Coco & the Silkscreen ODT Factory

ODTFTY Mid-Workshop Selfie

Akemashite Omedeto – Happy New Year, Everyone! Cheers and welcome to the year of 2020. We sincerely hope you all were able to enjoy the recent holidays in some capacity with loved ones both near & far, but also hope you’re all buckled in and ready for that full 2020 vision!

Fresh out of the gates of the new year, we are shining the spotlight on yet another amazing person within our community, who has started her very own unique business. This month, we are proud to present Coco, who was born and raised in Geneva, Switzerland. She too had the urge to venture to Japan and fulfill her dreams by starting her own silkscreen business and opening a studio called the ODT Factory. I was able to learn more about her life back home and her awesome decision to skip the imminent drag that is high school for an apprenticeship/art school equivalent to a university setting at the age of fifteen. And it’s pretty cool how that decision eventually bloomed into a one-of-a-kind journey. 

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Black Creatives Japan: This is actually my first time having a true sit down with you so I only know a little about your background. Can you talk a bit more about your experience in the Graphic Design program back in Geneva?

Coco: Yeah, I really appreciated that art school. It was a professional (training) school, but I think you would just call it an apprenticeship and I think it would be good for most people. There weren’t many apprenticeships for Graphic Designers and you weren’t really paid anything while working there, but you didn’t have to pay for it as well, which was cool. And if you do happen to find a good apprenticeship in a company, you can actually start to get paid there eventually and learn your craft. It would be a low salary, but you still didn’t pay to go there which is really nice. It’s good for the company as well because they have an employee that’s kind of like an intern. You could have the chance to learn a lot in a setting that was not always completely professional or uptight. There were people of all ages there too, so I think it helped the younger people, like myself, to mature a bit quicker. When there are 30 year olds in your class and you’re just a 15 year old kid, if you mess around they may give you the eyes, to chastise you, and no one wants that, haha!

I think it was also a nice experience for me, because I was given real assignments from companies. Once there was a festival poster for example; a company wanted to do it cheap so they asked my art school and then everybody made a poster, which went up for review. We weren’t paid, but it was cool to know that what you’re doing has real importance and meaning in the world for a real company. It’s not just some homework assignment that you forget later on. I definitely wasn’t constantly bored there like my time back in middle school. Just taking boring core classes I had no interest in; I figured it would have been the same in high school, so again, I’m really glad I chose the apprenticeship instead, haha.

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BCJ: Yeah I can agree, I think many people would have appreciated a focused apprenticeship rather than high school. Wasn’t so fond of it myself, haha! So moving on, you started with Graphic Design & Illustration, but how did you get from there to silk screening?

Coco: Well, I was first introduced when I had a silkscreen class in my 3rd year. For half a year, there were silkscreen classes available on Mondays, but during 3rd year we also had internships and I was mostly busy with that, but tried it out anyway. In the first class I didn’t really know much since I had just come back from my first internship. I didn’t know the teacher, but I just walked in, said “Hi, I’m in the class and I brought my design & my t-shirt.” They immediately showed me how to do it and it was so much fun! In just one morning, I made a t-shirt and it was really cool. The design I chose had two lesbian nuns together. It was a something I made for my internship, actually. I was working with this guy, who said he wanted to make a brand that was very free. I made that nun design for him and then asked if I could take it to my silkscreen class and he was like “Yeah, of course!”. After the first one, I took that design and printed more of them and it’s interesting because some people actually wanted them, which was cool! 

I think when you draw, while you have that drawing, it’s very nice, but it’s even better when your art can be worn and useful. I used to sell drawings and such for money sometimes. I would do portraits and things like that and when you have a drawing you can make a poster or a card, but you’re still just buying a thing that’s not very useful. I have tons of old folders with drawings that I’ve forgotten, but with t-shirts you can wear it and present it to the world. I knew I definitely wanted to have that experience again at some point.

BCJ: Alright so that seed was planted back then and later on you had the idea to start your own silk screening company. And start it in Japan no less! Can you talk about your motivations there; especially what had sparked your initial interest in Japan?

