Mitch Welling (aka Flatsound) has had an amazing 2017. He’s moved to a new house for the first time in 8 years. “I was basically housebound for 10 years,” he says. Mitch has struggled with agoraphobia since he graduated high school. “I know enough about agoraphobia that I know it isn’t like other phobias. I convinced myself that I was scared of fireworks on the fourth of July, and I had to work that out with my therapist.” He does think that his condition may have enabled his success as a musician, though. Since he couldn’t get any other job, he needed Flatsound to work out for him. “I remember, after I put out Sleep [in 2012], I expected people to start listening, but they didn’t for a long time. I remember thinking, like ‘I can’t even go to the fucking grocery store’. I needed my music to work.”
“I was basically housebound for 10 years,”
A turning point for Mitch and his work as Flatsound came at the end of 2014, when he had just ended a four-year relationship. He focused all of his energy into Flatsound, and before the end of the year, his work had paid off. Mitch was living off of his music. “People will say, like, ‘Spotify doesn’t pay well.’ It’s not true; Spotify pays extremely well. When labels would offer me deals, one of the conditions is that they’d get, like 50% or 80% of my Spotify money. Why the fuck would I do that? I understand that labels are businesses and that they need to make money, […] but you can do it yourself.” Mitch manages the Flatsound merch shop on his own, and prints his shirts and vinyl himself. “I answer all of the customer service emails for the shop, which are really annoying, by the way.” Mitch explains that people sometimes send him long, personal emails to that address, which he has to scan for any mention of an ill-fitting t-shirt or a damaged vinyl.
Mitch talks about his work as Flatsound like it’s a job, and rightfully so; his money from Spotify has allowed him to afford his new house and support his father while doing so. When I ask how separate the business and musical aspects of Flatsound are, he responds without missing a beat: “They’re very separate. If I treated music like it was just a job, I don’t think I could make anything really honest.” He tells me about friends who would go on tours throughout Europe, and then come back to America and have to drive for Uber. Often, musicians don’t go into music expecting to make a living, but for Mitch, it was always the plan for Flatsound to be his main source of income. “It was something that I’d always wanted,” he says.
“If I treated music like it was just a job, I don’t think I could make anything really honest.”
Of course, his success has drawbacks, too. Flatsound has a cult-like following of teenagers. “I’m very happy to say that most of my listeners are actually over the age of 18, which is weird because it’s only teenagers that’ll send me long emails.” Those long emails are often not even related to Flatsound or Mitch at all; some people just use his email as a place to “vent”. “I’ll get this giant diary, with dates and everything, that’s just like, ‘This depressing shit happened today’, […] or people will send me pictures of self-harm.” Mitch has been seeing a therapist for many years, and many of his fans know that. “So why would you send me something potentially triggering?” he asks.
Flatsound as a project is often named next to such artists as Infinity Crush and Fox Academy, sometimes called bedroom pop or lo-fi pop. Mitch doesn’t mind that he’s labeled like that, but he doesn’t feel connected to that scene. “I love Caroline [from Infinity Crush] though. She’s a sweetheart,” he clarifies.
“[Flatsound] is very cathartic for me,” Mitch tells me. “Sometimes people meet me, and they’ll be like, ‘Oh, you’re happy?’ […] or they’ll hear a song I released in like, 2010, and say to me, ‘I’m so sorry,’ like, what do you think I’ve been doing all this time?” We discuss the feeling of ownership fans have over an artist and their emotions. “I understand that thought of like, ‘I wish nobody else knew you’, but I need to eat man. I need to pay rent.”
“Sometimes people meet me, and they’ll be like, ‘Oh, you’re happy?’”
Flatsound has a new album to be released before the year is over. “It’s called Hummingbird,” he tells me. “It’s being mastered right now.” The album is comprised of the last songs he recorded while living in his old house. “The house that my agoraphobia confined me to for so long,” he elaborates. “But, more positively, the house that I had built a music career from nothing in.” “I made a very conscious effort to record the songs in the manner that I would record very early Flatsound songs. I even used a lot of the same equipment. Stand-alone multi-track recorders and microphones that I had used when I was a teenager.”
See the artwork, designed by Mitch, and featuring the stairs leading up to his old bedroom, below: