Postcard Boy’s 'Somewhere on a Hillside' Is a Love Letter to the World [Q&A]
Photo: Gabriella Hughes
After releasing a string of singles over the last few months, including Ones to Watch favorite "On The Hillside," Postcard Boy’s long-anticipated debut album, Somewhere On a Hillside, is out now for the world to hear. Somewhere On a Hillside is a true testament to Postcard Boy's abilities as a songwriter, producer, and visual artist, giving a gentle nod to early 2000s indie melodies, 2-step garage, hyperpop, and the aesthetics of the United States Postal Service to create his most expressive work yet. Across 12 tracks, Postcard Boy layers sound in a way that feels nostalgic, dreamlike, and ultimately familiar, weaving his soul-stirring vocals through experimental guitars, synths, and drum beats that pan from ear to ear.
Whether it’s through a song, video, or photo, Postcard Boy has a beautiful way of capturing the world and people around him. Somewhere On a Hillside is an album for the people who journal every day, who save every single letter and note written to them, who tape every concert ticket and photo booth strip and annotated book page to their walls, and the people who get emotional over the way the sun reflects off of a flower. It’s an album for the people who care and feel and think so deeply, who find the good things in every day, despite every day not always being so good.
We had the pleasure of catching up with Postcard Boy and learning about all things Somewhere On a Hillside, from digging up old demos and collaborating with friends to produce the album, to building a mailbox bounce house and a handmade envelope kite for some visuals.
Ones to Watch: Let’s start off this interview with a little introduction. What is your name, where are you based, and any fun facts?
Postcard Boy: My name is Garrett, but a lot of people just call me Garry now, Garry with two r’s. I’m currently in San Diego at the house I grew up in, but I’d been in LA for the last three years, and I think I’ll be somewhere in the middle of the country when this interview surfaces. I’m moving and driving from San Diego to New York :)
I know you took a little break from Postcard Boy while releasing the soap water EP as carwash. While both aliases are unmistakably you in their visuals and sounds, I’m curious to know how you decide which alias to release music under? What do each of them mean to you?
Postcard Boy has more of an electronic influence to it, while carwash is more alternative rock I guess. It was really freeing for me to have carwash while I was releasing as Postcard Boy in 2020, and I’m really happy I ended up releasing “striptease” and soap water. carwash encouraged me to do something a little different and write songs in a way I hadn’t before. However, I felt like I hadn’t really leaned into the Postcard Boy sound as much as I wanted to, so I kept working away at old demos. And in a way, Postcard Boy gave me that feeling of freedom with music again after carwash had picked up some momentum. I felt excited to do something in the more experimental pop realm, and so that’s where this album sits in my eyes musically. Postcard Boy felt like my baby, because I had started that project in high school and completing this album felt like a necessity to give it that time and attention. I’m really happy that I made this album and that it exists as a capsule of that era. Going forward, I can feel the antsiness again within me to do something different. Whether that’s a return to carwash or something entirely new, I have no idea, and I like not knowing what that will be.
By the time this interview is up, Somewhere On a Hillside will be out for everyone to hear! In three words, how do you feel?
Grateful, Excited, Relieved.
As your debut album as Postcard Boy, how has the creation process of Somewhere On a Hillside differed from previous releases? Did you learn or discover anything new about yourself or your artistry?
I think I learned more about myself in the gap between when it was done and when it was released than during the time it took to make the songs. I might say that because that gap is more recent, but I think what I learned while making the music was more predictable and standard, like patience, having to work through the creative blocks, and experimenting in what production and songwriting styles I thought were cool as they changed throughout the process of making the full album. Some songs are over two years old, so having to keep faith in songs that old was a new challenge for me as well. From when I finished the album nine months ago until now, I found out more about myself than I might’ve wanted and knew I could. There were some changes in my life that caused me to really look inward at who I want to be and why I do anything that I do. I think just having to wait for the music to rollout gave me too much time to think about it, too. There were a lot of moments this year where I felt like collapsing and giving up on music as a whole. I think one of the main things I realized was how little music is in contrast to how important it is to spend time with people you love and who make you feel good. Music on the other hand though is always there for you when you need it and has led me to meeting so many of my favorite people. I realigned my values a lot and honestly just spent too much time thinking this year. Lol.
How did you go about choosing the title Somewhere On a Hillside?
In December of 2020, while living at home in San Diego during the pandemic, my sister and I would go on long walks every day throughout the neighborhood and the trails in the lagoon down the street from my house. These walks were one of the main joys I had during that time, and I began to take note of things that would catch my eye. One of the things I fell in love with was the way the sun reflected off the windows of the houses in the distance and the passing cars on the freeway at golden hour. Way across the view, you could see hillsides twinkling with speckled sunspots looking back at you. Something about this intrigued me and I started taking and collecting photos of these reflections. I have hundreds of these photos now.
