Welcome to Take Me Out, a semi-regular series wherein Kate Robertson, music critic and dating blogger, finally combines her expertise by going on a date with a musician and then sharing it with you. In this instalment, Kate goes trampolining with BAYNK, an unsigned New Zealand electronic artist who gets a million plays a month on Spotify.
If you’ve slapped your dial onto George FM or hit shuffle on some kind of ‘Chill Vibes’ or ‘Poolside Party’ playlist in the past 12 months, chances are, whether you know his name or not, you’re familiar with BAYNK. Born Jock Nowell-Usticke, his social media sells an image as vibey as his music, so for the last few months I’ve wanted to know more about him beyond his apparent chillness. How does he write the songs? Who are they about? What’s his whole life story? I’ll get to all of those things, but before I do, let me set the very, very romantic scene.
After an interview proposal so outrageous I assumed it would be declined, I found myself waiting outside Uptown Bounce in Grey Lynn for a super cool dude I’ve never met and might have absolutely nothing in common with. When I phoned up to book, the chirpy woman on the phone said, “Are you sure you don’t wanna go to Avondale? It’s more uh… adult-friendly.” I said no, Grey Lynn would be fine because I’d been to their fitness classes before and found it quite enjoyable. What I didn’t take into consideration was: a) it was school holidays; and b) it was raining. Is this an appropriate time to mention situations with more than about three kids give me great anxiety?
Not long after I finish checking my teeth for chia seeds, Jock arrives all smiles, looking very cool in black jeans and a black tee (myself looking more extra than all eight Real Housewives of Melbourne in my sparkly knuckle dusters and white leather ankle boots). His confident lad banter wins me over immediately and the hyperactive six year olds quickly become a hurdle that might just be manageable.
Jock excitedly tells me his mum banned him from the trampoline as a kid for writing himself off too many times, and all of a sudden the daring backflips I’m witnessing make sense. By the time we walk our clammy, sticky, way-too-tall adult bodies away from the tramps, I’ve concluded that there’s nothing like jumping around an awkwardly small trampoline park to bring two people together, and we part ways with just two injuries (both Jock’s), many laughs, and some pretty good Boomerangs for the gram. 10/10 would friend date again.
Important question I need to ask right off the bat, do you like the new Troye Sivan song?
I have and I really liked it! I clicked on it because I really liked the cover art, but yeah I’m into it I’ve only listened once, but I’m going to get back to it.
Great. That could’ve been a friendship dealbreaker.
He’s a beautiful man. He’s got blonde hair on the cover, doesn’t he?
I love ‘Youth’ as well.
I actually have a ‘Youth’ long sleeve in my bag right now.
You just carry it around with you?
No! It was my change of clothes, but it’s hot in here so I probably won’t wear it. Moving on, you studied engineering at Canterbury University, which I know from friends is a bit of a slog, how happy are you to not be an engineer right now?
So stoked! I kind of knew two or three years in that I didn’t like it, but I’d told myself it was uni and no one likes what they’re doing, I just had to push through. In the end, I was like, ‘I hate this, it’s bullshit.’
Did you do the honours year too?
Yep, four years.
When I listen to electronic music with a million different bits and pieces layered on top of each other it kind of makes my brain explode thinking about how you’d even get started on a song. How did you learn to do it?
I was of the same mindset as you when I started. It just seems far too complicated to even comprehend, but I think that’s because you’re only listening to the end product. The reality is it’s very slow and painstaking, but when you get into a flow zone it becomes mindless and you’re just doing it, you know what to do and stuff just happens. You’ll delete something, move another bit somewhere else, and honestly, it’s pretty subconscious for me when it works, which is maybe like 20% of the time. I definitely don’t go through and fine-tooth comb things, it just pours out. Once I’ve finished something I remember why I made it, but I can’t remember why I made all of the decisions. I think it’s just having a good ear. If you like good music and you’re interested in making music you’ll just make good stuff.
You also play a bunch of instruments – which one did you pick up first?
