BAYNK: Budapest, Fergus And The Hunt For A Unique Sound
An interview by Sarah Kidd.
Imagine receiving an email inviting you to perform at one of the biggest music festivals in New Zealand. That’s exactly what happened to one of the local scenes freshest new talent on the block, Jock Nowell-Usticke – more commonly known on the Laneway circuit as BAYNK.
I recently had the chance to catch up with Jock to discuss what he’s been up to and all things Fergus related.
You actually got your artist name by writing twenty names down and BAYNK was the one that looked good on paper
So what were some of the other options?
They were so bad. I think I was going to call myself Wolf at some point (laughs) I think most of the names were animals that I liked; it was that childish that I just said no, I just had no clue! I was going to call myself Bugsy because that was what my Mum called me when I was a kid. Like Bugsy Malone. (laughs) I think those are the two that were most cringe. Actually, they probably weren’t the most cringe but I don’t wanna tell you the other ones!
I partially chose BAYNK because I speak like that, like I’ll say bank like it’s got a y in it. I have like a little speech thing where I say words with a y in there, it’s weird, I’m not sure what it is…
But that’s cool, because it adds a personal touch and elevates it from just being a name on piece of paper that looked good!
Yeah a little bit. I used to get mocked for it a lot as a child as well; which is probably why I went back to it for my own name!
Let’s talk music; your first single was the fantastically infectious ‘Sundae’, what was the inspiration behind it?
It was a part of a challenge I had put to myself where I was going to make a hundred songs in a hundred days and I only got to sixty and I think Sundae was like the maybe twenty first song that I made.
I had just finished university and I didn’t want to go and get an engineering job which is what I had studied and like it wasn’t my inspiration, but I was just at the computer going from genre to genre then I was just playing the piano and I found that chord progression. I was sick of going out to look for vocal samples, there was always issues with clearing samples or finding people to sing my songs that I liked, so I thought ‘you know what I’ve got a microphone here…I can kinda sing, I’m just going to do it by myself’
That’s rather impressive. So you mentioned that you were playing the piano, what other instruments can you play?
I can play the sax, I play saxophone when I play live and I can also play guitar reasonably well, those are my main instruments. I have been playing piano like seriously since I was five years old!
It’s interesting then that you travelled down the path of music production rather than the one of traditional singer-songwriter.
Yeah I did initially; I was never that into writing my own lyrics until recently. I was in a band, I was in several bands that just didn’t take off; I just didn’t really feel like everyone else was as passionate about it as I was. So I went solo and the electronic music thing is because I didn’t want to be a singer-songwriter so music production was the next logical step.
When you received the email inviting you to perform at Laneway you were in Budapest, correct?
I was in this massive supermarket in Budapest buying alcohol for a festival called Sziget. I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I finished university, so while I was making music on the side, we went backpacking around Europe for like seven or eight months.
I can imagine that the travel influenced some of the songs that you wrote?
I wrote ‘Could You’, ‘Find You’ and the start of ‘Someone’ all whilst I was overseas so almost half my stuff was written overseas! I was super inspired; I tried to make a different song in each different country.
So does lyric writing still make you cringe?
I don’t feel that way anymore. I think at the start I didn’t want … I didn’t want to put my feelings down on paper, I just wanted to keep them to myself and that paired with the fact that I wasn’t good at writing interesting lyrics made them seem super cringe to me but I’m getting better at it! (laughs) It’s always an awkward thing spilling your heart out to the world. I never wanted to write anything that didn’t mean anything to me; so you always want to write about something that you’re going through. It’s a little bit hard, knowing that strangers are listening to that.
You were recently involved in an amazing project with Apple Music for NZ Music Month – what did you take away from that?
It was so epic. I’d never been in a studio before that night and just the environment and having Neil Finn around all the time with the other artists … it was just like such a cool stage to be in especially as I am always working by myself; like always by myself in my bedroom!
It was inspiring to see other people working at their crafts, learning new tips and tricks, things that I wouldn’t normally do myself. I think that most of the lessons that I learnt were from my chats with Neil Finn himself, his stories, how he got to where he was, his songwriting process. A lot of doubts that I had about having to be inspired when you write; I will quite often just not write if I’m not inspired but Neil told me that real artists write all the time you don’t wait until inspiration strikes you, you have to do it whenever you can.
So out of all the singles that you have produced so far which one is your personal favourite?
Probably the one that says the most about me, which is ‘Poolside’; it was a hardcore solo effect – I like all my songs equally but that one I would say is it.
So how is Fergus? A big part of your life I take it (laughs)
Awwww Fergus! (laughs) Fergus is like … did you see the little music video that I made with Fergus? Myself and Fergus have a love/hate relationship the more I try to pull him into my creative stuff. (laughs) He’s not as keen as he may look in the videos. I remember I took him to a Nike video shoot once and was trying to get him involved and he just wasn’t playing ball. I gave him to a friend and said “If you could just like take him and make sure he’s got some water” and I think I forgot to tell him to tie him up. The door to the studio was left open and he just like went for a wander out into the middle of Auckland! Someone found him roaming the streets, and [long story short] a mutual friend picked up our dog and brought him back to the studio for us (laughs). He was ok, but I was like so embarrassed.
Your next live show here in Auckland will be at REC – a rather more intimate setting compared to Laneway!
That’s so much scarier! It’s way more intense. They’re just so more personal – it’s definitely a lot more rewarding if you get it right but it’s also … like they’re [fans] right in front of you; just looking at you the whole time so the expectation for me seems much higher!
So where to from here, are we talking drop an album time yet?
I’m going to do an EP very shortly, like in 2-3 months, and then I’m going to think about doing an album. It just needs two more songs, and I want to make the new song fantastic which is always hard to one up yourself!
Then I will think about an album, maybe do a bit of production for other people; but for me it’s always about making music that is completely like fresh. I want to go find sounds, like do a bit of research, get a sound that no one has heard before; that has always been the goal. I still don’t think I am quite there yet, I’m always searching for you know, unique.
Ok, last question for you; if you could play any festival in the world, where would you play?
I would play and it’s not a festival, it’s a venue; I would play Red Rock in Colorado. A lot of my heroes have played there and it’s the most unreal venue. It’s like the coolest venue I have ever seen!
BAYNK is embarking on a three date NZ Tour this August/September to celebrate the release of his new single ‘Come Home’. You can find out more information on the tour (including where to buy tickets) here.