Frog Jazz is Real: An Interview With CC Sorensen

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Some music just hits in the perfect way. We all have those sweet spots that are hard to explain, but when an artist finds that knife’s edge, we’re all in. CC Sorensen’s music is like that for me. Though their newest album, Twin Mirror, is the pinnacle of their sound (so far), I’ve been smitten with CC’s work for a while. They create such rich sonic environments that it’s hard not to feel completely enveloped by the flowing synthesis and crystallized geode zones. 

As if I didn’t appreciate CC enough, they then went and created frog jazz, the greatest genre in ages. If the world is a just place (ha?), Twin Mirror will be recognized as one of 2022’s finest.

This interview was done in the latter months of 2021 and early 2022. Twin Mirror is out now on Full Spectrum and I can’t recommend it enough.

So let’s go back to the early days when you were younger. When did you first start realizing you had an interest in music and sound? What was it that kind of made you sit back and really feel something unexpected or surprising that set you off on this journey?

Around 10 is when I really started to fall in love with music and sound. My family and I had just moved from rural western Kansas to the big town of Lubbock in rural NW Texas. Moving at any age is such a big shock and massive change. I think being young and moving away from my friends back home gave me a space to really start listening and truly appreciating music. A lot of the sounds I was hearing and getting into were coming from my older brother’s bedroom. I was raised on standard classic rock music so I specifically remember hearing Head Hunters by Herbie Hancock and being fucking blasted. That album helped shift my understanding of music at that point towards a direction of potential and infinite outcomes. Though, I don’t think I fully understood that at the time, I knew I wanted to actually make music after hearing musicians like Herbie and Miles Davis and that felt crucial to achieve. 

What were your first experiences like when it came to either playing/learning an instrument or creating your own sounds/original pieces?

 I was about 15 when I started messing around with GarageBand on my brother’s laptop. I remember having this moment early on with learning how to use GarageBand and learning the guitar and keys where I was like “wait, I think we can just be musicians?” I feel lucky that both of my brothers are also musicians and I think I sort of pre-learned how to play guitar and piano by just watching them play for years. Music has remained in this weird place where I simultaneously am tuned in but have absolutely no clue what is happening or how it’s occurring. Things slowly came together and getting a grasp of how to make sounds sound out together started to make more and more sense. In many ways, I have a deep appreciation for digital audio workstations and access to my brother’s computer at that time. 

Something about your work that always strikes me is how rich and detailed your sound design and compositions are. I’m listening to the new record, Twin Mirror, right now and the whole thing is transportive, it’s a world unto itself. So first, I’m curious… what do you think of music’s transportive abilities and how it can create worlds for listeners to not just escape, necessarily, but even learn and feel things outside of their own experience?

Thanks so much! Music is such a direct link to the one(s) that made it, it can sometimes be easy to forget when we are being transported to other worlds through sound that the sound is so connected and tied to other humans and their lives. Sound mirrors our own lives and there is so much to gain through listening. Having access to others’ deepest expressions is so intimate and weird but incredibly beautiful, life-affirming, and necessary. There is a lot to learn from sound.

As a sort of follow-up to that, when you were composing and working on these pieces, what is your process and approach like? Do you have certain ideas of images in mind and you try to create that with sound, or is it something else entirely?

Ah, my process with this album was kind of all over the place, per usual for me haha. I usually start pieces from just sitting at a keyboard and recording improvised takes or starting with a field recording as the base and then get into the deeper stuff that shifts it more into a song, overdubs, and such. I always kind of imagine sitting on the surface of the ocean at the start of a piece and as I get the first few components rolling it feels like I’m diving into the deep and a lot of that part is very much magic to me. Often in the moment songs seem to just kind of come together and it really feels like I’m controlling an electric alchemical box that transmutes emotions and touch into sounds. I’m really thankful and a big shout out to digital audio workstations because a lot of the shit I do on there makes my music possible. 

The other thing about Twin Mirror that I’m a little obsessed with is… well, not only is this album like its own little world, but each song on it has such a distinct feeling to it, whether it’s the emotion running through it or the sonics of it. I’ve come to imagine each song as its own little neighborhood that’s part of this greater aural landscape, and the way it all fits and flows together is pretty magical. Was there a particular narrative you are telling with the way it all moves and fits together? The sequencing is really outstanding…

It’s funny that you mention neighborhoods because I have lived in like four different neighborhoods over the last two years. I actually started this album right when I was moving from Lubbock, TX to San Antonio, TX in late 2019 with my partner. A lot of the energy and feelings that occur on the album were definitely very influenced by us getting tossed around so much and not being able to find secure housing. So I really think as the album progresses you get kind of this weird road map of emotions throughout this time. Making music usually allows me to fall into my own little worlds and can be a fantastic escape from daily chaos while also deeply reflecting on the reality we inhabit.   

