Nu Depths: Dylan Mulshine from Close and Afar
By Mina Tavakoli
It’s nearly 10:48 PM on a Tuesday and Dylan pushes himself into a bystander at one of his shows. The crowd forms itself into an egg shape, cocooning and crowding around Mulshine, who’s now pulling at her ankle and writhing on floor, begging for someone to pour their beer on him as he claws off his own clothes (shirt, shoes, leggings, socks).
She’s been good so far during his set—exceptionally good, actually. She’s pogoed to the fast tracks, bobbed to the slow, turned her head back at least three times now to ensure her friends can watch and affirm her laugh as it strengthens from discomfort to something that looks like success. She gets it. She mouths ‘what the fuck’ in half-disbelief to the crop of boys against the wall, sweating quietly in a room that’s shrieking alongside Dylan’s yells.
I’m leaning up against a table and there’s nothing beside me but a group of older men, gripping beers with expressions as warm as a waiter’s smile. Dylan takes his own body and throws it across the room, plowing his fans and his setup across the gummy floor. He is only wearing briefs now. He bashes into my arm and I spit onto the table.
The show ends and I wrap my body in a coat. I can’t help but notice my arms smell like him now. It’s jarring—for a man wearing nothing but a damp loincloth, he smells like rich, spiced musk.
Dylan Mulshine—better known as Nu Depth—is our local ephemera. He’s peppered house shows and venues in and around Charlottesville (and up and down the East Coast) for the past 5 years, flitting in and out of Cville’s consciousness. He breeds a following on Instagram that rivals his stage presence as @lilbabypositiv, where he posts in a frantic, obsessive frenzy of his day-to-day, instant-to-instant existence.
When he’s not amidst a boiling sea of show-goers, the unreality and bizarre onerousness of Mulshine’s stage persona is subdued, yet still very real. No longer wet with sweat and beer, his hair is the color of a potato chip, now stuffed under a traffic-orange beanie. He is leonine on stage—thrashing, wild, pouncing—but in person he is a cub. He sits with a strange, hunched poise, eloquent over the two slices of pizza glistening on the table before him.
Mina Tavakoli: Can you explain Nu Depth’s sound to me as if I were someone who knew nothing about you—like I’m your cashier at Kroger? Your mom’s best friend?
(at this point, a pair of friends pound on the window in front of us. They make faces. Their breath leaves two white spots on the glass that fade slowly as they walk away.)
Dylan Mulshine: You know them?
MT: Yeah. Hah.
DM: You should’ve asked them to come in and I would’ve explained Nu Depth to them. I answer this question all the time.
MT: You can’t escape this question?
DM: No, it’s like—it’s kind of useless to explain my music to someone who hasn’t seen it. It’s a performance. If they want to understand, they’ll see it—but they probably won’t. I feel like playing as Nu Depth is something where I want to have people enjoy themselves. So when I describe Nu Depth, I try to give them an explanation that’ll make them happy. It’s not lying or stretching the truth or anything—a whole bunch of what I do on stage is improvised because I need to have a lot of room to move around—
MT: Literally, physically?
DM: If I structured everything, nobody would enjoy it. If I’m working at Urban [Outfitters] or something I mention I play music, people ask me things like, what instrument do you play? Are you a singer? So I try to explain the performance conceptually, as a whole—I’ll list off things that I’m really into at the moment. I’d be like, “Britney Spears, Jodeci, Marilyn Manson, GG Allin.” I’ve been telling people that I’m the GG Allin of rave, even though I don’t make rave music and I don’t really sound or have any of the same themes as GG Allin. But for some reason, taking those things and summing them together makes something completely different from the parts that make it up.
MT: I think I’ve been to something like four Nu Depth shows now, and they’ve all been kind of breathlessly chaotic. You scream at the audience to pour beer on you, you take off your clothes, you’ve definitely almost fucked up your gear more than once of your own accord. The word positive comes up a lot. What do you want out of your audience?
DM: I don’t want anyone to take things too seriously. You obviously go out to a show to enjoy something and most of the time, it’s not the show itself. You’re there to enjoy someone’s company or to be with friends, and it’s not about me. I’m not trying to make my shows about what I’m doing for the audience, though I am trying, at the basest level, to entertain. My friend just told me—and he plays for a lot of people, has plenty of fans of his own—that if he plays for a huge lot of people and there’s one person who genuinely enjoyed it, it’s all that matters. I’m not trying to be all Hallmark or cute about this either.
There are a lot of elements of what I do that you mention—people pouring beer on me, taking my clothes off—that aren’t original ideas. People don’t talk about things that they don’t have a relationship with already. It’s posturing to do these things—like when making dance music, you have to include certain sounds that you incorporate so that people register, yes, this is dance music. So I do these staple things that I know people will respond to—I want people to be involved if they want to be. If you don’t give people something to involve them, to invite them in, they might never come in.
There are layers of aesthetics, you know? You walk into a store and you see how clean it is, and you’ll walk away knowing it’s a beautiful store, but you won’t see the cockroaches in its bathroom.
MT: I’m so interested in the concept of the internet as now not only a medium, but a lifestyle, a culture, an aesthetic. It’s identity and anonymity, all at once. How does Nu Depth make sense of this? How does it confront this, since Nu Depth’s aesthetic is so, uh, internet?
DM: I was hanging out with this girl last night who was talking about ‘post-internet,’ and I told her I didn’t have any feelings about it. How can something like the internet be over? Someone said ‘post-internet’ as a way to mark a feeling about something. I have this concept called LCD, lowest common denominator. It’s not exactly what Nu Depth’s about, but I think it’s an important facet of what I see around me. It’s where someone’ll do something original and it’ll spawn something like a meme, and once people see this, they’ll hold onto it and want to be a part of it, so they’ll reduce it to the lowest common denominator of what they believe the thing, the concept, the notion means. And they’ll say, yeah, I feel the way you feel about it. But it’s a meme—there shouldn’t be an emphasis on regenerating something that was once an instant. I feel like the internet is a place where content’s generated—nothing is ours anymore. The internet is so bizarre—everyone emotions and opinions are there now. Everything’s there all at once.
MT: Is your sound representative of the internet in some way? Does it mimic the internet’s pastiche or is just peripherally related?
DM: I’ve definitely thought about this. There’s the aesthetic of the internet all in there because it bleeds through from my life outside of music. It’s ridiculous to make music about the internet—
DM: I like those sounds, but that’s only because I’m interested it that noise as pure noise and appreciating it as noise that everyone hears. It’s the implication of people hearing the same thing, hearing these sounds over and over again, and repurposing them in music.
MT: The same way that industrial music spawned from pure mechanical noise?
DM: That’s exactly what Throbbing Gristle meant when they were talking about, ‘industrial music for industrial people.’ You wouldn’t think twice why a photographer would take pictures of the world around them. You’re making art that references the world around you, which in my case happens to be the internet. It’s nothing self-aware, or claiming that I know more about it than other people. It’s the LCD—you can’t claim the internet. I definitely live a fantasy that’s built by the internet though.
Once I had a write-up done about me that said I played shows “of dubious quality that lended themselves to immature provocation.” Once I heard that, I realized I had to do that and hone it until people respected it. Those words have been used against me at least twice. I really do this for the present moment. There’s no way you can capture the present moment in an interview.
MT: Do you mind if I end there?
Dylan Mulshine is on the internet.