When one chapter ends, another always begins. Radical Face spent eight years working on his critically acclaimed three-album conceptual saga, The Family Tree: The Roots (2011), The Branches (2013), and The Leaves (2016). Throughout that time, the Florida-born multi-instrumentalist Ben Cooper teetered on something of an existential seesaw: rising to success one moment, and plummeting into personal discord the next.
With a vision birthed in a shed behind his family’s house, and out of the ashes of two finished novels that he lost on a crashed hard drive, Cooper garnered acclaim from the likes of NPR, Paste Magazine, Diffuser, The BBC, The Independent, The Wild Honey Pie, in addition to performing across multiple continents and on late night television for Last Call with Carson Daly. But alongside this, after a family member came to him about her sexual and religious abuse, he found himself a witness in a criminal trial against the very people he grew up with. Meanwhile, “Welcome Home, Son” from his 2007 debut Ghost would land syncs on the trailer for the Academy® Award-winning The Descendants and on The Blacklist as well as soundtracking ad campaigns for Nikon and Chevrolet, eventually amassing over 66 million Spotify streams. Soon after, The Leaves became his third consecutive album to bow in the Top 30 of Billboard’s Heatseekers chart, coinciding with the adoption of his niece and his newfound role as her legal guardian.
But now, with all that chaos behind him, the time has arrived for Cooper to take the next step.
“What am I without this giant concept that’s pulled me along for so many years?” he asks. “In a lot of ways, I’m free. For a long time, I used music almost like therapy, a way to cope. But there are lots of other methods out there, and I'd like to try some on. I really want to explore again and find what’s exciting to me instead of plugging music into some giant skeleton I've built. I want to surprise myself again. Everything’s up in the air, and it’s very exciting.”
Harking back to the more cinematic production of his debut, Cooper drew on a rather surprising set of influences for his next musical progression. Inspired by a sonic palette ranging from obscure rap artists to experimental electronic work, and “playlists of the weirdest production that I would ask friends to send me,” he confidently steps into new territory, merging his quiet, soulful delivery with heavy sampling and vast soundscapes.
He even took a cue from the hip-hop game, now releasing music in short unpredictable bursts. “In the rap world, artists just put out music at all kinds of rates,” he goes on. “It’s not about this drawn out record cycle, or being so stuck to the traditional idea of an album. There’s this delightful chaos to it. I’ve been really inspired by that. If I’m happy with something, I’ll just put it out. I want to tour and play some music I just wrote instead of all being songs I penned years ago.”
At the same time, Radical Face’s new music remains as cinematic, poetic, and poignant as ever.
“In my life, there have been a lot of times where I got lost in records when I didn’t know what to do with myself,” Cooper leaves off. “I would be sitting on a city bus when the right track came on and, for the duration of that song, suddenly everything made sense. I always hoped I could write something that another person could find that same comfort in. The way I was comforted as a scared teenager at 14 who just got kicked out of his house, I have always wanted to pass that same comfort along.”
New York singer-songwriter Aisha Badru uses airy vocals and vivid lyrics to draw listeners into her soulfully emotive world. Until somewhat recently, Aisha preferred the confines of her own bedroom for writing and recording music, but her deep desire to connect with people through her music eventually pushed her to share songs online. A few fans turned into a few thousand fans and blogs started to take notice. She self-released her debut EP Vacancy in 2015, and soon caught attention of the ad world when her beautifully moving song “Waiting Around” was selected for a Volkswagen viral campaign. Aisha is currently working on her full-length debut album, which will be released later this year (tba) on her new label home, Nettwerk Records.