I always had an interest in Japan and the Japanese culture since I was young. One of my best friends in Kindergarten was Japanese and I also loved manga & anime. I knew I wanted to go visit someday eventually and learned a bit of the language, just enough to speak when I visited for the first time on holiday. After my first visit, I really loved the experience, so I never stopped and kept going from there. 

Additionally, before silk screening, I wanted to study animation in Japan so that’s what I planned to do after my apprenticeship program at the art school. I had come to Japan at one point on holiday vacation and had visited 5 of 6 schools while I was there. When I chose the one I wanted, I had gone to an open campus event at the school and there were guides there, you know, the people who lead you through the school. I had done some silkscreening with the guides too and we made some crazy t-shirts for them to wear as uniforms. It was really nice. Then I went to that school, a senmongakko (vocational school) for two years.

And right before going to my senmongakko, I worked at a Japanese izakaya (a Japanese bar) in Geneva for a year. I had wanted to practice my Japanese and the chef there couldn’t speak French. Basically I befriended him and became his translator, haha! It was really fun. He was an older man; an expat who lived in Geneva for almost 10 years and he couldn’t speak French and could barely speak English so I helped him out a lot. There isn’t a big community of Japanese expats in Geneva and they’re all sort of integrated into the society, so it’s better on one hand, but it can be hard and lonely for those who have trouble integrating on the other hand. But yes, that man helped me out a lot. He taught me polite Japanese and not so polite Japanese and also Japanese manners in the workplace. Like if I am late he would say don’t try and justify yourself or come up with excuses, just say you’re sorry.

In the ODT Factory Studio

And once I went to Japan and started at my senmongakko, I studied animation. It had kind of been my childhood dream. Whenever I watched anime, I would be like “One day I’ll move to Japan and study animation!” so I did it…and hated it, haha! I don’t know how people do it. I mean it’s gratifying in the end, watching it over and over again, but when you have to redo one, it’s like aggh no! I get bored easily too so it’s just not a good fit for me, personally. Also Japan has the obsession to do everything traditionally. I like that a lot, but it’s not my style. Most of Japanese animation has a lot of clean lines and sharp moving mouths, but I like a lot of artistic and weird stuff to be honest. At one point, I did an animation project for a rapper here in Triangle Park and it’s very strange, haha.

So anyway, because I didn’t like animation, I eventually came back to silk screen. A friend was telling me, “You know, you’ll go to school, graduate and have to find a job and get a visa…” And I knew I wasn’t going to be able to do all that with animation. Also in a senmongakko, they’re all about you graduating & finding a job as soon as possible because they want to keep those statistics up, which I was slightly annoyed by because this school wasn’t free. My school back in Geneva was unorganized at times, but they had a solid program and we learned a lot for free. And then here in Japan, we do whatever like gradations with pencils and drawing apples & stuff, but after that 2nd year it’s like boom—go find a job! You don’t have to do your homework if you don’t want, but just find a job and then you’ll learn everything on the job next year. They want you to just focus on that and I felt like “Oh man, what am I doing here?”

For my job hunt, I knew I didn’t want to work in animation, so I started to think of other options I had and what kind of visa I could get. You know, like maybe I could get married and get a spousal visa or something? But then I actually started thinking about a business management visa, which was something that had been on my bucket list. I knew at some point I wanted to start a company someday. It was a thought that was far off, but then I wondered if I could just do it now. I was 22 at the time and I didn’t have much experience, so it seemed like a stretch. I didn’t really know much, I was in Japan and I wasn’t even that good at silkscreen, but I just decided to try it out. So I took a job part time here in a silkscreen factory. And then when I graduated, through a loophole, I technically still had six months before my visa expired so I was still working at the factory and getting everything ready to get started with my business. I went back home to Switzerland for a month, took out a loan, came back and then started up my business! I also freelance and do part time jobs on the side in Graphic Design to keep going. My motivation was mostly just for the visa, but if I didn’t have that ultimatum I probably wouldn’t have been as driven to do it. I mean, it was either go home or do this and stay here where I could do something really meaningful. So here I am now a year later! I mean for me starting was the easy part, all things considered, it’s just like going through the steps, I hate hate hate HATE paperwork!

