It’s not common for an email address listed on a musician’s official Facebook page to lead directly to that musician’s personal email account. I’m almost taken aback by what a seemingly intimate way this is to make a business arrangement, but knowing Mitch Welling’s approach to writing and how he interacts with his fans, I shouldn’t be surprised.
You mentioned in the bio on your website that your only goal is “to create something honest.” What does honesty mean to you?
MW: It’s the lyrics and production. It feels like more than that, though. Something more subtle. It’s the selflessness that goes into every track, the idea of recording vocals in your own kitchen and mixing songs in your bedroom at 5am. I guess it’s Flatsound as a whole. The little things all add up and make a bigger picture. I just want to keep working on that picture and connecting with the people who see themselves in it.
You released two EPs in 2015, Four Songs for Losing You and If We Could Just Pretend. Was there a reason for releasing these separately, versus all tracks on one album? Do you prefer to release tracks as you have them?
MW: Ah I couldn’t have just lumped them into one release. It probably would have worked (not to mention made me more money) if I had passed it off as a new full length, but the disconnect between the songs would have bothered me too much. The songs off of If We Could Just Pretend were just unreleased songs that I had laying around and thought deserved to be released. Four Songs For Losing You was something different; a concept album with a beginning, middle, and end. I couldn’t imagine breaking those songs up. I’m a sucker for themed releases, even if they’re short.
Your 2012 LP Sleep was recently released on vinyl. Is this something your fans requested? Do you find they prefer to listen to your music on vinyl, versus MP3 or CD?
MW: Oh my God, yes. Fans want vinyl today more than anything, they just keep getting more popular every year. Unfortunately for little ol’ independent me, putting out a record is an enormous project, so I typically have to work with different labels to even pull them off. This isn’t a bad thing, it’s just kind of weird to send fans in different directions for specific releases. Not to mention some of the labels are smaller, inexperienced, or just get dealt a bad hand by the pressing plant resulting in major delays. I have nothing but good things to say about Sleep on vinyl, though. Broken World Media did an amazing job all the way through.
I love the sound of vinyl but most of my music listening is done digitally. Modern convenience killed my indie cred years ago.
You run your online merchandise shop yourself. Do you also pack and ship everything on your own? That must take a long time.
MW: Yup! I mean, yeah it gets pretty crazy sometimes. Especially when new items go up. My girlfriend helps a lot when things get too crazy and I feel overwhelmed, but on a casual day it’s just me. Printing labels, assembling packages, signing stuff, doing my best to reply to customer service related emails. Sometimes it gets a little mind numbing, but I just treat it like any other job and it’s not so bad. Plus, sitting there signing cards and folding shirts for a couple hours while listening to podcasts beats the heck out of most jobs, right? The rest of my work day is pretty creative and fun.
You mentioned you were passionate about gender issues when discussing the inclusion of your song “You Were a Home That I Wanted to Grow Up In” in a compilation to support Casa Ruby (a support center for trans people). How has this commitment to gender issues shown itself in your life?
MW: I mean, I’ve lost fans here and there from being so outspoken about gender issues in the past, but I couldn’t imagine something bothering me less than that hahaha. It’s a common theme in the advice podcast I record with one of my best friends, Christian Novelli, who happens to identify as agender. I don’t know, it’s such an every day part of my life that I don’t recognize it, but the passion and importance is still there.
Other than that, I’d say my dreadful left wing agenda is kept pretty low key. Though, I am known for occasionally starting twitter beefs with problematic internet superstars much larger than I will ever be.
In 2015, you requested for your fans to send in photos of their beds for a project you later called “Four Hundred Twenty-Seven Beds”. Your explanation for this was to use the photos to help you get out of your own bed. Did it work? Did the project have any other outcomes you weren’t expecting?
MW: The beds project was beautiful! I honestly didn’t expect so many people to actually do it. When I created the page I thought, if I was lucky, maybe 30 or 40 people would contribute to my boring little art project. Maybe I would put them on my website to show everyone, that was that. But, over 400? It forced me to rethink the entire project and turn it into something physical. Having them each printed, and covering a wall with them. The video was more impactful than I thought it would be.
Was “Four Hundred Twenty-Seven Beds” an effort to fight depression and anxiety? Do you ever struggle to create when faced with the symptoms of those conditions?
MW: I’d love to get all deep and say that I create my art when I’m at my lowest, and the words and sounds you hear are excerpts from that, but that isn’t the case. The truth is, anxiety and depression make everything harder. That’s just how it works. It kills your ambition to do anything, including make art. The fact of the matter is, I create my best work and am the most productive when I’m happy. The words and emotions are genuine, but they’re a recollection. A catharsis. Most of all, a reminder that it’s okay to feel a certain way. Let it come, but more importantly, let it go.
You don’t seem to vlog anymore. Does it have something to do with “The Gatorade Story”? Does the subject of the story know it’s about her?
MW: Hahahaha, very funny! I actually tried to look her up on Facebook a couple years ago. You know, for scientific reasons. To see if she still drank Gatorade or whatever. Anyway, I realized that I couldn’t even remember her name. I hope she doesn’t remember mine either.
In your “Electromagnetic” video, the video is shot in such a way as to imply the electromagnetic waves of your phone and guitar are contributing to the song playing over the video. Can you speak to the actual process used to create the song in the video?
MW: Oh I really love that video a lot. It’s a visual demonstration of a noise piece from my website. It’s pretty simple stuff, you’ve got an electric guitar running through different heavy ambient and reverb effects and a smart phone held up to the electric pickups of the instrument. Without ever actually touching the guitar, you hear the many beautiful sounds coming from the phone as it makes its way through different applications. The most beautiful part is, everything that you do in your phone sounds different and creates a unique pattern of sound; Twitter, iMessage, your home screen, even taking a picture. It all has it’s own little beautiful pattern of noises.
I know, it comes off as pretentious postmodern nonsense, but stuff like this really does drive me wild.
What are your plans for 2016? Any tours?
MW: I actually don’t know yet! So far my plate is pretty full from the future releases I have coming up. I’m releasing yet another EP soon titled Did Everything Feel Beautiful When You Let Go of the Idea of Being Anything At All, it’s about panic and agoraphobia. Later I have a full length spoken word album, and then I’m even trying to squeeze in another full length after that.
I’ve never toured. I barely even consider Flatsound a normal band or music project. It’s always just me creating art and showing it to people online, and one of those outlets of art just happens to be songwriting. I’m fortunate enough to be friends with some really successful and amazing bands, and they keep inviting me on their tours, so maybe I’ll actually take them up on that soon. More realistically, I’d love to get back into the habit of playing local shows again now that my fanbase has gotten as big as it is. Baby steps I guess.