CANT

Chris Taylor has made a lot records—as a band member and producer with Grizzly Bear and Department of Eagles, as a producer with Dirty Projectors, Twin Shadow and the Morning Benders, as well as work on Arthur Russell's last three releases. But CANT’s Dreams Come True is his first record as the frontman, or the fount for 10 songs that feel at once personal and accessible, like journal entries that feel like moments of emotional déjà vu. The offerings of a songwriter we’re glad to know exists, and the arrangements of an instrumentalist that’s stunned for the better part of a decade, Dreams Come True is an unflinching examination of the fears and follies we face at adulthood, each pulled confidently into pop music that doesn’t surrender.

Dreams Come True is heavy on collaboration with George Lewis Jr., from Twin Shadow. You produced his last record. Why do you two work so well together?
I think so much of it boils down to trust. We just found that we trusted each other’s musical taste fully. We both trust each other to run with ideas, which is a really productive—and ostensibly completely ideal—approach to writing. In Grizzly Bear, part of what makes our music what it is is the way we all four come from different places. There’s apprehension and discussion, which is of course all good in its own way. But there’s also the inevitable baggage of having been in a band for six years; you have things you’ve been through that have changed the way your relationship has grown. It’s a much deeper relationship, but a lot more complicated. With George, we’ve never been on tour together, and I don’t get annoyed with the way he eats chips in the van. It’s this baggage-free situation where we trust each other, and there’s nothing to lose. He has his band, and I have my band. We both want to see what happens if we don’t worry about what this is going to become and just enjoy making music with each other.

What was the process for the two of you on Dreams Come True?
In a bedroom adjacent to the gutted and shut-down studio space that Grizzly Bear used to record Veckatimest in upstate New York, I brought up some keyboards, guitars, horns, bass and a drum machine. We moved furniture out of the room, set up two little desks and had a computer. George and I played all of the instruments whenever there seemed like a seed of an idea might be there. We’d usually work on stuff separately and say, “Hey, I got something. You want to check it out?" And then, “Yeah, I like that. Let’s put this on top of it.” Then, “What about this?” That was a song. Not any sort of revolutionary approach by any means, but just different than I have experienced with Grizzly Bear, and I found the process inspiring and fun. After there was something like a song, we’d just move on. There was no pressure. It was just, “I like the way this makes me feel.” I followed that until it looked like the bucket was full.

So there was no pressure to make a record or meet a deadline? You simply wanted to make some songs and see if you could do something with them?
No, no one was waiting for the record and Terrible is my label, so it’s up to me, which I needed that freedom to do it. Pressure would’ve stopped me from even starting. For years I have felt like making a record of my own, but never had the courage. I knew that I just had to try and see what happened, to settle something within myself that wouldn’t stop gnawing at my ear. I knew that if I could just make it, then I had the carte blanche to cancel it, too. “If this sucks, I can totally make that call and throw it away,” I told myself. I needed a little time to do what I wanted to do. George wasn’t pressured about it, and neither was I. We just wanted to make something we liked. That’s all it ever had to be.

In collaborating with a band and then in producing records that other people ultimately attach their name to, do you feel like that’s sometimes not the frame, or that you’re making the music they want as much as if not more than the music you want?
It can be a bit of an exhausting job, constantly producing records and also the full time commitment of being on tour with a band. It’s a lot of compromising and trying to get the best thing out of a situation. I’d get off tour and work with a band, and then go on tour and come home and work with a band. I literally took no time off in the last six years or so. I’ve been contributing to other records and that’s been a really amazing process, but I felt like, for Dreams Come True, I just wanted to indulge a little bit on my own taste. A lot of producing is learning how to navigate compromises and make compromises work for everyone, and I needed to spend time doing what I wanted to do, almost indulgently. I needed that. I wanted, for lack of a better term, to have a little “me time”.

George, for better and worse, has been shoehorned into the chillwave and bedroom pop spheres for the album you produced. Given the approach you two had for CANT and its electronic pop sound, were you worried you’d immediately be put in the same box without regard for the songs?
For every record that I make, I have a mobile recording that I can set up anywhere. It’s the same equipment whether it’s in a hallway, a bedroom or a bathroom. Bedroom pop suggests working with limited means in the sense that anyone today can have some modest but effective-enough recording set-up between their laptop and a microphone. And that’s how George did a lot of his record, with a tiny 8-inch amp, a tiny little practice amp and his laptop. That would be what you call “bedroom pop”; as that’s where it’s done. I’m definitely not trying to make it intentionally low-fi or chillwave. I’m more inspired by stuff like D’Angelo’s Voodoo or Sly & the Family Stone. George is involved in writing the record with me, but my production angle is more what I’m after.

Why call this project CANT, rather than Chris Taylor or any other word?
There’s a cleanliness to the name for me. It feels open-ended. It’s not the word “cannot” without an apostrophe, however. It just the word “cant.” It has a variety of meanings that were interesting to me—singing a tale or a story but also manipulating or lying, or messing with the idea of people’s relationship to character in the way that an actor would embody different roles, pulling them off in a personal way. It’s interesting to me, never having been a front man—telling the truth and being effective with that, and then not telling the truth and being effective with that. I am attracted to the idea that lyrics can create a tension between something that’s honest and also potentially dishonest.