BCJ: I definitely understand that, the second I see any kind of documentation that needs a signature, I get the heebie jeebies, but you worked it out. You’re a real hustler! All right, so just out of curiosity, I know your business is officially called the ODT Factory, but what inspired the name? 

ODT Original Designs

Coco: I actually had a hard time finding a name, haha! Back when I was still getting started and had to meet up with the lawyer to register I was like “Oh no, I still don’t have a name!”, but I worked it out eventually. I’ve always enjoyed silly word play so I decided that because I wanted to start a company that makes many weird things and such, we would be like, you know, an “oddity”; because we do weird things. But I also didn’t want it to be a very obvious name, I wanted something that was clever sounding. When I tried to spell it out that way on paper, I thought it looked very cool. I wanted to have a basic name for the company and then do different brands under that name. There are also a few explanations for the acronyms, but I came up with those a little later and honestly I always say a different answer depending on who asks, so it’s not even that important, haha!

BCJ: Well it’s definitely a very distinctive name on its own, so love it! Also, can you talk more about the silkscreen process & how it works?

Coco: So it’s kind of an old process, you have the frames that have a mesh on them, which used to be silk–that’s why it’s called silk screening. You used to use silk, but now people use nylon instead. And as for the process, it’s like using a stencil. You make the frame & the stencil and it’s all very manual, using your hands. You put a product on your cloth that will dry and it harden with the UV light box. You print your design on transparent paper, put it on the stencil, on the mesh, and put all that in the UV box. Afterwards, all the parts that didn’t have light on them, they don’t harden so you can wash it out and then you have the outline of stencil left. Also when using choosing your ink, you can make your own; you can mix different colors or types and you can combine several stencils to separate the colors as well.

Actually, mixing & experimenting with dye is really fun as well. What I’m testing now is printing with transparent inks on shirts and then dying them in another ink color so that it doesn’t dye where the transparent ink lies and then the design just appears out of nowhere. I have a friend who makes natural dyes using plants and such, so I’m using that. It’s fun! So as I said, the silk screening process is all very manual and getting a bit outdated now, which is unfortunate. Right now there are printers that can print ink on the t-shirts so that can be useful, but it’s totally different than doing with your own two hands, which is really great!

BCJ: I’d definitely like to make a trip & come visit your factory sometime. It looks really satisfying & fulfilling when you’re pushing the ink onto the stencil. Almost like a more sophisticated style of tie-dying t-shirts. What would you say was the most difficult part of this experience for you?

A Happy Silkscreen Student

Coco: Honestly, as I said before, it wasn’t actually getting my business started that was hard just because of all the excitement. The hardest thing for me was and still is disciplining myself and staying organized. I know the worst thing that can happen is dealing with consequences that I created for myself. I don’t have a boss that will get angry at me, so sometimes it’s really hard for me to stay motivated. When you don’t do anything, nothing happens! You just use money and then you’re sad and that’s it, but that’s not good either. I had a really weird time after I finally completed the paperwork. That was fine at first because I was on a strict time schedule; my visa was running out and I had lots of things to do, but then afterwards there was nothing! I was just sitting in my office and thinking “Now what? Where do I start?” It was strange because suddenly there was nothing to do and lots to do at the same time. So I just slowly started to try this and that and even though there was no one to direct me, I just did it and got myself going eventually.

BCJ: Yeah, being your own boss can definitely be a double-edged sword for sure, but you’re a real trailblazer. So how does it feel when you see people walking around with your pieces and out of your workshops having learned about a new skill & way to recycle clothing?

