Joris Benjamins, aka Bby Eco, is an Amsterdam based visual artist and recording musician bringing a whole new spirit to ‘earth conscious’ tracks. He recently debuted his new album titled Grow!, which embodies many facets of his personal anecdotes, as well as professional inspirations. It is a harmonious space between tension and tenderness which portrays a profound connection between nature in opposition to music. Bby Eco utilises the wonder of nature as a metaphor and source of energy, funnelling it into something which you can call ‘eco-pop,' bestowing a world into being, sentiment to bloom and serves as a catalyst for an ever-expanding metamorphosis.
All twelve tracks are produced by himself and collectively mastered with Khai Whiston. His use of breathy spells, hushing ambiences and hum-like lyricism reinforces his distinctive use of experimental reverberations and synthetic hisses. This album serves as a pathway to exploring ecological art and the intimate relationship between the sublunary world and us. We talk to Benjamins about his new album, Grow!, topics of metamorphosis, personal transformation, the relationship between organic and digital progressions and how he treats every sound as a living tool.
Could you explain who Bby Eco is to those who don’t know?
An earth spirit with a big heart and pointy ears who likes to sing hymns, make synthesiser patches and occasionally goes into the forest to take samples.
You mentioned your melodies use elements from nature and from there ‘eco-pop’ was birthed. Could you tell us a little more about what this genre means to you?
Eco-pop is the epitome of earth-conscious pop music, and an expansion of the instrumental ventures I was making previously. It interprets the beauty found in the natural world and one's personal relationship with that into a song. Utopic, light, quaking at times and made with love!
Congratulations on your debut album titled Grow! which delves into topics of metamorphosis and personal transformation (among many others). What does this symbolise to you as an artist as well as on a personal level?
Thank you, it's been a dream come true to put these songs out in the big wide world! I think I started working on the first demos exactly a year ago. As a person, I've learnt to rely on myself and my intuition a lot and the album is really a documentation of that transformation.
It came after a period of feeling really lost and anxious about what I wanted to do in music and life in general. It was a path that slowly unravelled itself as I was walking it, finding my voice to tell stories along the way, there seems to be this energy inherent to life that's always there to evolve and reinvent things.
Over the course of recording Grow!, I found that my approach in making music synchronises with that idea very well, letting go, trusting myself and allowing for things to grow into something I could have never imagined. The magic of surprising yourself is the best present you can receive.
Is there any method behind the chronological order of the tracks?
Definitely, as much of my songwriting is rooted in storytelling, I tried to convey that by sequencing the tracks as much as I could. It’s an intuitive process and whilst making the album I'd change the order of tracks all the time. I tried out a million things by adding and scrapping songs, reworking intros, interludes and outros. I wanted to let the tracks pour into each other in a natural and interesting way and I think I found a good balance in thematic, tactile and atmospheric connections.
You can basically separate the album into four different parts; each one starting with an instrumental track then followed by two sung songs. The instrumental ones function as these beat-less breaths of air in between more emotive and intense parts. I was aiming to create a feeling of evolution throughout the record. I think it can make a big impact on the experience of the individual songs too, knowing it's part of a bigger whole.
Metamorphosis explores a change of physical form, structure or substance. If it were possible, what alternate modifications would you like to embody and why?
As much as I'm super glad about what I can sense and feel, I've always been super fascinated by aquatic life-forms. I love swimming a lot too, so it would be a dream to have a set of gills and high-pressure resistant cell structures, so I can go for a breathless dive and explore the mystic ocean depths. Being able to make the things levitate would be my second choice.
The whole album is a mirage of hyper-digital, experimental reverbs and hushing ambiences. It’s like I’m walking on water one minute and I'm up on a cloud the next. How do you tend to create this tactile relationship between organic and digital progressions?
It's always been interesting to me to approach the making of sound in tactile and spatial ways. I want it to take me somewhere, either a place or memory, fantasy or a mix of both. It's what guides me whilst making a song. I process a lot of samples and field recordings. I stretch them by a thousand and affect them heavily to ultimately form something sentient and surrealist and lay them in the created space of a song. This space often has the makeup of a highly digital world.
