By Nicholas Jason Lopez
Husks – the musical project of Brooklyn, N.Y.-based singer/producer/composer Connor Small – had a worthy 2021, as he dropped the EP ‘Somewhere, There Is A Garden Where You May Rest [Chapter 1]’ over the summer, notable for the singles “Crypts,” “You Will Find A Garden” and “Connect”; the first of a trilogy set.
An avenue to explore and experiment with a dark electronic-pop sound backed by synth and influenced by some industrial, Husks is lyrically influenced by his religious upbringing and regularly explores themes of anxiety, tension, isolation and purity in the face of uncertainty.
The Music Bugle had the chance to talk with Husks about what he has been up to lately and more.
Music Bugle – How did you decide your artist name?
Husks – I started Husks after a duo I was in for several years broke up. At the time, I felt really abandoned by my collaborator because up to that point, he was the only person I had ever written and released music with. Writing music takes a lot of trust and openness and so, losing that left a void when the group abruptly broke up and I was feeling deep loneliness from that split. It felt kind of like a breakup. On top of that, I was new to New York and felt isolated, alone and was full of a ton of self-doubt. It even made me question creating music altogether. I took a break from music for a bit and got really into horror movies. Like…really into them. I realize, looking back, that I’m not much of a thrill-seeker in the traditional skydiving, bungee-jumping sense, but that this horror movie binging was my own little form of that. I guess I was really just trying to feel something. I realized eventually that horror movies that focused on the themes of isolation and the inner-self made me feel less alone. In one movie, I heard a line that was something to the effect of, “We’re all just husks, in one way or another” – meaning we’re all just vessels and we all have the power to fill or empty those shells based on the paths we choose in life. Something about that felt right, so I took on that moniker and started making music that tried to channel the sounds of horror movie scores, but tackled themes of loneliness, anxiety and isolation. It really was about owning my depression and using music to navigate it.. I picked the plural of “Husks” rather than just “Husk,” because I wanted my music to represent a community. It was really important to me to keep that sense of all of us being our own vessels and having a degree of power and agency over the course of our lives.
Music Bugle – What was your goal for your new EP?
Husks – My main goal was to put a group of songs out that had a flow and a narrative journey to it and also to have the first group of songs only feature my vocals. There are a lot of collaborations with other amazing artists on this project, more than I’ve ever done, so it was really important to me that this first chapter of the larger album be focused on me establishing the themes and sonics independently before introducing additional voices. As far as the narrative – without giving too much away: this album represents my personal journey with religious faith and how it relates to my faith in myself. To me, this EP is almost like an epigraph, because these five songs represent a microcosm of the overall story arc, while also giving a good entrance point to anybody who is new to my music of what to expect from my style and sound.
Music Bugle – What has been your biggest challenge lately?
Husks – Staying in a routine honestly has been such a challenge throughout COVID. It’s so easy for me to sleep in, or to neglect my mental and physical health because I’m home so much working out of my studio. I find that when I’m in a routine, my mind feels clearer, the music I’m making also reflects that lucidity and I’m generally able to feel more. However, when I’m not, it’s a real struggle that manifests itself in my creativity.
Music Bugle – What can fans expect from the rest of the trilogy?
Husks – A wild ride! I cover a lot of ground over the next 10 songs and a lot of them feature other vocalists. I think it’ll bring some variety, some intensity and hopefully, a sense of having gone on a musical and lyrical journey.
Music Bugle – How would you describe Brooklyn, New York to someone who has never been there before?
Husks – Cozy, but busy. There’s a lot of beauty in Brooklyn – little parks and nooks and crannies to explore, but it’s also very busy similar to Manhattan. I think it gets that “hipster” vibe for many reasons, but that’s only a few sections of Brooklyn that feel like that, so there’s a lot more to it than just the stereotypical portrayals you see in TV and film.
Music Bugle – What is your favorite instrument to play?
Husks – I’m in love with the guitar. I’ve been playing since I was 11 after begging my parents to let me switch over from piano. In retrospect, I wish I’d stuck with piano a bit longer, but I don’t regret it much, because the guitar has provided me with so much joy and exploration.
Music Bugle – What excites you the most about your style of music?
Husks – The intensity and the multitude of means of expression that it allows me to explore. I love traditional pop music, so this isn’t a knock on that, but there are always going to be the formulas and boxed-in sounds that keep people comfortable – and I definitely think that’s super important for the overall music landscape at any given time, but I just find that pushing the boundaries of pop – both sonically and lyrically – lets me explore the edges of what I’m feeling more. I really struggle to contain ideas to three minutes and 30 seconds, so working in “experimental pop” has really helped me give life to my songs.
Music Bugle – How have you been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?
Husks – I think like every musician, not being able to perform live has really sucked. Especially leading up to an album release, it’s been really hard to cope with a big chunk of my life missing like that, but it has given me more time and access to work on other musical projects – including future projects as Husks.
Music Bugle – What’s a quote that motivates you to keep doing what you do?
Husks – “Do. Or Do Not. There is no try.”
Music Bugle – Who are you listening to right now, music-wise?
Husks – I’ve been absolutely loving the newest Loraine James album. It’s one of those records that just so acutely creates its atmosphere that I can’t help but want to dive back in over and over. I’ve had ‘Assume Form’ by James Blake and ‘MAGDALENE’ by FKA twigs on repeat for like two years straight now.