Since leaving indie-rock upstarts Tigers Jaw back in 2013, Adam McIlwee has spent most of his time on the internet. From trawling Tumblr for hours, to meticulously formatting tweets; its central purpose focused on developing a musical project - Wicca Phase Springs Eternal. A little under six years later, and he's finding the gateway tool that's got him, and Wicca Phase to this point, is now making things rather difficult.
"There are so many artists!" Adam declares over the phone. "There are so many people in this scene. I'll look at flyers and be like, who are these people?! I'll go on Spotify, and I'll type in some random person that someone tweeted about, or my girlfriend's younger brother told me about, and they have five times as many monthly listeners. And their songs have millions of plays, but it seems like they've been around for three months?! I don't understand that phenomenon."
Not only does this mean that he, as an artist in his own right has to fight to stay above the crowd, but also, "the quality of my stuff has to be so much higher to make this a lasting thing, [and] so people stay interested which is the competition aspect of it," he reasons. "I'm so sceptical unless their songs are just undeniably good, and their talent is there their seemingly meteoric rise is justified. I think about this all the time!"
Before all of the talk of a bursting movement, things were simpler. While developing the idea for Wicca Phase, the main focus coming to life was aesthetic. This ran deep into the music that he came to make; emotionally charged and raw music. As he found this project developing, he also saw something else being born - a movement.
Alongside fellow like-minded creatives Cold Heart and Horsehead, he co-founded gothboiclique. Initially starting as a movement that's steadily grown in size - even counting Lil Peep amongst its ranks at one point - it's now a collective of artists who draw from similar emotional angles, and find their roots deep in rap, trap, electronic, emo, alternative and anything else that their musical output calls for.
Thanks to the hype-chaos, gothboiclique has had to focus inwards on its strengths to remain pivotal players in a game that's still shaping itself. "It wasn't a conscious decision for the group to take different paths, but, like… Yawns is a producer for gothboiclique, he was always a really good producer, but over the past year, he's really stepped it up. We're all in different pathways of what this music could be; whether it's taking it in a more ‘80s/new wave direction, or post-punk guitar, bass, drum setups, Cold Heart was doing stuff like that.
"Horsehead has a lot of stuff produced by Fish Narc who is pretty much doing the same thing. He's always been a great guitar player, Fish Narc, but he's been taking the sound in a different direction that you're only going to get that sound if you get him producing it. Same with Yawns, he's kind of hard to imitate, but I wanted to do something like that. If you're a fan of gothboiclique, this album isn't going to be disappointing."
Taking Wicca Phase to the next level, Adam's previous releases, predominantly mixtapes, are what he considers "just collections of songs", making 'Suffer On' is his first fully-fledged album. After signing to Run For Cover Records, setting him a step above the trying-their-luck types littered across Soundcloud, the record and, his future, is all in the balance.
With this, one thing that gothboiclique has nurtured in Adam is his competitive nature. "When I see Horsehead and Cold Heart releasing really good albums, and Døves doesn't [even] have that many songs that are released, but his songwriting is so good! And I'm like, I have to do that… I've written songs that are better than those." He pauses, chuckling. Adam's competitive nature never strays into being ego-driven, or even a solid belief that he does have songs better than those of his clique-mates, but it's the catalyst for his creativity.
"That's what's in my mind. The bar has been set, and now I want to raise it a little bit more. It's a healthy competition - I want to record music that I think is at their level, and I also want to record music that my friends or my peers will aspire to make… I've always felt like that. When I started writing songs, I just wanted to write songs that were better than my friends… not out of jealousy, or anything like that, although I do get jealous when my friends write really good songs, so there's that element of it. It's not as negative as it might sound!"
As for why Adam and co's new strain of musical influence has taken off to such great levels? He pauses.
"I think there's a cool factor to having rap beats. That element of it can appeal to people who aren't necessarily into underground music. The guitar aspect of it is like an emo-worship thing that some people think is cool. I don't think it's that cool, [but] that's pretty trendy now."
In reality, it's the emotional aspect of the genre that's genuinely the anchor point for this moment. The Soundcloud artists are all rooting around the same idea - of being true to the life you're living, even if it's a swirling darkness most would swiftly avert. The roots for ‘Suffer Now' came at a time in his life when things were full on, to say the least; the title itself should give some indication as to Adam's headspace through the creation.
"I was stressed out all the time when I started writing the album. I'd left my job to pursue music full time which turned up the stress to eleven in my day to day life, being like, ‘shit, this has to work!'" With an air of relief, he confesses. "There was [also] some personal stuff at home with different relationships that seemed to be at their worst when I was writing this album."
Does he feel that belonging to a world that's renowned for creeping amongst the realism and darkness of life? "When you're doing that every day for hours on end, I think that darkness and that negative emotional theme gets turned up, it gets magnified," he pauses, before ending: "In this case, it worked. That's how I've always written songs."
It's this resounding openness to himself and his followers that sets Adam, and Wicca, above the rest. There may be a constant revolving carousel of quick-thinking hopefuls who've purchased some beats and a microphone, but to delve deep into the ‘emo' of life, well, no one does it quite like Wicca Phase.
Taken from the March issue of Upset, out now. Wicca Phase Springs Eternal's debut album 'Suffer On' is out now.
Featuring Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes, While She Sleeps, One OK Rock and more.