The title Somewhere On A Hillside is inspired by these, where only for a brief moment does where you stand line up exactly with where you should in relation to those windows, the sun at that time of the day, and at that time of year. These are happening all the time if you are in the right spot to receive them. My whole life this has been happening and I could care less, but now every single time I see one of these reflections I notice it. Many of my friends notice them now, too. From a sense of hope and a feeling of comfort and predictability to a longing to pause a moment and the realization of its passing, these slices of light expanded themselves into all sorts of ways for me while writing the album. The idea grew into that somewhere on a hillside, if you’re looking for it, you can find it, whatever that might be that you need to keep going.
The title is also in reference to the album “Somewhere in the Distance, Somewhere Towards the Mountains” by Flatsound which is an ambient project that I used to listen to repeatedly when I felt anxious or out of control. It was a really important listen for me countless times over the past few years.
The first track, “(somewhere)” is one of my favorites and I think it sets up the tone for the rest of the project perfectly. It sort of reminds me of Tyler the Creator’s “November” where everyone shares their ‘November.’ I’m curious to know who, or what, is a light in your life?
Yeah, organizing that track started as extremely overwhelming, but quickly became an eye-opening experience. It’s all voice memos submitted by friends, fans, and strangers, so it was special to see how with such an open prompt there were so many overlaps in answers, but also serious uniqueness in some of the responses. Some short and sweet, others I had to cut down for being too long. I didn’t know what to expect when I put the call out for people to submit years ago, but it only solidified the idea that there could be a light in your life anywhere if you were open to it.
I think for me at the moment, a light in my life is my friends. That’s a really obvious response, but if it weren’t for my friends, I wouldn’t have made it through this year. I’m really grateful for them. There are several new friends I’ve grown close with this year that really carried me through.
While it’s implied in your name, the idea of handwritten letters and mail feels particularly important to this album. Over the last year you wrote letters to fans; did any of those interactions ultimately end up inspiring bits and pieces of the album?
I’m not huge on social media, so starting “junk mail club” and writing the letters every month or so to those who felt interested enough to read them was super lovely. I’m an extremely sentimental person. I’ve always liked to be transparent and close with those who support me. I think that’s evident with inviting the fans' voices to be the opening track to the album instead of my own. Journaling is super important to me, and the letters are a more refined version of that. However, I think the letters have more of an impact outside the music. They pushed me not only to compartmentalize and reflect on how I was doing, but also encouraged me to take more photos of my friends again. They’ve really changed how I value my time with my friends and have helped me be more present and focused on what it is that I actually care about.
The production of this project feels experimental and very intentional with each little detail. Across each track, you layer sound in a way that feels nostalgic and dreamlike. While producing the album, what were you listening to?
Thank you, I appreciate that. It’s hard to think back on the last couple years and remember all the different phases I went through, but a short list of artists that influenced this project were: Bon Iver, Frou Frou, Phoenix, The Japanese House, Toro y Moi, James Blake, Caroline Polachek, and a million other singular songs.
Were there any collaborators on this project?
Yes! A lot of classics for me, mainly my two longtime friends Lucian Rice and Tom Verberne, who are my oldest friends in music. They co-produced several songs across the project. We met online in 2018, and have been collaborating ever since. They are some of my best friends even though they live in New Zealand. I went to visit them in New Zealand last November actually after the album was completed and they toured me around there, and I lived with them for a month. It was amazing and more than overdue that I visited. Without them two, and also my best friend Chris who helped make “Polka-dot,” I don’t think I could’ve kept up enough motivation to finish this thing. They were so encouraging and just good people to be around through it all. I cannot thank them enough.
Other people on this project include a ghost feature from Ryan of the project Boylife on the song “A whole lifetime,” absolute angelic voice. He recorded and wrote his part right in front of me in my apartment living room in a couple hours, it was really humbling to say the least. I take ages to do vocals, and he just did it right then and there. Perfect. Same case with my friend Alix Page who did some backing harmonies on “Horizon.” Recorded in an hour in my room. There’s also a vocal sample from Kali on, “when tomorrow comes, we’ll be nothing but a fading feeling,” who makes music under the name Superfan. He is one of my favorite artists and always gives me a good laugh when we hang. I’m honored to have him as part of this project. Jackson Shanks recorded drums for “Teeth” and also co-produced “Everslow” with Lucian and I. Legend of a human. Last shoutout is to another friend from down-under, Nick Ward, who added some really pretty modular synth textures to “My rock song.” There’s so many other friends and people I could mention who don’t have credits, but were good friends and didn’t know how much they were helping me. Shoutout to my roommate Donovan who probably had to deal with way too much noise across the apartment and my skate homies who would go skate this basketball court with me near the beach. Those sessions got me out of my room and reset my headspace countless times to finish this music.
