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Pittsburgh Artist of the Week: Chameleon Treat

Claire Wozniak
Andrew Kruske of Chameleon Treat

Andrew Kruske’s psychedelic pop project Chameleon Treat reconciles musical opposites like hi-fi and lo-fi, pop and experimental, and familiarity and newness. On “Dream Song II,” Andrew attempts to personify and unfinished song fragment. Take a listen and see how it ended up!

Andrew recently spoke with WYEP's Joey Spehar.

A album cover with colorful shapes.

What’s your musical history up to this point?  

Writing and recording music has been my primary hobby ever since I was about 14, and I’m 29 now. At first, I just had Audacity and my laptop microphone. I had no idea what I was doing at that point (and there is definitely always something new to learn) but since then, I’ve figured out what works for me by just having fun with it for a long time. I’ve also upgraded that set up quite a bit, but honestly, on a good day it still feels pretty much exactly the same as it did back then. The possibilities still feel pretty endless to me.

I still record and mix my own stuff at home because I genuinely enjoy it… I just like being involved in all of those steps, from the initial idea to mastering. It gives me the chance to sit down and ask myself what sort of musician or artist I feel like being that day. Some days feel like more of a bass day, or a guitar day, a field recorder day, or a mixing day, or whatever. I’ve released music under a few different names, but Chameleon Treat is the main place where I put stuff out just as myself.

How would you describe your sound?

I find a ton of inspiration in modern psychedelia, kosmische music, and minimalism. I love finding ways to reconcile certain musical opposites: hi-fi and lo-fi, pop and experimental, familiarity and newness. I listen to pop music just as much as I listen to drone music, and I hope both of those structures are equally represented in the things that I make. I’ve been told a few times that a lot of my music has a certain 90s feeling to it, which probably comes from my consistent attachment to 90s lo-fi and indie music. I really just hope my sound reflects a portion of the artists and genres I love, and presents a little piece of something new or unexpected.

Tell us more about the song "Dream Song II." What inspired you to write it and what does it mean to you?

"Dream Song II" attempts to personify an unfinished song, a fragment that is trying to convince me to complete it. The way I write songs utilizes a lot of phone notes and quick voice memos. Some kind of lyric, melody, loop, drum pattern, or sound will typically make its way into my day while I’m doing something else. Or, occasionally, as was the case with this song, my brain will get stuck on some sort of simple, repetitive pattern in a dream.

Whenever I get a chance to record, I pick through those shards of ideas and try to turn them into something. But at this point, I’ve really amassed an overwhelming amount of unfinished stuff. When I added that particular idea to the pile, I imagined it meeting the other scraps and realizing it was doomed to be unfinished. I decided to turn that bitter dream idea into a dream pop-ish song. In the process, the song kind of became about how ideas turn into songs in the first place, and how even if something “comes to you” in a dream, it still takes a lot of time, effort, and other ideas to become something.

Tell us a bit more about your latest album. Serious Leisure Pursuit is such a great name and idea.

First off, thank you! I wanted to make this record to try and confront the difficulties that a creative person faces in the current moment, from struggling to find a few extra minutes a day to general suggestions to grow up and move on... the things that make me reconsider my expectations and relationship to my process. In the face of all the potential pressures, external and internal… Why do creative people keep going, and keep making things? In the face of the recent bad news with various streaming sites, touring, and the music industry in general, it felt like an incredibly relevant question to confront for me.

Making music really serves as the organizational fabric of my life… the whole process gives me direction, motivation, and a place to explore. "Serious Leisure Pursuit" was my way of confronting all the times I’ve turned my favorite thing into a source of pressure, stress, and worry… and trying to let that stuff go.

What was the first album that really changed your life?

I think I’ll go with "Meddle" by Pink Floyd. My dad is a huge music fan and record/tape/cd collector, so I grew up surrounded by a really diverse mix of stuff. Talking Heads, bossa nova, Grateful Dead, King Sunny Ade, a ton of reggae… you truly never knew what was going to play next. But for whatever reason, I felt particularly attached to Pink Floyd at the time. Whenever they would come on, I instantly knew what band it was. It was probably the first music that I had a sort of visceral, spatial reaction to. I’d just sit with it and think up narratives that fit the sound. It felt imaginative and transportive, and it had a real impact on me as a kid. I think I’ve kind of been trying to make music that captures that sort of feeling ever since.

Who are some other Pittsburgh artists you think more people should listen to?

Oh man, this is the hardest question for me because there really are a ton. A few favorites that jump to mind immediately are Vireo, Ex Pilots, The Garment District, I4A, Dittocrush, Boy Wonders, Louie Castle, Pat Coyle, Alvin Row, Astrology Now… I gotta stop myself at some point, but I know tomorrow I’ll wake up and be like, oh dang, I should have mentioned these other artists too… You can really find whatever you’re looking for in Pittsburgh (or something completely surprising and different) if you pick around a bit!

Amanda Rechsteiner

Any other super interesting things about you we should know?  

Hmm. I love collecting effects pedals and records: a couple recent favorites have been "Noir et Blanc" by Zazou/Bikaye/CY1, and Arthur Russell’s "Corn." On the pedal side, I’ve been messing with this old Electro Harmonix Guitar Synthesizer that I’m really looking forward to lugging out to a show soon. Some interesting drone sounds are going to come out of that thing for sure. My absolute dream job would be to make music for film/other video stuff, and I really hope I can get more into that down the line. Thank you so much for your questions!

Follow Chameleon Treat on Instagram.

Joey Spehar is a Pittsburgh native who started as a volunteer D.J. at WYEP, fresh out of college in 2006. He took on any job they’d let him do like editing audio, engineering remote broadcasts, and shoveling snow.