Patrick O’Neill “plays a lot of instruments…kinda well.” I first met the experimental singer-songwriter at an underground hyperpop concert in Boyle Heights organized by his manager, Sullivan Brock. O’Neill opened the show, his first, performing alongside fellow east coast artists such as 4cf, reefuh, and Cybertrash. His sound is difficult to pin down with traditional genre labels, but lands somewhere in the alt-rock space with industrial, hyperpop, and ambient influences. His latest single, “Self Driving Car,” features O’Neill singing softly over head-thumping shoegaze breaks. Plucky guitars rage over a noisy industrial beat in this highly unique track that is yet another example of O’Neill’s depth of talent. His lyrics are thoughtful and vulnerable, venting his pain about the end of a relationship and perhaps the world too.
I let the music go where it wants to go,” O’Neill described, “and then I try my best to keep up lyrically.
Patrick O’Neill calls the sleepy, semi-rural town of Butler, New Jersey home. He first got into music at age seven when he started taking guitar lessons. However, it wasn’t until he finally bought Ableton at sixteen with money saved up from working at Wendy’s that his interest became an obsession. “I hibernated in my room, making five of the worst beats you ever heard a day for like a year straight,” O’Neill told me with a laugh. Inspired by artists active in the Soundcloud Twitter space like Jedwill, underscores, and dynastic, O’Neill dove into songwriting during the pandemic. He began picking up other instruments like the “guitar, bass, drums, piano, tuba, and the trumpet very badly.” He started out playing in the basement and then graduated to his garage, a converted home tattoo studio. “My dad is a tattoo artist and my mom runs the business,” he informed me, “they’re the fucking best.” He added that his home often serves as a crash pad for underground artists journeying from the South to New York: “I’ve had a ridiculous amount of internet musicians crash in my garage. One time, someone even pulled up with a full U-haul.”
In addition to making music, O’Neill is about three semesters away from achieving his Master of Music Technology. He’s eager to grow as a musician, transitioning from programmed instruments to live recordings on his upcoming album. “I’m excited to put new music out because I’ve grown a lot as an artist, especially in my writing,” he commented, “lyrics are where I’ve devoted most of my attention to.” His musical influences include Car Seat Headrest, Wilco, The Microphones, Mount Eerie, and Bright Eyes. In terms of his creative process, O’Neill starts with a texture or simple chord progression, then builds off of it until he feels there’s no more room for substantial additions. Sully, also on the call, noted that Patrick sampled his mom’s car on an unreleased track. It’s also led to over 800 gigabytes of music—for scale, an HD movie typically takes up around 3 or 4 gigabytes of space. “I let the music go where it wants to go,” O’Neill described, “and then I try my best to keep up lyrically.”
Listen to “Self Driving Car,” available now on all streaming platforms.
Image Credits: @hot.kosha (IG)