Fresh out of playing Down the Rabbit Hole in O-Week, Baynk is an act that you don’t want to miss. With hits like “What You Need” reaching over 15 million streams on Spotify, Baynk (civilian name Jock Nowell-Usticke) is sure to please.
From humble beginnings as a chemical engineering student at Canterbury University, to touring the United States, Baynk’s rise has been swift and successful. His debut EP, “Someone’s EP,” was the product of a couple of years’ hard work and is a “big weight off my chest to be honest,” he said.
“I’ve been trying to put something like this out for ages. I only recently started doing music, and my production and voice were progressing quite quickly, so everything that I finished just felt old and the next thing was always so much better. I waited to get to the point where everything felt cohesive, and it’s great to finally have it out there.”
Beginning at 22 with a band in Christchurch, music was mostly a casual affair, “more a uni fun time,” playing at flat parties and other gigs. But Baynk had bigger plans, and wanted fame. “I wanted to do that instead of that chemical engineering shit I was doing,” he says. The band – called the “Flannel Gamblers” (there’s no “real reason” for the name, he said) – had managed to win a free day in a recording studio, but didn’t like “the sound of it at all”. But that had sparked him to just do it himself using some downloadable software, and he became “obsessed”. Ain’t that the Kiwi way. Experimenting with a “pretty acoustic, rocky track” and turning it into “something super electronic” seemed to work – “everyone was like this is pretty weird but whatever, we’ll go with it”.
The band are all still “very good mates,” with one of them even coming on tour to manage – “he’s useless at it but he’s one of my best friends so I can’t say no to him,” he said.
Baynk brings in a variety of elements to his music, with the base of electro-pop mixed with some down-beat and deconstructed break beats. His process is simple, but effective. “The best tracks always come about in five hours; things just click.”
“You’ll find a sample, a new synth sound, or a chord progression that works really well, and it’ll just roll so quickly that the track’ll be done in five hours. If I sit on something for too long, I’ll get sick of it and it’ll never come out. So if I don’t get it done in the first few days I’ll just let it go. I’m trying to come back to tracks now but the ones that stick with me, that I can listen to a hundred times, those are the ones I know are going to work.”
About to tour the US again in April, Baynk gets to work with some talented artists, including Mothica and Kacy Hill, who’s signed to Kanye West’s record label. “She’s got an amazing voice”, says Baynk. It’s been major lifestyle change for Baynk, going from being “just a guy with one song on the internet,” to playing nearly sold out venues in New York and working with acts from around the world. He does admit that in the beginning, the pressure was a bit much.
“I’ve levelled out a little bit now, but when I was on tour last year it was just so much to deal with, and I didn’t really understand what was happening. I just had to learn everything really fast, like it’s kinda hard to cope with; feeling so much pressure that your song did well in this place and are you going to make something that’s better? I struggled with that kind of pressure for a while but now I’m just sort of chilling out and making whatever I want to make. That first US tour was just an absolute blast but you do feel that pressure; it’s incredible but it also has its downsides as well.”
Every self-made artist has some big break. For Baynk, it was Laneway, the music festival that tours across New Zealand, Australia and Singapore. Being picked up to play when he was just starting out with his music on Soundcloud was “everything” to him.
“I didn’t send it anywhere, so I never really had validation from anyone that what I was doing was good. So just to get picked up was the biggest pat on the back,” he said.
“From the moment I got that email I knew that this might be a possibility, and other people were vibing with what I was doing. I needed that. Both to be able to play and for my self-confidence.”
He was back playing at Laneway as a major act this year, with a bigger set and more production. He likes to get in amongst at the shows, coming from “a band background so I’ve never really wanted to be a DJ; I’ve always wanted to be able to sing and interact with the crowd and not just touch knobs and put my hands in the air and whatnot”.
A motivation for us uni students to get up off of our asses and get shit done, Baynk shows that if you’ve got the talent, hard work and tenacity to make it, then you will. Keep an eye out for him in the future, and catch him on all your digital streaming platforms.