Coco: It’s a very good feeling! I’m still trying a lot of things and testing what works, but this year I’m planning to do more classic workshops that run maybe twice a week. That would be ideal; one during the day and then one on a weekday from 6-10pm so it would be after work hours. My goal for this year is running a workspace where people can come and use the space to create. It’s basically what I wanted when I first started getting passionate about silkscreening. I learned how to silkscreen and then had no space to work on it more. The workshops that I run now have a maximum of five people, which is ideal. And you can also print your own original designs if you’d like. So people send me their designs, I check them and then on the day of, we make their frames. So they make their frames themselves, put in the UV bars, then make the inks and learn how to print. The experience is very manual & visceral. It’s really fun–I feel like that moment when you push the ink through, I think everyone has that same reaction. You spend four hours (that’s typically how long workshops are) preparing everything in the frame and when everything is aligned and you get your t-shirt/cloth set, then your ink and finally go in with that stroke to bring it all together. You think about how it will look and then leave the frame to check and their expression will just say “Wow, this is so cool!” And I say “Right? Right?” I love seeing that expression of wonder on people’s faces!

So in addition to more traditional workshops, I’m also planning to do more collaborations with designers and have original designs. Because I get bored very easily, I use my silk screening studio for a brand I started back when I was waiting for my visa back home as well, where we export Japanese traditional clothing in Switzerland. It’s called Kiku Vintage; “kiku” like the Japanese flower. At first, I wasn’t sure how it would go, but it’s actually starting to pick up now. It all came together very nicely because we wanted to find stuff and export and sell them as it is, working with people’s original product and designs. So we have like these Osakan grandmas doing the sewing and everything. For Kiku Vintage, we’ve also started doing some original designs that are inspired by traditional Japanese designs and we print them on second hand clothes. So there’s a lot going on this year!

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That’s really great to hear, Coco, and thanks for letting us know of all your future plans as well! I, and others I’m sure, think you seem to be doing just fine in running your business and are looking forward to seeing you continue. Your creativity and tendency to get bored quickly will definitely keep you running on this wonderful path! I especially enjoy the eco-friendly aspect as well. Please be sure to keep us all updated on your progress in the upcoming year!

To learn more about the ODT Factory, KikuVintage brand and Coco’s workshops, please make sure to follow the Factory page on social media (@odtfty/@kikuvintage; www.odtfty.com/www.kikuvintage.com) and inquire or consider reaching out to join a workshop sometime if you happen to be in Osaka! Here in 2020, the vision of the future is looking stylish, eco-friendly and very bright.

On the Run w/ Yung Student Loans

The Milkman Crew

Ok Fam, we’ve all made it to the end of 2019! While some expats have returned to their families and holiday traditions back in their home countries, the rest of us are making our very own traditions with end-of-the-year bonenkais, strawberry shortcake, and an all time Japan holiday favorite: Kentucky Fried Chicken. FYI, the chicken isn’t that great…but like I said, we make it work.

To ring out the old year, we’re doing something a little different for our next profile. So far, we’ve presented you with artists living in and around the Kansai area of Japan, but for the month of December, BCJ is pleased to present to you one of our members that does not actually reside in Japan, but is currently touring here from the United States. Visiting all the way from Los Angeles, California, Yung Student Loans, a.k.a. The Milkman, is an electronic & hip hop project, producer, and performer “illustrating for us all the consequences of Emotional Debt with brooding late night vibes.” Hot off the heels of a pending album release and music video in tow, we found time to have a local coffee sit down and discuss the Milkman’s grand return to the land of the rising sun:

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Black Creatives Japan: I know you’ve already had a brief visit to Japan earlier this year so firstly, okaeri “welcome back”! How has your trip been this time around?

Yung Student Loans: Thank you! I just arrived about a week and a half ago, but it’s been good so far. I’ve been busy and hanging out with my friend who’s in town. Been getting used to the city again and getting lost on trains, haha. Thanks for asking.

BCJ: Yes, on your way here, you were a bit lost in transit, haha, but getting lost is the best way to explore a city so it’s all good. Now, you’ve done quite a bit of touring already back home so what made you decide to tour in Japan?

