29 September 2022

AUTHOR:

AUSTIN ROBEY

EDITOR:

BRANDON STOSUY

Public record

Creating CHAOS: an oral history of "Walls"

Songcamp is an experimental songwriting collective and artist community.

In the summer of 2022, Songcamp formed CHAOS, a “headless band” consisting of 77 global members to write, record, and release 45 original songs. The project earned more than $500,000 in sales and was included on Billboard’s first music NFT chart.

The following is an interview with three artist members of CHAOS on their experience working within Songcamp’s coordinated artist community and writing the song “Walls” together: Boy Untitled, Mexico City; Lackhoney, Los Angeles; and Three Oscillators, Mumbai.

What is CHAOS?

Boy Untitled: CHAOS is an entity of creators that exists inside of a collaborative workspace that lives online. I describe it as a collective of musicians who got together, formed into little bands, and spent six weeks writing a song every two weeks.

Lackhoney: CHAOS was the culmination of years of development, packed into a six-week-long experiment where 77 creatives and very smart driven people put together a project that changed the face of what's possible with Blockchain technology, and opened a new door into what collaboration could look like. CHAOS was a songwriting camp, we made a bunch of songs, and it was fun.

Three Oscillators: I tell people “I'm in a band with 76 other people, and there's a lot of music, so go listen to it.”

How did you hear about the project and join?

Lackhoney: Last year, I had been diving in and exploring Web3 and treating it like a full time job, on top of my other full time job. Over the course of that time, I kept hearing about Songcamp, and I knew that I wanted to be a part of whatever they were doing in the future, even though I didn't really understand what it was at first. I was excited about doing a songwriting camp and meeting more folks. 

Boy Untitled: Songcamp just made sense to me. I started plugging into the Songcamp community because I think it was the most tangible thing to me in Web3. When Songcamp started talking about their next project, CHAOS, I was all in. 

Three Oscillators: I was surfing through Twitter and randomly stumbled upon Songcamp, joined the Discord, and just said “hi.” I knew that they were taking in applications for a third camp, so I just read up about it and connected with other people on the Songcamp Discord. And as the months went by, I started joining the heartbeat phone calls that happen every week. Those are fun. I would hop on those every week. I live in Mumbai, so the heartbeat calls are at 2:30am at night for me. It can be a task to show up to the calls, but I still have fun and don’t mind. That's how I connected with a lot of the Songcamp crew. And then, of course, I went into CHAOS, and the rest is history.

Songcamp

Sep 23, 2022

MEMBERS

Matthew Chaim, Mark Redito, Greydient, Peace Node, CHAOS participants

Key Releases

  • Genesis Camp

  • Elektra

  • CHAOS

Background

Matthew Chaim, a Montreal-based solo musician, founded Songcamp as a way to capture the spirit of ephemeral and collaborative songwriting camps. Each Songcamp initiative designs inventive mechanisms, often using Web3 rails, for musicians to make music together, release music together, and create equitable and transparent value flows between participants.

Purpose

To develop experimental frameworks for collaboratively writing, releasing, distributing, and valuing music.

How does it work to write a song together as members of CHAOS?

Three Oscillators:  It was a surreal experience for me. I've never done anything like it. Every two weeks I was in a new band, and wrote and recorded a song with people I barely knew. Many people had contrasting styles and genres. The song ”Walls” happened in the second act. So there was Act One, Act Two and Act Three. Act One went for the first two weeks, Act Two was for the next two weeks, and Act Three was the last two weeks of writing songs. 

There was a demo call every week. So for the first week of every band, there would be a call where you play and share the first draft with everyone. On the second week of each act, we would have a call where everyone would play their final mixes. 

Lackhoney: Three Oscillators, Boy Entitled, and myself were assigned to be a group together. You get randomly assigned to different folks. You're assigned to one larger “house.” For the first two acts, you shuffle within the house. And for the third act, you shuffle within the larger camp and the houses start to get dissolved.

