Felix Cartal continues to unleash high quality music for his growing fanbase. Hailing from Vancouver, Canada, the DJ and producer has established his name in the dance music scene, with an all-star catalog of hits such as Platinum-certified “Get What You Give” and “Love Me”—lying somewhere in the midst of electronic pop.
Creating music since 2006, Cartal really prides himself in heartfelt, dance-ready ballads inspired directly by real-life experiences and events, something fans can relate to all around the world. Now, he returns with his highly-anticipated fourth studio album titled Expensive Sounds For Nice People, which sees him showcasing his duality at the core of music. 3 years in the making, the 16-track body of work reels in guest appearances from Sophie Simmons, Kiiara, Lights, and more.
Flaunt caught up with Felix via Zoom, who was posted in the basement of his parents’ house in Vancouver where he grew up. Read below as we discuss the new project, why this signifies a new chapter for him, the creative process songwriting and the long hours on production, the amount of time on each song, studio essentials, “Mine” and “Love Me” going Platinum, getting back on stage, his new vodka soda brand, and more!
Expensive Sounds for Nice People, let’s get into it. How excited are you?
I’m so relieved it’s finally out because I’ve definitely had more time to work with it than I had expected because of the pandemic. Which is good, because I didn’t get served in music a lot. Ultimately, I’m really happy it’s finally out.
It took 3 years to make, it’s your fourth album. How’s the reception been?
So far the reception’s been really good, people have been taking the time to listen to it from front to back. That was really my main goal, to make it as cohesive as I could from beginning to end.
How is this second chapter for you?
My first two albums were me experimenting a lot, I was definitely influenced by grimy or heavier electro. The last two albums, I’ve gotten a lot better at executing the ideas that I hear in my head. Getting a bit more competent with production, and really focusing on songwriting. Really getting involved writing with all the vocalists, the singers, the other writers. I’m fortunate to work with some really talented people, the record wouldn’t have happened without them. I’m trying to make production that definitely reflects how the locals feel and hopefully with those, I can convey the emotion of the song in the most authentic way possible.
How was the creative process writing the records?
Yeah, a lot of the record was written when I was in Oslo, I’ve written there a few times. There’s this vibe in Oslo that feels sort of comparative to Canada. It’s very nature and beautiful there. Everyone’s a little bit relaxed, which is nice. As I get older, I don’t like to stress myself out too much with trying to write a hit or anything. I try to write a song that I like. Hopefully if I like it, maybe some people will like it too.
That was the vibe in Oslo, the pace was really slow in a good way. We’d go work on a song for a bit, go out and get lunch. Walk around the park for a bit. We tried to write stuff we liked. That really gelled for me, that’s why some of the songs sound more natural. After I had all the vocals written, it went to me doing the production back home in Vancouver in the studio. Mostly solo, long hours of stressing myself out about whether or not it sounded good or not.
When do you know if it sounds good enough? When does it hit your criteria?
Usually when I’m working on a song, I’ll have different versions as I go along. If I make enough changes, I’ll save it as whatever the next version is. If I’m working on version seven, next is version eight obviously. Sometimes I’ll put the versions on when I’m doing something mindless around my apartment, like cooking. If it goes from version seven to version eight and I don’t notice any difference, “okay I might be stressing myself out about details. Maybe it’s time to put the nail in the coffin on this one.”
Do you go to anyone else for a sign off or to get their opinion?
I have a couple of close friends. A lot of the time they’re not other producers, just other people with similar music tastes. They can be reassuring and maybe the detail that I’m getting crazy about might be too extreme. Definitely a few producer friends that I’ll send to as well. Ultimately, I keep it pretty tight-knit. I don’t share it with too many people until it’s out.
Favorite songs on the project and why?
It’s so hard to pick a vocal song because I don’t want to offend any of those singers because I love all the songs so much. I’ll pick one of the instrumental ones. “Layover” is a really special song to me, because it uniquely feels like my own sound. I don’t know how to compare that to another song I’ve heard. A really good feeling, I’ve stumbled upon a thing that feels 100% me. Definitely another thing is I love doing an album for the reason of getting to experiment with different vibes that you wouldn’t get to do if you were putting out a single.
You mentioned the long hours. What’s the reality of the grind from when you started, to get to where you are now?
My first release came out 2007, so 14 years? God, that makes me sound really old. 14 years of producing now, that doesn’t even count the years of playing in horrible bands before that. The album was worked on over the course of 3 years. I don’t want people to think that’s me working on it every day for 12 hours, but definitely hundreds of hours per song for sure.
