INTERVIEW BY: John Peterson
Growing from the art scene surrounding Temple University, Anything Could Be Here is a collective of music and visual artists creating art through various mediums—all under the umbrella of Anything Could Be Here. The group consists of 7 individuals: patchymate (musician), Ryan Leahan (musician), abbot (musician), MNDLSS (videographer/director), Nooj (photographer), Will (creative/branding), and Wyatt (creative/assistant video producer). They first formed in January of 2020 and have been releasing content ever since, from music videos to behind the scenes. WHIP got the chance to speak with them, and in between the laughs, detours, and stories, found out more about their goals, process, and plans for the future.
JP: There are 7 of you: musicians, photographers, creatives. How did you all meet?
Ryan Leahan: I think that the oldest connection here between all of us would be me and Anthony or Anthony and Nooj.
patchymate: Well, Nooj and I went to high school together. But we didn’t talk ever. We never had a single conversation in high school and then I actually met Nooj through Anthony (abbot) and I was like wait didn’t you go to my high school? So, kind of crazy.
abbot: I think I have the timeline. Me and Nooj met freshman year and then I met Ryan. But Ryan is the first friend I made where we started doing creative stuff together—which was music.
RL: Yeah, and then that’s when me, Gordon (gordon snyder), Pat (patchymate), and Anthony made “Steal My Bike” together. All four of us weren’t really that close, honestly, we just kind of worked on music together and were friends but obviously we’ve grown a lot closer since. And then I think Alex (MNDLESS) shot the “My Little” music video for me.
MNDLSS: You think I shot it?
RL: I’m thinking timeline. The part that I’m questioning is making sure that I get everything in the proper order.
P: Around the same time as making “Steal My Bike” I was becoming friends with Will because he and I lived on the same dorm floor. We both played guitar and would talk about Death Grips and Arctic Monkeys.
Will: Hell yeah.
A: Me and Pat actually didn’t meet until after the song we were both on was out.
P: I will never forget—so I met Anthony at the release party for Platinum Green. I remember walking up to Anthony, knowing that it was the guy who was on the song with me but I had never met him, and I was like, “yo, bro I really love your stuff.” I had never heard it. Totally lied to him. And he was like, “yo, dude your sh*t is sick too!” And he didn’t listen to it. We both just lied to each other’s faces the first time we met each other. But then we wound up making some music the next day or the day after.
A: Yeah I invited you over and we hung out and made music and watched Regular Show.
JP: So, how did you come up with the name and accompanying slogan “I’ll move it for you?”
P: That’s a story for another time.
A: It’s a story for another time. We prepared for this question. It’s a story for another time.
JP: What does that mean?
RL: We’re saving it. We’re saving the story.
JP: Saving it. Okay there’s plot, there’s character development. Wasn’t expecting that but that’s cool. So, your first post on Instagram was during September of last year, obviously in the middle of the pandemic. Did the pandemic actually help create ACBH? If nothing else, what are some of the ways that COVID has impacted this project?
P: We formed Anything Could Be Here in January of 2020 before COVID really happened. “Violet” was our first project and it went really well and we were all like “we should make this a thing.” I think COVID honestly just allowed us to prepare. It bought us a little bit of time and it was stressful just like everyone else’s 2020 was. More than anything it made us sure of what we wanted to prioritize.
Nooj: Yeah and it gave us time to work out some kinks as we were trying to figure out how to start this thing.
M: And for me it gave me the perfect excuse to be unemployed in freelance work. I graduated right at the beginning of the pandemic. I got sent home March of last year and then did my last semester online. Because of the pandemic I was able to focus more on making my own type of videos instead of taking some corporate job.
JP: Is there some sort of guiding force to this collective? What binds Anything Could Be Here together?
