A Conversation with Bayonne: Drastic Measures and a Connection to Sound
>> On February 22nd, Bayonne released 'Drastic Measures,' a record which explored new dimensions for the minimalist electronic artist. In his interview, Roger Sellers discusses the meaning behind the songs on the LP, dives into his methods for capturing field recordings, and pays homage to the musicians that have shaped him throughout his career.
Could you explain the new artistic direction that you are taking on this release?
I mean, I think it’s a lot more accessible. In terms of the amount of time that I’ve spent on the production side of it. It sounds a lot cleaner. There’s also more structure to the songs, I think it’s more dynamic because there are actual choruses. A lot of my music in Bayonne has been based off of loops and then I kind of go off of that. But this release actually has choruses and bridges in current songs, and that’s something I’ve always wanted to do.
What made you decide to add field recordings into the album-- and where were many of these field recordings captured?
I mean, that’s kind of something I’ve always been into. I’ve always been into the activity of sound, even if it’s not music. I always have a field recorder along with me, a little Tascam field recorder. When I’m ever traveling I’ll have it in my backpack so if anything interesting ever comes up I’ll just you know, whip it out, capture the recording. Then, I’ll just throw it into a song sometimes. It just feels like you’re journaling, it makes a song more meaningful to me. It’s like you’re capturing little memories and when you listen to the song it just all comes back up.
Could you unpack some of the stories and messages that are being told within the songs on the album?
The title track of the record really encapsulates the full view of the album. It’s about the idea of taking drastic measures to make something happen as an artist, and just the massive risks and the mental and physical toll that it takes to be on the road and then get off the road, and the chaotic lifestyle of being a traveling artist. And then the song “Same” is really about the craft of everything that I do, and the insecurities and uncertainties and frustrations that are involved with it. A lot of it is just super personal. They could be about a person or an experience that has happened in the last three or four years that I’ve been touring. The song “Gift” is about a girlfriend I had at the time. I hadn’t seen her in a while and she came to Austin and she brought a record signed by Wye Oak, and she had it signed for me which just meant a lot. So, I guess that’s why the song is called “Gift.”
As a solo performer, what do you tap into to fill up a stage for your set?
I just channel whatever is going on. It’s just a good way to channel mental angst-- you know, it’s like therapy in a way. Whenever I’m on stage I just let low and let loose. I’m not a very-- well, I guess you could say I’m kind of shy socially at times. Especially if I’m around people that I don’t know. But for some reason when I’m on stage I can act in whatever way I want.
Where does your mind go when you’re in that zone?
I think it’s kind of random. Either I’m focused on what I’m doing, or sometimes I can be insecure about how I’m looking, but then when I’m really into it I’m just thinking about whatever’s going on in my life at the time. If there’s something painful going on at the time, then that’s where my mind will go.
What musicians do you draw influence from on 'Drastic Measures'?
There’s so many, but with this particular record, Wye Oak was huge because during the time I was listening to them so much. A band called Pinback that I’ve really loved since high school, they’re probably still my favorite band. I just love that kind of music. Anything that Rob Crow does, I love his sense of melody and the way that he structures songs too is just classic. And then the last song on the record was kind of influenced by Bon Iver. Animal Collective has been a huge influence on everything that Bayonne has done I think, in terms of-- I don’t know, kind of like a minimalist, using a lot of field recordings, samplings, kind of getting weird and repetitive… Animal Collective has been a super huge influence on everything that I do now.
What experiences outside of music and sound have been formative to your musicianship?
I suppose my desire to travel and traveling itself really inspires me a lot and makes me feel a lot and makes me want to write. And, just as I was growing up, my parents really-- well, that comes back to music, so I’d say mostly traveling really.
Are there any destinations on tour that you are particularly looking forward to?
I always like going to London, it’s just one of my favorite places to play, New York is always fun for me as well. Those are the two big ones for me. I also really love Portland and Seattle, the Pacific Northwest. Those would be my favorite places I would say.
Who was your favorite musician as a child and what impact did they have on you as an artist today?
When I was really young I started to listen to Phil Collins, and that’s kind of what got me into music and I just wanted to be a performer and drummer and I kind of started drumming before anything else. Even though it wasn’t really drumming it was just banging on cans. But yeah, I wanted to be Phil Collins and you can definitely hear it in my music, maybe not in the chord progressions or melody, but in the percussive nature of my music.
I would also say a lot of minimalist composers like Philip Glass and Steve Reich add to the percussive nature of my stuff too, and their repetition and their ability to allow repetition to be okay, and not being scared of it.
Where is your favorite place to write-- and why?
Probably my studio. I don’t go somewhere to write a song and then record it in a studio, it’s usually done at the same place at the same time. So, wherever my stuff is. Wherever my computer is and wherever my piano is to get it going.
Do you ever find yourself at an artistic standstill?
Oh yeah, basically all the time. It’s a constant battle.
What advice would you give to a young and aspiring musician?
I would say take your time and don’t rush, because it’s not an easy road to go down. Mentally prepare for things to maybe not workout but just pulling through. I’d also say creatively to do what you want to do and don’t try to be anybody else.
Do you have any strange or unique hobbies?
I like playing basketball a lot in my spare time and I also like playing video games. Lately, I’ve been playing NBA 2k19, I just got a PlayStation 4 and I’ve been playing that in my off time. I’m not the greatest cook but I’m trying to learn slowly. I like hot sauces, tasty hot sauces, and pickling vegetables, I do that a lot now too, it’s like therapy.
How are you planning to promote the LP?
Just rolling out and then touring as much as I can and working as hard as I can at presenting it well in a live setting. And then after that doing as much touring as I can to promote it. <<
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