A Journey into the Mind of one William Sanford

I think by now we know a lot about William Sanford’s music. One might argue perhaps TMI if you were to only take into consideration his made for Tik Tok hit “Do The Buttcrack.” However, if you’ve been keeping up with the blog, you would know an awful lot about his considerably sizable catalog of intricate soundtracks and compositions. We went deep into the psychedelic conceptual musings of “Boomer Vibes” last week but did you know he actually snuck in a second release on the very same day (10-01-2022) entitled, “B Side Vibes?” The name would imply what Mr. Sanford thinks about the work, perhaps, but when I listen to it the quality of composition of “B-Sides” it is just as good as “Boomer Vibes,” in my opinion. At the same time, I do believe that I understand the reasoning behind the separation of works as I listen to both. Not because one anymore “B-side” sounding than the other, but because “Boomer Vibes” carries a thematic concept of space, time, Sci-Fi and psychedelia whereas “B-Sides” by my ear is very much more conventional. It actually sounds a lot like a score or soundtrack from the 1970s, to me.

“B-Sides” opens with “Let’s create some memories” a very classical sounding, contemporary Jazz number. It features really nice piano progressions and eventually some organs incorporated into a crescendo around the 2 minute mark. So right off the bat each collection sets a different tone up front, in contrast to “Boomers” opening up with “Florals with Mr. Gramophone” embedded with Hip Hop influenced bass and setting you up for a cosmic journey. “B-Sides” continues with one of the more interesting tracks, in my opinion, ” ’73 Pontiac LeMans” which as I’ve said before carries that 1970s vibe with it, feel like I could be hearing some Carpenters influence there with that one. That vibe carries through the rest of the album from “The Kankakee Fishing Spot,” a song that makes me feel like I’m floating down a river, to an interesting crossover of albums worthy of compare and contrast: “Boomer’s Got a Gramophone – Relevancy Remix.”

I basically came to the conclusion that the “relevancy remix” is just the stripped down version of “Boomer” version of the song. William Sanford “unplugged” if you will. I can see how it fits better with this collection of songs, but it does beg the question, which came first? This version is so stripped down it almost seems to me that it was the basis of the track before he spiced it up for “Boomers.”

Okay, so we know a lot about William’s music, but who is William Sanford? I always pictured some tippy guy hiking, observing nature, pen and pad contemplating the universe. I had the opportunity to corner him and find out how on point I am with that speculation.

AMS Radio: Hey there William! Super stoked to finally get to be able to chat with you a bit. Here are the 3 routine questions asked to every artist, because I feel like these questions are always an essential thing to understand about each artist and their projects. What inspires you to create music? Who would you credit as your biggest influences?

Music is always something I’ve just done. My Grandparents on my Mom’s side made Gospel Bluegrass music and I remember being 4 or 5 years old and absolutely transfixed. It was something I wanted to be able to do so badly. When I was 8 or so, I would imitate my baby sitter on the piano and appeared to be quick to pick up melodies and chords so they suggested that my dad put me in piano lessons. I was also in the school’s Orchestra. I can’t say I was the best of students. I always wanted to just “do my own thing” and in hindsight, I would suggest any rebellious teenager at least develop some modicum of discipline. You don’t necessarily have to behave all of the time, but at least put on a nice “good boy/girl/other” show.
As far as musical influences, they are wide and varied. And…. I’m always acquiring more. The stuff that probably most affected me was stuff I discovered digging thru my parents’, uncles’, friend’s and other’s records, cassettes, and cds, As an electronic musician, it is impossible to ignore the influence of Boards of Canada on my work. They are as important to me as a foundation as the Beatles would’ve been to the likes of Electric Light Orchestra (I remember reading that Boards of Canada counted ELO as an influence, so I guess the circle of life continues).
In my Father’s record collections, I discovered Queen, Yes, Tom Petty and Pink Floyd, all of which can be heard in my music. My mom lived in Gary, Indiana and I would go visit her once a month or so. There was a little swap meat on the corner that would sell me cigarettes and other “smokeable goodies” were readily available so I would “…” and dig thru her record collections as well. She also had Pink Floyd, as well as Fleetwood Mac and John Mellencamp. But more importantly, I discovered the absolute bad ass that was Prince. It may not be immediately obvious the influence the Purple One has had on me, but I’m sure it shines thru in some of my funky baselines, electric pianos, and pop sensibilities.
And of course, I discovered the gloriousness that is Ween on my own (Hard plug for The Mollusk). Aside from borrowing from their “trippy” sensibilities, I’m sure a bit of my belligerent side comes straight from them. I would also be lying if I didn’t mention straight up “stealing” Tori Amos’ HEAVY left hand piano stylings. And you can definitely hear the melodic influences of the Cure in my playing as well.
Stuff that’s currently in my rotation would include Mira Calix, Tame Impala, The Flaming Lips, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, Electric Light Orchestra, Steven Wilson, Tool, Nala Sinephro, Shpongle, all of whom are influencing me currently; and the list is always growing.

