Contact Us

Voyeur Discusses ‘Pain-Inducing’ Writing Process, Love of ‘Self-Obsessed’ Artists

Evana Roman

With his new musical project Voyeur, 22-year-old musician Robert Seawell has drawn quite a few comparisons to recent Mercury Prize winner James Blake. But his debut EP, ‘Little Death,’ proves he has much more to offer than a replicated collection of Blake-like material.

Diffuser.fm recently caught up with Seawell — who describes his sound as ”individualistic, pop-driven minimal-electronic computer music” — to find out why he doesn’t care for social media and learn about his “pain-inducing” writing process. He also talked about his all-night recording sessions, the strong inspiration he gets from Conor Oberst and his disdain for the album format.

Why did you choose to call your solo project Voyeur?

I call it Voyeur because, at the time of writing and recording this album, I felt separated from general human interests and mostly lived vicariously through my surroundings by observing my college campus day in and day out and relating to ideals of what it means to be a college student. But I didn’t participate much. I didn’t develop relationships. I didn’t go to parties. I didn’t really care about what I was learning. I was mostly a ghost that moved in time without connection or passion. Mostly, what I was experiencing was dissociation as reaction to trauma, in clinical terms. So I was watching life instead of living. Voyeurism is a sexual fetish and I wanted to frame my distance-living as sexualized, because I felt it was a strange, hyper-controlled fetishistic approach to life. This project came out as a non-directional drive to re-acclimate into reality and come to understand and assimilate the stress of being constantly awake to the vulnerability and mortal nature of life.

When did you start writing music?

I started writing songs when I was 15, and I started playing saxophone. I wrote a lot of songs and recorded them with a s—– Radio Shack Gooseneck microphone. They sound like s—, but I like them. Joined a ska band in Virginia Beach called the Man Eating Camels and eventually was writing music for an eight-piece. I then played with a few other bands in Virgina Beach, mostly saxophone and vocals. I also studied free-jazz under Joel Futterman through high school. Then I came to college and wanted full control so I just focused on sampling and synths, and here’s Voyeur.

Your Facebook was only opened in April, and you don’t seem to be on Twitter or YouTube – is that just because the project as Voyeur is quite new? Or are you just not much of a social media person, considering you’ve previously described yourself as being “generally asocial?”

Yeah, I don’t really care to be active on Facebook because I don’t think people are gonna be using Facebook for much longer. It’s about to die like MySpace. I don’t really know enough people to have Twitter followers. YouTube, I’ll probably put the songs up there and the music video once the album’s out and I have some time. I want to get on Instagram – I think that looks really fun, but I don’t have a smartphone.

What was the process like writing/recording this EP?

It was disruptive in a good way. I got on a new sleep cycle. I skipped most classes and would record late at night, like midnight to 8AM most nights, because the street noise was quietest from 1-4 and my apartment’s right on a main road in Richmond. Got a bunch of sweet equipment using my grant money, sound-proofing, microphones, monitors etc… would mostly just record music and eat food. Sleep until 3pm and then do it again for about 6 months. Ended with about 70 minutes of material which was just too much and I cut a bunch and re-recorded everything a couple times with the songs I wanted to keep. That was like, mid-2012. Put it aside, came back, re-wrote stuff. Eventually just abandoned trying to make it ‘right.’ Wanted to move on, but wanted to do it well so I got Blake Eiseman (Justin Bieber, TLC, Beyonce) to mix it. I was looking for a nice sheeny pop mix to counterbalance the dark concept of the album as to have a slightly frustrating contrast. I always liked music to be kind of annoying or frustrating, felt I got the most out of it that way.

‘Until The Day I Die’ sounds like it could have been written by James Blake, which is something most people who have heard it seem to have picked up on. Has he been a particularly strong influence on your music?

Aesthetically, I was aiming for currency, so I mostly targeted that sleek minimalism we’ve had coming out of the U.K (Burial, James Blake, Joy Orbison, The xx). I drew from their well, but obviously didn’t really sink into it too much. Really though, my strongest inspirations have come from the cathartic self-exploration of Conor Oberst via Bright Eyes in his 2005 albums ‘I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning’ and Digital Ash In A Digital Urn’. Before I listened to ‘I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning,’ I was basically indifferent towards music. Another album I love is Brand New’s ‘The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me,’ for similar reasons. I felt that when I listened to these albums, I was exposed to matured artists with high amounts of sensitivity and intelligence who were self-confident in expressing what they were and how they feel without concern for label or listener expectations. I’m a self-obsessed person and I like self-obsessed artists.

You’ve said that you wrote the album while experiencing “existential despair” and that the album reflects the “nature of mortality” and “finding will to live.” Is writing music, particularly this collection of songs, a very cathartic experience for you? Is there any one song in particular that really reflects that? 

No, it was more pain-inducing than cathartic. Recording is an obsessive process, and when you’re obsessing over ideas of despair and death for long periods of time it certainly affects the way you feel in a not so pleasant way. It was, however, very useful for me to make sense of my own feelings and ideas. Not everyone has the luxury of having the time or resources to explore the sources of their fear. I feel lucky for getting to explore it, even though it wasn’t a happy experience. And, no there isn’t one song particularly. The album is a complete concept from start to finish in parallel with the process of discovering and overcoming existential despair and loss of innocence and youthful identity.

Who is the photo of on the cover of ‘Little Death’? What’s the story behind the artwork?

It’s my cousin. My aunt took that photograph in the mid-60s. I just saw it when I was visiting them in Arizona and thought it communicated what I wanted. Basically, it stands to place the death of youth as natural and as an intimidating path towards peace.

Do you have any plans to release a full-length album?

No. I think full-length albums, as a format, are generally irrelevant now. I think for my next project, which won’t be for a bit, I’ll focus on a series of EPs that are two-three songs long with videos for each song. Kinda like how the cool minimal artists just release short EPs. People watch music online more than they listen. People want singles. Less people want to invest 45 minutes into something that dies off after the first six songs. I’ll probably keep everything I release under 27 minutes.

Do you have any tour dates scheduled?

No, I’m too busy with other things now, but I will likely play some dates in Richmond while I’m still in school. If somehow a few months clear up, I might set some dates.

Best of the Web

Festival Fever News

Leave a Comment

It appears that you already have an account created within our VIP network of sites on . To keep your points and personal information safe, we need to verify that it's really you. To activate your account, please confirm your password. When you have confirmed your password, you will be able to log in through Facebook on both sites.

Forgot your password?

*Please note that your points, prizes and activities will not be shared between programs within our VIP network.

It appears that you already have an account on this site associated with . To connect your existing account with your Facebook account, just click on the account activation button below. You will maintain your existing profile and VIP program points. After you do this, you will be able to always log in to http://diffuser.fm using your Facebook account.

*Please note that your points, prizes and activities will not be shared between programs within our VIP network.

Please fill out the information below to help us provide you a better experience.

Register on Diffuser.fm quickly by logging in with your Facebook account. It's just as secure, and no password to remember!

Not a Member? Sign Up Here.

Register on Diffuser.fm quickly by logging in with your Facebook account. It's just as secure, and no password to remember!