RL: I think that we’ve learned (throughout that COVID period) who we are, what we wanted to do, and how we wanted to do it, and why we wanted to do it. Eventually after a lot of tweaking and wondering how this was going to play out we came to the realization that we enjoy creating art and we’re all just friends in general. Why not just do it together? It’s really just driven by all of our individual passions to make “anything.” We all just want to do that and do it together.
A: A very important aspect of Anything Could Be Here to me is the friendship between all of us. The reason we work so well together is because we trust each other and we’re super tight. We push each other to keep making better art. And I think that’s the driving force. We motivate each other to be better than we were.
P: Yeah I was gonna add: challenging each other and challenging ourselves. I had a talk with Alex over some wine one night about being up for the challenge and what does that mean. And really it’s just to do it because you love it.
JP: Are there any genre labels you’d attach to the music you all put out? Or is it just fluid, is it just whatever?
RL: I feel like that’s something each of us individually should do. I’ll start I guess. I’ve been saying the same thing for 3 years now to anyone who’s ever asked me. I don’t know what genre’s gonna be next. Personally, I’ll go from a folk song to Hyperpop stuff to punk stuff to something that sounds like drain gang back to an acoustic sad song—something on piano you’re going to cry to. It’s a huge mix of a bunch of stuff. I’ll go into it and be like, “I have no idea what the f*ck this is going to be” and then it comes out and it’s some weird, mixed together, genreless thing.
P: Yeah, I just want to make what I enjoy. I guess I make what I want to hear but don’t necessarily hear too much. Often times in write ups and stuff it will get labeled with Hyperpop or compared to other contemporaries in the circle. I’m totally open to any way that it’s interpreted. All I can do is present it in the way that I want.
A: Yeah, undoubtedly we’re all inspired by Hyperpop. Because of that we often get labeled as Hyperpop artists though I think we’re much more than that. I think I’m a lot more leaning towards Hip Hop and Punk. But yeah, like Ryan was saying, we just go in there and whatever comes out comes out, and if we like it, we send it.
P: With a friend I came up with the term Laptop Rock which is fun.
A: Laptop rock, I f*ck with that.
JP: This is a question for patchymate and abbot. You just released your singles “Apathetic” and “Envy,” what’s it like to transform that into a video? And as a follow up for MNDLSS, what’s it like taking their music and turning it into a video? Is the process collaborative or does someone usually take the lead?
P: “Apathetic” was interesting because I had admittedly not given Alex enough time. I sent him the song and he really enjoyed it. So it was immediately me being like, I have some colors in mind and an outfit or two that I wanna wear. And then Alex was like, okay let’s figure this out shot by shot. I have a really cool location idea. I would say it’s pretty 50/50. Just a build it together project. Alex is phenomenal to work with. Somebody who’s so open to ideas and asks why the song is important.
A: All the time when I’m making music I think of how it would look in a video. And I’ve never been able to communicate that with somebody and actually get it to look like how I want it to until I started working with Alex on these videos. It’s such a unique and freeing feeling to be able to trust someone to take your vision musically and create it in a visual way that you enjoy. I’m in awe every time Alex sends me an update video. How did you get what was in my head and put it on the timeline? It’s crazy.
M: And I just sit at a keyboard and go insane for like 16 hours and mash keys. It’s so weird to describe anything to do with video because it’s all so different. I don’t like talking about myself or my workflow because I feel like anybody can do it and there’s nothing particularly crazy or unique about it. It’s just doing it and sitting down and putting in those hours. Everybody is literally giving 100% of what they have to offer and nobody’s half-assing anything. If I half-ass something they would be the first to call me out. But the process with everybody here is really a collaboration and I think a big important thing that we do that I don’t think a lot of people do is that we’re very open and honest with each other. If somebody sends a song in or if somebody sends in a video reference or anything really, you’re always going to get feedback on it and you’ll know that it’s truthful and honest feedback.
JP: It seems like location is a big part of your brand and your product. What are some of the places that you’ve shot and filmed at?
W: We filmed a lot of stuff at Blueberry Hill in New Jersey.
