Popeska believes in the pursuit towards true individuality. Reveling in the wonders of simplicity, he aims to inspire others to overcome the misconception of deconstructing the self in order to fit in. As lustrous as music entertainment may be and how easy it is for artists to lose themselves in all the fame and fortune – authenticity is the name of his game. With pride and preservation of his true identity, Popeska does not shy away from laying bare all of his relatable human nature. His true ‘what you see is what you get’ approach invites others to be inspired in embracing their own journeys within their own standards. The fun-loving producer took a moment to chat with SPIN about his recent album, RAMBLINGS, letting go of perfectionism, becoming comfortable in your own skin, owning your artistry, and more. Stream his album here.
Who is Popeska and what do you stand for?
When I got thrown into the music industry, there was an enormous pressure on me to be someone I wasn’t. I was told to dress a certain way, act a certain way, and even hide details about myself so that it wouldn’t affect my cool points. And I know a lot of artists who can relate. Enough of that!! You shouldn’t have to drop everything, move to LA, and dye your hair for people to take you seriously as an artist. I’m just a regular guy, dorky dad with a 9-to-5, and I’m proud of it.
Tell us about your sound – where does your style originate from and what have been your biggest visual, social, and sonic influences?
My style mostly originates from a ton of experimentation early in my music-making as a result of a severe lack of resources. Nowadays we have so many amazing tools like Splice and high-quality plugins, but back then we just had Massive and really bad YouTube tutorials. I probably do a lot of things that are “wrong” because of it, but hey, that’s where my sound comes from! As far as influences go, I consciously try not to be influenced by outside forces, though subconsciously I’m sure I draw a lot from all the music I listen to (really, really broadly would categorize my listening preference as “indie stuff”)
Was there a definitive turning point to your success? When did you realize the magnitude of your impact within the industry/community?
Turning point was definitely getting picked up by the Wolfgang Gartner team, had a really stellar agent that put me on so many shows and got me next to all my favorite artists at the time. Funny, I did an AMA today which ended up being WAY more active than I thought it was going to be, really made me take a step back and appreciate my listeners and the joy they got from my music. That was really nice.
Talk to us about your most recent album release, RAMBLINGS. What elements and themes were you exploring within this project?
Really just “myself”. And fun. Every song had to have sparked joy within me during its creation for it to have made the cut. It’s called Ramblings because there really isn’t a theme or overarching concept – just random bursts of expression from the last couple years of my life.
In what ways did you push yourself beyond existing self-imposed limitations?
This is going to sound kind of stupid probably, but I pushed myself by not being a perfectionist. I recognize all the flaws from every track on the record, things that normally would have driven me crazy, and I acknowledge that the flaws are what make the track authentic. I was able to capture the moment in my life when I made the tune, and I didn’t need to go scrubbing and polishing the track until all of that original emotion was thinned out.
You are an artist that’s managed to find liberation living the double-identity life – How have you been able to manage working a full time Software Engineering job and still find the time to dedicate your 100% to music? Without sugarcoating it, what’s the reality of choosing that path?
There are 8 hours from 9-5 and another 8 from 5-1. You can have 2 full-time jobs and still have 8 hours left to sleep! The reality is sometimes I get super manic and my wife has to be like “hey, you gotta calm down and take a break and watch some TV with me.” So thank you wifey for those much needed resets.
What advice can you give to others that are struggling to juggle that work/passion balance?
A few that I personally live by: 1) If you’re running out of steam but want to stay productive, switch what you’re working on – I always have several music projects, software projects, and other random creative projects going on simultaneously so I can stay engaged with what I’m working on 2) create REAL deadlines for yourself. Not “I’m going to do this by X day”; literally nothing is stopping you from not doing it by X day. Sign a deal before your album is done, sell software features that don’t exist yet, get outside forces to hold you accountable! 3) there’s so much more time in the day than you think. Just gotta take it for yourself! 4) don’t expect anything. Do because you love to do, and don’t if you don’t! 5) You gotta recognize when something isn’t working, know when to give up, and try something new.
As we’re looking ahead, seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, how are you planning to propel your career forward in 2021?
Well that’s the thing about this project; I’m not consciously thinking of how to propel my career forward. I don’t want to be a “career artist” the same way I wouldn’t want to be a “career politician”, I want to be the rogue politician, the guy that’s in it because he cares about the people. I already have a great career – my musical life is all about making music I’m passionate about and giving it to the people who want to listen to it.
Is there anything on the horizon that you can share with us?
I’ll tell you what’s NOT on the horizon – another multi-year musical dry spell. Going to make it a priority to keep the releases flowing!
What do you wish for the future of electronic music? In what ways would you like to see it evolve?
I like what’s happening in electronic music right now, I see so much genuine creativity from both the little guys and the big guys alike. I’m also noticing a slow movement away from social media which I really encourage, but that could be my imagination. The pandemic was a really crazy huge reset button for all of us, and I think we (the music industry) benefitted from it greatly by having us think about our relationship with people online and our fans and ourselves.
Any last words for the SPIN-verse?
Maybe I should have mentioned this earlier, but my mix I made for you guys is 100% original and unreleased music. Let me know which ones you want me to release!!
Check out Popeska’s SET below! Want more SETS? Head over to SPIN TV to keep up with all the latest and greatest DJs breaking the electronic charts.