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YSL: Well, when I was younger, I always dreamed of coming to Japan. It was kind of a super pipe dream and I never imagined that I’d actually come here. When I visited earlier this year, it was fantastic, but also very short lived and I just made the determination then that if I can make it happen—if I could just do a bunch of different things to have the resources to come back, play music in Japan and try to grow my fan base and just do it, it’d be awesome! So I’m glad it was manifested and I’m back. I’m happy that I’m here because I also feel that my music sonic-wise and aesthetically fits a lot of textures that match well with Japan even though it’s not in Japanese. Somehow my fan base has grown significantly here, haha.

BCJ: So, you’ve seen those end-of-the-year Spotify charts then! Perhaps the last time you were here, you made some good connections at that time.

YSL: Yeah, it was that and also just finding a way to promote. Recently, I’ve been working on a project and figuring out the aesthetic that I want to go along with it. When I’m working on music, I’m not the kind of person who goes out and records everything they’re doing every night while they’re actively making music. If I’m in the zone of making music, then that’s what I’m actually doing. I feel I can often be very incognito and I’ll just be “in the house cooking up” is what they would say. And then people will ask “What’s YSL look like now? What’s he doing?” For things like that, I’ve been using anime that I like and making music videos to my songs in order to give a visual that can connect people to things. I think that has worked very well here.

BCJ: Makes sense, especially for the many anime lovers out here! Earlier you mentioned your current project. Can you give a little introduction to the album, for our readers, who may not know. Since it’s currently being “cooked up in kitchen” and all!

YSL: Right, so the album is called I Stay Lonely. It was going to be just one song—one vocal song and then I was going to add a bunch of instrumental songs that fit along with the vibe of it. That was over the summer. I think when I came up with the concept of the album, it was May 17th, 2019 exactly. Originally, I wanted to reimagine the song I Get Lonely by Janet Jackson and I had actually already made all the melody lines and vocal notes, so then I figured out how I wanted to design the soundscape and I made a new synth specifically for that song. As I went on, however, a bunch of other things came up and I ended up releasing a separate summer album including some other things I had made. So at that point, what had started out as a small project—something I thought it would just be a one off became something way more.

I started working on more songs and also really got back into songwriting. I just realized I had all these songs and melodies so I started crafting more. It was definitely a next stage thing and worthy enough to be a project on its own. I wanted to release it before I came to Japan, but I kept changing things and my plan now is to release it in December. I can’t tell you an official date, but it’ll be very soon. Most of it is done, it’s just about connecting all the final pieces properly. This project includes a couple of songs featuring other artists and I don’t usually work with other people so I want to make sure they’re also okay with what I’m putting out there.

BCJ: After hearing a few previews of it, I’m definitely excited! To shift gears a little, can you tell us how Yung Student Loans came to be the artist we see today? I know you used to DJ and performed under the name HJMS, as well.

YSL: Yes, my projects were usually production only, but when I first moved to LA, I did have one song that I was rapping on, as my former electronic name, HJMS. A friend of mine, Shannon, after hearing it, said “Oh I like this, I like your voice on it.” She was the first person to ever say that and I was happy because I used to be very weird about my own vocals. I just didn’t have a lot of confidence in them and people just expected me to do a lot of stereotypical rapping and singing, but I’m happy that Shannon said that because it sort of set the stage.

And technically, the first song I made for HJMS was back in 2009, but my first project that got attention and led to me performing at venues and such was a project called Death of Hawn in 2012. Then after that, the Yung Student Loans project didn’t start until 2017.

It started out as a very ‘tongue and cheek’ thing and there’s a lot of lore behind it. I had made one project before, where I was doing a lot of production and these weren’t just regular electronic songs; I wanted to put vocals on them, but was figuring out what exactly I wanted to do. During that process, I realized some of the core things that I like are songwriting and melody construction; I just find a way to merge those and then finally with my vocoder. So I developed that and started performing as Yung Student Loans. At that time, I released my album Milkwave, which is the first project that crafted my sonics.