M: There’s still sand in all of my equipment from that day.
P: It’s basically a construction site with just a shit ton of sand that looks like dunes.
RL: We’ve only started working with Alex maybe four or five months now and it’s been cold. We really started shooting a lot of music videos in the worst part of the year and it’s been freezing. But for the “Blue! Red! Yellow! Green!” video we shot in the blizzard on purpose which was painful but we knew the product would be sick. I think we’ve been trying more and more to have the location and the set and the on-site visuals be as appetizing as possible. That way when we get to the editing stage it’s a lot less work because all the shots look really good already.
P: Yeah that was the philosophy since “Violet.” We didn’t know anything about lighting and that is probably the worst lit video on our channel and yet I love that video because me and Anthony sat on my living room floor sophomore year just—
A: Cutting up the hearts.
P: And taping them with fishing wire. It made for just a cool environment.
N: Our most popular video and our worst video at the same time.
M: The stories behind the locations to me are almost better than the locations themselves because like we’re not getting permits—we’re not going through the state or getting funding or anything like that. We shot at an abandoned high school once where one week we were there and everything was open and the places we could go were set. Next week we show up for a different video at a specific location there and it’s all boarded up and all the sudden you see hunters in the distance like tracking you and you have to break into some building and hide and then do the video in complete silence. The other week Ant and I were under a highway in Philly and it was like, how many takes are we going to get here? We thought we were going to get one but by the end of it we got three.
A: And then cops showed up as we were getting into our car. It’s just fun, bruh. I feel like a high schooler going to these abandoned spots with my friends just kicking it.
JP: So, is there is there any attachment to Philly? Or is that just where you’re based right now?
M: 100%. Philly gave me everything as a city. I fell in love like with these guys’ music even before we all started working together because we were all in that same community scene. Especially in college, there were all these underground shows where you would just show up and see these local musicians play. I even ran some for a bit with my buddies.
RL: My first show I ever did I got booked by Alex. Our first actual transaction that had creative stuff involved was him booking me for a show.
M: That’s what I loved about Philly. If you were in that community and you actually cared about it or wanted to be a part of it, there were avenues. There’s just such a good local music scene, especially within the school communities. That will be with me forever.
JP: You’ve put out some vlog style videos called Beautiful Confusion. What’s the goal with these?
W: I love hanging out with these guys and I know that they have such good personality and I want to show that. I want them to be more than just an artist on Spotify. There’s the music side and then there’s behind the music, you know? There’s actually a person behind it and they have personality. They’re not just a robot making tunes on their computer. So I think with those videos it’s just another layer of these musicians to expose to the audience.
JP: Collectively you have almost 300,000 monthly listeners on Spotify. Ryan, your song My Little just recently reached a crazy 10 million listens. Is this the recognition you guys expected?
RL: It happens so quickly when you make something that’s good and catchy. I never thought in my wildest dreams that anything would do those kinds of numbers. I feel like as time has gone on we’ve grown more confident in our abilities. We’re all able to say that we make good stuff. I don’t think any of us are out here like, this better do 100K or this better do this number. We’re all confident whether we get one play or 10 million.
A: I remember back when me and Ryan were just friends making music as freshmen. We both didn’t really have any names for ourselves and we would geek out whenever we got our first thousand plays. And then the first 10K—losing our minds.
P: I think Ryan was kind of a blueprint in my mind. For my first project, Primary, I was so inspired by what he was doing. I didn’t expect too much out of it but he made me feel like it was possible.
M: This is me as an outsider, but it’s just great to see their progression. I think a lot of people—when they see numbers rise—they think it happens overnight but these dudes have been working on it for a long, long time.
JP: What kind of art has been inspiring you all right now? And, in the spirit of this collective, I mean that question to be as broad as possible.
N: I just watched Drive again. Very random, but that’s visually a very cool movie to me.
A: The whole aesthetic of HD was electronic, but what I’m getting into now is the idea of fire. Fire right now is really cool to me.