AMS Radio: Very interesting, yeah I can certainly hear that Prince influence coming through on many of the “Boomer” tracks. Good call on Ween, I didn’t initially have it at the forefront of my mind, but definitely know a couple of “Ween-ers” that follow the band across country, and it makes a lot of sense influentially. Tell me a little bit about your creative/writing process, how does the music make it from concept to final product?

My process is almost always a journey. Very rarely do I sit down with a roadmap in mind. Usually, I’ll be inspired by an idea or song and I’ll lay down a baseline or chord progression and just let it unfold from there. My hard drive is FILLED with false starts, bits and pieces, and other nonsense.
Usually, the stuff that’s influencing me at the moment usually sticks around for a little bit so I’ll try to cobble together songs that loosely fit a theme (Boomer Vibe’s being the most consistent of these so far). Then, when the songs are mostly done, I’ll pop them up on SoundCloud and let them sit for a bit. My SoundCloud audience is mostly other musicians so it’s a nice testing ground for what may or may not work. I’ve always been a fan of Mark Rothko and I remember reading that he would sit and ponder his work for hours, even days, weeks and months. I totally understand this. I’m always concerned with how a song “fits” in the grand scheme of things.

AMS Radio: Certainly, with many of the songwriters I meet the largest body of work is the “unfinished business.” Tell me about the music scene where you are from. What’s popular, what do you like or dislike about it, and what interesting things are happening?

There is no music scene where I’m from. 😂 At least, not that I’m aware of. There’s local bars and stuff and if I ever desired to join a Tom Petty cover band or something, I could probably pick up work in the local live scene. I’m not too far from Chicago and I’m well aware that if I ever want to grow beyond my small town roots, I will have to venture out and start gigging there. But, I’m still intimidated by the thought of that just yet.

AMS Radio: Alright! On to the nitty gritty stuff! Is it just me, or are you primarily a pianist? Are there other instruments do you play or prefer to play?

I am a pianist and I tend to play all of my parts as opposed to sequencing them. I’m no snob and will shout from the roof tops that there’s nothing wrong with sequencing music. I have friends and acquaintances that will falsely assume that sequencing music means “no talent”. I have to remind them that’s like saying Mozart had no talent because he “wrote down” his scores and didn’t actually “play” all of the orchestral parts. I just don’t do it much myself aside from “drum tracks” and the occasional arpeggios that NEED to fit a grid so I get that “electronic” sound.

I also play a bit of guitar and bass. The Ukulele and Recorder also find their way into my music here and there, although you wouldn’t necessarily recognize them under all the effects and stuff. 😝

AMS Radio: Obviously, I get the impression that the titles mean something more underneath the surface to you than they might seem to the listener, who might find it random. Like ’73 Pontiac LeMans, it’s a cool vibing tune, the song SOUNDS like summer 1970s song to me, what’s the significance of the title of that song?

My dad told me a story about buying his first “brand new” car (hence the title) with cash he saved up working at his local IGA store. His eyes were glossy as he talked about driving around with his friends in the early 70s, hitting local bars, and blasting Deep Purple on their car’s 8 Track player. In fact, he’s going to his High School reunion this October so obviously nostalgia is on his mind. I was trying to capture that 70’s nostalgic “vibe” and the emotions associated with them. The “Happy Cry,” so-to-speak.
I think this was what a lot of Boomer Vibes was trying to get at. Nothing concrete, but meditations on nostalgia in various forms and filtered thru a psychedelic lens.

AMS Radio: What is that high pitched instrument at the end of “Nag Champa?” is that just a synth tone, or is it a thermin or theramin adjacent type instrument, what is that?

I own a Behringer Deepmind 12 analog synth and its one of the last pieces of synth hardware I’ve kept around since falling back on mostly using soft synths for convenience. The sound is simply a theremin like sine wave patch from that instrument. It’s a “very” good representation and beats out all of my soft synths in that department so I use from time to time. It makes a couple of appearances on Boomer Vibes.

AMS Radio: “Pocket sized happy cry” – How did you get the bass to sound like that? Need some production tips, what is it that you’re using or doing to produce such a slapping bass? Is it EQ or is there a type of tone bank?

