Whethan Closes The Door On His Mind-Melting ‘Fantasy’ Era

Whethan (real name Ethan Snorek) finally closes a very important chapter. With a newly-released remix compilation, the Chicago native bids adieu to his debut record, Fantasy, a space odyssey bursting with gaseous sonic emissions. In lopping in many of his electronic heroes and favorite newcomers, Snorek allows the songs to find fresh life through various pulsating updates, often feeling totally removed from the original. “I look up to everyone on it in certain ways. It’s a really crazy dream come true for some of these remixes,” he says.

Where “Hurting on Purpose,” featuring K.Flay, gets a grinding overhaul, courtesy of Biicla, the bülow-starring “So Good” catapults across the cosmos with NIGHTMRE’S visionary approach. “Megan [Bülow] and I connected before but never met in person. I’d been a huge fan of her music for a long time,” Snorek tells American Songwriter over a recent phone call, “and I think we had a few mutual friends. I credit this song as one of the most experimentally produced I’ve ever gone for.”

Snorek sped up the original version by 20 or 30 bpm “and pitched up her vocals a little bit, too, in certain places. I really spun the entire feeling of the song. I went on this dreamy adventure of coming from this really bright happy world to this super dark, gritty base.” 

NIGHTMRE, with whom Snorek had already hammered out a couple songs for the festival circuit, hit him up to collaborate. “He was already down to do that one. I remember the exact reaction I had when he first sent it. I was mind-blown and thought ‘I really need to go to a festival right now,’” he says with a laugh.

“Clouds,” featuring The Wombats, ignites with an exceptional array of color in the hands of kimj. “This one is crazy. I love the remix,” gushes Snorek. “I didn’t even think he’d want to remix anything on the album. It’s so in-your-face, but there’s something so addicting about it. I keep coming back to it. It puts such an interesting, fun spin on the original.”

Flux Pavillion’s contribution with opening song “Upside Down,” featuring Grouplove, is a serendipitous moment. Growing up in Chicago, initially getting his start on GarageBand, Snorek attached to “I Can’t Stop,” a 2011 Flux Pavillion track which changed everything for him. “It inspired me so much. I didn’t know how to make beats at the time, but I wanted to do anything with that song I could. I tried to remix it,” recalls Snorek. “To come back a few years after that and collaborate on a song with him was such a dream come true. The fact he wanted to remix something for my album was like ‘dude. of course!’ And it turned out amazing. I got to play it out. I did a drive-in show last week and played out some of these remixes for the first time, and everybody killed it.

“It was basically my first show since last year─over a year, actually, it was last New Year’s Eve. I was super excited and super nervous,” he continues. “I had most of my family there which was nice. It was really inspiring and such a breath of fresh air. Just to be able to do something was super special and definitely motivating.”

Another important track in his youth was Daft Punk’s “Around the World,” from their 1997 studio record Homework. “I remember being in the backseat of my mom’s car, and she had it on CD,” he says. He was absolutely entranced, and when Kanye released “Stronger,” in which the rapper sampled Daft Punk’s “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger,” it was like “all my world collided,” says Snorek.

When he was 12 years old, the aspiring musician and producer, then obsessed with hip-hop music, turned to GarageBand to flex his creativity. “I was a little kid in my room rapping songs over beats. There came a point where I wanted to make my own songs. When I was trying to write, I needed original beats to use,” he remembers. “I wasn’t going to go steal all this music, so I just got GarageBand. It was the first thing I could access, basically, on my parent’s iPad. I ended up falling in love with making beats way more than trying to write to and sing to them.”

Nearly a decade later, Snorek blossoms into his own, and perhaps partial credit goes to frequent collaborator Oliver Tree. “Our work flow is different than when I’m working on my own. With solo stuff, I may get sent a song or vocal from an artist, and I’ll spend time experimenting and trying as many ideas as I can until something really clicks. I definitely love working off vocals and building synths, drums, and beats around it. When I’m working with Oliver, we’ll work completely from scratch, and we’ll mess around with sounds that way.

“In the beginning, I remember Oliver and I were super into channeling weird characters with the music and doing very out of the ordinary things. Looking back, that really influenced the music and made it special,” says Snorek. “Having fun with music is super important and not getting too work oriented. He’s one of the hardest working people I know.”

Looking ahead, Snorek already has two songs in his back pocket. “I don’t really want to chill. I did really work on the album a super long time, and it took even longer to come out. I’ve been in a whole different headspace, and I’ve been working on so much music that I’m going to drop a bunch of songs this year. They were made toward the tail end of ‘Fantasy,’ but they’re leading to this new futuristic sound.”

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