P: I’ve been really enjoying a lot of stuff that some of my other music friends have been making. Most of my playlists are just my friends. Been listening to a lot of Knapsack, Jacob Jeffrey, underscores.
P: Yeah, I don’t know it’s just really inspiring to me what the people who are creating their own brand are doing.
A: I think a big thing for all of us is that we enjoy being a fan to other people. I’m a little stan.
M: I try with every project to incorporate either some new or old piece of tech in the video world. I just got a 16 millimeter camera for the first time but I’ll go from 16 millimeter to VHS to 360 cam. I just like experimenting with different looks and just seeing what I can draw from it.
RL: Something that’s kind of out of the ordinary: my dreams tend to inspire me a lot. Last night I heard a song that I’m working on in my dream and it felt so real even though it was a part I haven’t added yet. Just things that don’t really happen in real life but I kind of want to happen or things I fantasize about are some things that tend to inspire me a lot recently.
JP: Let’s just go down the line here. What are your top three favorite music artists of all time?
M: In no particular order: Radiohead—oh this is so tough—I wanna say Fleet Foxes, and I wanna say Death Grips.
A: J. Cole, EDEN, and Pinegrove.
RL: I don’t know if I can do three.
M: I’m already regretting what I picked.
RL: In no particular order: the 1975, Bon Iver, Frank Ocean, Field Medic, Lana Del Rey…
W: That’s too many.
N: You cheated, you can’t do that.
W: Alright: Metallica, Guns N’ Roses, MF Doom.
M: I’m revising my list. It’s MF Doom, Earl Sweatshirt, JPEGMAFIA.
RL: That’s a completely different list.
N: Here’s what I got in my head right now. Al Green, Bryson Tiller, and My Chemical Romance.
P: Probably—f*ck—I’m trying to think of a band that I listen to a lot. Coldplay, Frank Ocean, and the 2015 SoundCloud lo-fi scene.
JP: Any new perspectives coming out of quarantine? What about hobbies or interests?
N: Something I’ve been thinking about a lot when it comes to making art—I think I’ve adopted this perspective that art inherently has value. It doesn’t need to be political or whatever for it to mean something.
RL: I’ve just been dressing more how I want to dress and starting to cultivate a sense of style in my personal wardrobe.
P: 2020 taught me not to put too much faith into expectations. It’s been a very meditative year.
A: 100%. I think a big thing I’ve learned through the pandemic is to not allow ambitions to get in the way of my personal relations with my friends and family. I’ve learned how to prioritize being present with my family rather than working all the time.
W: There’s really something to say about being in person with someone and making a personal connection. The internet’s great but there’s really something to say about that personal connection at a show and hanging out with the audience.
M: I think the main thing that 2020 taught me was that nothing is guaranteed at all. Beyond that, I learned to value myself a lot more. The second I started betting on myself to overperform was the second I realized you can do anything. It’s just how much you want to sacrifice to it and as much effort as you want to put into it.
JP: What does the future look like for ACBH? What can audiences look forward to seeing and hearing from you?
RL: Nothing, it’s over.
A: This is the last thing we’re doing as ACBH.
JP: No one will ever know what the name means.
P: No, we’re constantly working on the next thing.
RL: Sorry to be very secretive again. I’m working on a collection of songs that’s coming to a close.
A: I’m not so secretive on the fact that I am working on a project. I’m not calling it an album or an EP, but Kill Anthony is my thing right now. You’ll learn more about it as I come up with more stuff.
P: Avian in May. Do we want to talk about the fact that we might want to do clothing?
A: Yeah, our goal with clothing is to approach it in a way that is different than most music merch and tees and stuff. We want to make it more like actual clothing that even people that aren’t fans of us want to buy.
P: Haven’t started roll out, yet.
A: It is something we’re working towards though.
To keep up with Anything Could Be Here and their latest projects, follow them on Instagram @anythingcouldbehere.