His soul comes alive on the dancefloor. Ascribed as “emotional dance music,” Hazey Eyes calls upon the throbbing heartache of the early ‘00s alt-rock epoch while splicing it with shimmering indie and electronica aesthetics. He pulls on those strings once again for his upcoming EP, Scars, an effervescent elixir of gluey hip-hop and mood-based pop-art. Only 22 years old, mastermind Thomas Michel has cultivated 63 million streams on Spotify alone, so, it’s no surprise he’s landed touring gigs with Shallou and Petit Biscuit.
The new project is Michel at his most vulnerable. Opener “Scars,” featuring Yoke Lore, sees him reveling in the past and its lasting imprint on his skin. “I will always fall hard” echoes one of his most candid lyrics, paired with a glittering, erratic beat to calm his nerves. “Hungover You,” alongside Moli, buzzes the fingertips but swerves more freely between somber lo-fi whispers and the feverish club-rave we’ve come to bask in. The Dresage-featuring “Living Wild” washes over the listener in cool drip-drops, while “Stuck in Ya Game” with Appleby explodes like confetti on the eardrums.
What is most impressive is Michel’s fearlessness in the studio. He’s a craftsmen of the highest order, and even as his life is on the edge of glory, he remains grounded and honest with himself. The Scars EP reflects his continuing journey into the next stage of his life. “This EP is about changes. Personally, I'm about to finish college and move to a new city for music which is a wild concept that I'm still coming to terms with,” he says. “This project is about how I got here and where I hope to go. I've learned to do only what actually makes me happy and not what people expect of me.”
Roots firmly planted in the Philadelphia suburbs, Michel draws upon a vast musical heritage. His father is an accomplished multi-instrumentalist (saxophone, clarinet, piano), who was once rated among the top five players in the entire state, and Michel studied piano, violin and upright bass at an early age. Michel later picked up guitar in middle school and began writing his first songs, intimate confessions about his youth that served to lay a sturdy storytelling foundation. He also played around with a looper pedal to flex his skills and a burgeoning soundscape. “I had gotten one of those looper pedals and started writing loops to play over. I remember I would only be able to store a certain amount of loops on the pedal, and each loop was a ‘song,’” he says with a smirk.
Later, he turned to metal and punk music in high school and was notably struck by the music and irresistible charm of Blink 182 and Taking Back Sunday, who inspired his onstage moniker (a reference to a lyric from the band’s debut record). “I learned a lot about interacting with different people on stage and got a lot of good experience performing. Playing shows feels very normal after all the different venues my friends and I used to frequent when we played together,” he remembers of his early days.
His mode of expression lies in employing organic instruments at the base and expanding the sonic template with lush, glittering synths and beats. His evocative choices have permitted him to perfectly encapsulate the vivacity of life -- but it wasn’t an easy conclusion. “I'm gonna give people me and take pride in that,” he says, citing one of his biggest influences in Mura Masa. “I was alway amazed how he effortlessly blended organic instruments into electronic music. I wanted to have these beautiful verse sections that were driven by acoustic instruments and then build into an emphatic chorus that is driven by the more electronic elements.”
Michel’s own Scars EP is very much indebted to his willingness to play and dance in the sun like nobody’s watching. From the bodacious swagger of “Stuck in Ya Game” to the tattered, bruised heart of “Emotion,” featuring Panama, the record pulsates with both melancholy and vervor. In drawing upon his well of life experience, he manages to tug on the heartstrings while also shoving the listener onto the dancefloor, blasts of neon light reflecting across an ocean of bodies just basking in the moment.
“I've learned a lot about expectations and how I should handle them, and I've learned about putting important things in life first. Things move by faster than I'd like, so I may as well spend it doing things I enjoy,” says Michael. To say he’s reached a new apex of his craft is an understatement. His third EP is a grand gesture of raw, unfiltered human emotion, and you’d be hard pressed to find EDM with more potency.