Oli Bayston has had his deft fingers and sharp mind in many proverbial pies, having played in UK band Keith and having worked as an engineer and producer for various acclaimed projects. However, Bayston’s ‘solo’ venture Boxed In is where he has found a roadmap to his spirit. With the release of his self-titled debut and ready to embark on their first North American tour. I was able to catch Bayston (whom I like to call ‘Oli,’ now) on the precipice of some strong wind to hear his whispers and words about his influences and his deviations.
NT: On your new album, there are a number of aesthetic elements. Each song starts relatively simply but as it progresses, little bits of texture are introduced. What were you aiming for in terms of the production?
OB: When it comes to recording in the format, I thought completely electronic songs tend to sound one-dimensional, and I wanted to try to translate the electronic format into a live, playable one – to replicate the sound the live band I’ll be touring with in America.
The main concept for the production was that the most important thing is the songs. It didn’t matter how much production there was. I wanted the songs to be as sparse and simple as possible so each instrument could resonate in their own unique way. Not overly zealous, just a little colour, a little interest.
NT: You’re familiar with music production, and have collaborated with and produced many acts. When you transition from being a producer to a writer, what do you bring to your own project? How do you want to differentiate yourself from that aspect of your musicality?
OB: There’s two sides of the coin to creating music. In a way, there’s something slightly voyeuristic about one side of it. Producing is looking into someone else’s work, helping them realize their potential – it’s an exterior role. When you’re creating your own music, it’s a shift to more of an internal perspective. It’s really great in that they inform one another. There’s a similar mindset to creating and producing. Being a producer is enabling someone or a group of people to create material and bring out the best in them. It’s interesting, flipping the coin.
NT: You seem to be well versed in literature and art: your stage name Boxed In is inspired by a Francis Bacon painting. What are your musical influences?
OB: We are chalked up to our influences. Nothing is original, you are a creative product of what inspires you and I’m interested in all arts and I think it’s important to not be bound by one particular form. I just found a really interesting theme to center my music around.
There are some songs that are fairly personal, that show some fairly personal heartbreak. We tend to relate to that. That’s why there are so many love songs!
I’ve also drawn a lot of influence from other things, like I wrote a song based on Philip Pullman’s ‘Dark Materials’ books, where the character used a knife to open a parallel universe. I imagine myself as the last person left because the seam is closing up – the universe is similar to ours but operates in a transient way, so you can see your own spirit. There’s a spiritual undertone.
NT: There is something very specific to your sound. The textures and layers are very poignant, they feel so wonderfully crafted and calculated. Do you think working with a band allows you to be more spontaneous, letting the music have it’s own body?
OB: I absolutely love [working with a band and touring]. The recording process is sort of scientific and incremental and you’re working under microscope to define and detail. It’s wonderful to go for something completely improvised, and performing live is a visceral experience. There’s an energy, a feeling from the hips and up. You’re creating an energy in the room. I’ve gone from data analysis to recording to basically making a racket!
NT: Do you get nervous?
OB: If I stop getting nervous I should stop playing. When you become completely sure of yourself…it needs to be an emotional rollercoaster, an emotional circle. I want to create something that’s entrancing.
I’m really excited to be playing with Mark and Liam and Jack. Mark Nicholls from Keith and I have always been really close. One time, we went to a music festival in France and saw Liam (Hutton) playing with a band when he was seventeen. We were absolutely blown away! His friend Jack Benfield plays keys and we struck him up and now we’ve got this amazing thing. I’m so lucky. SXSW was our first time playing America, and we’ve toured Europe and the UK. We’re really excited to come back to America – it’s going to be great! Our first stop is in Seattle and we’re excited to see how the people respond to the music.
I’m so honored and humbled to be playing with some amazing bands. We’re playing with one of my favorite bands (TV on the Radio) in LA, which is being live broadcast on KPOW. It’s just wonderful.
NT: What are you plans for the future?
OB: Well, I’ve got 20 demos for the next album. I might record the album in November. Start rehearsals and record. I’m really excited when I’m writing.
With Boxed in I found my form. I found my musical personality. Once I found it, it’s been hard to stop. I feel comfortable and like I can represent myself. It’s very much an extension of me, and I don’t hold anything back.
Look for Boxed In on their North American tour and check out their self-titled debut album!
Interview by: Hailey Celesse McCarthy