Conceptually with Yung Student Loans, the whole idea is that people around our age are in this group. We’re millennials and a lot of us have collected student loan debt because of whatever choice, but student loan debt has a lease of monetary value that can be paid off eventually. However, emotional debt doesn’t have a value, so a lot of my music is about the “emotional debt” that we accrue in our lives; that we knowingly build up or that we find, but never get that debt forgiveness from other people so we never move on from it. When I write songs, I never put out a song unless I’m over whatever I’m writing about and my writing process is therapeutic in that way.

BCJ: I think many artists can relate to that; their work being therapeutic, but that’s a really interesting way of describing that process. What was it like for you to transition from creating mixes as a DJ for your music to full on performing your own with vocals?

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YSL: It was weird going from just making really instrumental bass music and then knowing what those songs mean and that people can interpret them however they want. So I have to deal with people listening to my songs and having their own interpretations, even though I never try to make a song about just one thing. Just knowing that people are listening intently is crazy. I used to not think anyone was ever listening to what I was saying and then people started responding to songs saying, “I like this song because it talks about this…” or “I really connected with that…” and it was so weird for me at first. My friends back home never paid attention to my songs, so yeah, it was different.

And then DJing was also a way I could get my music out there because if you stream it or you can DJ your stuff out loud for people, they’re likely to want to follow you. That was the finesse; you’re an electronic producer and make a remix of a bigger artist and if people come and see your remix of that, next they might go back to your original stuff and start getting into that too. It’s hard to get people to want to listen, especially now that people have access to everything; it’s hard to get people’s attention so some have to also focus on a visual that appeases.

At one point, there were definitely a lot of people who were fucking with my aesthetic, but weren’t actually listening to the music. They were just like, I like this leather jacket, and white turtleneck and gold chain and his hat—I like this look. It’s probably why my biggest building fan base started with Instagram, because it was an aesthetic thing and people liked it, but then for a while I wondered, how can I actually connect and get people to listen to the music aspect and not just look at my pictures, haha!

BCJ: Well, can’t help that; it’s both a blessing and a curse to be an attractive creative, huh? So you have described your music a little bit, but are there any other words you’d use to identify your genre/sound and creative process?

YSL: My songs are a mix of electronic and hip hop. Since I do all of my own production, I try to build this aesthetic, that I call “the feeling of drowning.” I like making production, bass wise and also synth wise. Melodic wise, you feel like you’re just engulfed in the sound and my words, which is also why I mix my vocals a certain way. It’s not for some people; many people like vocals that are upfront, but that’s not how I like doing a lot of my songs.

It’s funny how I figured out the “feeling of drowning” thing: I have this song called PSA which was on the intro to my summer mixtape last year called On the Run from Sallie Mae Pt. II, but when I made the beat, the original concept was that I wanted to use a whale song and have that be the main thing that carried it. In the production, even though other things are happening, the main thing is just a whale singing in the song. Added to that, was a simple chime, from the KONAMI theme of Metal Gear Solid that isn’t used anymore. I’m a huge fan of Metal Gear Solid. So I took that, then made the main line of the song and combined that in the whale song and then with the production around it, I just made this super heavy song and it was just the epitome of drowning to me. It’s very aggressive and rappy rap, but it’s very weird. A lot of people like the rappy rap songs and then others sometimes want to just hear the vibe, but then you can just get different things out of me.

The Milkman at his Post

About my process, I make everything based off story. That’s why I always end up making these little mixtape projects in between my main projects, because so far I consider my main projects Milkwave and then Emotional Debt ’cause those have a theme and when I don’t have a theme, I don’t like just making music. It was also weird to have people care about me singing & rapping about emotions. The first song I made that became more popular was my song Ore Wa (which is Japanese for “I am”) and it was technically a diss song, but no one really knows that except for like two people. The whole song is about being a joke kind of, but then being very arrogant and saying “I am” in that way is a boast-puffed-out-chest kind of thing. So there’s all that, but it’s also about my paranoia & not being able to trust people. At that time, someone was making idle threats towards me and that was my mindset when I made the song. But because it’s catchy and the delivery is a certain way, people just say whatever and I don’t think they really think about it. In the second verse, I talk about how I take all this Xanax to stop this paranoia and I don’t trust my friends or anything, but people just happily sing along and I don’t think they really get it. I guess that’s just the weird line in between… Like when people are too close to the subject, when they listen to it, I wonder whether they feel uncomfortable or not?

