The Reinvention: EDEN

Photography: Jelani Pomell / Styling: Jake Hunte / Interview & Words: Cosmo Teare
Suit Paul Smith, Zip Up Loewe @ Mr. Porter

EDEN is no stranger to reinvention. After all, his journey to becoming the musician he is today has grown out of many different guises.

‘When I was starting out I was just putting everything on Soundcloud. I didn’t want to sell my music. I didn’t tell anyone I was doing it. I was just putting my music out there. I was totally addicted to it, to the point where I was putting out a song a week.’

Back then everything EDEN did was anonymous. No photos, no promo, just a kid from Dublin sharing his music online. Under the moniker, ‘The Eden Project’, EDEN found his Skrillex and Avicii-influenced EDM, racking up tens of millions of streams on Soundcloud and YouTube.

So, it takes a certain type of person to leave behind the safety of this relative success and completely reinvent their sound. EDEN dropped the ‘project’ part of his name and completely remoulded himself. Stripping down the maximal nature of his EDM tracks in favour of a minimal approach to making music. His sound became a melting pot of ambient synths, 808 drum machines and soulful poetic lyricism.

Luckily for him, fans followed. Then they multiplied by the millions with newfound fans cultivating a deeply personal connection between themselves and the heartfelt lyrics of EDEN’s latest iteration. Reading the comment section of one of EDEN’s lusciously cinematic music videos reveals the sense of shared kinship between musician and fan. It’s the sort of die-hard fan loyalty that you might more readily associate with the impassioned fanaticism of football culture rather than a commitment to a musician.

With old and new fans alike falling for EDEN’s genre-defying soundscape, the artist inevitably found himself at the centre of a tug-of-war between labels, managers and lawyers vying for his signature. Eventually, Scooter Braun, the man credited with the success of Justin Bieber, won-out. Aged 19, EDEN went from being a kid making music in his bedroom in Dublin, to touring America.

Catching up with him in London after the release of his second album No Future, the topic of reinvention was bound to come up. I asked how things have changed since the release of his debut album Vertigo. For EDEN, the new album signifies not so much a sonic change but more of a personal one. No Future marks the first time he’s physically appeared on his album art.

‘It’s something that came about purely from a design perspective. We were looking at potential album covers and visual structures to work within and some of the reference and template imagery we were using were really close-up portraits. We were like “Woah, that’s really strong we should do that!”’

‘But now my face is everywhere and it’s a bit uncomfortable?’ He says, breaking into a slightly embarrassed laugh which is complemented by a wry smile. Clearly this newfound exposure is going to take some getting used to.  

To many, the idea of seeing their face beaming back at them from a Times Square building, an LA billboard and the London Underground might sound like a dream come true. A sign that they’ve ‘made it’. But for EDEN, an artist that has always allowed his music do the talking, his bemusement towards finding himself at the centre of attention makes total sense.

When I ask whether this shyness stems from the whirlwind nature of his breakout years, he agrees. Jolting forward in his chair to describe the ‘madness’ of being thrust from anonymity into the LA offices of some of the world’s most prominent music labels, lawyers and managers.

‘Totally, totally, that completely fucked with my head. I was like a fish out of water, or a fish thrown in the deep end? Wait, that doesn’t make sense,’ he questions. Clearly the feelings of excitement and anxiety of those early years are all vying to break to the surface as EDEN tries to find the right way to describe things. ‘I went from my friends and I all being at uni, all hanging out, going to parties and stuff, to dropping out after 5 months and never seeing my friends ‘cos I was away all the time, travelling and touring. It felt like having the rug pulled from under my feet.’

Rather than taking the time to enjoy the experience, he talks of having a distinct lack of presence in it all. ‘I feel like these days I’m very present in what I do and that’s something that wasn’t there when I started out. I was just doing things on autopilot and it’s taken the years since to decompress and figure out all the madness that was happening.’

The autopilot and lack of presence couldn’t be further away from the EDEN of today; relaxed and confident, EDEN is far removed from the ‘madness’ of those early years. He speaks of his early experiences with a sense of wise detachment. EDEN is incredibly centred for a 24-year-old. It’s the sort of calm that is usually associated with someone far beyond those years. But it’s also this sense of calm that perhaps explains why EDEN appearing on the cover of his latest project felt ‘just right’. With No Future marking an artist at the top of his game, comfortable both in himself and with his music.

‘I used to be such a perfectionist’ he admits, adding that this applied both to his live shows and his albums. ‘A big breakthrough was with the single Start//End on Vertigo, it took 6 months of the song just sitting there and me not touching it for it to feel finished.’

‘The songs on this album have quite a lot of edges to them. I love hearing the end of a recording and it suddenly finishing. There’s a big theme on No Future of truncation and things getting cut off. And a lot of people might say that’s lazy or lo-fi or whatever but it’s meticulously done.’

EDEN speaks with a nonchalant disregard for any potential critics of the album. His projects have always contained an element of truncation which he speaks of. Songs get cut off by chatter or dialogue from a French movie. But it’s taken up a notch on No Future. During the recording process, EDEN would record inane chatter and background sound on his iPhone and build it into his songs. The anthemic Good Morning, for example, concludes with the digital beep of a corner shop door. The effect of it all is to create an autobiographical experience which is a far-cry from his anonymous beginnings.It’s a level of self-assuredness that EDEN is taking into his new live shows too.

‘It wasn’t that I was nervous before shows. I was more trying to live up to the idea of “live shows should be this”. I was being too hyperactive on stage and thinking I had to be doing something interesting the whole time.’

