years of being mediocre on guitar due to a lack of focused effort, I finally decided to take a completely different approach and study it, as if it were any other subject, and that’s when things started to actually click. I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me to try this sooner since I’m a giant nerd who actually loved studying in school, but here we are. I started reading books on guitar and theory, made myself a little guitar “workout routine,” and sheepishly realized that if I had just bothered to really learn my theory years ago, I would’ve had a much easier time.
So far I’ve gotten myself into guitar, bass, piano, a little mandolin, and some finger drumming. I still have work to do before I’d consider myself an expert in any of them, but I enjoy the process of learning so much that it’s always satisfying to see how far I can progress at a given time. Plus I have the benefit of living with my partner and co-producer, Richie Beretta, who is beyond talented in all of the above; I’ve learned so much from him too, and his fluency in music is a big motivator for me to stay on top of it.
Setting boundaries is so important in life. Please give us more detail about the vision behind your tremendous new single No Friend.
Agent Envy: No Friend started in a bit of an unusual way for me. I usually write most of my songs in my head, melody and lyrics first, instrumentation second. This record started as a production sketch Richie created, the loop you hear at the beginning of the track, with some really chewed-up drums, a hypnotic bassline, and some industrial elements. I heard him working on it and immediately put a vocal sketch into my voice notes. Something about it felt vengeful, and that’s where the subject matter came into play. Most of my songs can be lyrically interpreted in a number of ways, which is intentional. So No Friend is meant to communicate that feeling of saying “back off” or “never again” to something or someone.
Sonically, this was such a fun but challenging track, because my previous releases haven’t featured this aspect of my vocal range. I’ve gotten a number of requests from my listeners for a song where I’m all-out belting, so I’m happy to be able to deliver on this one. I want people to feel powerful when they listen, and I think the vocal melody really lends itself to that as well.
Have you had any luck with sync opportunities or found that certain platforms aren’t worth it?
Agent Envy: Not yet, but it’s something I want to put an increased focus on for 2023. I feel like it’s such a challenge to get your music heard in a sea of equally excellent musicians. You really have to have someone dedicated to pitching your music. But I write my songs with so much cinematic inspiration that I feel like they’re primed for that market. So many of my listeners talk about how they imagine my music in one show or another, and it would be an absolute dream to have something like that happen. Someday soon, I hope!
What’s it like to be a musician in 2022 with all that is going on in the world?
Agent Envy: I think being a musician is challenging no matter what’s going on. Being on social media as an artist is both a blessing and a curse, as it can be a fantastic way to get yourself heard, but it also means you’re subject to the “contentification” of your music. People want things fast, and immediately, and it’s not really possible – or healthy – to deliver new songs in that way. Speaking from experience, it can be very difficult to keep your mental health intact when you feel like the success of your art is tied to a depersonalized algorithm.
Then there’s the added factor that there are so many things going on in the world, so much pain and injustice, that it feels frivolous to promote my music at certain times. I know many people want and need music as an escape, but I try my best to step back and let more important topics take the spotlight whenever appropriate.
If you could share the stage with any band still active, who would it be and why?
Agent Envy: Any of Chino Moreno’s or Maynard James Keenan’s projects. It would be a total dream to share the stage with them, and I think there would be a large overlap in our target audiences. I don’t try to imitate or emulate any artists in my music, that would be rather unoriginal, but it’s the way their work makes me feel that I think aligns well with the experience I want my listeners to have.
Last, where can we find you live next or do you have anything planned for 2023 music-wise?
Agent Envy: My immediate focus for 2023 will be releasing a few more singles leading up to my EP. We’re just about to wrap up production for the songs and finish recording vocals, easily my favorite part of the process. I feel like it’s taken a lot of soul-searching to get to this point, but I truly believe that this upcoming collection of songs is finally the sound I’ve been looking to create. Now that we’re in Southern California, I’d absolutely love to begin playing shows out here, there are so many awesome venues and I feel like the audience here is really motivated to get out and discover some new music.
Interview by Llewelyn Screen