Today, we’re thrilled to sit down with YBZ Vandr, a musician who’s as tech-savvy as he is melodically gifted. Emerging from a background in tech entrepreneurship, YBZ Vandr’s transition into the music world has been nothing short of remarkable. His latest release, “Gone Forever,” is a testament to his evolving artistry, blending introspective lyrics with captivating melodies. Let’s explore his journey from technology to tunes, his creative process, and the stories behind his music.
- You’ve had quite a journey from tech entrepreneurship to music. Can you share how this unique background has influenced your music career?
The tech aspect of music is all about mixing, mastering, and production, which is where it all started for me. I never meant to take it as far as I did; I just started messing around with production, and in that process, autotune caught my interest, which was why I started writing and recording vocals. One thing led to another, and I was releasing all the music I recorded.
- Your formative years involved a blend of technology and music. How do these early experiences manifest in your current music, particularly in your songwriting?
Songwriting wasn’t really something that stemmed from my background in technology. My songwriting just evolved over the years as I made music. It took a good two or three years for my lyrics to really become anything meaningful. Writing music through the COVID lockdown played the biggest role in my songwriting. That was a period where I had infinite time to write music, and I was really in touch with myself, which allowed me to develop my introspective and analogous lyrics.
- “Gone Forever” touches on the ephemeral nature of time and opportunities. What inspired you to center the song around this theme?
This was written during the COVID lockdown, and as I mentioned in the last question, it was really a time when I started filling my lyrics with personal experiences. During the lockdown, I started to realize how much I took the little things in life that I would never get back for granted. I experienced all that when I was still growing up, and everything was always changing, so there were many things I missed out on in life. I really live by the message in that song now. I started appreciating all of the little things so much more in life, and I always remind myself to appreciate things in the moment.
- The chorus of “Gone Forever” resonates deeply. Could you tell us the inspiration or personal stories behind these poignant lyrics?
It’s really everything from the last question. It all traces back to my experiences during the COVID lockdown.
- Your collaboration with G33edkout (Haiora) adds an interesting dynamic to the track. How did this partnership come about, and what was the creative process like?
I remember the exact day I decided to work with him on this track. He followed me on Instagram one day, probably back in early 2019. He asked to hop on a track, so I sent him an open, but I never ended up releasing it. I remember posting a snippet on my Instagram story after I recorded only the chorus of the song, and he swiped up and told me something like, “This is the one,” so I told him to hop on it. I remember the next day I was driving out to Michigan when he sent me the finished verse, and I couldn’t stop listening. I think I played it on loop the whole way there.
- Artists like Juice WRLD and Iann Dior have influenced your music. How do you incorporate their impact while maintaining your unique style?
I don’t think they have too much of an impact on my style today; they had more of an impact on the journey of building my unique style and working my way up. In the early days of making music, I listened to them a lot, and I was always searching for their “type beats” on YouTube. I wrote about a lot of themes similar to the ones in their songs, which I think contributed to the way that I pick my themes now.
- Being from Chicago, how has the city’s culture and music scene shaped your artistic identity?
Being so close to the music scene physically and with relationships made the whole music scene feel so much more attainable. I didn’t really start taking music seriously until a few somewhat established artists reached out to me. One of the first was Lil Noodle, whom I met up with once when he came out to Chicago. Then, that same year, I met my videographer, Jeff Salzbrunn, who had worked with mainstream rappers out of Chicago like Chance The Rapper and played a role in the early Lyrical Lemonade days with Cole Bennet. Just knowing that the mainstream industry was so close made the music industry feel so much more real, which I think was what kept me going all these years.
- The music video for “Gone Forever” complements the track’s themes beautifully. What was the concept behind the video, and how does it relate to the song?
This was all put together by my videographer, Jeff Salzbrunn. This was filmed way back in 2020, and it was the first project he directed for me, so I gave him full control. He really tried to emphasize the aspects of time and nostalgia through the visuals. I can remember him calling me up and telling me, “Clocks, we need clocks,” when he was brainstorming the write-up. We ended up filming the majority of it at the Damen Silos, which was an old abandoned grain factory on the west side. The run-down place represented something that was once thriving but was later forgotten, similar to the theme represented in the lyrics.
- Your music is known for its emotional depth. How do you balance creating personal yet universally relatable music?
My answer to this question is always the same: vagueness. When I write my lyrics, I purposely use vague wording because it forces the listener to think about the theme rather than the specifics in the lyrics. Something that always bothered me was when people watch a movie or listen to a song, and the only thing they take away is what happened, not what it means. I hope that my music forces people to interpret all music differently.
- With your upcoming release “Circles in My Head,” what new themes are you exploring, and how does it build upon the narrative in “Gone Forever”?
Circles in my head follow the themes of trying to figure out life and how to spend it. I think Gone Forever focuses on the theme of not taking things for granted and enjoying every moment. Circles in my head build on Gone Forever by focusing on the confusing internal conflict of trying to figure out what you should spend your life doing since time is limited.
Thank you, YBZ Vandr, for this insightful conversation and for sharing your art with the world.