During his final year of high school, musician Sloan Struble recorded Fuzzybrain in his childhood bedroom. The 2018 album introduced the internet to the Aledo native’s contagious indie pop, packaged under the name Dayglow. The teenager’s balmy, mellow melodies quickly found an audience, and he was part of the rising tide of DIY bedroom producers like Boy Pablo and Clairo. Since then, Struble, 21, has dropped out of the University of Texas, played Austin City Limits Festival, and become a case study in modern virality. His success reaches seriously interstellar heights, with breakout track “Can I Call You Tonight?” racking up over 200 million streams on Spotify to date, numbers generally unseen for an independent debut.
But according to the solo artist, much remains the same. Based in Austin, Struble says he’s “planning on being here for a long time.” Just like with Fuzzybrain, he self-produced, recorded, and mixed his upcoming sophomore album, Harmony House, by himself—this time out of a bedroom near Zilker Park. “Really, not that much has changed,” he says. “I just sit and make music on my own, and hang out with my few friends.”
Written before the pandemic, his new album explores the growing pains of digital fame with billowing eighties dance pop and wistful seventies songwriter acoustics. Harmony House lands May 21 on Struble’s own Very Nice Records in partnership with AWAL, the distributor behind streaming phenoms like Girl in Red and Billie Eilish’s brother, Finneas. Delayed by the pandemic, Dayglow’s first major headlining tour kicks off in Dallas, Austin, and Houston in September with his four-piece live backing band. He’ll tape an Austin City Limits episode this month. The musician spoke with Texas Monthly about his new album’s expansion beyond guitar-based bedroom pop to keyboard-centric soft rock, as well as the retro sitcom inspiration behind it.
On his unexpected pandemic year
I would have been on tour all year. In [March 2020], we were driving from Austin for the very first show, and by the time we got to Chicago, everything had been canceled. We left completely optimistic, and then had to turn around and come back. It sucked. The whole thing had sold out, and we were planning on touring immediately after in the U.K. It’s ironic, because I had self-quarantined for like three months before tour, cherishing time in one place.
Knowing how busy my year was going to be, I thought I wasn’t going to have any time to work on Harmony House. So for me, everything was kind of backwards, and it’s been a pretty crazy year. I got engaged and am moving into a house in South Austin with my soon-to-be wife. Hopefully, we’ll be building a studio external to the house, so I can walk to work.
On the viral success of “Can I Call You Tonight?”
It’s a weird time trip. By the time we go on tour this fall, it’ll be for a second album, and I never got to do an album cycle for the first one. So, I’ll be playing “Can I Call You Tonight?” with much bigger crowds than I thought I was going to. The audience will be like, “Oh yeah, I used to listen to this song,” and for me, I’m playing it [to a large crowd] for the first time. It’s true that songs have the potential of living a life on their own.
“Can I Call You Tonight?” filled this void a couple of times on the internet. TikTok was a big thing, and then this previous summer was its big radio moment. People making short films have asked to use it, which is something I gravitate toward—songs that would be good in movies or TV shows. It’s been strange to watch. I’ve done tons of interviews from around the world, all on the same couch.
On the inspiration behind Harmony House
The original idea was a soundtrack to an imaginary sitcom. I actually wrote a theme song for the show, which didn’t make the album. Maybe I’ll release it one day. I wanted to film a pilot episode with melodic motifs and everything, but that couldn’t really happen because of COVID. It’s fascinating that sitcoms are supposed to be normal people, in living rooms, and people watch. Or in The Office, it’s just a workspace.
Not nearly as intensely as The Truman Show, but I felt like my life was being watched. I was overwhelmed with this idea of being watched, as a person, and becoming an artist. I was experiencing really fast changes, and I’m thankful for all this time I’ve gotten this year to process things with a clear mind. So the album cover, which I did with [photographer Pooneh Ghana, who is from San Antonio], is me in a sitcom set being torn down, breaking the fourth wall.
On Gen Z’s love of nostalgia
I was listening to a lot of Doobie Brothers and yacht rock while working on the album. I was fascinated by people my age watching old TV shows, even though there’s a plethora of new shows coming out all the time. The internet has done this strange thing. We’ve hit a point where there’s a crazy wall of noise, so people are going to the past to experience new things.
We’re still feeling new stuff, but for some reason we’re wearing vintage clothes. It’s this weird circle revival of nostalgia we didn’t experience ourselves, but we wish we would have. I wanted Harmony House to feel like if you were digging through your dad’s records, it would just be there.
On pressure and expectations
It’s sort of the stereotypical sophomore album scariness. I wasn’t overwhelmed with anxiety or fear putting Harmony House out, but I understand it’s very different than Fuzzybrain, musically. Very few people are taking risks right now. I haven’t seen a new album, recently, that’s a rebrand. I really hope Harmony House changes the genre I’ve been placed in a little bit.
I look at Dayglow as my personal outlet, and I’ve changed a lot. My first album came out when I was seventeen, and now I’m twenty-one. I’m not light-years ahead, but my inspirations and what I listen to are different. I want to be obvious with that growth, while not making a full-on punk album or something. The spirit of the music is from the same source.
On navigating the music industry
When I dropped out of UT, I was still forming my band and didn’t have a team. I was responding to record labels from my school email, which I don’t know how they found. It was exciting, but felt like everyone was trying to take advantage of me. It gives me so much sympathy for someone like Billie Eilish. I’m no comparison, but any rapid change can be super overwhelming.
On growing up in small-town North Texas
I grew up in Aledo, probably most famously known for high school football, which I did not partake in too much. In a small town, I just assumed everyone made music on their own. I thought, “Obviously, everybody writes their own songs, and most people probably also record it and then mix it.” I had no idea how big the music industry was. For me, it’s still not that big.
If I grew up in Austin, I’m sure I would be part of the scene a little bit more, but Aledo allowed me to make the music I wanted to. I didn’t feel like I had to be on the bill with other bands, because nobody was influencing me other than people on YouTube I curated myself, and I guess I’m still doing that. It was definitely a little bit lonely, but I love the way I work now. I’m thankful for it.