BCJ: I couldn’t tell you for sure, but I’d say that aspect definitely comes hand in hand with creative expression. People will interpret it however they like, but that’s really cool that your work is multifaceted and can inspire different opinions in others. Now I know you’re forever a sad boy, but can you name any enjoyable experiences you’ve had so far working on/performing these projects?

YSL: One time when I performed Ore Wa and people knew the words…that was a good moment. Or when I perform my song, Shut Your Bitch Ass Up, that’s also a crowd favorite. I don’t know, just to have people experience connections is cool. It’s weird to connect the internet to your real life. I remember last time before I came to Japan, I made this song for the record release of a collective. It was just an electronic song, but they wanted me to live perform so I decided I would and do all the new stuff I’d been working on, at that time, that people never heard before. At the live, there were just people there that I’d never seen before. People who were there to see me and I was just like…what? I never know what people expect because my moods can be different. I start off with high energy songs and then I get into the more sing songy stuff, but yeah it’s nice. I’m excited to finally release this new project and perform it live. I think it’ll be my most catchy, likeable, and approachable yet. It’ll definitely be a significant sound.

BCJ: Have there been any major difficulties in your path as an artist and producer? Do you have any other advice for artists out there on the same road?

YSL: Yeah, there were a lot. When I first started this project, many people, like I said before, were there for this comedic aspect of me being called Yung Student Loans. I knew it was gonna be a name that people would find funny, but then when I came up with the Milkman concept and all of the deeper lore behind that, it was a bit difficult to connect that to everything else.

When I made my first mixtape. All the production I did was super dope and the only thing left was to vocally perform on it so I did that, but even though I liked all the things I made production wise, some of the things I was rapping and singing about I wasn’t fully on board with because I used to make songs that were just completely in hyperbole and now that didn’t really fit.

YSL: “I Stay Lonely…”

So people may not know, but while the first concept of Yung Student Loans is the idea of emotional debt, there’s also a second one. That I’m this guy, who has a lot of student loan debt and uses the money he received to finesse a lifestyle that’s just living lavishly on boats and buying a bunch of stuff. And since he never has any reportable income, he can just keep deferring his loans and they can never get money from him. So the whole idea is that I’m on the run from Sallie Mae; they’re on to me and my lifestyle, but they can never prove that I have money ‘cause anytime I make money, it’s off the books.

Then the Milkman concept is just “milking” situations to benefit yourself. Anyone can become a Milkman if you know how to milk a situation. As the Milkman, I create the Milkman Academy, where I teach others how to milk different situations. That’s when the whole project went a little off, because conceptually, I was saying things that were very high in shock value and while the rapping of the performances isn’t bad, it’s just that in hindsight, looking back on it, it was just very cringe worthy to me because of this disconnect.

After performing live for the first time, I had just made the mixtape and a person had invited me to come play a show. At that show, people were fucking with it and going “Oh yeah, Yung Student Loans, how can I find all your other stuff?” But as I got more serious about the production, I didn’t want people to view my songs as just a joke. I respect people’s craft, but I know if people only take it as a joke, even if you do something as deep, it’s really hard to take yourself out of that. It was a kind of thing I had to do a switch on and that’s what led to my first project Milkwave.

I’m always comedic because that’s just part of my personality; I’m always tongue & cheek and never too serious. The I Stay Lonely project would probably be the most serious and vulnerable you’re going to hear from me. For the ending song, I talk about something that I’ve never spoken about before and it’s just a ballad of me singing.