Boy Untitled: This is the only camp I've been a part of, but the Songcamp team creates this really deep, detailed mythological lore around what it is that we're creating. It creates a framework for all of us to make our work. It's like a guideline given to us, in a subversive way, to create a certain type of work. At one of the weekly meetings, the Songcamp team does a presentation and basically drops all the lore. It's almost like a little play, that is really engaging. Then, they hand out our grouping assignments for the next two weeks (aka “The Band”).

"It was a surreal experience for me. I've never done anything like it. "

Three Oscillators

What's it like working within such a large collaborative group?

Boy Untitled: One of my goals the past year was to do more collaborative work with people because I historically have worked in an insular way as a musician. 

In terms of releasing as Boy Untitled versus releasing as CHAOS, it’s different. On one hand, I think my ego wants to be billed on everything that I do. But when you're in a writers room, that’s not necessarily how it works. So I approach this as, “I’m a writer. I'm an artist who is contributing to another artist's work.” That's how I engaged with Songcamp. There's freedom in engaging in a project that way.

Contributing to a collective project like CHAOS, I can get new ideas out there. I can work collectively by being a part of something. Then, at the end of the day, it's like, this is something I helped create, but it is not my own. In some ways, this helps  to unlock the perfectionist inside of me and say, “There's no bad ideas.” I can just throw stuff out there and see what resonates.

Three Oscillators: I'm a control freak, so I just tend to work alone in general. This is why CHAOS was so eye opening, because it forced me to be in this room with two other minds that might not think the same way as I do. It helps open up horizons in a way you wouldn’t expect. It’s very unique in that way.

I wouldn't compare it to my solo artists career, because CHAOS has been a collaborative band from the start. Nothing that I put on that is a Three Oscillators song. It's a CHAOS song.

Lackhoney: I would say that my mindset on collaboration hasn't shifted, it's a new lens on creating music with others, something that I already knew I loved. It was a new way to approach it and appreciate it. 

It's a spiritual exercise of releasing ego and attachment, which I think a lot of people, myself included, really benefited from. The best experiences were when I was able to fully communicate, go back and forth, and share a kinship and respect.

Being a part of a large collaborative group may have a slightly more limited personal upside, but at the same time, you're collectively raising the chances of success.

What roles did you have for the song?

Three Oscillators: Every band had one producer, one singer/instrumentalist, and one “flex.” A flex is somebody who can produce as well as sing or play an instrument.

Lackhoney: I was in the “flex” role. I'm a producer, an artist, and I can mix and master, so I was around for whatever I needed to do. Boy Untitled was the artist. Three Oscillators was the producer.

Boy Untitled: Then we have an operative who oversees the band, and helps facilitate anything administrative that we may need help with.

How did the song "Walls" come together?

Boy Untitled: At the time of the call when we got our assignments, I was traveling. I was jumping on a flight, and I couldn't get onto that initial phone call with the band.

Lackhoney: We split up in our groups, and we had our first interaction as the new working group. Boy Untitled wasn’t available, so it was just me and Three Oscillators on the first call. 

We never had a conversation before. And I was like, “Do you prefer to work with acapellas? Would you prefer to send us beats?” Three Oscillators said he liked to receive acapellas. 

I sent the group a pack of around 10 acapellas that I’d recorded previously and that were sitting on my hard drive. “Walls” is one the group picked out. It's interesting, because “Walls” is a demo that I didn't feel very passionate about, but Boy Untitled was having an experience in his personal life that allowed him to relate to the lyrics. In that way, it meant more to him than it did to me.

Three Oscillators: Lackhoney had a demo of a song lying around and had a vocal stem completely done. He had an acapella ready, but there was nothing on it. It wasn't produced at all. 

Boy Untitled: When I listened to the lyrics, the song, almost word for word, is verbatim what I was experiencing at the time in my relationship. I remember getting back on the phone with them and I was like, Let's do “Walls.” 

It felt like the song reached into my brain and plucked out this thing that was so deeply resonant with that exact moment in my life and how I was feeling towards my husband, who I was on a trial separation with [at the time]. I was like: “This sounds like a conversation I've had with him 100 times.“

Three Oscillators: So I took that one acapella and made the entire song rounded. So Lackhoney did the vocals and, of course, the songwriting. I was in charge of making this entire song come to life. 