You have a way of translating your sound into visuals that is unmatched. When it comes to creating a video, do you have a concrete idea of how you want it to look, or does it naturally piece itself together?
Thank you, again. :) Some of the ideas I’ve had for years, like the postal truck and the mailbox bounce house. Making those happen just felt really gratifying to finally see them exist after living in my head since high school. Others like the kite envelope I thought of a couple months before beginning the construction of it, which took a couple months in itself to complete, sewing away in my living room. There’s a huge list of ideas I have that didn’t make this project or that we didn’t have the budget for, but I’m actually really intrigued about directing and helping visualize ideas for other people, so hopefully some of those ideas can be spread out and shared to artists outside myself if I get the chance. My process for making a video normally involves just scrolling through Pinterest for hours while listening to the song and talking it out with my good friend Charlie who is always there to bounce ideas off. The ideas sometimes just come out of nowhere, and a lot of the best little moments for a video happen with a quick thought or decision on set or the night before where we realize how we could add a detail to make the whole thing seem that much more thought out even though it’s a last-minute call. So I guess it’s a mix of being prepared, but also really open to the reality of an idea having different complications than how you idealized it and having to work around that.
Can you tell me more about the envelope kite and the mailbox bounce house? What was it like seeing those ideas come to life in the “On The Hillside” video?
It was so unbelievably shocking to see. I’d been imagining these images for so long. There was as much excitement as there was relief that it was all going to work out. I get so wrapped up in these ideas that they take a huge emotional toll. Blowing up this fifteen foot bounce house on the side of a highway in the middle of rolling green hills just looked insane. Cars were pulling off the road to stop and watch us, people with selfie sticks getting photos, semi-trucks honking the horns. It was awesome. I thought maybe we’d make the news and go viral, but not the case. We had to cancel that shoot multiple times, and it was pouring rain on our road trip to the location. I never checked the weather app more. We got so lucky in these tiny windows when we wanted to shoot that the rain and clouds would stop and give us just enough time to make the shots work. Specifically for the kite envelope we needed just enough wind, but not too much wind where I wouldn’t be able to move because in essence that thing is like a parachute. I remember my back and shoulders being so sore the next day after. I also handcrafted that thing and so the whole time I was worried the force of the wind might just rip out all the seams and my video idea would crumble with no backup plan. A big thank you to the crews that worked on all the videos. They were so flexible, adaptive, and positive. The dedication from everyone was amazing. The bounce house weighs hundreds of pounds, and our small crew of five would all try to grab a hold onto this massive sleeping bag of a thing, and we had to carry it to every location you see in the videos. Any hillside, we carried it there with our hands and collective strength. First day of shooting the bounce house on the road trip, before we had even rolled one shot, I got the van we rented stuck in mud off the side of the road and we teamed up, trying to dig it out with shovels, only to be saved and towed out by a park ranger hours later. There’s so many stories to tell, but the videos turned out great.
What’s been your favorite memory leading up to the release?
There’s too many to count once I start thinking back on all the years, and if I include the music video shoots as well there’s so many good laughs. That’s like asking for my favorite memory of the last two years in general. I could never choose one. However, a moment I remember being so huge for the album was when I found the project file for “Shepherd.” For over a year I only had an export of “Shepherd” that was thirty seconds long. It was perfect I thought. I adored the way that demo sounded, but I had no idea where the project file was. It was lost for like 15 months. Regardless, I was still going to put that thirty second snippet on the album because I loved it so much. It was October of last year, I was staying on Chris’ living room couch in New York and we were going through old project files for fun. All of a sudden I opened one up and within an alternate version of an entirely different song, I hit play and out came the “Shepherd” demo from the speakers. I was floored, I couldn’t believe it. I had given up on finding it and there it was by accident. After I found that, I knew I could power on to finish the album, and I wrote the rest of the song the week I came home from New York and the album was finished. The first thirty seconds of “Shepherd” is the exact same as the original demo.
And lastly, who are your Ones to Watch?
I think I just have to go with my friends that worked on this project with me, Lucian Rice, Chris Emond, Superfan, Boylife, Alix Page, and Tom Verberne. I back them all, and I know quite a few of them have some absolute tunes in the vault. Also have to give love to my friends that are in the Postcard Boy live band with me at Harcourt Paloma. Ari Rivera has a beautiful EP on the way, and his last EP is so good as well. Almost forgot my good friend Nolan Kiser, makes the loveliest acoustic songs and the kindest human. He also added some pretty guitar throughout the album!