By Nicholas Jason Lopez
Comprised of lifelong friends Stewart Crichton and Blake Baldwin, Los Angeles duo Hand Drawn Maps have amazed audiences with a sound that manages to stuff both 1960’s psychedelia and modern-day indie-rock into one musical sack.
With their original recording plans halted due to the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, they eventually were able to approach producer/engineer Steve Ornest at Total Access Recording (Black Flag, Descendents, Pennywise, No Doubt, Sublime)and work on their songs.
Despite bouncy bangers like “Everybody Knows” and their sun-soaked anthem “Catch A Wave,” when it comes to their music, Hand Drawn Maps brings an ounce of realism, drawing on past experiences of drug battles and altered states; a balance of negativity and positivity.
The Music Bugle had the chance to talk with them about what they’ve been up to lately and more.
Music Bugle – How would you describe Los Angeles to someone who has never been there before?
Blake Baldwin – I would tell them that it’s like five-six cities rolled into one. Each main area of the city has a completely different feeling and that’s expressed even more by the people who tend to gravitate to those areas. For us as creatives, that is really cool, because there are a lot of different things to engage with and be inspired by.
Music Bugle – What excites you the most about your style of music?
Stewart Crichton – There are a lot of things that excite us about our style of music, but one thing is our mix of a lot of different styles, both old and new that work to form our sound. Even though we draw a lot of inspiration from the music we grew up listening to and use a lot of the same vintage instruments in our recording process, we purposefully are trying to take those sounds into new places and make something that hasn’ been heard before. It’s exciting to take old instruments and use them in a new way, or using new technology to try and recreate something that sounds old, to create something else entirely that sounds fresh and new.
Music Bugle – What is the biggest challenge in being a musical duo?
Blake Baldwin – Stewart and I have a pretty symbiotic relationship when it comes to the creative side and even the less glamorous aspects of being independent artists. That being said, it is definitely sometimes hard to get together to work on demos as much as we’d like, since life is so fast and busy these days.
Music Bugle – What was your goal for your debut single “Catch A Wave”?
Stewart Crichton – Our goal with the song “Catch A Wave” was to hit the ground running with the release of our music. Blake and I talked about it extensively and we both felt that “Catch A Wave” would be a perfect track to release first because of the catchy upbeat melody and the dark lyrics that accompany it. Secondly, the few people we played it for complained that they couldn’t get the chorus melody out of their heads. It’s a good sign when a third party listener gets one of your melodies stuck in their heads, so we decided to take a chance with it.
Music Bugle – Which of your songs were the hardest to write?
Stewart Crichton – Blake and I have a pretty cohesive songwriting chemistry and we’ve never really spent a long time forcing ideas. We’ve both been writing music for a long time and if something doesn’t work, we move on to the next idea. If I had to choose a “hardest to write,” I’d probably go with our song “Sunshine Subconscious,” which has yet to be released. It definitely took the longest to write, because we started with a guitar lick and a driving bassline and built upon it from over the course of a few demos. In the song, the listener is taken on a psychedelic journey with a lot of twists and turns. The song was continuing to be shaped lyrically and musically all the way up into the final studio session, but I can speak for both of us in saying that we’re very excited to share it soon.
Music Bugle – Who are you listening to right now, music-wise?
Blake Baldwin – I am always listening to a ton of different artists, but recently, it’s been Richard Swift, Maribou State and the Blake Mills/Pino Palladino collab.
Stewart Crichton – Been listening to a lot of music lately, including Drug Dealer, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard, Whitney and The Velvet Underground.
Music Bugle – How have you been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?
Stewart Crichton – We were originally planning on getting into the studio around April 2020. We had some studio time booked with our good friend Steve Ornest over at Total Access Recording when the world went into chaos and the whole project was put on pause for the next six months. Both Blake and I went into a “survival mode” and were unsure of where the world was headed at that time, so it seemed a little inappropriate to continue with our recording plans. Speaking for myself, I was confronted with my own mortality both physically and creatively and after a short conversation with Blake, we decided that life is too short to not do what you love and we decided to give this creative project a real chance.
Music Bugle – Does social media help or hurt musicians?
Blake Baldwin – Social media is one of the biggest double-edged swords in modern life that I can think of. LIke, it’s so cool to be able to share media with friends really easily and for us to post what we’re doing as a band. That being said, it’s so addictive and there is so much toxicity and even though I know it’s not good for my mental health, as artists, we have to stay plugged in, because that is where people are seeing and hearing about our new music, aside from actually getting out and playing shows.
Music Bugle – Where do you go when you need a break?
Blake Baldwin – I tend to try and get out of the house as much as possible and I take a lot of walks through my neighborhood and local parks. Other than that, I love getting out of town and into nature at least a few times a year to unplug and reconnect with that energy.
Music Bugle – What’s a quote that motivates you to keep doing what you do?
Stewart Crichton – “Music is what language would love to be if it could,” by John O’Donohue.