With one more album under his belt and a profound and powerfully human story continuing to grip, we caught up with songwriter and artist Bad Bubble to delve into the conceptual weight of Underscore’s Accord, and all that this creative journey has meant.
Here’s the conversation in full.
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Hi BB – great to catch up once again, what are you currently busy with on the creative front?
Thank you so much for having me!!
Lately, it’s videos. A ton of them. It is all I ever seem to do anymore. Which is good, don’t get me wrong. I love it. It’s an unexpected way I can tell this story.
I didn’t plan for it in January, 2022. I was audio only. So over the last 6 months, I’ve had to adjust fire. I’ve found it to be a wonderful way to be expressive and to deliver a brand. You can hammer your point home.
I try to make as many videos as possible. Every song if I can make it fresh each time. There are songs I have had videos for where I held the video for whatever reason. In which case I will release a visual instead of a full video.. I like to give the listener something to see while listening to the track. But videos have become a staple.
Also, if you follow me on social media, especially Instagram and Youtube, I have been reimagining songs I love. Reimagining is different from a “cover”, which is playing a song similar to the original. I’ve never done that. I’ve never understood it. Why play a song the exact same way the original artist intended? They’ve already done that for you. A reimagining lets me honor the original with my take. It’s a way of me saying, “this is what I derived from your art, thank you”.
I’ve done a lot of cool songs from the 1980’s, but not exclusively. Last week, I reimagined Silent & Awake by Blondeking. I absolutely love this song. It is brilliant in every way. The first time I heard it I was stopped dead in my tracks. I reached out to Blondeking to ask permission and thankfully he gave his blessing. I kept him in the loop over the entire process and we both had a great time. To be actual friends with one of your favorite artists has become another unexpected blessing in my career.
Underscore’s Accord was the latest project I delved into in full. I’m wondering how it was that you separated the various sections of your story into these different albums – what connects the songs of Underscore’s Accord in a way that’s separate to the original ‘Underscore’ album and the EP This is For Us?
I’ll try my best to be aware of first time readers when answering.
“Underscore is a person. She is the mother of my daughter, Anna, who is no longer here. We lost her before she had a chance to breathe. This is for Us is a four-song EP about how we met and what came from us (Anna).”
When telling the story of a human being who was never allowed to live, I concluded the only way to do that is to tell how she came to be. To tell about her mother and father. And what were the circumstances back then and what happened after she passed.
But I wanted ‘This is for Us’ to stop there. To end with my idea of who ‘Us’ is. With the exception of the song ‘Us’, there is no real hint as to what will become. I didn’t want that EP to end on us as a family. At that point, that would not have been the truth. I want the audience to know there is something missing aside from Anna, and it was not love. Love was always there. However, the listener needs to know there is a conflict. I wanted Anna to know she did come from love. That was important to me.
Underscore (album 3) is an album of who Underscore is and what she has been through. There are details I sprinkled in parts and details I splashed all over the wall. I want people to get it. If you are kind enough to listen to me, I won’t make you suffer to know what I’m talking about. At the same time, I do want a thinking audience. And if I were the listener, I wouldn’t want anything spoon-fed to me.
The song Puppy Ocean is very important. It details what she has been through. Although in the form of a poem, I wasn’t pulling punches. I’m with her in certain songs. A Fair View of You, The Eggs 2. And Jupiter. Other songs I’m not at all and it’s just her and my reaction to the situation. A Bad Way, Grog, A Better Play.
With Underscore’s Accord, I did my best to try to set up a decision or an action she is going to have to make in time (Albums 7 & 8). At the same time, I’m trying to present my feelings for her. Not necessarily to her, but to the listener. How I thought of her at that time. How nervous I was (Cozy Grey Shoes), How I saw her situation (Runc), and what I wanted at that time (May I?). It’s very difficult writing like this about someone who didn’t project her feelings very well, or sometimes at all. I hope I did okay.
Tell me about Concinnous – why this word choice for a title, and what does the song represent?
“I have an appreciation for words with simple enough meanings, but for whatever reason do not get used all that much anymore. Concinnous means elegant or sophisticated.”
Underscore, though she would never admit or characterize herself as this, was quite elegant. At least I thought of her as such. I have a romantic view of her and she is on a pedestal. So I admit my bias. However, very few others saw her as this.
She has been treated with cruelty by others. We both were. Since we were kids. I didn’t know her as a kid, but we were both bullied. I don’t think she had it as bad as I did but she had to physically fight from a very early age. It both breaks my heart and makes me very angry to think about that. Because I know exactly what it’s like. I always thought of her as concinnous.
It’s mind boggling that others did not see what I saw. Or perhaps they did and felt compelled to tear it down. If that’s the case, they’re very good at what they do.