I’m a musician, first and foremost and look to get to “playing” as soon as possible so I almost always start with a preset that matches what I’m going for somewhat and gets me about 80 to 95 percent of the way there. From there, I’ll tweak E.Q.’s and Compression to sit the instrument where I want them in the mix and then will start experimenting with side chains and stuff to push certain elements of the mix as much as possible. Basses tend to not play nice with mid range stuff so I’ll side chain my basses to a filter or the compressor on mid range tracks like organs, electric pianos, etc. to push those tracks down in the mix in order to create a nice bass “pocket”. This is stuff that would’ve cost tens of thousands of dollars in the 90s and early 2000s, so we live in an exciting time with the tools we have at our disposal.
Hard plug for Logic Pro X if you’re a Mac User. I know a lot of producers frown upon it compared to the likes of FL Studio, etc. Logic Pro is obviously tailor built with the “songwriter” in mind so it fits my work flow well. And the tools that you get for the price are great. Yeah, it isn’t cutting edge stuff or anything, but for $199, it will get you 95% of the way there.

AMS Radio: Totally agree on the DAW part, there really is in my mind no “better,” it really comes down to your workflow, tools, and what you’re most comfortable with. I always tell people, you could put something great out on Audacity if you really wanted to, and if you had the time, patience, and wanted to put in that much effort. Yet to actually meet anyone that prefers that 😂 but you get what I’m saying.

“Do the Buttcrack” is an anomaly in your catalog. When I first learned about you via that track, I thought that you were a comedy act like my friends Weed N’ Stiff, but it turned out that most of your works are very thought-out compositional movements. When I hear “Chicago Memories” it sounds like a score to the end credits of a movie to me. When I hear “Ghosts be Vibin” I can envision it in a video game or spooky cartoon. What kind of future goals do you have in mind for the music of William Sanford? Are you currently licensing any of this stuff?

I wish. I would LOVE it if one of my songs made it into an indie film or video game or something. I was a teenager when stuff like the Sega CD, Saturn, PS1 and stuff were around. I remember taking the Sega CD and Saturn game discs and playing them in my CD player. There was this Ecco the Dolphin soundtrack done by Spencer Nilsen (I believe) and I would just “daydream” about my music making it into a game soundtrack like that. I’m plugging it right now, but The Vents from the Ecco the Dolphin ost is pure, New Age goodness. 😋
If anyone reading this is building something, hit me up. 😂

AMS Radio: Check out the “Publishing” tab of the blog! There’s a couple places I pitch my stuff to, and as long as you got your registration paperwork in order it kind of works like a job board to submit your stuff. Your stuff would do well there I think, a heck of a lot better than mine. Feel free to reach out anytime if you have any questions!

“Willamette Valley Pinot and a Big Mac,” I live in proximity of the Willamette River, it’s the separating body of water for parts of West Portland. Is there any relevance to that, or are we talking about something completely different, geographically?

I’m referencing the Oregon wine region. I’ve always been a Bourbon fan, but occasionally I’ll dabble in wine. And of course….. I like the good stuff. Fitting with my them of “sometimes like an aging philosopher, sometimes belligerent and dumb,” I came up with the idea of pairing a fine Pinot Noir with something considered conventionally trashy, like “McDonalds” I am, at heart, a working class dumb-dumb, so maybe I should stick with my Big Macs and stop being a “cork sniffing” imposter. 🤪But…. I’m also a champion of people doing whatever the hell they want as long as they don’t hurt or infringe upon others so…… yeah, go to that Opera while sneaking in some KFC. Just be respectful and enjoy the show. Art should be for everybody.

🤣Love it. No judgement here, I could go for both, except that I don’t drink anymore, but that’s a whole other thing. Thank you William for taking time to talk with me and let me write about your music!

Follow William Sanford Online:

Spotify // Instagram // Facebook // Bandcamp // Website

Listen to William Sanford on AMS Radio as well as on AMS Radio Playlists:

Check out a playlist of artists featured in our Blog Reviews
Check out our radio station’s featured Spotify playlist, “Indie Anarchy”
A playlist archive of DIY and independent artists
Volume 2 of the Archives series
Volume 3 of Archives
The Heavy Stuff

Apple Music Playlists:

“AMS Radio: Indie Archives Vol. 3” on Apple Music

“AMS Radio: Indie Archives Vol. 2” on Apple Music

“Indie Archives” on Apple Music

“AMS Radio: Hard n Heavy” on Apple Music

“Indie Anarchy” on Apple Music

“AMS Radio Blog Reviews” on Apple Music

This coverage was created via Musosoup #sustainablecurator