For Grass Bat, the biggest victory includes defeating the powerful Demogorgon lingering within his own version of the Upside Down.
The Los Angeles synth pop singer-songwriter obliterates his inner demons on his latest infectious ‘80s-inspired single, “Favorite Worst Enemy,” or “FWE,” which dropped Oct. 25.
The track features soaring synths mixed with echoey vocals as Grass Bat prepares for an epic 3.5-minute battle of the mind – “It’s rushing through my blood like you’re my only friend/My heart’s beating fast like you’re the only one/You’re the only one/I know you’re my favorite worst enemy.”
“I felt like I was holding on to these demons, and I was dealing with depression. It’s a lot of what I’m talking about in the song, and I don’t know if I knew that upon writing it,” said Noel Herbert, aka Grass Bat. “After listening to it and realizing this is what was going on in my head at the time, I was holding on to things I should be able to let go. The only times I felt free from it was going out and dancing and getting my head out of the negative space.”
Influenced by Detroit techno and new wave, synth pop icons The Cure and Depeche Mode, “Favorite Worst Enemy” serves as a cathartic mechanism for tackling personal struggles and eliminating the stigma of mental health.
“This is something I haven’t been talking about. I haven’t been open until very recently. I’m going through avenues like therapy, and I just want people to know this is a normal thing,” said Herbert, who relocated to Los Angeles last year after growing up in metro Detroit. “It’s super important that I feel like I let not just my audience know, but as many people as possible who are dealing with this kind of stuff.”
As Grass Bat, Herbert encompasses free-flowing thoughts from the human consciousness and transmits them into colorful, flavorful frequencies that get stuck inside the listener’s mind. While soaring high above the digital jungle, he releases his ever-growing emotional ecosystem in the form of experimental synth pop and indie electronica from the likes of MGMT and Animal Collective.
Herbert self-records and produces his Grass Bat project with a mixture of synthesized sounds and live instrumentation for personal songs as well as film and video game scores. He also beautifully demonstrates this electronic musical prowess on two other tracks released earlier this year – “The Internet” and “Desert Rain.”
“The Internet” includes brief alternating deep synths that pong back and forth like an Atari video game score. These lo-fi, MGMT-esque synths sonically represent the dual images people present to society in person and through social media in an information-saturated world. In Herbert’s digital realm, “the Internet hurts” as he “need(s) that love to feel complete to see myself in a black screen.”
Herbert provides a poetic response to growing anxieties or personal Demogorgons people face when participating in the performance culture of social media, aka another iteration of the Upside Down.
“We’ll talk about social media in general and how people portray themselves and the honesty about how people portray themselves. How often are we looking into a black screen getting a reflection of ourselves?” he asked.
“I feel like at that point you’re seeing who you really are at that very moment, but then you’ve opened up your screen and you have all these pictures of yourself that you’re posting online, and are they really genuine?”
Herbert carries that authenticity forward in another refreshing track, “Desert Rain,” which was co-written by Nadia Grundgeiger. It eloquently harnesses a bright synth pop and new wave-fueled sound with arpeggiators, digital synthesizers, string arrangements and drum machines – “All these thoughts like the colors/They will change/To see what I want/Like the mirage of desert rain.”
“It’s a very story-oriented song and definitely the basis of that was the idea of walking through the desert on a drug trip,” Herbert said. “Not that either of us have had those experiences, but that was the premise of the storyline we decided to go with and then this idea of the mirage, which is like the rain.”
Herbert also has two new singles, “Imagine You” and “Lover,” on the horizon as well as a score for a short film festival. “Imagine You” will feature a Cigarettes After Sex sound filled with ambient indie pop. Meanwhile, “Lover” will drop before year’s end and include a cover version by a yet-to-be-named artist.
“I’m trying to dive more specifically into the ‘80s with better quality production, and it’s really just evolving more from that,” he said. “The upcoming songs that I have, there’s a whole array that I’m working on, but some of them are much more ‘80s and definitely lots of arpeggiations. There are others that are softer along the lines of The 1975, so there’s a little more guitar in it and live bass instead of synth bass.”
With five stellar singles under his belt and two more in production, Grass Bat stands equipped and ready for more musical victories in 2020.