We had a chat with Will Wood and Bev Standing to find out some more about one of the most creative and existential dread-inducing releases of 2022
As if things weren’t terrifying enough lately, Will Wood has released ‘You Liked This (Okay, Computer)’, a track that harrowingly puts a mirror to the ugly reality of the social media age and the way that we interact with it and each other.
The track feels increasingly unsettling and anxiety-inducing as it progresses, almost like a modern day answer to Radiohead’s ‘Fitter, Happier’. Alongside “The Voice of TikTok” Bev Standing, the artist has created a dystopian and increasingly claustrophobic world within the track that, as much as I would love to say is entirely disconnected from reality, feelings increasingly real and horrifying as it progresses. From it’s sombre pianos, to the darkly comical spoken words, to the incessant dinging of notifications and alerts, the track conjures an unwelcome sense of existential dread upon listeners, and makes for one of those “staring at the blank screen once its over contemplating my life” kind of feelings. Naturally, we wanted to find out some more about the creative and horrible track and its video, and had a chat with Will and Bev to find out some more about it.
We love your new single ‘You Liked This (Okay, Computer), what more can you tell us about it?
Will Wood – The track is sort of a dark comedy about how social media platforms are I believe designed to manipulate us emotionally. I think a lot of the misery – the constant conflict, the ideological messiness, and the ever-rising instances of mental health issues – are being engineered quite consciously by corporate powers who gain immense power and wealth by destabilizing us. I feel like a lot of people know it on some level, and some people talk about it now and again, but rarely seem to genuinely internalize it or see themselves or others close to them as victims of a huge corporate evil. I think because the loss of volition is a terrifying thing, and it’s no fun to think that something you think is supporting you is actually abusing you.
Of course, “nuance” is the newest pop buzzword now that people have caught on to the lack of nuance in online “discourse,” and people sometimes claim their position is nuanced without actually providing any so they can cover their asses, but hopefully people will be able to feel that I recognize the complexity of how social media works and has affected the world without needing me to mention every valid perspective on the matter when I have my own priorities for which parts of the subject I feel like I’m qualified to speak on. Of course, I recognize that all social media isn’t 100% inherently evil at all times. It does good things too. Obviously it’s often just a necessary evil, and obviously, I wouldn’t have the career I have without it, but that doesn’t mean the predatory behavior of these massive companies can’t be satirized, nor does it mean I need to get into all that every time I talk about the harm they do. I have a goal here. I’m trying to reach younger people with a point about what’s wrong with social media that I think is incredibly important in trying to solve the current mental health crisis and de-stigmatizing mental illness, but one that they might not listen to from someone else because they’ll assume my general anti-social-media sentiment is the same one their parents give them – when it’s really, really not. And as someone who has suffered from psychiatric illness, and who grew up on an internet that was way less predatory yet still life-ruiningly traumatizing, I feel a really strong urge to try and communicate this stuff.
What was the thought process behind the video like?
Will Wood – Invoking themes and ideas in classic dystopian works, and presenting them in that lo-fi absurdist sort of way was sort of me and Jim Horvath’s way of getting the point across while also maintaining some tongue-in-cheek humor to match the bleak but ridiculous lyrics. We were having some fun by aggressively using tropes like “sheeple” (there’s a billboard on the moon at the end where a robot lizard person is shown giving a big thumbs up next to “Wake Up Sheeple! ™” as a slogan) and some meme-like imagery including a big skeleton hand grabbing the planet at the end. While trying to keep with the point, there was a lot of, “what would be fun/funny to have happen next?”
What do you consider the overarching message of the track to be?
Will Wood – I’m sort of trying to say that we spend so much time admonishing ourselves for getting hooked on these platforms and letting them get to us psychologically, which is not totally inaccurate, but I think we need to be shedding some more light on how much of it is intentional and the responsibility of the companies. There’s plenty of people out there talking about how cell phones are bad and social media is phony, but I’m not trying to say any of that. I use my phone all the time, it’s a super useful piece of technology and in an ideal world, even social media could be a force for good (which isn’t to say it never is now). My point is to say that we’re the victims here, and while of course we’re responsible for our own behavior, these corporate systems really benefit from us focusing on how badly we’re handling it instead of how intentionally damaging they are designed to be. So the robot voice throughout the track beats the listener over the head with buzzwords, rage/click bait gibberish, and confusing ideological tangles and repeatedly insists that “you liked this.” It says “you clicked to agree to our terms of service,” and blames the victim.
Bev Standing – Having an AI voice (sound-a-like), my TikTok voice just hits home on how so many people actually do hit ‘like’ posts by people we have no idea who they are, friends of a friend’s friend, and realizing that tracking is very real. It is very thought-provoking and I was thrilled to be asked to be part of the process.
The track draws a lot of comparison in its themes and style to Radiohead’s ‘Fitter Happier’, do you consider ‘You Like This’ as a spiritual successor to it in a sense?
Will Wood – I wouldn’t go so far as to say “spiritual successor,” that’s giving a bit more credit than I think I’ve earned haha. Radiohead’s one of my all-time favorites. I’d more say it’s an homage or a tribute; I mean, “Okay Computer” is even in the title! I also think theirs is a lot more serious – “Fitter Happier” is pretty disturbing, whereas I tend to think of my track as being much more geared towards bleak but still pretty straightforward humor. Although who knows, maybe their sense of humor is just even dryer than mine often is.
What else should we expect from you in the near future?
Will Wood – I’ve got a single coming out on 6/17, which will be accompanied by an animated music video by Joseph Weidlein. Then one more single before the album drops on 7/29. People still think the drawing I did for the crowdfunding campaign for the record is the album cover – the real album cover is coming when the tour dates are announced, which will be soon. After the tour, I’m taking a long break from everything.