In three short years, Boxed In - otherwise known as British singer-songwriter-record producer Oli Bayston - has released two records, the latest of which - Melt - was released in September.
What marks this sophomore effort apart from his eponymous debut, however, is his decision to expand the writing and producing process so as to incorporate his three band members, Jack Benfield, Mark Nicholls and Liam Hutton.
Ahead of hitting the road for a new tour, Bayston took a time out from rehearsal to tell us about the new record, his influences and how he believes the new album will correlate to a live music setting.
How would you say the new record is going to alter your live performance?
I think compared to the first album it’s a lot more synth based and possibly - not necessarily more beat-driven - but maybe a little bit more electronic. It tends to transfer a little bit more of a danceable gig which we kind of intended. It seems to go down well live. We're playing some of the slower songs on this tour as well so, hopefully, there’ll be some variety.
Releasing a follow-up album so soon after your first is admirable.
It’s pretty exhausting as well [laughs].
What was the thought process behind that decision?
There was no thought process behind releasing it as quickly after the first one. There's no point waiting on songs if I've written them and I turned the production round quite quickly. We've had a really good run and a lot more gigs than we thought we’d play after the first album. During that point, I wrote a lot - even wrote a few with the band for the first time as well. We felt there was no point in waiting around - if we’ve got the material and the facilities to make the record, why not crack on with the second one?
What were you listening to when you were writing and producing this record?
I'm a huge fan of piano playing. I love the theme called Conversations With Myself [by American jazz musician Bill Evans] which kind of blended in with the lyrical theme that I was coming up with. Basically I'm having a conversation with myself trying to figure out what it is I'm doing at this point in my life. It's like three midlife crises - just trying to figure out what it is I'm gonna do in five or ten years and just going through that process lots of people go through when they’re in their thirties so I'm kind of battling with myself through the songs which is why there'is a lyrical theme to that. So yeah, that record had a big influence on me. I listened to a lot of [composer] Terry Riley, and obviously developing beyond the first record, I was listening to a lot of Detroit techno and German alternative music - Harmonia, Dusseldorf, Kraftwerk and Can. Obviously, it's terrible to hear the news of [Can's founding member and drummer] Jaki Liebezeit dying recently. He's always been a massive influence of mine.
What do you think the band expansion brought to Melt?
I think it was a natural development really. Because we played a lot of gigs during that year, it felt like a real shame not to get involved with the progression we made as a group of musicians together. I was just really keen to try writing songs with the guys as well. We quite often come up with things on the fly while playing together when rehearsing which organically grew into new songs. So I feel like there has been a nice unforced natural progression into being a bit more of a four-piece band.
What's the difference in producing your own music than producing music for someone else?
I think initially I found it harder to produce music for myself because I'm very close to it. I'm finding it easier as I get on. I kind of step very naturally into the role of producing other people because I just really love helping others better themselves, better their music. I like wearing two hats - one as an artist, the other as producer - it offers new complexity every time and I have to compartmentalise each bit, so as the artist - then step away, think about the music, then think about a different slightly more theoretical angle on things rather than the more visceral spontaneous angle you take for being an artist. They are different difficult roles.
Are there lots of times where you're convinced something works better for an artist than the thing they want?
Yeah, always. That’s something you come up with but then again those kind of things are subjective. But I guess it comes down to a feeling of trust between the people you’re working with and between each other. You will have disagreements when coming up with creative decisions because everyone’s got their own ideas - I think it’s nice to work with people who have a strong sense of self but sometimes stubbornness can get in the way. You’ve just got to gauge it and hope that the people you work with are cool.
Are your live performances enhanced by your own live music watching experiences?
Completely - everyone’s influenced by the people they see around them and enjoy. I think you’re a product of your own experiences and loves. Any musicians I've seen and enjoyed live I’m sure there's an element of their set I can relay when I'm on stage with the boys.
What do you want people to take away as the overriding themes of Melt?
[I want them to] have solace in the fact they may not be the only people that find life as fragmented as it can be at times, but to just enjoy it... and let it all melt away.
Do you have a particular affinity to a certain track?
It changes really. At the moment, “Open Ended” is probably my favourite tune; I certainly enjoy playing that live the most at the moment. The set is mainly pretty upbeat so to have a slower tune in there - I just really enjoy expressing a slower groove. I think we’re all loving playing that one at the moment. “Oxbow” as well.
Have you ever been approached to soundtrack a film or television show?
I did a remix of Primal Scream, “Screamadelica” for BT Sport. It's one of my favourite tunes from when I was a kid so it was a real honour to do that. But I would absolutely love to do a soundtrack at some point down the line. It's really important - particularly when you’re making something - to think about it in terms of mixed media; if you can visualise a sound, it means you're making something evocative
Melt is available to own now. Boxed In's tour dates can be found below - tickets here:
FEB 10 CARDIFF – CLQB IFOR BACH
FEB 11 EXETER – PHOENIX
FEB 13 LONDON – VILLAGE UNDERGROUND