Electronic maestro Baths (real name Will Wiesenfeld) first emerged in Los Angeles’ local electronic “beat scene” in the late aughts, alongside like-minded producers Flying Lotus and Daedelus. Since, he has amassed a weighty discography on the heels of his breakout LP Cerulean in 2010, followed by 2011’s Pop Music / False B-Sides and 2013’s Obsidian, which chronicled a period of illness following a protracted infection.
In 2017, he returned triumphant with his most experimental offering to date in his third full-length LP Romaplasm, released via Anticon. The emotive set was described as a “post-modern” take on the late 18th century European artistic movement known as Romanticism — and found the upstart musing on the “gnawing chaos of life” with a focus on beauty and the sublime.
Throughout his career, the queer artist’s identity and struggle with self-acceptance has quietly crept into his lyrics: on Obsidian cut “No Eyes,” he explores an overall feeling of apathy about sex (“And it is not a matter of ‘If you mean it’/ But it is only a matter of ‘come and fuck me”); on Romaplasm standout “Human Bog,” overall feelings of hopelessness and self-doubt take the lead (“Queer in a way that’s failed me/ I’m not enough of anything”); while on “Yeoman,” he embraces the lift that self-acceptance offers (“Left my life on the ground / To dance with you in the clouds / Forgot my life on the ground / Oh, yeoman, we’re far gone now”).
His goal for the album was — above all else — honesty in his songwriting, which helped to “center” the things that were most important in his life — even if that meant “fucking things up a bit along the way,” he says. “I’m not as emotive with real-world things as I am when I’m neck-deep in anime, video games, books or cimcs,” Baths says. “I wanted to be honest with myself that this is where my heart lies and where I get the most emotion out of life. I wanted a record that mirrors those emotions but in an indirect way.”
To help toast Billboard’s Summer of Pride, Baths curated an exclusive Pride-themed playlist comprised of queer-identifying indie acts, and including tracks by Big Thief, Lomelda, SASAMI, Jay Som and more.
“I made a playlist of independent working bands and artists, all queer, each of whom I feel have a strong sense of identity tied to their music,” he tells Billboard. “Identity has always been one of the most confusing parts of being gay for me, to really be able to define myself, or to at least be comfortable with how I’m trying to. All the artists on this list pour so much of themselves into the music they make, and through repeated listens trying to understand their art and their queerness, they’ve helped me to place my own.”
For the 30-year-old indie talent, June’s annual Pride festivities can feel “very confusing,” especially for him and his many indie musician pals. “As it becomes a more corporatized celebration it gets harder and harder to parse my identity in the whirlwind of rainbow flags and advertising, which is why independent music remains such a crucial part of my experience,” he says. “It is a realm where people, especially queer people, stay true to themselves regardless of how the greater narrative is written.” The subject matter tackled by LGBTQ+-identifying artists are “some of the most unique” perspectives that exist in popular music, he adds.
Outside of Baths, Wiesenfeld has also released music under the moniker Geotic, whose most recent LP Traversa dropped last year via Ghostly International and landed him his first top 10 on Billboard‘s Dance/Electronic Album Sales chart when it debuted and peaked at No. 5 in November, according to Nielsen Music.
Elsewere, Baths returned last December with the one-off instrumental track “Clarence Difference,” released as a flexi disc exclusive to subscribers of coffee company Yes Plz alongside its second-ever music issue, which included spotlights on Baths as well as other indie talents like Black Belt Eagle Scout, Sam Wilkes, Charles Bradley and Tom Schnabel.