‘But now the whole team is more experienced. I’ve got an amazing set designer and we’ve been using this sort of forest design on stage with everything silhouetted. No one can really see me and it just allows me to look at the floor and do my thing. I feel way more comfortable, I’m just pumped about making music, pumped about the album being out and to just keep going with making more.’

When we get to talk about life away from music, the conversation inevitably goes the way of football. Being born and raised in Dublin, I assumed with a naïvety that most, like EDEN, would be Liverpool fans. Especially given the shared connection between the two cities. But growing up in the 90s and early 2000s, it seems that most of the people EDEN grew up with fell for the promised glory of Sir Alex Ferguson’s winning machine.

‘In my circle of friends at least it was all United. I think the reason I grew up as a Liverpool fan was because my Uncle was a massive Liverpool supporter. He was apparently drilling it into me before I could even talk!’

Eden reflects on the mixed years growing up as a Red. ‘I was born ’95. So that meant Istanbul happened when I was 10. I remember rolling around in front of the TV when we won that, like I couldn’t control my emotions at all!’

‘But then when I was getting more into music, we had so many doldrum years it became easier to just check out and not really follow it. And be like, football’s happening but I don’t really care.’

It’s understandable, I mean, when you’re selling out shows of people singing along to your songs, you’re hardly going to make the time to watch that Brendan Rogers’ Liverpool team with a front line of Rickie Lambert and Fabio Borini. Anyway, as talk turns to touring and Liverpool, EDEN recalls how he was one of the fortuitous 54,000 at Anfield to witness Liverpool’s historic comeback against Barcelona last year.

‘It was a complete chance. I was thinking we might pip City to the league so we were desperately trying to get tickets for Wolves, the final game of the season.’

As it worked out, EDEN would be out of town for the Wolves match, and only in Liverpool for the supposed dead-rubber against a Barca side led by Lionel Messi. So, as it happened, tickets were available that night; transferring from the hands of weary season ticket holders into the grateful hands of optimists and opportunists. EDEN admits that he fell into the latter. As it was a while since he had attended a game at Anfield, he arrived with a glimmer of hope.

‘We just thought if we can get one goal we might get back in it. And besides, it would be great just to see Messi.’

But the game turned out to be much, much more than just a glimpse at the little genius.

‘We got one goal and thought great, they’re playing their hearts out. Two goals, what the fuck? Three and we were like wait, this is actually happening’ it’s all told with the passion and excitement that only witnessing such a footballing miracle with your own eyes could provide. 

‘And then, no one saw that corner goal go in. I swear, the only two people that knew that ball was in the net was Origi and Trent.’

And then the crowd realised what had happened…

‘Absolute pandemonium.’

I wonder how the adrenaline rush compares to being up on stage playing to sold-out crowds.

‘Better, better, better’ he insists. Confirming what most football fans probably already knew. Few things can beat being there in the stadium with your mates, celebrating a goal that capped off one of the great footballing comebacks.

So how is he feeling about the upcoming No Future tour? Running a total of 3 months across Europe and North America it looks like it could be both elating and gruelling.

‘I’m super excited about it. We’ve done a couple of release shows for it so far and it just feels so good to be playing now.’

These days, the pressure EDEN feels ahead of a tour doesn’t come from within. Describing himself as ‘an environmental person’, it’s all about taking responsibility for the hidden impact the music industry and touring can have on the climate. He pauses in deep thought before running me through the ways in which his tour team are taking measures to make the latest tour as environmentally-friendly as possible. You get the sense that this is the considered approach that EDEN takes to everything, be it music, his meticulously crafted music videos and all the way down to the logistics of touring.

‘If we’re being honest. Musicians don’t really need to travel anywhere. Like I really don’t need to travel anywhere. I can do my job from the studio in my house. So we’re making a real effort to offset any impact. All the merch that we sell, all the vinyl and clothing is gonna include a mandatory donation to sustainable projects. We’re gonna make sure that this tour will be carbon-neutral including all of the fans getting to the shows.’

It’s the unique perspective of a musician that found success in the location-less space of the internet. It’s also one typical of EDEN as a person. While others would be happy to maximise tour sales and drink-in the ego boost that comes with it, EDEN instead takes a holistic approach towards the process. Ever-evolving as an artist, this time the reinvention is in transforming his act into an example that can be followed by others.

When I ask what direction he’s likely to head in next, it’s met with an answer that’s perhaps typical of EDEN. Again, it’s a form of change. Having said that No Future felt like a ‘capping off’ of everything that he’d been doing since the release of his debut EP in 2016, EDEN says that his next project is going to be taking a ‘counter-balancing swing the other way.’

‘Yeah I feel like it might be time to go and do some weird blurry shit for a while’.

It’s the approach of an artist that’s always done things his own way. Rather than basking in the newly acquired limelight of seeing his face everywhere, it’s back to putting the music front and centre and allowing his creativity to do the talking.

Many thanks to Footlocker EU and Mr Porter.

Vol. 2

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Issue 02: Heart & Soul
Ada Hegerberg, Andre Gray, Maya Jama, Andreas Perreira, Christian Pulisic
GAFFER Issue 02: ‘Heart & Soul.’ Honouring the way football cultivates community spirit, empowers the next generation and gives fans, teams and players something bigger and more beautiful to believe in. Be prepared to meet the people who are driving the culture to new heights and those who are set to change the face of the game forever.
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