The LP, which came out back in January on fledgling label Coastal Haze, isn’t one you’d associate with the Swiss-born Vancouver transplant upon first listen. Its laid-back house grooves and downtempo soothers — while well at home among similarly smooth releases from label mates Aquarium aka deepspace, Buddy Love, and Coastal Haze co-founder Seb Wildblood & Phil B — are a significant departure from the vocal-heavy R&B remixes in which Hahn made his name nearly six years ago.
But, as he tells 5 Magazine, a project like this was always in the cards. After sharing a buzzy edit of Destiny’s Child’s “Say My Name,” Hahn caught the eye of prominent UK label PMR Records (home to artists such as Disclosure, Jessie Ware, and Jai Paul), who released his first EP of original music, Perfect Form, in 2013. Through subsequent releases, he continued to hone in on sweet yet sultry pop-house with an emphasis on bright, airy vocals, and last year spoke of exploring the heavier, clubbier end of the sound spectrum. Pool Boy marks his biggest creative leap yet by being entirely instrumental, foregoing vocals altogether and instead establishing the mood through quirky synthlines and breezy oceanic atmospherics.
Why consider hiding behind a secret alias rather than own this new direction? Back in 2016, he told Irish publication Hot Press of his plan, “I just want it to be something I feel carefree about, that doesn’t have any expectations from anyone.” He’s apparently had a change of heart since then, telling 5 Mag, “…by the time the record was finished I was so happy with how it turned out that I really wanted to share it with people.”
During a brief break from the studio, Hahn filled us in on the new album, its out-there source of inspiration, and the work he currently has on his plate.
photos by Jaclyn Phillips
What spurred the decision to start making music under a new alias versus keeping everything under Cyril Hahn?
There is something very liberating about using an alias. Initially I wanted to start a new project and keep it completely anonymous and not tell anyone that it’s associated with Cyril Hahn, but by the time the record was finished I was so happy with how it turned out that I really wanted to share it with people.
Why the name “Pool Boy”?
The name Pool Boy was a result of looking out the window from my studio. In the summer, I see the cruise ships come in and out of the harbor every day. I started to wonder what it’d be like to be an employee on a cruise ship. That’s sort of how it all started. For each song on the record, I would picture a snapshot in a day of somebody living or working on the cruise ship. “Pool Boy” was a song title initially and I still hadn’t picked a name for the project, but in the end it just seemed like the perfect fit.
Having grown such a large fan base as Cyril Hahn, and having released music with a well-known label like PMR, you could have taken this project anywhere. How did you link up with the Coastal Haze crew, and what made this label the right fit for the album?
Both James [Tittensor, a.k.a. Seb Wildblood] and Jake [Hollick] from Coastal Haze have been friends of mine since before we started working on a release together so everything happened in a quite natural way. I always knew that I wanted to start a smaller alias and release on underground labels only.
Jake was visiting Vancouver last June and stayed with my wife and me for a couple of days. It was the beginning of summer, the weather was great and we listened to a lot of ’80s disco records. I think it was during that time that we started talking about a Coastal Haze release. Coastal Haze was still in its early stages at the time but it seemed like the perfect fit for a light-hearted, summery record.
You mentioned on Instagram that the album was greatly inspired by ’90s cruise ship ads and their “notions of fabricated happiness and contained adventure.” Can you expand on this concept?
Cruise ships have always been a pretty bizarre concept to me. It’s essentially a moving hotel where you get to leave the ship for a limited time each day when the ship visits a port. To me, that doesn’t seem like a very exciting way of traveling, but I loved how the ads would really try to sell you the idea of a great adventure. The ship is moving great distances each day but you’re staying in the same room everyday, eating at the same restaurants everyday, using the same pool everyday… It’s just all really curious to me.
In regards to one of your track titles, why can we “never trust a dolphin”?
I don’t really remember how that came about. I think that phrase just popped into my head when I was exporting the finished song and needed a title. I was probably thinking about a really mean dolphin or something.
Much of your previous work revolved around vocals/acapellas, of which we hear none on the Pool Boy LP. How did that factor into your creative process?
It was a really great learning experience. I never realized how heavily I relied on vocals until I stopped using them. It really pushed me to find new ways to make a song interesting.
We hear you’re working on another film score at the moment. Any details you can share?
The film is called 1999 and is directed by Samara Chadwick. It’s an experimental documentary about a wave of suicides that took place at a high school in New Brunswick in the ’90s.
If you could go back in time and re-score any film ever made, which one would it be and why?
That’s tough. I can’t think of a movie off the top of my head, but I’d love to re-score a ’90s TV show like The X-Files.
Pool Boy is out now on Coastal Haze.