Wednesday 13 November 2013


← #16: SAMUEL #18: PSAPP →

At the end of last week I wrote about a really nice album. It's called Lava Diviner (Truestory) and it's by Botany and it's kinda a concept album built on the loose story of a religious cult praying for a volcano to explode. Whilst the songs worked out of context, so to speak, they most certainly worked in their intended order and I recommend having a listen. The atmosphere alone is really filmic stuff, so prepare to drift off and imagine.

Anyway. It was a really nice listen and I had fun going on the journey. There should be more concept albums. The flow is something else. I'm talking like I've never heard a concept album. But all of that aside, Botany himself was kind enough to lend his time in answering the Y/N lazy interview: lazy by name, not by nature. Please sit yourself down with a cup of tea or coffee or whatever you fancy, have a nice read of these words and enjoy.

Who are you? Where are you from? What do you do?
My name is Spencer Stephenson. I grew up in a small town in Texas called Weatherford, full of football-moms, chain restaurants, and conservative politics. I think the guitar player of White Denim is from here too. It's a place that anyone who wants to do or say anything moves out of as soon as possible. I make music as often as I can and schlep at a warehouse in Fort Worth, Texas. I would say I live there too, but I'm in a little bit of transient period. I don't live in LA or New York and I'm not from Detroit or Chicago. I have a life story that no one should pay attention to.

Why did you decide to start creating music?
I've been playing since I was 10 and making electronic and hip hop stuff since I was 15. I've always done it. It's a hermit-crab shell that I never outgrew.

How would you describe your sound? What makes you and your style stand out?
I would describe my sound as one that uses a hip-hop composition style to make anything that can possibly be made that way. I tend to gravitate towards themes like mysticism, wonder, fantasy, and the ancient world, anything that someone would call another person a nerd for liking.

Is there a perfect time and place for listening to your music?
That's totally up to the listener. I try to create enough of a "world" within the music itself for the listener to be able to listen to it anywhere at any time, but there are some places that are better than others. I'd recommend night time, outside.

What inspires you most when writing a song?
Usually a piece of an old record that would loop into something really interesting or pleasing to listen to. Landing on good drum sounds always pushes a song into the next dimension for me, too. If I like something I'm working on and that feeling doesn't go away then I'll finish the track.

What is your most memorable musical experience?
I opened for Panda Bear in 2011 in Dallas and it was the first time I played a big room by myself, to 500-800 people. It was really exhilarating.
Other than that some of my favorite musical moments have come from improvised jams between me and my friend Bruce Blay who makes music under the name Melting Season. We used to do a lot of free-form, krautrock-infused noise jams a

What are your favourite three songs at the moment?
Pharoah Sanders - "Greeting To Saud"
Four Tet - "Gong"
Ahnnu - "Mirror"

Who do you most admire in the music world?
Matthewdavid is doing some amazing shit with his label Leaving Records. They've partnered with Stones Throw for a few releases as well. Everything they put out sounds great and sounds so much more raw and alive than 99.9% of electronic music/hip-hop. When I first found out about them I felt a kinship immediately like "ah yeah someone gets it!" Some of the stuff on Leaving breathes so naturally you'd never know computers were involved. Perfect approach, and really relatable. To me anyway.

In your opinion, what is the future of music?
Well I see the kind of music that I do fully breaching the visual side of things. I hope to see albums released with some kind of fully interactive visual component, maybe one that is viewed through virtual-reality hardware. I often listen to music in dark rooms with my eyes wide open, it would be nice to put something in front of them and round out the experience that way.

Music is a personal experience and you can cherry-pick record stores and the internet and create a library that reflects your tastes perfectly in a much more specific way than ever before. I think we're at a point where artists are reaching for their own sound and identity like never before because of how saturated the music world is, and that's only going to make for a more personal experience on the listener's end as well.

What's the future of your music - what do you hope to do next?
I hope to just keep going and making music that I'm proud of. I'd like to work with more rappers and other vocalists, but not in a "featuring" way necessarily, not in a way that's sort of compartmentalized like "here's the beat, here's the singer." I'd like to work with vocalists who add to the music in a really integrated way instead of just floating over the top of it. That's not how I think about vocals. They're another instrument in the mix. I feel like too many vocalists give songs an ego and a face with what they do. I'd like to go the opposite route.

I'm working on an EP right now that should be out next year, I really like the material that's on that.

What, aside from music, is most important to you?
Staying on top of everything else so I can keep making music.

He comes across as wholly dedicated to not just the process of creating music but also to the intended purpose of music: listening. Which is a nice thing to hear. Enjoyment, as ever, seems to play a big part in whether music even gets made in the first place, and his idea for the future of music - a more pervasive visual element - is something that prolong, augment and even enhance the listening experience. I know that VJs exist but how often do you ever hear of a famous VJ? Matching movement, images, colour to sound (the video for Julien Mier's 'Super Tropic Tramp' is a perfect example) is probably as difficult as making sounds into a coherent, likeable flow in the first place.

Whilst he says "I have a life story that no one should pay attention to," I believe that a life story, anyone's life story actually, shapes the person they become. For a maker of music, especially one so entrenched in music from an early age, that life story is going to mark your sound somewhat. Growing up, he says, in the midst of a place "full of football-moms, chain restaurants, and conservative politics" might explain why his music is so escapist; it doesn't even lash out, it simply transports you from where you are to somewhere else.

I listened to Lava Diviner (Truestory) whilst I was walking around my own hometown early in the morning. It was still dark. Instead of the comfortable suburban housing and commuters walking to the train station, I focused on the music - I couldn't not. This is music that comes from a place where people feel they don't belong, and speaks to people in similar situations. For everyone else, his finely-crafted beats will attract you into the marginal soundscapes that live at the heart of Botany's music.

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