Boxed In – Interview – 2015

London based producer Oli Bayston has already had a fruitful career in music – being the front-man for Manchester band Keith who were joint winners of the Road To V competition with Bombay Bicycle Club in 2006, as well as being part of a string of brilliant releases from the likes of Toy, Willy Mason and The 2 Bears. Oli went on to start a new band with all his own material in 2013, Boxed In, releasing an eponymous début to great critical acclaim this year. After a sell-out show at Sticky Mikes Frog Bar and a fantastic show at the Great Escape Festival this year, BrightonsFinest couldn’t be more excited to have Boxed In back playing The Haunt on 14th October. We had a quick chat with Oli the day before he started his tour to find out about his background in music and where he is on the second album.

Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Berkshire, near Slough and Windsor. It is The Office territory. I was there for sixteen years and then my parents moved to Essex, where I stayed until I went to Manchester University to study Music Production. Then I joined a band and ended up staying there for a good eight years.

How was your experience of Manchester’s music scene?
It was great! Everyone will have their own specific experience of music in the city, particularly when there is such variety. I was in an Indie band so I was listening to a lot of that, but at the same time I was going to a couple of great club nights – one specifically called Eyes Down which played Techno and Detroit House in a really small club called The Roadhouse. That’s where I cut my teeth clubbing. Although it was less clubbing but more a small intimate place to listen to all this amazing underground dance music. Those nights have stayed with me ever since.

What music were you brought up on?
My parents are both classical musicians – my dad is a piano player and my mum is a singer – so I grew up around a lot of classical music. I then found my own style of music writing when I was in my early teens and started writing silly love songs on the piano which have become more complex as I have got older. You are a product of your influences, a combination of everything that has inspired you. The music that I am now making is a combination of the classical music I was brought up on, the Techno and House I listen to as an adult, and the early days of learning how to write a song in a simplistic way as a teenager.

Was there a song or an album which made you decide to start writing your own music in your own way?
It was probably The Bends by Radiohead. Although albums like In Uturo by Nirvana and stuff by The Stone Roses who I was already a huge fan of, even early REM I was a fan of when I was twelve/thirteen.

What was the first instrument you played?
It was the piano and it is still probably my favourite. It wasn’t for quite a few years because it wasn’t my go-to instrument as I started to learn the guitar when I was eighteen and used to play it in my down time and write songs on it. I think I have now settled back into what is now my primary instrument, the piano – the one I am most akin to and the one I write most my songs on. I would be interested to try some new ones, maybe the Bassoon next – Boxed In album two could be a Bassoon opera.

When did you start playing as Boxed In?
It was when I moved to London, I wanted to find a new outlet after I left Keith. I had a lot of songs that I wasn’t quite sure what they were or why they sounded the way they did. One day I decided to spend a week writing a predominantly Electronic album. I ended up doing a ten track album with lyrics and pretty much had it finished in five days. That’s what I thought was the Boxed In album, but then decided to take things further and make it more interesting and unique by introducing live musicians playing electronic music. Towards the end we incorporated more synths back into the sound, but predominantly it is an acoustic record playing electronic music.

Is there a story behind the name?
It is a lose reference to a Francis Bacon painting called ’Head VI’, one of my favourites paintings. It’s his depiction of Pope Benedict XIV in a big arm chair, bastardising him by putting a big screaming mouth on his face and encasing him in a square structure so it looks like he is trapped. For me, that describes what it feels to be a song writer.

How do you approach the writing process?
I tend to do it all on my own. Boxed In album two I have written all myself apart from a couple that we have jammed out as a band in the studio. I have my own studio in London which has all my toys in it and I feel very comfortable in. Sometime lyrics will come to me in other places and I’ll bring them to the studio, but quite often it will start with music which will then form the message I want to relay in the lyrics.

What inspires your lyrics?
They mostly comes from personal experiences. There are some fictional ideas on the first album too, based loosely on scenarios from Philip Pullman’s The Subtle Knife. The first album is very personal, it’s all about the trials and tribulations of being in and out of relationships.

Have you been thinking about the next release?
I have written about forty demos! We will record the next album in January hopefully, so it should be out the middle of next year. It’s important for me to keep things moving. I tend to write a lot of music, that why I write for other people. Not saying it is all good but a lot gets written all the time, it’s important for me to have an outlet. I write about a song a day.

What has been a musical eye-opener and how has it affected you?
When I was in my early teens, I realised this was what I wanted to do. I was learning and reading music in the way classical musicians do. I found it so liberating to enjoy music but not on the written page, dictated to me by someone else. Realising that there was this whole other world of music that involved creating from the ground up, not just impersonating other people’s ideas. That’s why I love song-writing, it is all encompassing creatively, an entire message.

What would be in your perfect group of any four musicians?
Vini Reilly on guitar, from The Durutti Column. Jah Wobble on bass, from Public Image Ltd. Janis Joplin on vocals and then Animal from The Muppets on drums. I would kill to see that live. A really chilled guitarist, a punky bassist, then Janis Joplin’s vocals with a Muppet on drums – it could work really well.

What would be your perfect line-up of any three acts for a concert you are putting on and where would it be?
It would begin with Miles Davis playing the whole of Kind Of Blue, then Jeff Buckley and the headliner would be CAN. They would be playing in the Inner Hebrides in Scotland. I played the Isle of Eigg festival there which was really cool – the Island is owned by the people who live there, so there are no police or security.

If you could work with any artist(s), who would it be and what would they bring to Boxed In?
I would love to work with the creators of Shangri La at Glastonbury and see what kind of set up they could create. That would be fun. Doing this one off performance where they curate the choreography and pyrotechnics.

What are your future plans till the end of the year and after?
We have of a tour of the UK starting on 7th October, stopping in Brighton on Wednesday the 14th. Then a couple more shows this year including a festival in Bilbao and playing in Margate with Hot Chip. Then the second album next year, which is really exciting – all the tracks are written so just need to record them and hopefully it will be out before next summer. I still do a lot of production for lots of different music, I have got this nice balance between the two now.