Local artist Bohdi Cooper started making music on his computer as a teenager in what started out as a garage project with friends but quickly grew into a creative compulsion. Since his start, his sound has grown to take up more space and gainer a farther emotional breadth than what you'd typically assume of electronic projects.
Bohdi crafts tracks that are somehow both weightlessly effortless and meticulously curated; his vocals are conversational and crooning, rolling over off-tempo electronica and lo-fi sampling. His lyricism fights any over-excursion or strain, rapid-fire meditations of the mundane, the absurd, and the simplicity of splitting a meal at Qdoba or “sitting in the air and the air made of crisp.”
High-flying motivator “Amazing Pt. 1” runs on a kick-drum beat in the vein of The Strokes or The Drums, with spliced looping and pastel pop tonalities, whereas tracks like “Head in the Clouds” and “I” are energetic anthems, while Home stays in the slow lane.
Bohdi continually shirks the cliche and trite, dancing comfortably on the side of irony: “it’s you with the shit-stained pants/ trying to make it to the top trying to get into romance”, and the elementary, earnest nostalgia of Mac Miller: “dear Mom it’s your oldest son/ I’m doing real well and school’s almost done/ the activities here are always lotsa fun and when I go outside there’s always sun.”
Whether you listen to it on the drive home or at a house party, the power in 'Bohdi' is that the songs transcend ordinary limitations, and refrain from trying to be any one particular thing, in favor for a natural-flowing consciousness and stylistically unrestrained, free-form lyricism.
The album, mixed and mastered by friend Zach Raab, also credits a list of nearly twenty contributors: Earl Anema, Kayhl Cooper, Cactus?, Liz Butler, Belan Antensaye, Aaron Daniel, Ben McClellan, Claire Condy, Jordan Lange, Lena Kern, and Nina Cecere.
U5280: Your lyricism is both conversational and personal. What are the intentions behind the writing?
BOHDI: I write a bunch of stuff all the time, and a lot of it I just scratch if it doesn’t feel right. My goal with the album is to show who I am in all my facets, and my ranges of emotion. I’m trying to both make it something that people want to listen to, something clever and lyrical.
U5280: What experience do you like to draw from to find your creative energy?
BOHDI: It's anything. Usually it tends to be,-- I was thinking abotu this the other day, actually,-- I tend to write when I’m really thinking hard about something. A lot of the stuff I’ve written is very focused on a specific feeling, different expressions of the same feeling. Lately I’ve been trying to allow myself to write about more silly stuff, because usually when I sit down to write it’s because I’m thinking about something more seriously. The more casual songs come to me line by line throughout the day, whereas a deeper song may take one or two sessions.
U5280: What artists have had the most influence on your style?
BOHDI: I started making music when I heard Skrillex in High-school when a friend introduced him to me, back in like 2011. I think that was the first time I felt really excited about music. When Kendrick’s To Pimp a Butterfly came out, my tastes began to change. The back-bone of my beats are definitely more hip-hop, but I also have taken a lot from electronic. It’s hard to pinpoint the exact source of inspiration, but when I was making the album I was listening mostly to Kanye West, Chance the Rapper, The Strokes, and a lot of Jamie XX.
U5280: The majority of people start out like: I’m going to learn guitar, and then that’s as far as they go with it. As a budding artist, what pushed you to begin making electronic music initially?
BOHDI: I tried learning different instruments until I kind of fell into digital and electronic, and I kept trying at it at until I felt satisfied with what I could make. Growing up, I’d pick up different instruments all the time, learn a bit, and feel frustrated that I wasn’t capable of making a full sound as I wanted to. I couldn’t create a song with beats and backing on an acoustic guitar in my bedroom. Creating music on my computer was super difficult at first, as difficult or more so than trying to play the guitar. It was a little more reassuring though, because I could make something pretty quickly that sounded okay, so that motivated me to keep trying to improve. Living in the world of electronic music, I kept wanting to try different things and experiment in a way I couldn’t before. That's been my biggest motivator.
U5280: Tell us what your recording studio looks like.
BOHDI: I’ve been recording with my friend Zach, who has a whole studio set-up that’s like, completely professional. Great monitors, great microphones, all that stuff. But when I make the backing music, it’s all just in my room, on my computer. I’ve got a couple of my own microphones, but I can’t make myself sound good on them. I’ll really just be sitting at my desk making stuff on my laptop most of the time.
U5280: You’ve been working as a DJ at DU bars and other local watering holes. What are your go-to tracks?
BOHDI: I’ve been really digging the song “Come Down” by Anderson Paak lately. Not a lot of people know it, so my goal has been like to keep playing it until people recognize it. Honestly, a lot of old throwbacks too, like “Mambo No. 5” always gets people riled up. Come on Eileen I think I may have abused a little bit. I played it all the time. Now when I play it people are like, “alright, this again.”
U5280: What does it feel like when you’re performing live?
BOHDI: I’ve had two live performances. The first one was last year during Winter Carnival at Keystone. That one was fun, but I don’t feel as good about it now. I was really nervous, and kept telling people how nervous I was, and there were like twenty people there. It wasn’t my best material, but in the end I’m really proud of myself for getting out there. I waited a long time after that, and then I recently played the Battle Of the Bands at Illegal Pete’s a few weeks ago. That really felt amazing. It had been a long time since my first show, and I’ve become a lot more confident with my music now, and as a person too. I played a single I’d released the week before, and a bunch of my friends and even strangers new the words.
U5280: What are your goals as an artist?
BOHDI: I want to do two different things. I want to try new stuff, and really push myself as an artist, push past my own personal boundaries as an artist. I don’t know if I’m ready to push boundaries in an insane way just yet, but I’d like to find out. The other thing I’d like to do is represent myself as best as I can through my music. I was talking to my brother a little bit ago about how music is another form of trying to communicate who you are to people. I think it’s a really cool medium to be working in because you don’t have to be so literal about it, you can be abstract and still communicate.
U5280: Final test: Kanye or Kendrick?
BOHDI: No! They’re so different. They’re in different lanes. If rap were acapella, then, actually no. I can’t even do that. Kanye is trying to do something else than what Kendrick is, with his delivery. Actually, I’m going to pick Kendrick, and this is not a dig on Kanye, but Kanye lets himself into the music more. Kendrick has always put his music before himself as a person. He himself is more of an idea, and the music is the substance.
Download 'Bohdi' for free on his website.
Interview conducted by Kendall Morris.