Essentials you need in the studio at all times?
I like a good candle, a nice vibe. Good lighting is so key. We have the Philips Hue lights in my studio now, that stuff really helps. There’s no windows in my studio so definitely in a little bit of a prison cell, but the prison cell with a vibe.
How does it feel to have “Mine” with Sophie Simmons and “Love Me” both go Platinum and Canada. That’s awesome!
It’s totally surreal. With “Mine,” me and Sophie had written together a bunch of times. We wrote a lot of stuff we really liked. At the end of one of the sessions, she played me the initial demo for that song. I said “This is the song. That song is so good, let’s finish this.” It came together pretty quick once we decided to do it.
“Love Me” was really special to me, because me and Lights are the only ones who touch that record. Everything, there’s no random mastering engineer. I mastered everything. She recorded her own vocals, tracked them, prompted them herself. Literally the only 2 credits on that record are me and Lights, and I love that. It’s a really pure collab, I love that it got the recognition it got.
Talk about getting into cooking during the quarantine. What do you like to cook?
I’ve been doing this thing called Fresh Prep, which is a Vancouver company. Shout out fresh prep! They send you all the ingredients for a meal, it changes constantly and the recipes are really good. If they send you vegetables, you have to prepare everything still. Cut everything and all that, you still are cooking. I always thought I hated cooking and since I started fresh prep, I realized I just hate grocery shopping.
Really? I love grocery shopping.
[laughs] It’s hard to grocery shop for one person, because you always have leftover ingredients.
Are you super healthy?
No, not really. I should be. I’m okay, I go in waves.
How’s it been livestreaming on Twitch?
I’ve been doing a weekly Twitch stream called Wavy Wednesdays, every Wednesday at 7pm PST. It’s been really fun. I’ve been DJing live every week for 2 or 3 hours. It’s totally improvised, have nothing planned. It’s been good because it’s kept my DJ skills tuned. If I didn’t do it, I’d be worried to play my first show coming back because I may have forgotten how to DJ otherwise. [laughs] The flipside, it’s been really cool to meet people into my music. We built a little Twitch community now that we fondly call the bortgang. It’s really nice that people tune in week after week. We’ve been doing it for a year now, which is crazy how time flies.
How excited are you to perform your first show in forever?
I’m so excited because I don’t think I’ve ever sat on this much music before. A lot of the times when you play a show, you have one or two things you’ve been working on. This time, I’m going to have an entire album. I have another project called Glass Petals, I have so much music from that project as well. Lots of stuff to play so I’m very excited. The other thing is when you put out music online, if you never see people listening to it, it feels like it’s not really out in a weird way. It goes into the void of the internet sometimes.
How do you know if people aren’t listening to it?
Because I can see stats. It’s hard when you don’t actually get a real reaction from people. I know a lot of people are listening, but it doesn’t feel real sometimes until you see people singing alone to one of those songs you put out at a show. I really miss that feeling.
Favorite song to drop in a set?
Off the album, “Over It.” It’s a house-y vibe and it’s really fun to play.
Talk about your new Vodka Soda brand, Wise.
My buddy started it, then asked me if I wanted to come in with him on it. It’s can vodka soda, sugar-free which is nice. We’ve been doing these cola flavors, we have soda, root beer, vanilla cola. Now we have orange creamsicle. It’s been doing really well. We’re in BC, Alberta, Halifax now, and hopefully Ontario soon.
What’s your love for marketing? I know you’re a fan of Seth Godin and his books.
I like Seth, he’s an interesting thinker. He’s no bullshit, which I like. He’s very grounding. When I get a little bit stressed about working on a creative project for a long time, he’s a good voice to listen to. He encourages getting in there everyday and doing it, also setting deadlines for yourself. Even if you feel like something might not be fully finished, you’ve got to hit the deadlines, otherwise maybe you’ll never put anything out. [laughs]
One thing you want fans to take away from the album?
Honestly, I’m such a fan of albums. Whenever I hear a song that I like, my first thing I want to do is I always see if it’s on an album I can then listen to from beginning to end. In that sense, if there’s an album that sounds really good the entire way through, that’s the most special listening experience for me. All I ask is people give the album one shot from beginning to end, because I definitely worked very hard trying to get it to have a good flow. All the transitions were definitely thought out. Don’t put it on shuffle, if you can. I hope people like it, it’s got a good summer vibe.