Seattle’s electronic chamber-pop Symbion Project, led by composer and producer Kasson Crooker, recently released the single ‘Bloodthirsty’, originally from the 2016 album ‘Arcadian’. This was visually preceded by two music videos, first an immersive 360 video and one in 2D. In addition to Symbion Project, Crooker also founded several bands including Freezepop, ELYXR, and Rocococo, and has written music for a number of well-known interactive video games such as Amplitude, Rockband, Frequency and he is currently scoring the indie game Shard.
‘Bloodthirsty’ was co-written with and features the hauntingly beautiful vocals of Finnish singer/songwriter Markus Junnikkala. His voice seamlessly flows through the bitter sweet rhythms and melodies, this along side the riveting allure of choreography and performances by Sorea Lear and Anna Thornton, makes for an overall deeply captivating experience.
“Overall the song revolves around strong sexual themes, alcohol, mental health, and it has a weird spiritual tone to it, talking about vampiristic themes and spirits, as if there’s some unnatural aspect which is playing a part in the world. The main character likes to think this since it would mean all of his actions aren’t entirely his fault or that he’s not fully in control. The character finds comfort in darkness. It is deep, unrevealing, and safe. Quite sadly he feels like it’s the only thing he can lose himself in, not being judged, just disappearing into the darkness without feeling like a failure. Losing himself in it.” Says, Markus Junnikkala.
Torched Magazine is pleased to have had the opportunity to talk with Kasson Crooker about Symbion Project, the story behind his latest release ‘Bloodthirsty’, and on making the fantastic 360 and 2D videos that accompany it…plus more!
TM – What was your inspiration behind ‘Bloodthirsty’? Could you briefly describe your music-making process?
Kasson – “Bloodthirsty” started off as an instrumental track for a long time, but it became clear after the sound of it started to evolve that it would be a great candidate for vocals to lead it somewhere. I’d been wanting to work with my Finnish friend Markus Junnikkala who is a fantastic singer-songwriter in his own right, and he was excited to collaborate with me on it. I sent him broken out stems that were programmed in Reason so that he could play around with the individual instruments and add his own layers and make arrangement changes. He was then able to track all his vocals and then I moved forward onto a final mix. We actually have made 3 versions of this song; the original which appears on my “Arcadian” album, a stripped down version that Markus made for the Halcyon EP, and then I combined elements of both along with some new textures for the unique video mix.
TM – Your music is rather endearing. Who writes your lyrics? Are they generic or based on real experiences?
Kasson – Why thank you! With regards to lyrics, it depends whether I’m singing on the track or if it’s a collaboration with other singers, who write their own melodies and lyrics. For me and the singers I collaborate with, the lyrics usually end up being very personal and definitely based on real experiences. When I would write lyrics for my last band Freezepop they would often be absurd adventures, but for Symbion Project the lyrics are always something close and personal to me. I personally tend to abstract out an experience or emotional state I’m in to something a bit more general so that the lyrics will better appeal to the listener and align with their outlook or emotional state. In terms of moods I try to capture, the one I’m most enamored with is the spectrum between melancholy and bittersweet. Thusly the lyrics tend to be on the darker side, but not always merely depressing.
TM – Who or what have influenced you creatively?
Kasson – Over the years I’ve been influenced by many different things that help give me excitement and drive to create music. Sometimes it’s other composers like Wendy Carlos, Brian Eno, or Erik Satie; sometimes its vintage synthesizers or cutting-edge granular synth plugins; many times it’s novels, particularly by Haruki Murakami; artwork by Alexander Calder or films like THX-1138 or Holy Mountain. I’ve found that inspiration can really come from anywhere and to be open to finding and immersing in it.
TM – What is the story behind ‘Bloodthirsty’ in particular?
Kasson – In Markus’s words (as he wrote the lyrics)… “Overall the song revolves around strong sexual themes, alcohol, mental health, and it has a weird spiritual tone to it, talking about vampiristic themes and spirits, as if there’s some unnatural aspect which is playing a part in the world. The main character likes to think this since it would mean all of his actions aren’t entirely his fault or that he’s not fully in control. The character finds comfort in darkness. It is deep, unrevealing, and safe. Quite sadly he feels like it’s the only thing he can lose himself in, not being judged, just disappearing into the darkness without feeling like a failure. Losing himself in it.”
TM – Your two music videos for ‘Bloodthirsty’ (one an immersive 360 experience and one in 2D) feature choreography and performance by Sorea Lear and Anna Thornton and were produced and directed by Avielle Heath and Micah Knapp. Can you briefly describe the inspiration and creative process behind making your videos?
Kasson – I’ve had the fortune of getting to work with some really talented and inspiring music video directors, particularly for “Arcadian” directed by Sherif Alabede and Micah Knapp & Avielle Heath for “Bloodthirsty.” Originally I ideated on a creative direction with Micah Knapp for a few months about how we’d technically create an immersive 360video and deal with the constraints of that technology. After we had a grasp on the basic premise (young dancers in a space creating motion and energy to align with the mood of the song) we brought in Avielle Heath who brought a wealth of creative ideas and really helped make the execution of it a reality. Lastly, Laura James is a fantastic cinematographer with extensive knowledge in the making of 360 videos and we couldn’t have made it without her! It was shot over a period of 2 days with a team of about a dozen people including the 2 fantastic dancers Sorea Lear and Anna Thornton. Laura was able to create the final 360video edit and we also had a 2D version shot on a RED camera created as well which was a lovely bonus!
TM – How would you explain the sound of your music to a new audience?
Kasson – This has been a distinct challenge for me as each album really veers into different territory and genre of electronic music. Usually I sum up the sound Symbion Project as indie-electronic chamber-pop with a cinematic flair. But I’m always looking for input from fans and reviewers on the best way to easily describe my sound 🙂
TM – To prep myself for this interview, I was skimming some of the coverage of your new single in the press and on Twitter and noticed a lot of press, including a fair chunk of press in Europe. How did you manage to reach these ears so far from your native Seattle?
Kasson – The honor of helping spread the word of Symbion Project to farther reaches of the world really goes to the talented Shauna McLarnon who has been doing PR for the “Bloodthirsty” video campaign. She has an amazing network in Europe where I’ve always struggled to get traction. Her help in reach fresh ears there has been immensely appreciated!
TM – Where did your name Symbion Project come from and what was the inspiration behind this?
Kasson – The band name really came about back in 1992-93 time frame and I’ve stuck with it now for over 2 decades. Honestly, I’ve never really liked the band name that much but once you use something for awhile you sort of have to stick with it 🙂 Back then the meaning of the band name was based on my symbiotic relationship with technology to make the kinds of music that I create. Now I tend to view the band name as more aligned with the relationships I have with other musicians who I collaborate with to create music. Both kinds of relationships really are symbiotic to me.
TM – What other projects do you have on the go? Any new releases planned in the near future?
Kasson – I’ve had quite a few different bands over the years (Freezepop, Splashdown, Rocococo), but currently my 2 active projects are Symbion Project and my modern synthpop side project ELYXR which has been releasing a string of singles over the past few months (with more to come before the end of the year)! You can check out all the ELYXR tracks here: https://elyxr.bandcamp.com/ or here:
TM – Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
Only to convey my deepest thanks for them checking out the music I make and helping to support underground artists who rely on them to continue making great art. And thank you Judy for taking the time to interview me and Symbion Project!
TM – Thank you for the time you’ve taken to speak with me ☺ Good luck in your future musical endeavors.
Feature Photo by Tim D. Coy Photography