However, when adding chords, rhythms or vocals to these sentient textures, many unexpected connections and moments in the composition come about. I tend to watch these closely and enhance these moments of symbiosis, as they make the song more playful and dynamic — I strive to make something that feels alive, so I treat every sound like a living thing too.
What similarities do you think nature and music encompass?
Both have the capacity to immerse myself deeply, give energy and communicate something somewhat spiritual. It feels like there’s happening more than you can consciously perceive. A place of nature feels different every time I visit, even though a stream or tree remains the same. There are always new details to be experienced. Nature and music both reflect my emotive state really clearly and it’s really interesting to look at that. To me, music is often a place for voyeurism, memory, love, energy, melancholy and euphoria and that’s what many places of nature are to me as well.
Grow! acts as a sort of utopian chronicle of the times but it’s also very realistic in its essence. What message do you want your audience to take away from this sonic narration?
I try to capture a sense of beauty in everything I make. It can be something I see in my surroundings, in nature, in the people close and around me. And it would be my biggest joy to have the music add some of that spark I see onto the world and shape something meaningful for other people as well!
“I strive to make something that feels alive, so I treat every sound like a living thing too.”
In what way do you think the human relationship towards nature has altered and how do see this connection progressing in the future?
Since the beginning of human agriculture, the relationship has always been largely the same – that of exploitation and growing demand for technological development – all dependent on natural resources and therewith affecting the natural world. It’s both a thrilling and insane natural phenomena on its own. This way of living is something that has brought much comfort to human life but also caused a great imbalance, resulting in a great loss of ecological diversity.
I believe we are very much a product of nature and we changed the course forever. We’re at a place where we have the ability to greatly impact the earth’s climate, nutrient cycles and ecosystems. Aspiring to live in harmony with these natural systems and striving for mutual benefit is really the only way to go. There’s so much life to be brought back and it starts with re-connecting and giving back to nature. It’s happening slowly and I’m trying to trust the process.
Sonic synths and psychedelic echoes are quite integral when it comes to your sound. Has this always been a preferred genre for you and why?
I grew up listening to a lot of sixties and seventies psychedelic music, especially in my teens, and still have a great love for that. It’s inherently very imaginative, expressive and free music, that instrumentally and lyrically wants to transport you to a different place or state of being. That idea appealed to me very much so and I believe this experience is what I sought in many other genres too. Especially in more experimental-electronic and ambient music, like that of Suzanne Ciani, Laraaji and Hiroshi Yoshimura.
Through this music, I quickly developed a love for vintage synths and their sonic aesthetic/behaviour. On Grow! I mainly used my Juno 60 and JP-8000 to write and record. Their spirits are very much embedded in all the songs.
I was wondering if you are planning on implementing nature within your digital/live performances and how would this look for you?
I recently worked on my first live video that was shot by me and Eefje Stenfert, and it premiered last Saturday! We shot it in a forest close to my hometown. There’s a special place there that almost appears as a stage of nature: soft moss beds surrounded by evergreens, fungi, singing birds and spider webs. I imagined having some sort of audience at the place would be very exciting. For the video, I asked 3D artist and musician, Thomas de Rijk, to bring some fantasy characters of mine to life.
There are cloud-flowers, shrooms and a butterfly that wiggle, dance and fly around me whilst performing the songs. I think having similar characters added to a real-life show in the form of costumes or stage props would super cool. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for in-real-life gigs this summer!
You and jewellery artist Simon Marsiglia are collaborating through a series of photographs of you wearing his accessories. Could you tell us a little more about this artistic display?
Simon and I are both very narratively-driven makers and when we collaborate, we come up with ideas very quickly. It's really nice to have our worlds of fantasy collide and see what exists in that space. He is really skilled in working with epoxy and silicone and makes the most miraculous wearable creature-like objects that occasionally extent the display of the human body.
For my live performance at Rewire 2021 coming soon, we came up with a design for a LED-lit glove for me to wear. We documented it through a series of images made by Simon too. It’s a token that hints towards an otherworldly fantasy and I’m really excited to be wearing it!
During the turmoil of the last year as well as the political, ecological and political crisis we face, where do you go to find your balance?
These are the coordinates of the place with probably the best bench I’ve ever found: 52.2103174, 5.8995194. It's great for long naps or listening to Grow!.
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