This month, Alec Berve, aka Man Cub, dropped an incredible new album titled Before It Gets Better on Seeking Blue Records. We got the opportunity to speak with him directly about the album and what it took to create such a beautiful piece of art. He opened up to us regarding his mindset, process, and influences in creating this sophomore album. Check out the album and full interview below for yourself!
Man Cub: I have so much I could say about it so I’ll try not to be too wordy.
Man Cub: Thematically and lyrically this album is definitely for people going through it. I co-wrote the vocals and lyrics to every song except one, and that was really important for me. Going into each writing session I told the writers that I really wanted to write about internal struggle – that included depression, grief, addiction, etc. So the writing sessions were almost like therapy because we were so vulnerable about what was going on in our lives. In some cases that included life altering events like loved ones affected by cancer or suicide. In other cases we talked about fighting your inner demons, feeling lost, or unheard. It was special for me to write with the singers and be open about things like that because I was so tired of breakup songs and love songs, I really wanted to talk about real issues.
Man Cub: I think suffering is relative, so each song is relatable on some level. The tagline I came up with for the album is “before it gets better, it could get worse, but it gets better.”
Man Cub: Musically, I wanted each song to maintain its beauty and character even if all audio quality was lost. Or for example if you were to play my song on the piano, I wanted each song to still be pretty and recognizable. I think sometimes electronic music can get so focused on the bells and whistles that the strength of the core idea gets lost. It was a hard guideline to follow for me because you can keep adding things to a song forever. That restriction helped me to simplify things and write some really strong melodies and progressions, at least in my opinion.
Man Cub: I was also really inspired by anime and the music from anime. That’s obvious in the art direction as well as the opening track. A lot of anime has a cello playing the main theme, so I wanted “Beauty” and “Message” to be almost like character themes in a score.
Man Cub: I think I’m getting better at not overproducing things and instead making sure the bones are good. I’m sure other producers can relate. I also really wanted to have an album with a consistent theme and art direction. That was really challenging for me because I have such broad taste. That’s why it was important for me to co-write the vocals, because even though sonically each song is different, the melodies and lyrics still sound like me. I also wanted a full body of work without any collaborations to kind of show my range as an artist. I still think I can do more, but I did my best with the time I had for this album.
Man Cub: My biggest inspirations for the last decade have been the obvious legends like Avicii, Porter Robinson, David Guetta, deadmau5, Skrillex, and SHM. If you are familiar with their stuff, some of them have had an obvious influence on me.
Man Cub: Joe Hisaishi who composed much of the music for the Studio Ghibli films, and Bon Iver who needs no introduction, have had more of a recent impact on my taste and music production. I know it may not be that obvious in my sound, but melodically and creatively they have been the most inspiring to me lately.
Man Cub: If I could pick one producer it would be Calvin Harris because almost everything he touches is iconic. If I could pick one singer it would be Chris Martin from Coldplay. You didn’t expect such basic answers did you.
Man Cub: Sentimentally, I hope people listening to Before It Gets Better will feel seen. Like they’re not alone going through whatever they are going through. I want them to feel encouraged. Musically, I hope people can get lost in it. It took a long time to make, so I hope it was worth it!