Serpentwithfeet is an avant-garde vocalist and performance artist whose growing body of work is rooted in dueling obsessions with the ephemeral and the everlasting – key components of his artistic journey from a childhood stint as a choirboy in Baltimore through his time at The University of the Arts in Philadelphia, where he studied vocal performance before relocating to New York City. His forthcoming debut full-length album soil is a return to the sensibilities and wide-eyed curiosity of his musical youth before symmetry and sterile soundscapes ruled the roost. With the release of soil the chameleonic serpentwithfeet (born Josiah Wise) rediscovers and ultimately returns to the unhinged version of himself he was sure he had outgrown.“
soil is about me returning home then realizing that i carry home with me daily.”
Following the release of Blisters – his 2016 foray into hybridized pop produced by Björk collaborator The Haxan Cloak – and two big tours, serpentwithfeet returned to the studio in 2017. There, he explored the fullness of his voice and became increasingly interested in playful singing which intrigued recording engineer Jason Agel. That vocal performance was only complicated by his feverish rumination on the dissolution of an impassioned love affair that left him stunned and speeding toward the inevitable – a more intimate relationship with himself.
serpentwithfeet is explicit, however, in breaking with the condemnations of taboo subjects in order to deliver the language necessary to provide black, queer people with a heartfelt, futurist folk –– a new mother tongue constructed to override his prolonged inability to articulate his love life because he had no knowledge of an established standard for speaking about intimate experiences beyond the binary lens of heterosexuality. In being vulnerable enough to vocalize his journey, serpentwithfeet encourages a systematic dismantling of the shame that is appended to homosexuality through the creation of a sonic space buoyed by radical acts of love and sustained repetition of his innermost thoughts.
"I remember growing up there was language for how men and women interact. I don’t have a lot of examples of black gay men that are out here thriving. Because of social media we see more examples but at the time when I was thinking about this and dealing with my own relationship, I had difficulty articulating my feelings. I hate to say it , but I think there is still a lot of shame around two black men dating and loving on each other and I was very aware of that. While working on soil, i was exploring and trying to make sense of my needs and my love language. Because of this process, I’ve fallen in love with my idiosyncrasies. I’m growing my hair again. With this album I gave myself permission to let the leaves grow, let the flowers bloom, let myself be hairy and let my sound be hairy. I’m excited about the way things naturally come out of my body. I am always going to embrace discipline and streamlining. But I’m in a space at the moment where I don’t need or desire the corset. It’s time for expansiveness."