Armed with art-pop wiles and a monochromatic smile, Melbourne-based producer and songwriter Blyolk (pronounced 'bloke') is undeniably one of fascination and innovation; lacing futuristic effects with psychedelic undertones, the so-called "warped pop"is alive and well with this enthralling artist, and his latest single 'Dogspeed' has certainly set the bar sky-high for his future releases.
Demonstrating an effortless flair for the theatrical and technical, Blyolk's new track explores slightly darker thematic and sonic tones, while still retaining a lush interchange between lo-fi and hi-fi textures that ferry you along on a whimsical journey, bewitching you at every twist and turn. With the promise of new music set to release this year, there's undoubtedly more dazzling surprises in-store, but before the next musical adventure unfurls we grabbed Blyolk for an in-depth chat about creativity, inspirations, inflatable band members and more! Interview below.
TIANA SPETER: Hello and thank you so much for taking the time to chat. It’s been so awesome to hear a new tune from you with ‘Dogspeed’ unveiling recently, and it already seems to be gaining a whole lotta love, including a cheeky triple j spin. How’s the reaction been to the track so far overall?
BLYOLK: After being away for a while, it’s so heartwarming to know that people still want to hear new music from me. I’m really grateful for the support from Triple J and the Unearthed team. A lot of people have said that Dogspeed is their favourite song yet! It’s really affirming of of my development as an artist. Many artists I admire talk about how when a song is released it’s then audiences song to make their own. It’s amazing to hear what Dogspeed means to everyone in different ways. Dogspeed’s a little off the path to my old stuff, it’s darkest song tone wise.It’s so cool that the old fans are embracing it and I’m finding new audiences as well.
TIANA SPETER: And I’ve read that this time around saw you partially ease off on the production side of things and focus more on your artistry and message. Was this change of pace one of that you think you’re likely to repeat again with upcoming material? And what was the experience like working alongside Toby Dundas?
BLYOLK: After my last single ‘Shun The Sun’ I got to a point where I felt somewhat burnt out and lacking general perspective with the music I was making. Collaborations always been something I’ve done. With Blyolk it’s really just been on non musical things, like photos, videos, etc. But it was a really big part of my old musical projects and it was something I wanted to return to doing. The tone for Blyolk had been set with ‘Don Wowry’ which I spent nearly two years doing almost completely on my own. The reaction completely exceeded my expectations and so I continued down that path. In a craftsman sort of way, it’s satisfying to finish things on your own, once they’re done, but it didn’t exactly make me a happy human during the process. This in turn trickles into my writing and general work ethic. So I had to sort of redefine Blyolk to myself!I’ve been incredibly fortunate to work with super talented people on Dogspeed and other upcoming music. Toby has been amazing, he’s extremely patient with me. He’s taken in a lot of the details of my process but then is also able to give me a lot of perspective I absolutely needed. He’s definitely been a bit of a mentor to me. He’s finished multiple records, toured the world, is an extremely skilled drummer, but is also a great listener and hang! It’s so great because he also relates to the early stages of being an artist. We just finished mixing another track he co-produced. I’m super excited for it as I think it’s our best one yet from the sessions!
TIANA SPETER: ‘Dogspeed’ also came equipped with an accompanying music video – a slick little number indeed, and directed by the legendary Giulia McGauran no less! Did you go into this with a clear concept in mind, or did it evolve working with Giulia?
BLYOLK: Yeah she’s fast become a legend for sure! Giulia is just the best at extending my vision into a super compelling visual. I LOVE her sense of colour!A lot of planning can go into a shoot but her ability to be spontaneous is something that I really admire and love. In the last hour of the photoshoot, Giulia thought it would be neat to run liquid through the tubes, I was lying in a latex cocoon and she comes back with Strawberry Big M! I drunk like a whole litre in 20 minutes and nearly threw up on Giulia..The photo was for another shelved single but we both loved the photo so much. Milk felt very much in a Blyolk thing but it also tied really well to the soul sucking theme of Dogspeed.
TIANA SPETER: Your tunes have consistently been little bubbles of woozy pop wonderment, but ‘Dogspeed’ seems to wander into some slightly darker tones, befitting of the lyrics. How do these curious gems come to life, what is the creative process like for you as an artist?
BLYOLK: Back in 2017 I was doing this delivery job which I didn’t like much. It involved me driving around in my car with flyers and barely making enough to cover my fuel costs!I start taking my laptop to accompany my driving in case ideas struck me. One day I was on break and made this demo in about half an hour. I sung into my laptop mic with iZotope vocal synth. It’s a super fun plugin for Ableton that makes all these robot voices, (it’s the ‘mmm’ sounds after the intro horn part). I was listening to Chet Faker or something too, the first demo was a lot less dark.But then I started chopping up these saxophone recordings I’d done with Charlie Woods. He plays on ‘Shun The Sun’ and with me at live shows. I made this almost sample esque thing - it’s the first main part you hear in Dogspeed. The sound had a lot of character which kinda pushes the track into a new direction. Lyric wise I’d also been in a mental place of feeling kinda burnt out by the shallow aspects of gaining some public praise when releasing music. You question whether people care about you if you’re not in the spotlight or are some kind of asset to their public lives.I had a friend who I always saw as a bit of a social media showoff. It seemed like they were always there when they could take something from you, even if it was as little as trying to get free drinks at my shows etc. I wrote Dogspeed as a bit of a middle finger to them with a bit of hope that eventually everyone would expose them as a social climber and soul sucking person. I guess as well we all can be at times, I’m definitely not perfect and it makes me reflect on how sometimes I need to just try to be real with people, be myself and not have a particular end goal to a social interaction. On my general creative process, I write anywhere! I tried to inject a bit of randomness or something unexpected so I draws something new out of myself. I grew up learning piano and guitar and I guess in the same way you write a riff, making a particular sample esque phrase (like the one from Dogspeed) can be enough to melodically get me going. I’ve always loved great pop songs that masquerade as other things!