There’s a little more of a mainstream thread throughout this album than your previous work. Was that a purposeful move, a result of adjusting your craft, or was it simply the way the cards fell?
As far as any direction goes, I would say with the exception of album 6, the cards just fell that way. Number 6 is written a certain way for a certain reason. You’ll see why. But with Underscore’s Accord, I knew it had to stay as relatively close to Underscore as possible without burning everyone out. To be honest, I don’t even know what is mainstream and what isn’t. I’ve been tuned out for a long time. The Mainstream is like fast food. Too much will give you high cholesterol.
I was talking with my friend Saph (Saphira 79) about a month ago about creating music organically and steering songs in a certain direction. When I try to steer a song, it always ends up in the bargain bin (a storage disc of mine where I store songs which will never see daylight). I can’t work that way and have it turn out decent. How it works for me is I simply sit at the Wavestate or piano and start tinkering around.
“Eventually the song will just present itself. I then brush away the debris as if it were a puppy pulled from the rubble of an earthquake. I dust it off to make it presentable.”
I really hope that makes sense…It’s exactly how it works for me. If I try to steer it, off to the gulag it goes.
How did the song May I? come to be – what was the creative process like, what came first?
From what I remember, May I? was written and recorded the same night I wrote and recorded a track from Underscore, A Light for the Lost. I had intended to keep them together but when it came time for lyrics, I had to split them up. I always check my outline to see where I need the song to go. For May I, and A Light for the Lost, I knew I needed one for both Underscore and Accord. So that is where I steered the lyrics, which is the only part of the song I can steer.
When I think/thought of Underscore, I wanted to grow old with her. No one seems to be able to do that anymore. Grow old together. I always thought it was because they were with someone they were not supposed to be with. Or they didn’t buy into the concept of marriage. Or they just didn’t want to or do not care at all about any of that. I suppose it’s a mixture of all of the reasons. Or maybe something more sinister in the culture today.
“I don’t know. But I wanted that. I wanted what my Grandparents had. They were married until the day they both dropped dead & they’re together now. I believe that. Perhaps I shouldn’t, but what else would be the point?”
That is what I wanted to do with May I?, which is why the video is the way it is. Men and women used to compliment each other, like it or not. Agree with it or not, they did. Ask them if they’re happy. I guarantee they’ll say yes. Ask your average thirty-something if they are happy. I’ll bet damn near every answer is an astounding “no”…And that is so sad… May I? took a look back at that. A forgotten time. When men and women weren’t at war.
What terrifies me is getting back to what I said earlier. If you love someone, you could very well spend eternity together… What if you’re alone?
How do you adjust your head-space from writing and performing something celebratory and loving, to something a little more heartbroken or even scornful?
I don’t. At least I don’t knowingly do anything. My emotions are rather hard for me to decide on. What I mean is, When I’m sad, I should be mad. When I’m restless, I should be calm. I had a friend say this to me once long ago and I started noticing it. She told me, “if I were you, I would be mad (because of Underscore). You’re in mourning when you should be mad”.
I don’t know why but I believe it stems from what I went through which will be covered in Album 5 & 6. I do attempt to not zig zag around when songwriting. But as stated earlier, when I set out to do something, it never turns out well. I have to let it present itself. I also try to keep the scornfulness in check.
“Heartbroken and bitter are two different things. But bitter does have its place. To ignore it would be dishonest. But I don’t have any hobbies or interests. I did once but those things just make me feel worse.”
When I was a kid I loved baseball. Absolutely loved it. I loved playing and watching. But the school I went to wouldn’t let me play. It was a bullying thing. I was small then and had a horrible speech impediment so that pretty much cancelled that. I would always go home and play the piano or pretend I was playing.
So Bad Bubble is how I adjust my head from real life. I see Bad Bubble from my phone. When the phone goes in my pocket, I’m in the real world again. I really wish I could trade places with Bad Bubble. I’ll watch him do real life for a while from high in the indie world. I wouldn’t do that to him though. He’s been pretty good to me…
On that note, the single Don’t stands alone – somewhat more accessible in its detachment from a specific character. You’ve really managed to encapsulate the feelings of both regret and forced acceptance regarding heartbreak with this song, keeping things simple, minimalist, yet impactful. Words like ‘absence’ and ‘horrible’ pierce through an otherwise seemingly light array of imagery. Was this an intentional method, or did it indeed just come through as a diary entry?
Overall, I want Underscore (person, not album) to be happy. But I also have to live with it. Everyday. It’s a balance. I’ve heard people say, “Dude, you gotta move on”. I’ll tell you, it is not that simple. It is just not that simple. I’ve tried that and it was a disaster & it is not fair to you or the other person. Who wants someone who is in love with someone else?
