All words: Lu Makoboka
When we speak of ‘Dream Pop’ here in South Africa, Bye Beneco is a band that simply cannot escape mention. The group is gifted with this aptitude of creating melodies that are eerily catchy, thus taking their audience into a sonic journey that they are bound to remember. In the past I heard tales of their EU tour and their impressive opening for Ben Howard, all I can say is that I’ve done my fair share of waiting as I finally experienced their live performance at Rocking the Daisies 2018. I guess the reason why many connect with their music has to do with the juxtaposition between the atmospheric textures and the stories elegantly painted by Lenny Dee (lead singer) which the youth can relate too. In our conversation with the band, we discuss childhood, self-care and much more.
MCBN: Space Elephant and Ghetto Disko are the two projects in your catalogue and it seems like themes of love and romance take centre stage, especially on Ghetto Disko. What were some of the challenges the band experienced during the creative process of Space Elephant and Ghetto Disko respectively?
Bye Beneco: The biggest challenge on Space Elephant was probably being a band that hadn’t been in studio before. It was a work-shopped album so a good portion of songs were completed in studio. We did have the luxury of time on SE, which allowed us to really expand on the ideas we were forming. You can hear the layers on this album. Time was against us on Ghetto Disko but the songs were fully developed by the time we went into studio. This was a brand new direction for the band and essentially the beginning of a new chapter for Bye Beneco sonically.
MCBN: On the subject of creativity, during the songwriting process are you more interested in detailing your experiences and giving the audience a snapshot of your psyche, or providing them with something to imprint their own psyche onto?
A lot of what Lenny-Dee writes is personal experience. Sometimes embellished. The lyrics often just happen/flow but it’s her way of processing her inner thoughts and feelings. So, yeah I guess it’s probably a snapshot of her psyche.
MCBN: The outfits worn in some of your social media posts and music videos are really imaginative and ‘artsy’. As you were growing up was music and visual forms of art always something you were involved in or was it a passion that bloomed within you later in life? And how do you think your social experience in school influenced the kind of music you fell in love with?
More is more! A visual journey accompanied by sounds that feed your soul is a far better time than one or the other on its own. Lenny-Dee generally initiates the process of conceptualizing the visual aesthetic and if you know her, you would know that she has been into this kind of thing since day one. She has a brilliant eye and an insane wardrobe so we generally trust her art direction/styling advice. We all had different experiences in school but the one thing we had in common was having music to get through it.
MCBN: There’s an exquisitely eerie track titled “Bury My Bones” on Space Elephant, and I say ‘exquisitely eerie’ by virtue of the gloomy lyrics that are presented to the listener. “Bury my bones in a dark place/throw them down not to surface again”. Can you explain the meaning of that line and what you were going through at the time those words were being written?
It was a very happy time for us when we wrote that one. We were young and looking for a darkness and a realness that didn’t exist for us being bliss as we were. If you listen to our music now, it’s more upbeat because we’re slightly wiser and know the horrors of the world. We’re compensating for reality.
MCBN: What you like and what you don’t like about the local music scene?
What we like is Hello Beautiful. What we don’t like is the lack of sound integrity at a lot of venues. If you want your venue to be a live music spot, take care of acoustics. Everybody wins.
MCBN: Throughout your careers as musicians I’m sure you’ve witnessed the various trends that have taken the industry by storm. How has the proliferation of streaming services changed the way you not just release music but also promote yourselves? And in which ways have social media been beneficial and harmful during the course of your careers?
Streaming is the future. It’s diminished the novelty of owning physical records but has made making music sustainable for a lot of upcoming bands. It’s brilliant to be able to have such a wide range of information available but it has however got to a point where anyone and everyone is using the services that we would like to trust so as a result, the industry has become oversaturated and overpopulated with a whole bunch of crap you need to sift through. I believe there will be some underground platforms that emerge that you can trust once again the recommendations of real people and not algorithms and robots. It’s a very interesting time – both scary and exciting for musicians.
MCBN: “Self-care” – that’s become quite an important word these days particularly with the rise of awareness in regards to mental health. When the band is extensively touring locally and abroad, plus spending long hours in the studio… What does the band usually do to unwind from some of the pressures that come with being an artist?
It’s a full time job so we don’t often get time to unwind but when we do, we take a trip somewhere far away. Yoga is good too. And wine. Depends on the circumstances. Removing ourselves from the city life to visit remote places. Recharge ourselves in nature. We often write music to escape from it all.
MCBN: What are some of the milestones the band has reached that have made the journey all so worth it? And besides the actual joy of making music, what are some of the things that keep the band motivated to keep getting back into the studio, writing, touring etc.
The biggest milestone for us has been taking our music abroad and playing international music festivals. Last year we played Primavera Sound, Barcelona, which was a major highlight. Playing to crowds that appreciate our music keeps us motivated. It’s all about the live show for us.
MCBN: During early February the band is released a new single AND a music video coming up titled “I’m Not The One” through Kudukudu. Can you tell us a little bit more about the story behind this track and what we can expect from Bye Beneco in 2019?
Yes! We’ve just released our new single, I’m Not The One. It’s about human desire and the inner conflict we experience when fighting off human impulses. It’s about the lonely side of impulse. Our new music video comes out on Valentines Day! `You can expect some exciting new releases, some collaborations & some touring! Keep an eye on our socials to follow our movements.
MCBN Okay, so 1) An artist or band you’d love to party with. 2) An artist you’d love to have a D.M.C. (deep meaningful convo) and 3) An artist you’d love to spend the week in the studio with. Keep in mind you can also select dead/retired artists.
10.1 Madonna in the 80s
10.2 Daniel Johnston
10.3 Arcade Fire