Like Homeshake’s previous two records, the new Fresh Air is a riff on ’90s R&B, but to me it sounds slower, weirder, and more surreal. But Peter Sagar, who uses Homeshake as his moniker, insists that this is actually his fastest record.
Insist is a strong word. Much like his music, Sagar speaks as though he’s coasting somewhere between “just finished meditating” and “about to take a nap.” He doesn’t demand I believe him, so much as politely suggest that the BPMs on his laptop register, on average, slightly higher than the prior records.
Sagar’s low-key approach spills over into the delightfully strange and peculiarly infectious music of Homeshake. When he started the project in 2014, he had left a gig as Mac DeMarco’s touring guitarist. The non-stop touring life wasn’t for him, and he found himself never having time to focus on his own indie bedroom music, which he had been doing plenty of prior to DeMarco’s status as a slacker indie rock god. But thanks to DeMarco’s enormous success, Sagar now had a built-in audience.
“I was travelling around with my best friends—it was obviously great. But it had to stop, otherwise I would have completely lost my mind,” Sagar says. Regarding his own touring schedule, he says that “instead of spending every waking hour trying to find another tour to do, I just go to the places that I’m supposed to, I guess. I play as little as I can. I’m not much of a road dog.”
Touring wasn’t the only thing wearing him down—he was also getting sick of the guitar. He’d played under a variety of pseudonyms since he was 19. He toured with DeMarco since his very first tour, and watched him become a Pitchfork buzz artist. But when he started Homeshake, it was a complete reset: back to playing solo, but with keyboards, electronics, and lots of ’90s R&B influences.
“Ideas stopped coming to me on the guitar,” Sagar says. “It’s pretty invigorating after spending so much time writing on one instrument to open a door to a new texture with a different layout, even just the difference between the way you see the keys on the keyboard. I needed something to shake up the creativity.”
The songs meander at a snail’s pace, and are filled with a combination of modern and retro R&B sounds. It’s touched by nostalgia, but coated in outer space freakishness, and plenty of falsetto vocals. It’s oddly romantic, but not sensuous. The structures and instrumentations are loose, yet little meticulous elements pop in and out sporadically. Generally, Sagar says, he tries to keep the songwriting and recording process simple. (“I don’t like getting too lost in some black hole of little details. It’s best sometimes to revert to your original decision.”)
Fresh Air, Sagar says, is his most positive release. He once said that his greatest influence was sadness, but that’s not the case anymore. Still, it’s not actually a happy record; the vibe is not so much sunshine as heroin-induced coma.
With Fresh Air, Sagar’s entire process changed. Rather than trying to write complete songs, he’d lock himself up in his home studio and write a bunch of instrumentals. He’d take the ones he liked best and try to flush them out into complete songs with vocals and other details. His goal was one song per day. It was released approximately a year and a half after his last album, Midnight Snack. He says he started working on Fresh Air immediately after finishing Midnight Snack.
In terms of what the albums are about, Sagar seems deliberately vague. Other sites have reported that his first two records dealt with his departure from DeMarco’s band. He laughs and calls that “clickbait.”
Fresh Air, he says, is about trying to find spiritual balance, a process that confounds him.
“I don’t really know how to go about it, so I just wrote a bunch of songs. I can feel relaxed, so maybe it worked,” Sagar says. “I’ve grown up a little bit, I guess.”
INFO: 8:30 p.m., April 10, Catalyst, 1011 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. $10/adv, $12/door. 429-4135.