“Moving on” is something each person does in their own heart. I’m a one girl guy. What I mean is, one girl for life. Some people go their whole lives looking, searching, begging to find someone to fall in love with. And it is rare. Especially these days. And each passing minute is another nail in the coffin. So I know what it is I had and how bad it is to deal with everyday. Which is why love is actually the main villain. If you have found it, hold on to it. But what if you have found it, and they don’t feel the same way. I wanted to show that balance. I still have not accepted it.
Wait until albums 7 & 8 if you’re thinking I’ve given away the ending. I mean, I’ve been singing about heartbreak since day 1, so it’s no mystery how it ended. There’s no real hiding. But there are huge aspects to the story ahead.
Your words, ‘diary entry’ sums it up nicely. How I felt at the time. But honestly, I still feel this way each and every day. When you learn you are not wanted and you’ve done nothing wrong, it’s a very hard pill to swallow. The song couldn’t be any other way. I do want her to be happy. I am sad I couldn’t be the one to provide her that. I still don’t know what the hell happened. And it’s been a long time. And it hurts really bad. Especially going through it completely alone each and every minute of every single day. Bad Bubble plays a huge role in trying to just make sense of not only that situation, but what has happened in the past and what you’re about to find out.
You mentioned there being an album associated with the single – do you craft all the songs in one sitting, or do you decide upon the topics and build the project over time?
Don’t was originally a part of an EP I will be releasing in a few months called Zap the Enemy. Very much like The Eggs series. Zap the Enemy parts 1-5. When you hear the other four, you’ll see it. They are all very much alike.
“When I was told I should be mad, not sad, I wrote the Zap the Enemy series. It’s me venting anger, which I rarely do.”
Even IRL, I rarely get angry. I just make up for it in sadness. I don’t know if i should be thankful for that or not but I tried hard to channel frustration in those 5 songs. Don’t was released early because it stood out the most from the others because of the voice. The other four are extremely high pitched songs whereas Don’t is middle of the road. I needed an angry song and I couldn’t write one at that time, so I pulled Don’t from the EP and released it. I’m glad I did because I needed a strong song at that point besides the content needed.
I get an idea which I mapped out at the beginning. I wish I could show you but it is rather beaten up at this point. I have an outline I use. It is the original outline I wrote out when I first started. I referred to it earlier. I’ve been using it since Aug-Sep 2021. It is basically two printed out photos of 8 index cards, 4 index cards per printed out photo. I cut the story in half. Each index card is an album idea, a rough draft. Underneath is the EP’s and singles.
This is the target I aim for. As they filled up, it let me know what I needed to write about. Over time it filled and filled and filled until it was complete by Jan 2022. Since then, I went through and highlighted the “weak” songs. I then spent the next coming months singling out the “weak” songs and either adjusting them or replacing them outright. That’s how I crafted this entire project. I took something complex and made it as simple as I could. That is something I hope resonates.
It’s not complex and I am nothing special. It came down to motivation. I was HIGHLY motivated. I was also desperate. Loneliness will cause someone to break down or build up. Or in my case, both. But after everything, I fear this was not the cure I longed for. But rather a unique distraction. Time will tell.
Are you still writing songs about this aspect of your life, or are you branching out creatively or conceptually?
Good question. I’ve calmed down. I have never written like that before in my life. Prior to Bad Bubble, I had maybe written a handful of songs in my whole life. Now I’m at over 1000 in 16 months. I still don’t know what happened. I started writing and I couldn’t stop. Now, I have toned it down a few thousand notches, but I do still write. Now it’s mostly about what albums 5 and 6 are about.
Underscore (Anna’s mother) will be in the background until album 7. Of course she’ll be thought of and referenced, but will definitely be in the background for the next few months as we focus back on myself. What I write now are on 2 subjects, album 5 and album 6. We’ll get into that in due course.
The big question is what I’m asking myself at the moment. What comes after album 8. That day will come eventually. I look forward to it and dread it at the same time. I don’t know the answer. But I can never see writing like that again. It took a toll on every aspect of my life. But it also has brought me something I never thought I would have. A place in the independent music scene. I’m having to carve it out alone, but that’s okay. If something good happens, I give credit to the same person I blame for discrepancies.
The next album to appear is one you’ve said is likely to be the best LP of your career. What makes you feel that way about it?
A couple of different reasons. Album 5, titled All My Friends, covers a VERY relatable and somewhat taboo topic. Everyone can relate and I don’t care who you are. No one talks about it but we all either go through it or know someone who does. For that reason alone, anyone can relate. That is if they stop long enough to listen, which I hope they do.
I offer no solutions of course, but I do know it well. The subject is mental illness, depression, suicide, prescription medication, and above all, isolation. We all either struggle with this (mental health) or know someone who does. Some, including myself, have lost people to this. No one talks about it but I’m about to, Ad Nauseam. It is what I have been dealing with for 11 years.
