Chase Rossner is an unlikely electronic artist. A classically trained musician who grew up on rock, he didn’t get into the genre until a few years ago. Now, he has thrown himself headlong into creating the multilayered and distinctive sound of CNYNS, an electronica hybrid of sorts whose genre is hard to pinpoint and whose ethos is very much molded by Rossner’s own artistic influences. The project is only three months old, but in that time its first original track, “Limitless,” has already reached 20,000 listens.
It’s not surprising that it’s resonated. “Limitless” mixes live instrumentation and electronic sound richly to create a general sense of well-being. The track is a good-vibes journey that feels simultaneously soothing and encouraging. In fact, its chorus is literally “we can do anything if we want to,” a message that reads genuine and is reinforced both internally and externally through the story of how it came to be.
There’s something exciting about witnessing a project in its early stages, an artist at the beginning of an idea. Music In Press got a chance to sit down with Rossner, whose affable, thoughtful and laid-back air was very fitting with the character of his music.
MIP: What propelled you to start this specific project?
CNYNS: Electronic music is fairly new to me. It wasn’t something I was against, but it wasn’t something I was ever interested in doing. Actually, it was only after I went to Coachella few years ago that I really started to appreciate certain kinds of electronic music. I think it was 2014 and I had never been to anything like that before. My friends have always done the rave thing, and that was never my scene. I was more of a rock and roll dude, so I went into it pretty closed-minded, I guess, and when I came out there I realized there was so much music that I didn’t know! I had shut everything out, and there’s a lot of good stuff out there. It inspired me to go out and create something to get people moving. That’s the thing that rock and roll these days doesn’t do as much as it used to. It’s not classified as dance music. I want to get people moving.
MIP: So, you came from rock – what has your past song writing been like? What’s your musical background?
CNYNS: I’m a classically trained musician, I studied music in school. I’ve been playing guitar since I was ten. I was playing piano before that, but I didn’t really like it. My roots are definitely rock and roll, and then I went to school and learned music theory. Then, I got into this program at Santa Barbara City College, which was pretty difficult to get into, where I got free one on one lessons for the year from this master guitarist from USC, Tony Ybarra, which was a pretty good experience for me.
MIP: How do those influences and that background translate into what you’re doing now, with electronic music?
CNYNS: The fact that I learned all this classical theory definitely helps with the writing process for sure. It unlocks a lot of doors for me as far as how to compose music well. One thing is I really like to do is incorporate some kind of live instrumentation. It’s something that’s not done enough these days. I can’t get behind going to a show and just watching a DJ. I want some kind of live aspect to it, because it’s so easy to just sit at a computer and program sound, but it takes away from the personal aspect I feel like. There’s something about a live instrument that can’t be replaced.
MIP: To that point, what all went into making “Limitless”? What components were you working with and how did they come together?
CNYNS: I started literally in my bedroom with… I think I was listening to a lot of hard-hitting hip-hop, some Heavy 808, just big bass. I kinda started grooving, writing a little something, and then I actually put that track on the back burner for three months and didn’t touch it until my buddy, Evan Vogel, moved to LA from Santa Barbara and we sat down with it to check it out and it just kind of happened. We co-wrote these lyrics. I interned as an assistant at a studio here in LA, called Foreword Recording, and I record there whenever I need to record a song. I saved up some money, brought it to the studio, it took maybe 10-15 hours to do, but it was totally worth it. I composed the music, wrote the lyrics with Evan, did all the instrumentation. I pretty much did everything on it. It’s all top production in the studio, and I was stoked on that!
MIP: So was everything done in the studio?
CNYNS: Most of it was done originally at home and I brought it to the studio where we did vocals, live guitar tracking and we did mixing and mastering. Usually I come in with a song that’s pretty much done, that’s ready to have vocals recorded or professionally put together.
MIP: It sounds great.
CNYNS: Thanks, I really appreciate that
MIP: You spent six months developing the sound for CNYNS. What is that sound? How do you define it, and what did you want people to feel when they hear it?
CNYNS: I love the feeling of nostalgia, and I feel like some of the sounds that I use definitely have an older vibe. When people ask me what kind of music I make, I kinda hate that question because it’s so hard nowadays, but I tell them that it’s an “indie 80’s electro-dance project.” That’s the vibe I’m going for, but definitely nothing too in your face… more like a chill, laid-back kind of vibe.
I want to get people feeling. I love the idea of throwing it back to the 80’s when things were electronic but still so much more organic and hard to produce, quality sounds. Nowadays it’s so easy for anyone to put out a record that sounds pretty damn good, and it wasn’t as easy back then.
MIP: You described the song as “an anthem for cities and the opportunity one finds in them.” What part of Los Angeles do you try to connect with here?
CNYNS: I grew up here in LA and I’ve always felt a connection to it. It’s my home. The first two years of me being back here were very slow going, a lot of me figuring out my life. My buddy Evan, who I wrote it with, had just moved to LA from Santa Barbara, where we’d met each other and had done some songwriting. When he came down here, he was trying to pursue his dream in music and the idea of us being in this city where opportunities are everywhere inspired us to write this song.
MIP: It comes across. Do you have something you imagine people doing when they listen to this? Like, what is this music for? Is it music for driving or for sitting and contemplating? There’s an element you can move to, but it’s also very heady. Do you have something you think of?
CNYNS: With “Limitless,” when I first heard it as a whole, I imagined I would be driving sometime at night through the city, you know? My image is of the night, before dawn, cruising. Just cruising, listening. That’s where my head went when I first heard it. The first line is, “the tide is rising behind the back of the skyline.” It’s the sun rising, and you have this city skyline silhouette.
MIP: What’s next? Your next song, your next project, your next idea with CNYNS?
CNYNS: I have a song I’m waiting to get into the studio, I’ve been working with some other musicians, possibly starting a band, I’m not certain whether it’s going to be with CNYNS or another band, but I definitely have musicians interested in playing with me, which is good.
MIP: Have you done any live shows as CNYNS? I’m curious what your live show will be like because you have both live and electronic components, you’re somewhere between those who worlds.
CNYNS: No, and that’s another thing I haven’t figured out yet, but I will be playing shows in the very near future. I think it’s going to be somewhere along the lines of me on stage with a guitar and my computer and a band backing, so I can have access to the sound and play the guitar. It should be fun when it happens!