Though he may be relatively new to the game, LA-based producer Shoffy is already becoming an immovable fixture in indie pop’s future. On his second full-length release, Lenses, out this past Friday, the young musician (real name Alex Shofler) builds further on his own electronic-pop sensibilities, meshing dark house beats, tropical-pop, and soaring walls of synths to create a sound that is distinctly pop, but also distinctly his own.
Following up his self-titled debut from 2017 — along with a couple EPs and many one-off singles — Shofler, who defines his sound as “somewhere between nostalgia and paradise,” has consistently proven his ability to create enormous hits that hinge on poignant songwriting and not just huge EDM beats. Rather infamously transitioning from working in private finance directly into working as a full-time, independent musician, without taking a pay cut.
Shofler is one of the many rising new artists who have figured out how to make streaming work for them, instead of vice versa. Back in 2016, his first big hit “Takes My Body Higher” went viral on Spotify, and since then he’s consistently racked up millions of streams on the platform and acquired a loyal listening base of over a million followers. But that doesn’t mean his sound is totally typified by massive anthems — Shoffy is equally adept at crafting the kind of quiet, meditative tracks (see this record’s “Waiting For The Sunrise”) that invoke deep feelings.
He carefully blends catchy melodies and beats with the emotional heft and introspective depth of his songwriting and lyrics, culminating in his latest project, which represents his strongest batch of songs to date. Lenses was anchored by the early single, “Direction,” which appears as the album’s closer and is one of the best love songs of the year.
Written with Maroon 5’s Sam Farrar, the track works to quell a worried lover’s fears, promising to keep the compass steady regardless of where it points. It’s one of the quieter, more acoustic-leaning songs on the album, still buoyed by an infectious chorus that makes it an easy standout. Another early single, “Cool Again,” takes a lighter turn melodically but the lyrics confront a betrayal, creating a strangely satisfying dissonance that’s perfect for processing negative feelings.
Last week, just a couple days before his new project dropped, I had the chance to sit down with Shoffy over breakfast at his label’s studio and talk about how working as a full-time musician changed his daily life, his influences and the process behind his songwriting, and the surprising artist he’d most like to collaborate with. And if you’re in Los Angeles, Shoffy is also playing a show tonight at Bardot for School Night, more info on that here.
Let’s start talking about your past as a financial analyst since that feels like the beginning of your story. Was music always sort of in your mind while you were building a career in finance?
I studied business at USC and pursuing music at the same time, but it was something I figured I could do outside of school. The music stuff hadn’t really taken off yet, so I had to find a job and, in the business world, private equity seemed interesting because you’re buying and selling companies. It seemed like a more interesting area to go into and focus on. I ended up working for a small private equity firm for about a year after college, then I worked at another firm, Gores Group, for two and a half years. The whole time I was working on music too, and trying to get that going. Music has always been a part of my life and it’s always been something that I’ve been working on. I’d get done at work and I’d head over to a studio and start working on music. It was a nights and weekends thing for me while I was working, which made it pretty hectic, between both things.
And when you decided to make the shift over to music, was the logic of running the numbers the main force? Or was it more emotional and you were just like ‘no, I need to do this.’
While I was working at the firm, “Takes My Body Higher” went viral. It got to number six in the US, fifteen globally on Spotify, and then it was even charting on Billboard. I remember getting a call from management when I was driving home from work that we were going viral on Spotify and I remember that being a really cool moment. So the music stuff started getting some traction while I was working and then the company was restructuring, downsizing and stuff and I was let go in December of 2016.
Yes! So, then I used that as a moment to decide I was going to go full force on music. I’d saved up and I was just going to go at it 100% and see what happens. So that was like a turning point. The same week I was let go from work I wrote and produced a song called “Different Skies” and released that, I think in January 2017. It was about a month after I stopped working, and that song started getting traction and streaming really well on Spotify, too.
At that time, I was going through a different distributor that paid monthly and I kept 100% of the royalties. Management took a cut, but the distributor didn’t take anything from the top, which a lot of distributors do. My previous distributor paid out every six months, but now I was getting a check every month and a larger percentage of the royalties. So I was like, ‘wow, this is like crazy, I’m able to live off doing music.’ That was a really exciting turning point for me. Since then it’s been really great, I’ve been able to work and do music as a full-time thing.
Right, and then building off that momentum you put out your first full-length in 2017, and Lenses is the second full album?
I put a self-titled, full-length album towards the end of 2017 and that was my first, yeah. So “Different Skies” was on there I think it did like 33 or 34 million streams, and I have a couple others that streamed pretty well off that. And then I did an eight-city tour to promote that album at the end of last year.
So most of this year you’ve been working on the new album?
Yes, it’s been about a year that I’ve been working on new music for the new album that came out on Friday. It was kind of sporadic. I try to work on music when I’m feeling inspired or excited to sit down and work on it. Sometimes, it can feel kind of grueling but as much as I can, I try to do it when I’m actually inspired. So that makes it more sporadic, the last year, working on stuff.
Most of the project I did myself but there are four collabs on there. One with Sam Farrar, who’s in Maroon 5. He was also in Phantom Planet and he’s a great producer, instrumentalist, and a cool guy. So I got in with him and this guy Jake Torrey who is a writer. Really great, talented songwriter so yeah. We did “Cool Again” together which was my last single and that’s been getting some traction on Spotify and some streams.
I really liked “Cool Again” because I feel like conflict is such a part of human life and yet you don’t really see it that much in pop-culture unless it’s about anger and destruction. I liked that it was a little bit more… just calmly talking about it. What was the impetus behind writing that one?
I think it’s a cool theme that people can relate to and it’s told in a way that is — like you said — a little different than you’ll hear most of the time. These relationships… if you’re in a long-term relationship and then you break that off, it’s hard to stay close to that person and have them in your life still. I think that’s something that will resonate with people and be a theme that people can kind of see themselves in.
Is there anyone that you still would really love to work with or an artist who you think would sound really good with your sound.
I’m a huge fan of Frank Ocean and John Mayer. Either of those two obviously would be insane to collab with. Those are two that come to mind right now. And then I’ve also been listening to this girl Rosalía. She’s doing this really good flamenco-y kind of modern style music. She just put out an album earlier this month. That would be a really awesome collab. I think she’s super cool.
The album is called Lenses, but that wasn’t the title of a song so I was wondering what the connection was there?
I think of lenses as perspectives. How you see things and the lens with which you see things, and how your perspective changes depending on who you’re with and the relationships you’re in. A lot of the songs on the album are relationship-based — whether it’s positive or negative — and a lot of the songs talk about different circumstances in relationships. If you’re with someone who is bringing a lot of positivity and good vibes, good energy to the relationship, that’s going to affect how you see who you’re with and how you see the world and the lens of how you see things. That’s theme of the album I’d say. And then also, you know, I wanted something simple and hopefully memorable. Lenses is just short and sweet.