That experience was a hardship because I had to make a decision on how I wanted to go; did I want to develop a sound and make songs that are funny and might not be taken seriously. The biggest thing is if you try to set my music to other people, they’ll say, “Oh, this is too electronic” or “I like the production, but I don’t like your content.” I went through times when people would say they would post/write about it on a blog or whatever, but then their editor would reject it. There were people that definitely got the concept, but thought some parts were corny so I just had to deal with that.

Yung Student Loans & ‘Sallie Mae’

For advice, I’d say keep going, don’t listen to your friends. The hard thing for me in music is that when I start making music, I don’t have a reference point. I think for many people who create music, they hear a sound they like and want to replicate that. So then they find tutorials on how to replicate it, and from there they can grow and do other things that might be their own sound. However, when I do stuff I don’t really listen to one person and say I want to replicate this. Usually I’m just doing stuff that I already have in my head and then from there I’m just figuring out how to take only the best parts, the best ways to mix it, deliver it and pulling it all together you know? It’s also a little bit of sonic learning. I’ve figured out how to adjust people’s ears to what I want to do, but ultimately I know I’m not always for everyone.

So to everyone else, if you have a particular sound and a good idea then keep pushing through and just find the best way to take it. One hundred percent don’t listen to friends. No disrespect to my friends, it’s just that I think within my music circle, some people got it and supported it, but then all my friends who weren’t into music, they’d just listen to things casually and it becomes really frustrating. If people can only listen from a casual standpoint and they don’t get it then they don’t get it. They might lie to you and say they get it, but they don’t. So if you’re bending what you like to your friends or your casuals, then you’re going to get lost in your identity. Don’t get stuck making goofy songs for your friends unless that’s what you really want to do.

BCJ: Solid advice, it’s always best to be true to yourself! Finally before you go, you’re here on tour and always working on new projects so I suppose everyone should just be on the lookout for your release of I Stay Lonely and your new music video?

YSL: Yeah, the music video is probably going to be the main single. It feels weird to say that ‘cause like nowadays, you don’t really have a main single unless you have someone funding you a budget. It’s probably the most catchy and straightforward, and yeah I’m working on the I Stay Lonely project and it’s going to be a bummer of a project, but it’s gonna slap. It’s sad boy bops, SBB… I finally finished the track listing so I know how it’s all going to play out and it’s going to be songs for every mood. Like car music; for when you’re in your car. I found out a lot of people listen to my music at night, if they’re working and going through the night driving or just working on late night stuff. Also my friend, Lee, who’s my main videographer and photographer and my friend Shannon, they always make jokes that whenever they see a red light, they call it a Yung Student Loans vibe. In my house, there’s red lights everywhere and I realize to some people, that’s very brooding and can seem like a horror scene, but to me it’s just my red light mood. I make music for when you have red lights on in your house…

YSL’s Red Light Mood

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And that’s a wrap, Everyone! Come ride with us on the Milkwave and check out the Yung Student Loans project available on Spotify, Soundcloud, Apple Music, and many other music platforms. You can also find updates on the release of his new music video & album I Stay Lonely via his IG handle @yungstudentloans.

Additionally, if you’re currently in the Kansai area of Japan this holiday season, come out and see Yung Student Loans along with other amazing local music artists such as the band, 4th Tribe and Drape, live at our upcoming bi-monthly BCJ event, Knight Riderz Volume 4: Bonenkai Vybz @ 8pm on December 28th at The Castle Behind the Bar in Sannomiya, Kobe. Then catch 4th Tribe performing again at Hard Rock Cafe’s event, New Year’s Eve Party @ 9pm in Universal City Osaka. Finally later on that night, pull up and see Yung Student Loans once more before the New Year, spinning alongside our Kansai DJ Collective members during our last BCJ event of 2019, Countdown into 2020 @ 10pm at the The Sound Garden Cafe & Bar in Shinsaibashi. Gas up, gear up, and get ready to spend some long nights, listening to the smooth sad bops of The Milkman and let yourself drown in his red light mood. Cheers!