The artist and musician known as Old Grape God has a thing about time travel. Time Travel was the name of the series of mixtapes he released last year—one for each month of 2019. And he still sells what he dubs “Time Travel Supplies” on his website, which includes a coloring book, a scented candle, and a T-shirt emblazoned with the word “microdose.” Most of all, listening to the music created by this 29-year-old feels like he’s gone to the future and wants to share a taste of it with us.
That’s the sensation of Grape’s latest release isoulazn. Self-produced over the last three months during the state’s shelter-at-home order, the album gives off the sensation of happily melting under the influence of psychedelics or under a heat lamp, traveling the same neural pathways as other transtemporal travelers as Lee “Scratch” Perry, Flying Lotus, and David Axelrod. To add to this feeling, he prefaced it nzaluosi, which featured reversed and pitch-shifted versions of all 12 songs from his new album.
We were lucky to catch up with Grape in the here and now for a quick phone chat about the creation of this fantastic new music and working with chillwave artist Toro Y Moi.
PORTLAND MERCURY: How have you been holding up during this pandemic?
Old Grape God: I’ve been doing alright given the circumstances that everybody’s in. I mean, I’m a full-time artist. A lot of the stuff I do is out of my house. So work hasn’t changed a whole lot because of that. It’s just spending more time at home. It’s nice to be able to have an excuse to be home painting.
Let’s talk about the new album isoulazn, which came out earlier this week...
Yeah, I did it for Monday because the 25th would have been my grandfather’s birthday. I never really cared much about the Friday or Tuesday music release dates. I want my records to land on a personal date.
You made all the music for isoulazn during quarantine times. How do you get inspired when you’re not able to get out and experience the world as normal?
It’s interesting because my whole flow and inspiration and productivity has been completely different since the quarantine really set in. I’m usually a hyper-productive person trying to do a million things at once. My productivity has slowed down a little bit. But I think in doing so, I’ve been focusing more on one thing at a time, like this project, as opposed to four or five different musical projects I’m working on at once. And I collaborate with other people a lot, and this is the first project that I did all by myself. So it was just a different type of process.
As far as inspiration goes, I don’t know. There’s still stuff going on out here. And a lot of observing how people are reacting to stuff. Most of the lyrics are pretty stream-of-consciousness. Just sitting on the porch, reflecting on everything going on. Seeing people walking by and overhearing conversations on my corner.
How was it to work on your own for the first time?
Last year I did a mixtape a month, and I worked with 50 other artists, mostly all from Portland. So I got super comfortable with producing. At least enough to be able to feel like I could do a whole project myself. I’ve been wanting to put out a project that was just all my beats, and then I decided that I wanted to rap on all these, too. It just kind of came together.
Where did the idea come from to release nzaluosi, with the reversed, pitch-shifted versions of all the songs from isoulazn?
I just love listening to records backwards. I always have. Time travel is a big theme throughout my whole catalog. So it felt like it was perfect to release an album backwards before it came out forwards. I like the idea that any of these creations will likely be morphed or manipulated somewhere down the road, whether they’re remixed or sampled a hundred years from now. I’m just trying to represent multiple generations of a single concept at once.
One big thing that happened for you last year was that you got some shine from Toro Y Moi—he put a couple of your songs on the Soul Trash mixtape he dropped right before you played a show with him at Wonder Ballroom.
He’s actually a good friend of mine. I met him when he was up in Portland and we used to kick it and paint a bunch. Right before he moved, I was bugging him to do some rap stuff. Originally I was going to write for him, and then the way I wrote—freestyling hooks and shit—didn’t really fit for him to sing, but he still wanted to keep the tracks. It was on hold for hella long because we made the tracks right before he moved back to the Bay Area. I went down some last year and we knocked it out in Oakland. We made a dozen tracks, but only a couple of them made it on the tape.
Do you have any idea about what comes next for you? What your plans are when things open up again?
I would love to do more improv stuff, performance-wise. But it’s hard to even think about that right now. Are we going to flatten the curve or it’s gonna go back up again? I’m working on some collaborative projects with a couple of different homies like Snugsworth and Brax. But I’m just taking things one project at a time right now. I’m excited to start the next project now isoulazn is finally out. I’m always the most excited to finish a project so I can start the next one.