Deaton Chris Anthony is an artist whose boundless ambition and creativity reflect his glowing personality. With his latest album (and Dirty Hit debut), SID THE KID, he’s pushing himself into new territory. The record marks his first guitar-driven music, and he uses the 15 tracks to travel back to his childhood in Olathe, Kansas. But while its playful nostalgia and romanticism recall his Midwestern upbringing (which more often than not included tagging along with his older brother), it also displays his love for making forward-thinking pop music. Rather than relying on Y2K angst to drive the songs, however, he juxtaposes glitchy bursts to bring SID THE KID into the present. It makes for a thrilling and sentimental ride, which concludes with a heartwarming quote cribbed from a radio broadcast.

Read more: How PinkPantheress uses 2000s nostalgia to craft a sound both familiar and fresh

“[The announcer] was saying every seven years, your cells replenish, but you’re still the same kid that you always were, and that felt like the perfect way to wrap the record,” he says from his LA studio, wearing a lime green pullover. “Your upbringing is with you forever, and there’s something totally heartbreaking and also really beautiful about it.”

In an interview with AP, Anthony delves into his love letter to growing up SID THE KID, living down the street from Mac DeMarco, and a forthcoming track with viral sensation PinkPantheress.

What I loved about SID THE KID is that it’s so different from your other releases, and it marks your first guitar-driven music. What motivated you to take it in that direction? 

That was the most exciting thing about it because I find that, for me, it’s not good to have a million options. So I like giving myself rules and parameters. For so many years, I had operated with a palette that was my rulebook, which was mainly just synths, house chords [and] more jazzy influence. I wanted to make the music that was on SID THE KID  that was the music I’d hear in my head. So when this [project] came around, I felt completely liberated that I could just finally make the music that I had wanted to make, which was my own rules. It’s funny because now I’m getting to a point where I’m already finding myself wanting to get rid of the rules that SID THE KID laid down.

The album is a whole coming-of-age journey set in Kansas. What’s your strongest memory of growing up in the Midwest? 

I think the memory I kept coming back to, which I get chills thinking about it, honestly, was my [older] brother had these two best friends, and they just love listening to emo/hardcore stuff. I can’t remember how old he was, but he was definitely a teenager, and I was a little kid. Kind of the kid I was in SID THE KID. Really, I remember we were driving on this rural road in the middle of nowhere in Kansas, so probably like 10 minutes from my house. It was pitch black, probably midnight, and they had the sunroof open, and his best friend had his seat all the way back. They knew every word of this song we were listening to, and they were just belting it to the stars. As cliche as it sounds, it really happened. I’m 10 years old in the back-left seat, just watching them scream that song. It’s way too loud in the car. It made me uncomfortable, but I never forgot that. I just was like, “Man, I want to go back there.” So I tried to take that memory and create a body of work that really sprouted from that. 

Do you remember which song was playing? 

I really can’t remember. 

Does that bother you? 

No, not really. Because I think that if I knew what song it was, it wouldn’t be as interesting. I love the truth, but sometimes some of my biggest breakthroughs were off an imagination that I had. When I first started making music, the people that I wanted to become, the people that I was inspired by, I didn’t understand how they made certain things, so I would just imagine how they made them. Then you come to find out that it was really easy, and it wasn’t this hard thing that they overcame. I just didn’t get it. So I compare that to this experience — if I knew what song it was, it would kill the romantic story of it all. I imagine it being some more obscure song that was made by their friends. That’s what I remember it [as], but I’m sure I was just some song on a CD that was a bigger act at the time.

When was the last time you were in your hometown?

I just went back to make the visuals for a lot of the record, which I hadn’t gone back in six, seven years because all my family moved away. So I think that adds a little bit to the romanticism because all strings were cut. It really was up to me to go back — it wasn’t just for family. But we went back, and to be honest, I got choked up going back to my old home, driving on that same road from when we were listening to that music in the car with my brother. There’s this big water tower that’s right by my house that we’d always go to and park by and watch meteor showers and thunderstorms, and seeing all that, I was really emotional. I was a mess the first day because it was just hitting me. It’s like, “This isn’t just a story; this was my life.” That was back in December. I was hitting up everyone that went out there because my best homie Julian [Klincewicz], who I share the studio with, who did all the visuals for the record, came, and my friend Justice [Vaughn Ott] and Mark and then this other homie Robin went, and it was so important for me to show my friends from Los Angeles my roots. We talked about [how] we should make it a yearly anniversary to go back to Kansas because it’s refreshing. 

On “Friends Don’t Hurt Each Other,” you sing about blowing your hand off with a firework. Is that based on an event that happened when you were growing up? 

It’s basically a merging of a lot of experiences. It’s the same concept as being in the car and romanticizing that song that my brother’s listening to. So I think a lot of these memories were me looking back. It’s all based on things that I really went through. There were times playing with fireworks, playing with dangerous things, falling under certain peer pressure from my brother. Also, I think it’s a great analogy for trauma. You know, things that carry with you. There are parts of you that get blown off by things that happen. So I think the big concept I was going through is that really, in all my records prior, there are firework sounds, and I just foreshadow to this moment, this big explosion. Then [with] “Friends Don’t Hurt Each Other,” it’s almost a bit eerie because it’s such a happy, heroic song. But really what I see in my head is this slow-motion moment of holding on to it too long and this thing happening. These two kids being like, “Oh shit, we messed up. Dad said not to do this, and we did it, and now what?” I saw it so clearly.

I saw Mac DeMarco helped you with the production on that track. You two are neighbors, right? 

Yeah, it was really trippy because we have tons of mutual friends, and years prior, there was a show I didn’t go to, and then they all kicked it afterward. So I’d always think, “Man, I’ve always brushed shoulders but never actually met him.” Then literally out of the blue in 2020, he just sends me a selfie and says, “Hey, I live the next street over. Why don’t you come over? You make cool rugs.” I think he was interested in making rugs. So then I went over, and we kicked it, and then I just talked his ear off. I asked a million questions, and you start to learn about each other’s processes. Then it just was this thing where we’re kicking it the whole entire time of making the record, and that was so instrumental to how it sounds because he really opened my ears, unknowingly. The way that he makes music and the way that he interacts with music is super contagious. I think people know that he’s a producer, and he makes a lot of his own stuff, but I don’t know if there’s as much detail on his ear and what his goal is in sound, you know? I feel like I really got to that, and it just totally changed the album. 

I didn’t realize he had that much influence over it. 

I’ve been a fan of him for years. I’d like to say we all have. Literally ask any of my friends, "Did you have a Mac phase?" and everyone did. So I think that coming full circle was really special, too. He’s the homie.

I saw that you have a track coming out with PinkPantheress at some point. How did you two link, and what’s it like to work with her? 

We had never exchanged a DM. She just came into town and got a hold of my management, and they’re just like, “You got to come over.” With every new session, you have to sit and really just shoot the shit. So it was a little mysterious at first. I’m just playing chords or on my drum machine or whatever, and it was intense. So then we talked for two, three hours, just laughing, telling stories, whatever. Then maybe five, six hours in, I was just on my Amiga, making a little beat, and I told her, “Sing into this Voice Memo, just whatever comes to you in the key of the song.” Then I came and chopped it up and made the beat, started arranging it. The whole time she’s behind me, on her phone, and she’s like, “All right, I wrote the song.” We did one take, and that was it. Then she left and came back, and we did a little bit more. She just hit me up to saying that she was going to post it on TikTok. To me, that’s my favorite thing about the whole thing. She just has a different way of thinking about music.