I learned piano first, not because I wanted to, but because my parents forced me to. I hated it and eventually quit. Then I learned guitar and saxophone, got in some bands. When I went to university I got back into piano. It wasn’t until I was about 22 that I started producing.
Were you just a total Christchurch rave fiend before that?
I wasn’t at all! I was a real goody two shoes and a bit nerdy at school, but I got a little looser at uni and dug a little more into the music scene. I didn’t listen to any of that crazy electronic music. I only started doing that stuff when I wanted to record our band’s music but didn’t know how to, so I just looked it up. I downloaded the first recommended software and got hooked straight away.
That’s how I learned to do my job as well! ‘How to Photoshop’ was a real lifesaver.
Really!? I’m obsessed with Photoshop as well. I spend a lot of my time taking pictures of things then fucking them up in Photoshop.
You’ve got a pretty impressive gram. Who’s the Instagram boyfriend taking them all for you?
My manager Stuart is the King of Instagram, but whoever is with me will take my photos. Pretty much any tour I go on I just ask one of my friends to quit their job and come with me for a bit. Stuart’s done it twice, another friend did it once.
You wrote that Someone’s EP “centres around the fear and insecurity of never finding that one person,” which made me tense up a little because it’s very vulnerable and really putting yourself out there. As someone who always opts for self-deprecating humour over real talk, I’d love to know whether or not that was scary for you? Being vulnerable like that?
It was so scary. I was exactly like you, and have been like that pretty much my whole life. Everything is a pisstake, hide all emotion, and I think it held me back on music for so long because I didn’t want to write lyrics, I just thought everything was trash or that I sounded like a pussy. It took me ages to break through that and just write whatever because that’s the stuff that does well and that people actually listen to. You can’t say you don’t care about that stuff because everyone does – they just aren’t screaming about it on social media. Sometimes it’s vulnerable on stage, but now that I’ve had lyrics out there I don’t care. At the time I thought everyone would be like ‘haha, you’re sad about this girl that didn’t like you,’ but everyone was actually like, ‘aww, you poor guy!’
Okay, pivot. Do you have any bad date stories you can share with me?
I’ve only been on one date in my life because I’ve had so many long-term girlfriends. I’m the type to have a girlfriend for three years, then after we break up, find myself in another relationship. The only date I’ve been on was with this girl in Copenhagen called Tayla. I think she was the hottest girl I’ve ever seen, no shit. Beforehand I was in a little park where it’s legal to smoke weed, and I don’t smoke it because I get super paranoid, but my friend was like ‘You’re not gonna be able to get through the date if you don’t have some of this hash brownie.’ I did it, and it went really well! I was super spacey and it was fine. It would’ve been way better if the story was a disaster but it was chill. The date went swell and we’re still friends now.
It could’ve been a disaster. You had me on the edge of my seat for a second.
It would’ve been a better story if it was a total nightmare and she poured wine all over me.
It’s on the record now so we know that’s a lie. How did you meet your current girlfriend?
She’s French, but I met her here. She was on an exchange and when I met her she didn’t really speak English. Actually, I went on a date with her too.
It was like, the day after we’d met and I took her to a dumpling place on Dominion Road. I ordered something way too spicy so was sweating the whole way through dinner. I was trying to explain the menu to her but she didn’t understand, so I just ordered for her and she couldn’t even understand what I was saying. We battled through conversation the entire time. Have you seen Love Actually?
Of course I have!
She was slightly better at English than that girl, but now she’s fluent.
Have you been Colin Firth and started learning French? Do you have Duolingo on your phone?
I do have it on my phone and I’ve gone through the first stages, but I don’t have the motivation to do it. She’s so angry about it, and I know I should because her family can’t speak English. She’s in Shanghai now on another exchange so it’s a very long-distance relationship, but we were together for six or seven months here in New Zealand.
That’s a good story.
It is. You should put that instead of the other one.
I’ll tell both.
BAYNK plays Auckland’s Laneway Festival on January 29
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