The album has very little vocal effects. I use a lot of harmony with this record. I cannot wait to release the flagship single. You’re going to love it. It’s just a beautiful song about what I go through each and every day. It’s very hard dealing with all of the above mentioned. Some is due to what happens in 6 but not all. Not the biggest aspect which is isolation. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. But we need to talk about it.
Do you actively try to write your songs in a manner that will connect with a broader audience, or do you purely try to keep things natural?
I wrote everything from October 2021 through January 2022. I hadn’t launched yet. Back then, I had a team with me to help me get started. They kind of told me what to do and what to expect. But I had zero idea what was in or out. I still don’t to be honest. I don’t think anyone does.
I can say with honesty, I have not been a part of, nor have I heard a single conversation about anything mainstream with any of the artists in my orbit for the last year and a half. That is exactly how disconnected we all are with the mainstream. We all just do what we think sounds good.
That said, I did know I would start out at a disadvantage using hardware and playing instruments. I never thought I’d use that sentence, but it’s true. Recording through a mixer, playing instruments with your skill puts me at a disadvantage because of the advances of software. You get to be perfect. If I want a certain sound, I have to build it from the Wavestate. I try to get it as close as I can to what I need. But using software, you can sound perfect. But it’s nowhere near as fun. Doesn’t matter much now.
“As soon as AI takes hold, we all may be screwed. This is a scary & uncertain time for artists.”
If you would have told me when I was a kid that music will one day be made by a toaster, I would have laughed. It’s insane what may happen. And we all have a front row seat. At what point do we stop blaming the artist and start blaming the listener?
Do you have any regrets about the stories or sentiments, the revelations, of any of your songs to date?
Yes. Very much. I sometimes feel as if I am being too forthcoming. But that is because I want people to understand. I never set out to create a puzzle. It’s a balancing act. If I don’t tell what’s ahead, why would anyone pay attention? But if I do, I’m giving away the store.
I sometimes don’t know what to do. I have no one helping me along. I do have resources, and they are all wonderful as I am so very thankful. But they are all compartmentalized. Each doing their own area. What I mean is, my audio engineer does not advise on the storyline. My promoter does not advise on artwork, etc. This is where a producer would have come in handy.
I never had a “Yoda”. I never had anyone here with me to guide me. I feel if I did, it would have been perhaps better or more coherent. But I did my absolute best. I try to be funny along the way. I try to balance everything. I am very active on Instagram and engage everyone as best as I possibly can. But I regret not being able to give a reason why people should hear my story.
We haven’t begun the 2 most important topics. Albums 5 and 6. I feel I will gain a lot of followers on album 5, but I know I will lose a lot on album 6. I am very scared to release that album. But I have to. If I didn’t, it would have been dishonest.
What’s the best thing about pouring so much of your truth into music?
Another good question. I don’t know yet. My hope is to heal. My hope is to live a normal life.
If you would have seen me 12 years ago, you would be shocked. I was a normal person with a normal life. I went to stupid corporate parties and to Buffalo Wild Wings on Sundays to watch football. I played baseball in the Spring and Summer. I was an athlete. I worked out at the gym and was a very fit, musclehead. I did normal things. I watched what I ate and did all the things regular people do.
Now I don’t eat. I go the entire weekend without eating and don’t even notice until Monday. I used to sleep 7-8 hours a night. Now I sleep 2-3 nights a week. I wasn’t a wreck. I was just a normal, unnoticeable person. Now I draw stares.
I used to have friends. Now I have none whatsoever. I was never like this. 12 years is a very long time. After a while, you realize it is time you will not get back. But a big part of me is happy about it. I feel I deserve it. And everything is as it should be. I want to decide which. A full return to normalcy and never to look back? Or so be it. Let myself live as I do now.
“I don’t know how it will turn out. But real life is a bitch. It is unforgiving. If you jump off of a skyscraper, the ground you hit will not give. At all. That is what I deal with.”
The things I’ve seen and the experiences I have had to deal with. From relentless childhood bullying which caused a speech impediment so bad I did not speak for 10 years, to the loss of my daughter and her mother in one day before noon, to the subject of album 6, to my failed attempts at redemption, and all the shit in between.
The truth is never good for me. Currently, its more how to transcribe and document the bad. But if I leave anything out, it will be dishonest. And I try hard not to let that happen. As that will solidify my place in mediocrity.
Is there anything else you’d like to say?
Just that I was never supposed to be here. I always wanted to be. In my heart. I dreamed of it as a kid. But I was never supposed to be here. But I am doing my best, I assure you. And if you are listening and following along, You have my eternal gratitude. Thanks for hearing me.
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