Chicago-based producer/artist Billy Lemos has revealed his debut album Wonder. The album features Still Woozy, Danny Dwyer, MTMBO, Monsune and more. The special thing about Lemos is that he's a world builder. In order to understand what he's trying to do, you have to surrender any preconceived notions of him or his music and give in to the experience. Don't waste your time trying to organize his music by genre, it interestingly checks almost every box while simultaneously not checking any.
While Wonder's run time is only 21 minutes, its effectiveness is palpable. Created over the span of two years, Lemos' distinctive take on pop music is the sum of his influences and inspirations. Speaking on the creation of the album. Lemos said,
"Working on the album has been a far more rewarding process than just pushing out single after single. Despite the constant pressure against traditional albums from the industry and move toward playlist-ready releases, making this album was exactly what I needed. This album would be nothing without the contributions of every artist involved."
We caught up with Lemos after the release of Wonder to learn more about some of his influences, the ups and downs of making the album, and what he's looking forward to the most in 2021. Read the full interview below.
What producers inspired you growing up?
Growing up, the main producers that inspired me were Knxwledge, Bsd.u, and Ludwig Goransson. My influences are a lot more varied now, but when I was in high school, I was obsessed with lo-fi production.
You were born and raised in Iowa. What is the most Iowan thing about you?
The most Iowan thing about me is that I used to wrestle when I was in middle school (laughs). Other than that, nothing really.
How do you feel now that Wonder is officially out?
I feel relieved! There was a lot more strategy involved with releasing an album as opposed to singles and it was stressful at times. Now that it's out, I do feel like it was worth the effort and far more rewarding than dropping playlist-bait singles.
How did you decide who you were going to collaborate with for Wonder?
I picked pretty much every artist based off what I was finding on Soundcloud. It was amazing to travel and connect with some of these people in person, as I previously made all my songs remotely! I got deep into the London music scene while making this project.
What was it like to work on a bunch of these songs remotely?
Working remotely was fine! That's the usual process for me but making songs in person was definitely a more enjoyable experience overall. I think that I actually finish tracks faster when I work alone but it can be a bit lonely at times.
What was the hardest song to make and why?
I think "Playing Games" was the most difficult song to produce. Pretty much everything on there is played out by hand, unquantized on a drum machine / sampler. I spent a lot of time trying to make every little part of the track sync up, despite the whole thing being swung.
Can you explain the inspiration behind the design of the album cover?
The album art was made by James Ronkko and Joseph Mendes. I took a photo that Joseph had taken and knew that James would be able to turn it into something interesting. I would text James different suggestions and was pretty hands on with the whole thing. I am very happy with how it all turned out.
What are you looking forward to the most in 2021?
I'm looking forward to being able to walk around, mask free and see friends again! I've been completely trapped in my apartment recently and I'm ready to get the hell out (laughs).
Who are your Ones to Watch?
My ones to watch are MTMBO, Jeshi, & Saya Gray.