Edamame just wants to make you float
By Brian F. Johnson
If Ed Harris had a deep desire to go out and party with the boys, Edamame wouldn’t exist.
Harris, who is from the heavy-drinking city of Chicago had every opportunity to spend his mid-twenties in blacked-out bliss, hitting the bars night after night. But the former deathcore singer, who as he put it spent several years screaming at people just didn’t have the desire to get wasted at the bars, and so he stayed home and started geeking out on Ableton until he developed his patented “chilled-out, nature-infused, weed smoking beats.”
“I’m not much of a heavy drinker,” said Harris during a recent interview with The Marquee. “But in the town I grew up in drinking was the main activity going on all the time. Since that isn’t the most interesting thing to me, that’s how Edamame started. It just started out as something to keep myself occupied and to stay home and do instead of going out and hitting up the bars. I’m kind of like a music hermit.”
If Harris had been drinking as hard as he worked on Edamame, sincere intervention would have been required. Since he started making music as Edamame in 2012, he’s put out a remarkable 12 albums in addition to a series of singles and various collaborative pieces. His latest Bask, that he just put out this August, was him literally “basking” in the positivity of life.
“Most of my albums come from a pretty positive space,” Harris said. “But as Bask came together things seemed to be going exceedingly well. I’m married now, but at the time I started this album [in early 2017], I had just gotten engaged and I had this whole tour I was finishing up. So I was feeling good. I’m hoping people can listen to the album and still be uplifted and positive as things go crazy. But calmingly positive. I think with how tense everything is right now everyone could stand to be a little more Zen.”
Bask is an organic, downtempo masterpiece. “Chill AF,” as the kids would say. It’s the type of soundtrack that would work equally well supporting David Attenborough on the BBC, as it would accompanying a heady hot yoga class, or as background to a monster study-session.
“I wanted to kind of maintain my ‘sound’ so-to-speak. This album compared to Ochre  is kind of more going back to chilled out. Ochre and a few of my releases that came out before it started kind of drifting into a little bit more bass-heavy music. With this, I wanted to go back to my main stuff that was a little more mellow. If you listen to some of my older stuff, like Bay of Plenty  or something, I used to experiment with incorporating more house style beats in with my songs. That wasn’t necessarily even a conscious choice to stop doing that, I guess, but as these songs came together, I just wanted to make them more mellowed out and less about the dance floor – obviously, I want people out there to dance. The music is still danceable. But the older releases are more about keeping the energy up the whole time. I used to blend house beats and four on the floor into the background and I haven’t really done that in a while.
One aspect to that change is Harris’ continual slow-down from his metal days. In his late teens, Harris was filled, quite admittedly so, with “young, angsty, emo-kid stuff.” While touring with metal bands Harris saw some of the obvious benefits of angrily and publicly airing those feelings night after night. “At the time it was pretty beneficial and cathartic for my teen angst nonsense, but after a while, I came to realize that I’m not an angry person,” he said. “The years of screaming took its toll on me.”
Not surprisingly as Harris has continued to embrace that ethos, his music has followed suit, going more for the jugular of relaxation rather than anger.
Another part of Edamame’s evolving sound is his use of organic, natural field recordings that he embeds in his songs. A graphic artist by day, Harris is no stranger to clip art, and sonically speaking he used to use clip art in the form of samples from YouTube videos and any other place he could find them. But like a designer who begins developing their own assets, Harris stopped sampling when he became captivated recording his own audio textures that he works into his songs.
“On my earlier records I’d find samples, but then I realized how much I enjoyed those sounds and I’d start grabbing them myself on my phone or whatever I had to capture it. Pretty much just about any song on Bask or Ochre, there is at least something, some element that I’ve recorded myself,” he said. On songs like “Deciduous” or “Rock Garden” those recordings come in the form of streams, birds or walking through leaves, even just a light crowd chatter. “I want the listener to feel that they are sitting in some beautiful Zen garden someplace enjoying a nice day. If there are bird chirps in one of my songs, I want you to feel like you’re questing through a forest. If there is the recorded sound of waves I want the song to make you feel like you’re relaxing on some secluded island. By including ‘familiar’ sounds in my music, I think it helps the songs stick with the listener longer because they can also create a mental image in their head to go with it. I also use these field recordings for a lot of my percussive sounds. I’ll bang garden pots together or hit some silverware on a countertop. I’ll shake my houseplants to create a shaker sound or whack an object against another object and turn that into my kick drum. It all varies. The main goal is to make songs that can be enjoyed by anyone anywhere, no matter the mood, no matter the task. I just want to help you float.”
Go if you dig:
- Ian Ewing