Austin, Texas’ Roger Sellers, aka Bayonne, creates lush soundscapes that seem to come straight from the cineplex. He’s not a DJ. Rather, he’s a multi-instrumentalist who has mastered the art of looping to such a point that despite being the only person on stage, he seems as if he’s conducting an entire orchestra – one that includes all the wondrous sounds of nature.
His debut album under the name Bayonne, Primitives, is the result of over five years of songwriting and recording. He captures inspiration from everywhere he goes, yet manages to string it all together with shrewd continuity and without the slightest wrinkle in composition.
ARTISTdirect’s Christopher Friedmann caught up with Roger Sellers to discuss Primitives, lonely life on the road, and what it’s like having everyone think he’s a DJ.
How’s the Austin scene these days?
Ya know, it’s good. When it comes to Texas or this region of the United States, I feel like Austin is kind of, you know, there are a lot of creative people here and people aren’t afraid to try new things with music. I feel when it comes to the South, it’s the place to be in the music scene.
Are you doing your part to keep Austin weird?
Definitely. I guess what I do and that way I perform is definitely on the more eclectic/weird side of things. Yeah, I’m doing my part.
So you’re not a DJ right? I’m just kidding.
But everyone thought you were a DJ initially. Why did you feel compelled to make t-shirts that say “Roger Sellers is not a DJ?”
I don’t know if there are any t-shirts, I think it was just a sticker thing that I made as a joke because there were a lot of local publications and sources that would say “Late night DJ-set by DJ Roger Sellers,” and I actually have no idea how to DJ, like literally don’t know even where to begin. It’s more of an electronic-type performance than like a DJ thing. But because I’m wearing headphones and have a table, I understand where people get confused. I guess that it’s I’m playing drums and singing as well. It’s not like a DJ-set, you know.
You play all the instruments in your live shows. Looping everything back together. What’s it like to be on the stage all by your lonesome, responsible for everything?
It’s nice. It gets a little lonely sometimes. You don’t have anybody else if something really messes up or you get in a weird situation, you don’t have anybody else. So it’s all on you, which is little difficult. I like it, I feel in control. You just flip the switch and get in your own little world. So I just kind of imagine I’m in my bedroom or anywhere else, just kind of having fun with it. I think the headphones definitely help with that because I can kind of separate myself from the surroundings, no matter where I am.
That totally makes sense. The headphones take you into your own little world.
I feel like it’s my umbilical chord or something to the set. It’s connecting me and I’m just gonna do my own little thing.
The first time I heard your debut album, my boss sent me an email that just said “Give this a spin. It’s pretty as f.” And I could only respond was, in all-caps, “PRETTY AS F. What a pleasant way to start the day.” What inspires you to make such, for a lack of a better term, beautiful soundscapes?
Just like, I guess you’re talking about Primitives, I don’t know, I’ve just always liked kind of compositional work like movie scores and artists like John Bryan. I just really like good melody and good structured chords. I don’t know, soundscapes, it just came naturally. I like that kind of music. I like visual type, something that takes you there and is really emotional, like emotional sounding chords. Cinematic-like music, I’ve just always had a big obsession with.
Primitives is your first album under the name Bayonne. How does it feel to finally finish it and package it for all to hear?
It feels really good. It’s coming out on vinyl on Mom + Pop. It feels like it’s done at this point. Finally, it feels like a final product, holding it in my hand. It’s not really my property anymore I feel like. It’s like the public’s, whoever wants to listen to it now. It feels really good to be done with and actually have a solid product.
Do you have any specific moments from recording the album that represent the entire process for you?
Not any specific ones. I did a lot of field recordings. I think that was a lot of fun with this record. Just going out and getting a lot of random field recordings of like whatever was in front of me, or wherever I was traveling. I’ve always done that, I feel like. It’s not specific to Primitives. But there is no real equation in the recording process, I always have kinda done what I felt like. I guess the main specification to Primitives was looping, so I used a lot of the looper, but I would always do something kind of different with each song I felt like.
And the process was very long, the songs were written for a long time, a lot of the songs were written for awhile before I actually made the record, so I was performing them live for a long time before the record actually came out. So yea, it was a very eclectic long process. There were a lot of different pieces to it over the years.
How long did it take you to put the record together?
The songs that I was working on, five years or so. I was performing a lot of these songs live, and finally I decided to make it a record. I didn’t ever think I would, for some reason. I thought it would be too much of a challenge or something to make it sound interesting on a record. And the actual recording, the real process of it, was about seven or eight months. So I mean it was pretty meticulous, but that’s not that long I guess to make a record. It’s about normal, I feel like.
Given that length of time for the recording process, did you find it difficult to capture the spontaneity of creation?
I don’t think it was very difficult. I think the spontaneity made it fun. It was extracted from different sources of inspiration throughout the years, so it was pretty simple on a creative level. I think it was just more meticulous technically. I wouldn’t call it difficult. It just took a while.
You are about to starting touring for this record. Is it lonely being on the road as a one-man-who-can-do-it-all sort of band?
Yea. I mean there is something to say about having a whole band. It’s more lively and this more to separate your mind with. But doing it by myself is not so bad because of the same reasons. There are not as many personalities. Things are a little more simple. And I had a tour manager so… I think it’s easy with two people. But there is definitely something to be said for not having the band tour life because that can be really fun too.
Are there any shows you are particularly excited for?
Oh yeah, definitely. I’m doing a little run with SMALL BLACK, which I’m really excited about, going up to the Midwest and the Northeast, and coming back down. And right after South by, I’m going to West Coast and doing some shows, going through Denver, coming back down. And then Levitation, which I’m really excited for, in Austin in May. And Sasquatch! as well, which I’m super stoked about.
You’re getting some pretty awesome comparisons right now to acts like Caribou and Panda Bear. What does that feel like?
It feels good. It feels about right. I think those are pretty on-point comparisons, but yeah, those are two of my favorite acts, so I feel honored.
Do you draw any inspiration from them?
I’d say more so Panda Bear than Caribou. I like Caribou’s music a lot, but inspiration from Panda Bear for sure, like Animal Collective in general.
If you could share a stage with any band right now, who would it be?
I’ve always really wanted to go on tour with Animal Collective. Honestly I think it’s funny that was the next question because I would probably say Animal Collective. I think in terms of just drawing from inspiration and bands that have really helped me out both on a performance level and on a compositional level. I think there are other bands that would fit better probably, but just in terms of a good old time, I would say Animal Collective. I mean that would be pretty amazing.
Do you think there are any benefits to traveling the road alone with just a tour manager?
Yeah, there are definitely benefits to it. Like I said earlier, it does get a little lonely when it’s just the two of us, but it makes things really simple. There’s less personality. It’s cheaper in terms of lodging and hotels. There’s less people to feed. It’s easy. You usually don’t get s****y with each other when there’s only two of you. If there’s anymore, I feel like that’s when people start getting s****y with each other. Because you can’t, it’s really not an option to get s****y because there are two of you. You gotta handle your s***.
Are there any words you would like to end the interview with?
That I’m really stoked to be releasing the record on March 25th on Mom + Pop. I am very very stoked that I’m able to do that.
Purchase Bayonne music on iTunes.
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