Kiwi electronic musician Baynk is becoming a wanted man in Los Angeles.
From Baynk and Kings
You might think a few friendly and familiar faces would help when setting up as a musician in a huge city such as Los Angeles. But for Jock Nowell-Usticke, who performs as Baynk, it’s the discomfort of new surroundings that is helping to spark his creative energy.
The 24-year-old’s rapid rise from University of Canterbury chemical engineering student to jet-setting music producer, via a debut EP and two US tours in two years, seems to have caught even him by surprise.
Just five days into his latest LA trip, he’s already had business meetings with Nike and Red Bull, been wooed by
“It makes me super uncomfortable and I get super anxious. But it gets me results so I have to go through with it.”
keyboard manufacturers and completed three recording sessions – including one with Kacy Hill, a signee to Kanye West’s GOOD Music label. “It all makes me super uncomfortable and I get super anxious about it,” says Nowell-Usticke, who is originally from Havelock North.
“But it gets me results, so I have to go through with it. I just know that if I’m too comfortable I just don’t make anything really interesting or fresh so, instead, I love putting myself in a situation with a new person knowing that I have to work something out.
“And that’s the whole thing with being in Los Angeles. It creates a vibe of being in a strange place without a lot of friends and finding new experiences and influences that can make a difference to what I write about and the sounds I’m going to make.”
Nowell-Usticke professes not to understand exactly how his creative process works. He admits to having learnt production through YouTube tutorials and e-books, and still turns to online self-help to hone his songwriting.
But there’s a precision to Baynk’s dancefloorfriendly tunes that rely on cruisy, minimal beats, smooth, soulful vocals and the odd horn to stand out from the crowd – especially stateside.
“A lot of their electronic sound here gets watered down and it takes people from far away, such as New Zealand, to sort of shake the mould a bit,” he says. “Definitely a large part of being able to do what I’ve done is that I’ve developed away from all of this and not been brought up in this crazy city with music everywhere.”
All of which has parallels to LA-based Kiwi producer Joel Little, who has had chart success this year with Imagine Dragons, Khalid, and his second outing alongside Lorde on Melodrama.
So it’s no surprise that the La-la-land newbie has already hit him up for advice. “Yes, actually I was at Joel Little’s house yesterday to ask him some questions and it was amazing to see how he did everything, how he works in the studio and how he builds his relationships with people like Broods and Lorde and all the artists he’s with now.”
So, the odd familiar face does help in LA? “I still really don’t know how it all works and every time I ask advice I get a different answer. Joel’s got so much great advice to give and that’s the sort of thing that helps you find your own path.”
Baynk appears at Rhythm & Vines, Gisborne, on December 29 and Laneway, Auckland, on January 29.
Jock Nowell-Usticke: learnt production through YouTube
tutorials and e-books.