BLYOLK//pic by Giulia McGauran
TIANA SPETER: It’s been a little time between new tunes for you now, was it a conscious effort to step back and hone this new material and take a new perspective on your songwriting?
BLYOLK: Absolutely I just needed some perspective on my songs and sonic direction. Believe me, I really wanted to put out music earlier but I just needed to time to explore things on my own.I’ve been mixing a whole bunch of new material and reflecting on those sessions it’s been amazing to think about songwriting as this lifelong craft.Listening to and referencing a lot of great songs (both new and old) helped a lot. I literally had the most amazing drive home last week listening ABBA greatest hits. Even their biggest stuff like Dancing Queen is so amazingly constructed. I totally still see these ideas applying to music made now.
TIANA SPETER: And for an artist rapidly becoming renowned for your unique tones and innovative stylings – I’m fascinated to know what inspires you, both musically and on a personal level, are there particular muses in your life that have helped shape your musical journey so far?
BLYOLK: I’ll just name a few; Samuel Sproull, Toby Dundas, a lot my friends like Pete Stathopoulos (of the band FiveFours) and Emily Wilson (of Prickle) and my dad!I also love a good pun and tasty food of any kind.
TIANA SPETER: For a purveyor of “weird pop” – what artists did you actually grow up listening to? There’s a whole lot of musical influences attached to your style, but did you grow up listening to stuff in this psychy, art-poppy world?
BLYOLK: I grew up listening to a whole lot of stuff really! Savage Garden, Cat Stevens, The Beatles, Fleetwood Mac, Queen, AC/DC, I’d say just a lot of good pop!But with these artists they all had their signature things. For instance, I spent years studying Angus Young’s guitar playing, trying to learn his vibrato technique. I think I just really wanted to find something of my own to show. I feel that some people view my influences as somewhat underground and artsy, but I just like try sounds in place of my default instruments like guitar. For a while I really avoided picking it up, but I really like how I’m implementing the guitar back into my songs. It’s also a really great test for whether songs translate away from the studio.
TIANA SPETER: Not only have you turned ears and heads with your tunes, you’ve also amassed quite a reputation for your live shows. Do you enjoy the performance aspect equally with the recording/writing process? And for those who are yet to witness you live, what can one expect from a Blyolk live show?
BLYOLK: Oh thank you! I just always try to put together live shows as something that I’d enjoy watching as audience member. I’m always singing, jump on and off the guitar, I have a little backing choir, naughty saxophone and always a few drums to hit. Plus this time I’ve got additional inflatable band members - so cheap to take on the road! And yes I absolutely love playing live. Seeing the audiences reaction to new songs and feeling the energy in the room is the best feeling.
BLYOLK//pic by Briana Davis
TIANA SPETER: So, traipsing back briefly to touch on ‘Dogspeed’ again, it’s your first new tune for 2019, but it’s also the first track off your forthcoming debut EP due out later this year. Is there anything else you can reveal about what’s to come from the EP?
BLYOLK: SO MANY THINGS, I can honestly say that the EP has been one of the most satisfying things I’ve ever made in my life. But it’s also me laying myself out all over the record. It’s me becoming more comfortable sharing my life through the songs. I think they’re a lot more direct, but I guess everyone listening will be the judge on that! It touches on all the important things in life; love, dumplings, overthinking, Kurt Cobain, etc.
TIANA SPETER: You’ve been compared to artists including Beck, St Vincent, The Avalanches…I could go on. But do you have any specific bucket list artists you’d love to share the stage with one day?
BLYOLK: Yep those three for sure, also Gorillaz, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Grimes, Nine Inch Nails, Noel Gallagher and Perfume Genius would all be incredible. Locals wise, I’d love to support Ecca Vandal, DD Dumbo, Alice Ivy, G Flip and Mallrat among others.
TIANA SPETER: And finally, I’ve read you chat about the lyrical meaning behind ‘Dogspeed’, dedicated to people who suck the life out of us. What’s your best piece of advice for those of us wanting to rid ourselves of these so-called friends in our lives?
BLYOLK: Just try to be yourself and try stop worrying about trying to please everyone else!I feel that you then attract people that will mean something to you. Having that confidence in your friends helps you to pick out the weeds.
BLYOLK'S BRAND NEW TRACK 'DOGSPEED' IS OUT AND ABOUT IN THE WORLD NOW, FOR MORE HEAD HERE.
BY TIANA SPETER