By: Seamus Fay
Subconscious and gradual as it may be at times, becoming a fan of an artist is no different than investing in a stock. It starts with the initial discovery of an artist — a chance to spark the listener’s attention and encourage them to conduct further research. Assuming that the music passes this test, long term fans are often born out of some sort of value proposition in regards to two key factors — artistic development and longevity.
Realistically, becoming a fan of an artist is an investment — sometimes long term, sometimes short term — of time and energy into following this artist and their journey. If a fan suspects that the artist will only improve or that the music will grow as the fan grows, they will be willing to make this investment; if a fan suspects that the artist is a product of quick excitement or cheap virality and therefore, won’t peak much higher, they may hang onto the artist for a short moment, but no long term investment will be made.
With this in mind, it’s important to be picky as a listener. Viral moments are fun, of course, but rare are those that last and end up becoming something greater than this singular moment. Instead, picking and choosing to invest time, energy, and even money (buying merch, concert tickets, etc.) into an artist should be a thoughtful decision, and one that supports the logic behind one’s listening habits in the long run.
When I first created Graduation Music, the aforementioned concept was what provided me a sense of direction in my writing. I had to figure out who was worth paying attention to, what was worth paying attention to, and why it was worth the attention in the first place. Then, as these artists grew, my early investments of time and energy in the form of writing would begin to pay off, growing Graduation Music as the artists, themselves, grew.
This mentality was a notable portion of the reasoning behind the name of the site, itself — Graduation Music. From the very beginning, it was all about providing artists with the attention and support they needed as “underclassmen” — or smaller, still-developing artists — in order to work toward that moment of “graduation” that would some day come. Whether this moment manifested itself in a great project, a deal with a label, a cosign, or something else, didn’t really matter — it was all about giving artists a sense of encouragement so that they could work toward this moment, realizing their potential in the process.
This anecdote brings to the spotlight two artists who have perfectly navigated the arts of development and long-term investment — Lord Felix and Connis.
I’ve been writing about Lord Felix since the very beginnings of Graduation Music (yes, I’m still waiting on “Ferrari Felix” to release, for those who know). From the voice memo series to the random singles released throughout his journey, Felix has remained a prominent mainstay in the Massachusetts music scene mainly because he’s always kept his sights set on the long game. Personally, I found myself impatiently awaiting a full project from Felix for what seemed like a long time there, but now, reflecting on the final product that it yielded, I must say that Lord Felix’s devotion to development was, and is, a brave and thorough principle to hold onto. Nowadays, it feels as though many artists rush themselves into careers to match the pace of the internet, but Felix laid low and plotted on the moment he would rise up, developing a strong creative direction and remarkably loyal fan base in the process.
With Connis, it wasn’t quite the same story.
In the case of Cambridge native Connis — or Connor Donovan, as he was known when I first started writing — I wasn’t a huge fan of his music at first. Sure, he always had some promise, but for a long time, it just didn’t click with me. Nevertheless, Connis kept creating and kept improving, so much so that I truly had no choice but to pay attention.
This persistence taught me a lesson. No, I was not a fan of Connis in the beginning and I’m not even sure I felt as though he had a project like Conn(is) in him, at first. However, I stuck with him, kept listening to his music, and when he began to show the signs of life I was waiting for, I made sure to jump on the opportunity, making a long-term investment in his music and becoming a huge fan along the way, writing aside.
Now, not even half way through 2019, I can safely say that each of these artists have reached their long-awaited moments of graduation — for Connis, in the form of Conn(is) and it’s accompanying short film, and for Lord Felix, in the form of In Bloom, Forever. Each of the two certainly took different paths to reach this destination, but nevertheless, their respective senses of artistry have finally come full circle, achieving the refined potential that we always knew was there, but wasn’t fully realized until now.
And wow, have the years it took to get here paid off. Nowadays, Connis has delved into a realm of remarkable introspection and sharp storytelling, using songs like the heart-pulling “New Orleans” and the ever-so-hypnotic “Kiss The Moon” to prove the extent of his skills. Furthermore, the cohesive sonics of Conn(is) make note of the fact that Cambridge’s own has found balance in his art, realizing how to allure fans into his stories and keep them there throughout the duration of a full project.
Resulting from this artistic improvement is a profound sense of comfortability and vulnerability that fuels many of Connis’ standout moments throughout the project. Whether or not you watched Connis take shape all the way back to his days as Connor Donovan or not, Conn(is) brings each and every listener eye-to-eye with his soul-searching journey — a personal tint to the project that I’m sure we can all connect with on some level.
On the other hand, Lord Felix’s forward-thinking, even cutting-edge creative vision recently yielded one of the best projects to come out of Massachusetts, nevermind Brockton, in quite some time.
I’ve always felt as though Felix’s art mirrored his use of music as a therapeutic outlet, but with In Bloom, Forever, he brought this honesty to a level that I never could have predicted. One song after another, this project establishes an unpredictable, electrifying burst of colorful emotion and sound, weaving in and out of versatile styles of production while maintaining its striking, true-to-self lyricism. Felix’s naturally charismatic presence keeps listeners just as locked into the somber, smooth stylings of “Love Is Fleeting, I Promise” as it does the Elton John-sampling dramatics of “The Worst Summer Ever,” with each song taking on a life of its own along the way.
In this sense, In Bloom, Forever is a direct reflection of its title, refusing to stay stagnant and constantly chasing peace of mind throughout a series of diverse emotions. To say I’ve found myself revisiting this one on occasion is an understatement.
Providing some context here, while Lord Felix and Connis may be the subjects of this article, that’s not to forget that Massachusetts, as a whole, has experienced immense growth within the past few years during which Connis and Felix’s development has taken place. Take, for example, Brockton — a city that has fostered one of the closest-knit, most supportive and overall inspiring artistic communities in the entire state.
From Jiles and Luke Bar$’ new project 2 Sides all the way to Luke Bar$ and Ricky Felix attending the infamous Dreamville sessions, Packy Marciano dropping one of my favorite Massachusetts projects in Side Effects, and even the incredible recent work of Garrett Merk, Leo The Kind, and countless others, you can’t help but root for Brockton right now. The entire slew of artists in Brockton not only cares about their own art, but also about the growth and development of their peers, exemplifying the infectious mindset that “rising tides lift all boats.”
Okay, sorry, I got a little off track there.
Shifting back into focus, above all things, Connis and Lord Felix’s newest projects are worthy of mention because they bring us back to the idea of long-term investment as a fan. Seeing two artists try so many different directions, fail and succeed several times (including the countless trials that I’m sure occurred behind the scenes), and continuously refine their respective crafts, it’s easy to see why these two are amongst Massachusetts’ most promising artists right now. They were both willing to stick it out and give the fans a journey to grow with, the reward being a sustainable career and an insurmountably bright future now that they’ve found their footing.
Taking this into account, I suppose this article is almost meant to act as a sort of “state of the union” address. I’ve been writing about Massachusetts artists ever since 2016 when I first started Graduation Music, and now, looking back at all the artists I invested my time and energy into at the beginning, I realize that many of these names have finally found their creative strides, forming themselves into the artists that they’ve always had the potential to be.
With that, I want to say thank you. Thank you to all the artists out there who invest in themselves and refuse to step away from their art until they finally reach the full circle moments that Lord Felix and Connis recently achieved. And for the fans, thank you for sticking around, both for the artists, and for myself and Graduation Music.
Don’t be afraid to be picky with the artists you root for in the long run. Supporting great art fosters great art, just trust your ear.