Kind of related to all this, and especially the density and textures that run through your music, how do you know when a piece is finished? And how do you edit yourself? Because it always seems like there’s an incredible amount of things happening at once, I’m amazed at how it all fits together.

Agh yeah this one is tough. This is one of the most challenging parts of the music making process for me. Drawing pieces to a close typically is one of the longest parts of the process and I’m trying to be better about not over-listening and nitpicking too much. Before I make final edits I normally like to take at least a week or two off from the piece to give my ears a break and kind of remove myself from the song creation process and then dive into the editing process. Although, those lines are so blurred and so much of the creation of my music comes through the editing and mixing process. 

What’s the story behind the album title?

I’m a Gemini and duality really resonates highly with my existence for better or worse. I really like to explore concepts of stillness and movement simultaneously. A blending of like minimalism and maximalism. So I knew I wanted the album to relate to that somehow. Twin Mirror I think fits what I imagine pretty perfectly. Also just a big fan of mirrors, the word and meaning behind a mirror. I think the last few years have been a deep period of reflection for so many of us, reflections of ourselves and reflections of our current society. I wanted to hone that energy and attach it to this music.   

Full Spectrum put out Twin Mirror and Andrew Weathers and Gretchen Korsmo have been two close collaborators of yours. How did you first meet them and how has their friendship and creative partnership pushed and inspired your own work?

I met Andrew and Gretchen sort of by chance in 2017. I was playing a house show in a bud’s front yard space in Lubbock and local musician and weirdo Hayden Pedigo caught my set, we didn’t officially meet then but he ended up emailing a bunch of labels trying to figure out who I was, and ended up emailing the label Shadowtrash Tape Group, the label my brother ran that I was associated with. Hayden immediately connected me with Andrew and Gretchen and we’ve been great friends since then. Andrew and Gretchen have been big catalyzers creatively and have really helped push me into a higher level of creation and focus. Starting the Llano Estacado Monad Band (LEMB) with them and also playing in duo projects with each of them has been one of the biggest shifts for me in the last few years. It’s like hyper-reality playing with them and LEMB. The way we have it set up and operate with no leaders and the motto of “anyone can be in the band” has helped influence the way I go about my day-to-day life. I was able to reconnect to music and my own life in a way that I have never had before.  

And speaking of Gretchen, the collaborative album you all released a few months ago is stunning. What prompted you all to do a remote collaboration? Did you all have specific ideas for what you were hoping to do with the project going into it, or did it unfold more organically?

Thank you! I really love Gretchen’s zones and the places she goes musically are always so surprising and the choices she makes textually are always so intriguing. The two of us were hanging out in Littlefield, TX a few years ago, the rest of the Llano crew were busy / out of town but we were adamant at the time about doing Llano Band happenings on Sundays. We had a really great duo session and it sort of got sucked in the archive, Llano Band puts out a LOT of tunes. I stumbled back across that recording a while back and forgot how much I liked it and ended up reaching out to Gretchen about us doing a duo album and so glad it worked out as a Llano Disc release for Full Spectrum.

Can you tell me a little about the (amazing!) cover art and what’s up with the frog (I love the frog)?

Ah, the cover! Wow, so yeah Gretchen Korsmo blew that shit out of the water. We had a very brief conversation about some images I had in mind. I was mostly imagining two mirrors and a frog or toad involved somehow. I really can’t get over how well it came out. It’s always special and incredible of an artist / graphic person to be able to execute someone else’s ideas and make them their own and just nail it! The album heavily features recordings of toads from my neighbor’s backyard. It’s kind of funny and awesome that a frog worked out on the album cover and like “frog jazz” is a thing I feel attached to now haha but yeah it’s totally a toad album actually. Ode to the Texas toads. Frogs fucking rule too and glad to represent them.  

What’s next for you?

I’m in the early phases of a new solo album that I’m working on for a label that I really admire. I’m planning on going up to Littlefield, TX hopefully in the coming months to get a good amount of work done on the album at Andrew Weathers’s recording studio. My friend Damon Dennis, who plays the pedal steel and cello on Twin Mirror, has been building out a studio space in Slaton, TX. About an hour southeast of Littlefield. Slaton is another small-ass Texas town. I hope to get a lot of work done with him too. He’s a really incredible musician and person. I’m aiming to bring even more people onto this next album hopefully including most of the folks that play on Twin Mirror.

Collaboratively, Andrew Weathers and I recently wrapped up music under the moniker Satin Spar. Satin Spar is definitely some of the most jacked-up music I think I’ve been involved in and I’m really excited to see how that project will continue to evolve. My good friend and poet Alan Mudd and I are working on an album with him doing spoken word stuff over sounds I’m making; it’s going really well so far! Future collaborations with others are in the cooker. I’m incredibly thankful to get to make music with people I love. Truly a blessing to be a part of these sound worlds together. 

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