When Dylan O’Bryan steps on stage, all his anxious thoughts disappear. The adrenaline rush leaves him unable to think about the past or future.
“As soon as I’m performing, it’s like going down the rollercoaster. It’s euphoric. You’re in the zone,” the 22-year-old UF music composition senior said.
O’Bryan, who since 2020 has performed as The Housing Crisis, released his first album, “Astral Apartments” Monday. The album sonically and thematically blends the euphoria and anxiety that O’Bryan feels when he plays.
“Astral Apartments,” which O’Bryan has dubbed cosmic folk rock, has 11 songs exploring ideas of stress, being overworked, relationships and hope for the future. The sound was inspired by bands like The Beatles, Animal Collective and Elliot Smith.
He creates his music in “The Tavern,” his home-turned-recording-studio-turned-live-music-venue. In the living room, several guitars and a banjo hang from the wall while the floor is strewn with amps, pedals, microphones and a yellow drum set.
This setup, which lies in the corner between O’Bryan’s kitchen and living room, transforms into the stage for The Housing Crisis’ house shows.
About 45 people crowded the living room floor Saturday to watch O’Bryan, along with a band of other musicians, play his new album live.
O’Bryan enjoys experimenting with sound in unconventional ways, he said.
He recorded the song “Into The Headrush Dream” while sick with COVID-19. Because he couldn’t sing normally, he had to get close to the mic, altering the sound of his vocals on the recording.
He ended up stacking the breathy vocals with harmonies to create a distant, gentle sound. This sound, O’Bryan said, conveys the uncertainty of new love and the vulnerable desire for reassurance in relationships.
“I was going through it, sweating all the time and all that,” he said. “It was crazy. I was in that mode every single day.”.
O’Bryan often struggles to decide what personal experiences to write about and what to keep private. When writing lyrics in his phone’s notes app, he wants to create relatable authentic work while also maintaining some protection over his vulnerable personal experiences.
However, 34-year-old audio engineer Logan Fischer, who mastered the album with O’Bryan, believes O’Bryan’s vulnerability is his strength.
“There's a rawness to it,” Fischer said. “The music itself doesn't strike me as punk, but it has that sort of ‘we did this ourselves,’ passion project feel to it, but it still sounds really professional. It's just really honest songwriting.”
Aside from O’Bryan’s dedication to the album, the support of Swamp Records and 4Bits Records made the release possible.
The Housing Crisis is currently signed to both. While it’s unusual for an artist to be signed to two groups, the collaboration of the two Gainesville organizations gave O’Bryan a unique opportunity to maximize his potential as a smaller artist.
The strengths of each label worked well together for the album release, O’Bryan said.
Swamp Records helped him mobilize support from other musicians in Gainesville both with online and in-person engagement, which helped him to create his music videos. 4Bits Records helped with the record’s marketing and distribution.
The Housing Crisis is the first artist signed with 4Bits Records, a label founded by Brandon Telg, a co-founder of MusicGNV, and Emily Smith, a music journalist and UF alumna.
With smaller labels, the work between artist and label is a partnership that is more hands-on than larger ones, Telg said.
Telg has always seen the Gainesville music community as collaborative and scrappy. He sees a “do-it-yourself-ness” in Gainesville artists that allows them to make the most out of their resources and invites them to work together.
“We are a small town,” Telg said. “Artists here have to be collaborative. And they have to make do with not a huge industry presence in this town. And Dylan does both of those things beautifully.”
Some of that collaboration comes during The Housing Crisis’ live shows. O’Bryan records all his music by himself, he said. But when he plays live he calls in musicians from other Gainesville bands like Eduardo Giralt of Staircase Spirit and Red Letter Day, Trevor Griffin of Trevor and the Travelers and Kyle Wampler of Red Letter Day.
“The Gainesville music scene is very special,” O’Bryan said. “There's so much music across every generation of people. Every age group that lives in Gainesville is making great music if you find it.”
Contact Lauren at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @LaurenWhid.
Lauren Whiddon is a third-year journalism major and a staff writer for the Avenue. In her free time, she loves listening to Sufjan Stevens, watching movies and reading classic literature.