Something to Lose is Better Person’s (pseudonym of Adam Byczkowski) debut album. In his new project the young singer and songwriter – originally from Warsaw but now based in Berlin – talks about every kind of feelings inside of him, especially about falling very deeply in love for someone. With a nostalgic and bittersweet aesthetic, this album mixes lo-fi synth-pop with late-night loneliness in such a special and magical way.
First of all, could you introduce yourself and tell us who Better Person is?
My name is Adam, I’m a musician living in Berlin, Germany. Better Person is my stage name.
Where does this name come from? Do you think music makes you a better person, literally?
Around 2015, I started making these home-made pop ballads and I wanted to put them out on the Internet but didn’t want to use my real name for it – simply because Byczkowski it’s not that catchy of a name. The name Better Person came from my friend Dawid Szczęsny (another pop star surname), and I loved it immediately. There’s some kind of sadness and bittersweetness to it that I really like. It’s only a name though, something that gives a certain vibe to the music.
You are Polish but moved to Berlin to live and work on your career, why did you decide to move there?
It was a natural move for me. I started spending more and more time in Berlin (it’s really close, a five-hour ride from Warsaw), meeting people there, and at the same time growing tired of Warsaw. At one point I felt like it was time to go, so I just packed my stuff, got a cheap, small room in Berlin and stayed. I’ve been living here on and off for eight years.
“A while ago I decided to abandon my dreams of creative consistency and artistic routine. Forcing myself to write every day makes me feel depressed and disappointed with myself. That’s why I try to only write when I feel inspired; for me it’s the only way to access any kind of truth or sincerity.” 
What do you think the German capital offers you that Warsaw doesn’t?
The list is long. Something that hit me immediately when I moved here eight years ago was the freedom. In Poland, I was used to having to be constantly alert because I’d never know when and where some thugs would appear and beat the shit out of me. It’s depressing. Berlin appeared to me as a fantastic place where you can do and wear whatever you want, whenever you want. It’s still somehow true, but only if you manage to get through the Kafkaesque German bureaucracy hell. It’s also the only metropolis in the European Union in which you can get by with only speaking English.
I read that you are quite a nomadic person and, as I was saying, you have lived in Warsaw, Berlin and previously, in Montreal too. Would you say the place you live in affects the outcome of your music?
Absolutely. Where I live strongly affects my mood, so whether I want it or not, it affects my music as well. I get inspired by different places and smells. Often when I write, I try to think of a specific landscape, some place I miss.
Since we’re all stuck in our cities/countries due to the travel bans and restrictions, how are you living this situation as an artist and individual? How are you coping with everything?
I actually caught the virus myself in March, and it hit me pretty hard. It’s been eight months now and I’m still weak and recovering, which means that I couldn’t really tour anyway right now. So, in a selfish way, I’m happy about all the lockdowns – at least I’m not struggling too much with my fear of missing out as I’m recovering at home.
I also had to quit smoking and drinking, started meditating and eating very healthy so it’s not all so bad. The only sad thing is that because of all the bans and restrictions, my album didn’t get as much attention as everyone expected. But it’s not the end of the world, I’ll make one hundred more in my life anyway!
You make all of your music on your own, both the instrumental and the vocals, what is your creative process like? Guide us through your work.
I don’t have a strict process. A while ago I decided to abandon my dreams of creative consistency and artistic routine. Forcing myself to write every day makes me feel depressed and disappointed with myself. That’s why I try to only write when I feel inspired; for me, it’s the only way to access any kind of truth or sincerity.
I typically sit with a keyboard and try to come up with a combination of chords that take me somewhere or represent some kind of feeling that I have inside of me. I’m constantly trying to move. Whenever that happens, it almost immediately locks in with some kind of singing melody line. If I’m exceptionally lucky the melody comes with words. If not, it often becomes a struggle. It’s extremely hard to write any lyrics outside of that one moment of inspiration. I’ve abandoned many melodic ideas because I got stuck with no words.
After I have some kind of skeletal idea of a song, I start arranging it, choosing sounds, adding more layers, bass, strings, little melodies, etc. – dressing it up. That is my favourite part of the process and, in my opinion, my biggest strength. After that, the song is usually finished.
Your style and aesthetics remind me a lot of the ‘80s. Many of your songs evoke bands like Talk Talk, Double or George Michael, which artists do you look up to? How do they inspire you these days and in your daily life?
To make my music, I use a lot of instruments and sounds that remind people of the 1980s (keyboards, drum machines, synthetic sounds), but I’m not really focused on that specific era when I think about my music. Synthetic instruments allow me to easily create fully arranged songs and atmospheres from my bedroom.
I’m inspired by a whole variety of styles from different times, from classic ‘70s songwriters, soft rock, folk music, movie soundtracks, funny Europop hits, forgotten ‘80s power ballads, all the way to contemporary pop, new age, tonnes of Brazilian music and chamber music. Anything that moves me at the moment. If I ever listen to 1980s music, it’s very rarely the top-charting artists from that time. There’s a lot of unknown, strange and obscure music coming from that era, enough to discover new songs for the next decades!
You explained that Something to Lose is the first happy song you’ve written, what inspired you to create it?
I was really high on this feeling of fresh love, a moment when you realise that you’re falling very deeply for someone. It made me feel very energised and ecstatic. That feeling is definitely worth writing songs about, and I decided to make it a central piece of the album.
In an interview, you explained that the songs on the new album are dedicated to your partner, Jane. Do you consider yourself a romantic? Is Something to Lose, in some way, an ode to love?
Yeah, I wanted to make an album that’s not entirely depressing. I’ve complained enough in my songs already. I feel like humans don’t make that much sincere music about love anymore. I was in the middle of that feeling myself so it felt like a natural thing to write about.
You met Ben Goldwasser – producer of Something to Lose and member of the band MGMT– at a party in Berlin. You both connected very well and decided to work together on the project, what¡s the experience been like? What do you think his vision has offered to the final record?
I’m very happy with how things went. First of all, I had to move to Los Angeles for half a year to finish the album with Ben, which is never a bad thing, especially in the wintertime. At first, I was a little worried about working on my music with another person – I usually have a strong vision of how things have to sound and feel, and I’m incredibly inflexible when it comes to that. But shortly after we started working together, it turned out that our points of view are very much the same, and we never had a single moment of disagreement. Ben knew exactly where I wanted to get sound-wise and provided me with the tools to do so.
You sing in Polish in some of the songs, why did you decide to go about this? Is it premeditated, or do you just write them in Polish naturally?
It’s something that I don’t have any control over. Some songs come to me in English and some in Polish as soon as I open my mouth. Aesthetically, I personally often prefer the Polish ones as I find that Polish singing makes them more special and beautiful, but I can never force it. I have to be patient.
The video of Something to Lose is quite unusual. It’s a fixed shot in which you appear dancing throughout in front of a skyscraper. Could you tell us more about it?
I had all these plans of making grand music videos with my usual collaborator, Moritz Freudenberg, in Los Angeles, but then the pandemic happened and I got very sick, so I had to improvise something very quickly. I was in Montreal at the time, so I asked my buddy Geoff Meugens to come over and film me singing some of my songs.
We decided to drive up to a nice park lane where you can see a bit of the city skyline. After filming, I sent the material to Moritz for colour edition and to Max Winter, who took care of the graphic design. It was all made in a rush and very much last minute, but I’m happy with the outcome.
How do you see the future of both your music and the art scene in general in these pandemic times?
It might get difficult and I might need to get a different job for a while but that’s ok. I’ll never stop making music. At the end of the day, those little songs I make are, in a way, all I have, so I can never stop.
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