For most artists, the progression from guitar to synths is natural–see: Tame Impala, Radiohead, etc. But for Orange County native Josh Hwang of CASTLEBEAT, the choice was fully deliberate.
“I’ve been playing guitar since high school, and I have two albums worth of that stuff, and I got bored,” said Hwang. “I don’t want to be making the same thing all the time… could I try something new?”
Lo-fi artist CASTLEBEAT’s newly released album, Melodrama, is just that: something new. While some songs like “Shoulder,” featuring his girlfriend Sonia Gadhia, and “Who You Are” are mainly his airy, guitar backed sound, the album is mostly electronic. While the synth-wave style of his singles of “80’s High School” and “TI-83” garnered mixed feelings from fans, Hwang’s experimentalism is intrinsic to himself and therefore to his music.
Before he was CASTLEBEAT, Josh Hwang was a part of Jaded Juice Riders, a garage rock band hailing from Irvine, California. Him and his brother, Mateo Hwang, released their eponymous debut with songs titled “Surfer Jedi” and “Blu Blud,” inspired by surf rock gods Wavves and Fidlar. Hwang eventually shifted to shoegaze, which turned into CASTLEBEAT.
Melodrama began when Hwang wrote “East Coast” in New York, where he briefly lived for two years. Like “East Coast,” most of the album is inspired by his time in Bushwick.
“[My neighbors] were partying one night and just blasting old RnB. Music through the walls isn’t as clear and it sounds really chill. It would be in my dreams, because I’d be sleeping while they were playing it,” said Hwang.
Although Hwang has “never been into the technical stuff,” he nonetheless writes and records each song himself. After making his past two albums, 2018’s VHS and his debut release CASTLEBEAT in 2016, Hwang was able to have a more intricate ear when it comes to Melodrama’s sound.
After this release, Hwang plans on taking a break from CASTLEBEAT, but still making time for his independent record label, Spirit Goth Records. “I never went into [Spirit Goth] with a plan or a business plan, it’s always been about the music and the transparency… I don’t see myself stopping Spirit Goth anytime soon.”
Listen to Melodrama here: