MARIUS LIBMAN could very well be the most levelheaded musician in Portland. The 35-year-old producer makes fuzzy, colorful, electronic pop under the name Copy, and he's gearing up to release Chalice Agenda, the fourth full-length Copy album, and first in about five years. And while he may be one of the few independent artists who racks up 100,000 plays a month on Pandora, he exhibits no signs of pretension or pride about it.
"Sure, I want as many people to hear my music as possible," Libman says, tucking into a burger at Bar Bar on a recent Sunday. "And I'm putting a lot of energy into it. But I feel like so much of what makes people successful is making a concerted effort to sell yourself as a brand. That, and the whole culture of electronic dance music, is uninteresting to me."
It's not as if Libman has much time on his hands to promote himself with quirky Vine posts or yearlong tours. He has his day job as a freelance video editor and animation after-effects artist, and is part of two other musical projects: the rhythm-heavy freak-rock trio Sun Angle and the all-improvisational modular synth gang Regular Music. And he and his bandmate Charlie Salas-Humara spend two hours every Tuesday on the air at XRAY riffing on every topic under the sun and playing the occasional song on their radio show, Heavy Breather.
But Libman's diminished expectations about his new album are borne out of his clear-eyed view of how the internet can be a blessing and a curse for any musician. When he first started making Squarepusher-inspired electronic tunes as a teen, using a pirated version of FruityLoops, he uploaded his tracks to the then-new site mp3.com, where he actually stirred the ears of Richard D. James, better known as Aphex Twin.
"They were crappy songs," Libman remembers, "and I never did sign with them, but it was a big boost for me to realize that this was something I might actually be good at."
When he finally hit upon Copy's sound—a neon-lit, game-soundtrack take on electro—and found a welcoming audience in Portland, he rode the crest of a wave of nascent music blogs that were hungrily seeking out fresh tracks. Now with even Instagram attempting to create a music channel, one filtered picture at a time, it's harder to break through.
Or, as Libman puts it, "Nobody pays attention to anything."
He doesn't say this with any semblance of bitterness or despair in his voice. Libman seems more content than ever. He's happy with Chalice Agenda's 11 tracks of synth bleeps, slippery beats, and 8-bit atmosphere. And he's already looking ahead to the next Copy album, which he says is a move toward a more expansive, ambient sound. If that weren't enough, he and Salas-Humara are already cooking up a new krautrock-inspired band to occupy their restless hands once Sun Angle's drummer Papi Fimbres moves to Germany.
Besides, even if Libman's mind isn't completely Copy-focused, thanks to his work popping up on the regular in the algorithms of Pandora subscribers, Libman's music will still be out there dropping pebbles in the huge online sea.
"Most of my fanbase is still paying attention," Libman says. "There's that weird pocket of people spread across the country who have found me. And if they did hear me on Pandora, they have to go through the work of Googling 'Copy' and finding me, so it's still a little bit of a process."