L.A. VanGogh Navigates Perception & Reality on 'Everything Is Subjective'

 Photos by Michael Salisbury

Photos by Michael Salisbury

In 2017 we’re living under the microscope. Connected, always observing. It can lead to an image of your best self that forgets the “self”, concerned more with opinions. In Everything Is Subjective, LA VanGogh works around this contemporary mindset, presenting his life as an open book. Rather than telling us who he is, he lets us decide for ourselves. Stare into the TV screen on the album art and you see yourself looking back.

L.A. Van Gogh has a smooth voice, catchy hooks, all the aesthetics of a good time. But his goal is greater than entertainment, aiming for closeness to the listener with universal stories he’s lived, no flexing or separating. “There’s a screen between you...the entertainer doesn’t always understand what the consumer is going through, and the consumer doesn’t know what that person had to do to get behind that screen." L.A is trying to minimize that gap. Expression motivated by real connection.

He’s meticulous in his craft, multitalented at vocals, production and writing. First published as a writer at age 12, as a teenage musician nobody gave him the sound he wanted so he learned production and made his own. “Other people, when they heard me rap, compared me...when they tried to produce for me they made my shit sound like some knockoff 9th Wonder, or really early Drake. I wanted my stuff to be cinematic - the people I listened to made story telling music.” Ever the student, “Youtube became a university.” 

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With Everything Is Subjective, “it’s about me, my stories are about me, everything I’ve been through...at the same time..this could be anybody going through this in this age. ‘Is he talking about himself or is he talking about me?’” The album is a response to L.A. VanGogh’s tough times parallel to his music career. A compulsive thinker with thoughts that ricochet, music is his outlet. Sometimes the thoughts are too much, and as his his track “Be Careful” puts it, “the mind is a dangerous thing to get lost in.”

Winter of last year, L.A. experienced a tough anxiety attack the day before his first headlining show. He was hospitalized for the night and made it to his set, released directly before hitting the stage. Post concert, there was no immediate fix for the issues that dogged him. “Ever since then it’s been a struggle with anxiety that coincides with me maintaining a music career. Those are two different weights I’m trying to balance at the same time.”

L.A. continued to carve out a spot for himself in Chicago music, but wasn’t content. Living at home, in relationship troubles, self-medicating and rarely leaving the house. Paralyzed by his thoughts, barely getting out of bed, “I had to have friends and my girlfriend come over just to like, just to be there, to touch me or something. To be like ‘you’re alive, you’re in this room, you’re not in your head or wherever you think you are.’”

And all my n*ggas wanna do is fly /
Only wings I got came with mild /
Only wings I got came with fries /
Lemon pepper skies /

Everything Is Subjective is therapy, tackling last year head on. As “Intro” starts a disembodied voice gives the command “BE. PRESENT.” No guilt of the past or anxiety of the future. In “Be Careful”, he discusses how life comes at you fast - “I say bigshot / always looking down at his wristwatch / bump this way of life until it flip flops / I was in tip top shape til my shit flopped / now I’m in a big hospital with my fists locked / breathing like I’m trapped inside a ziplock.”

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“The Upper Room” is L.A. tossing and turning, unable to turn his brain off for mental peace and quiet. “I heard that it ain't where you're from / but it's where your head at / Where mine? / Airtime, headlines, deadlines / Can I get it done before bed time?” He’s interrupted as his mind exclaims “SHUT THE FUCK UP!”

In “Escapism”, L.A. attempts outmaneuvering his problems with “some pussy & some weed”. Justifying, “goin’ through life and I’m stressed / couple remedies that’ll help me forget”. But these were never the answers to his problems. It’s “wake up out the coma / wipe the tweakin off my brow / so much so what on my sofa / in my search and seek for soma / traded sober for some moments.” These are not the solutions he was looking for.

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The answer he was looking for revealed itself over time. What he came to realize is there isn’t one right way to be - it’s all subjective. The only wrong way is running away, never-ending disatisfaction. “The first thing I had to learn to be ok with my life and where it was going is that life isn’t objective. We often have these ideas of how our lives should be, especially if we pick a career we almost set a mold of what we have to become...you start developing ego catered to that model.”

At this point, he’s learned how to live in the present, and accept life as it comes at him. “The reality is you’re trying to live a gold lifestyle but you’ve got bronze money, bronze personality. And that’s the reality of it, and nothing is wrong with bronze. Who said you had to be gold? You can be yourself...it shouldn’t matter what anyone else is, everyone’s story is different.” He’s learned a bit about life, and wants to share that. His big takeaway? “Be yourself, whatever that means. Anytime you come across a fear...about something you want to do, be realistic about what’s going on in your head...being yourself is a lot better than you think it is.” Stop comparing. Stay present. And remember, everything is subjective.