Boy Untitled: Three Oscillators took the song and started playing around with production things. Then I took the song, did a couple of tweaks to the top line, and adjusted some of the lyrics to make them fit my situation more.

Three Oscillators is based in India, Lackhoney was on the East Coast, and at that point, I was on the West Coast. So we’re all in very different time zones, working on our own time, dropping things into our private Discord channel and saying, “Hey, do you vibe with this?"

Three Oscillators: I didn't really come up with ideas until three days after the first call. It was stressful at first, but I got the hang of working under the pressure of delivering final mixes. That pressure helped me come up with ideas for songs because there is no time for adding intricate touches. You just have to get on with the song. The time constraints also improved my ideation process a little bit, because you have to think fast. You don't second guess what you're doing. You just go for it. And the song kind of manifests itself.

Lackhoney: It's a different workflow with limited time. I think I do my best thinking on the spot for the most part. It felt like a very natural workflow.

"Walls (demo version)"

CHAOS

What did it feel like being part of a 77 person "headless band?"

Boy Untitled:  There's a whole community of people supporting the process. There's so much going on with CHAOS. I mean, it's called CHAOS for a reason.

I feel like there's been this ease with everybody coming together and creating together. There's a good vibe with everyone there to really support each other. My experience in collaborating with CHAOS was so effortless. It was also a huge learning experience for me, because I haven't worked with so many different types of artists, so quickly, creating so much work.

Lackhoney: It's a super warm, welcoming, and loving community. I think that comes from a place of true love for music, and wanting to support and appreciate those around you. I definitely feel those emotions for the folks that I'm around and feel a lot of gratitude for being invited to be a part of CHAOS.

I've loved the ability to feel the connections that you feel online, in real life. It's been really, really magical. It's one of the most positive, encouraging, and warm communities I've ever experienced in my life. 

Three Oscillators:  It was very emotionally rewarding.

"It really puts a value on the artist in a space where we're often devalued or commodified."

Lackhoney

How did getting paid work?

Three Oscillators: 5000 music NFT “packs” were sold for .2 ETH, each containing 4 random songs.

Boy Untitled: At the end of every act, everyone does a self-evaluation on how much you contributed. You answer a couple questions about your personal judgement of how much you did. And then we used a tool called Coordinape, which allows people to distribute value points to everybody else based on how you thought they participated. Then, that's fed into an equation that distributes all of the ETH from the sales to everybody.

Three Oscillators: The splits were great. I think everyone was properly rewarded. I've never worked on a project like this before, so I was just taking everything as it goes. In Web3, everything is volatile, so I was expecting the worst to happen. Also, I would have been at peace if the worst also happened, because I'm just glad that a lot of good music came out of this process. But, the results were far better than what I'd imagined it to be. I was happy.

Lackhoney: It's insane, man, it's really insane. The success of this project is considerable and it's the biggest financial thing I've ever been a part of. I’ve never been a part of something that has made half a million dollars before.

People made more money than they've ever made from music in their lives. It’s beautiful. It's really just like W's all across the board. And then you have Matthew Chaim to be your friend too, which is the biggest W of all of it. Like, he's literally a goldmine.

I thought we did a great job with the splits. And I think that the significant innovation was allowing us to choose our splits and basing it off of how we felt we did each act.

Boy Untitled: Getting paid almost immediately is great, too. It’s way better than getting paid three months later, or in some cases, like six or nine months later, like you would from a label. It really puts a value on the artist in a space where we're often devalued or commodified.

What do you hope is next for Songcamp?

Lackhoney: I want it to go somewhere that pushes the envelope even further. Somewhere that feels like a natural extension of what the network is capable of.

Boy Untitled:  I think there's going to be more performance opportunities and opportunities to create visuals and videos. I also think that CHAOS will continue to become a sort of mentor in the space because we accomplished something so unique at a scale that hasn't really been accomplished before. I think CHAOS is going to become this benchmark for what is possible, both in music and Web3.

Three Oscillators: Everyone is still on the Discord and a lot of new connections have been made. I just hope that everyone stays connected in the future, whether it's working together or just socializing. And, yeah, the network will go on. CHAOS and Songcamp are not going anywhere.

Listen to the final version of "Walls" here.

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