- Words Brittany Newman
Dirty Hit signee, beaux, chats with Notion about his sophomore EP 'a love letter to moments spent outside', how he's changed since his debut project, and much more.
Returning with his sophomore EP – the first venture since being signed to The 1975’s cult record label, Dirty Hit – beaux’s latest project comes in the wistful shape of ‘a love letter to the moments spent outside’, due to release on 19th February 2021.
The past year hasn’t been easy for anyone, but on the new record, Surrey-based beaux shows us that despite everything, good memories were made – albeit outside.
The self-taught artist started his musical journey by sharing covers on social media. After some time, his first EP came to light, ‘I Don’t Wanna Make It Alone, I Wanna Make It With You’, which channelled feelings of uncertainty and loss. While the feeling of uncertainty has not been left behind in these treacherous times, beaux’s second project explores his newfound confidence.
Getting signed gave beaux a big injection of self-confidence – particularly in his abilities as a songwriter and producer. “I thought, maybe I actually know what I’m doing”, he said. Once his talents had been recognised, the rising artist’s next step was to purchase a Behringer Model D Synth. Spending some time with he synthesiser eventually gave way to the foundation for the EP, “this soft, high pitch sound that felt quite mesmerising”. Next, beaux focused on the detail and candidness within his lyrics. “My hope is that this sincerity and detailedness only heightens the overall sentiments of the songs. These songs are word for word my life, so maybe you can sometimes relate, or if not, you can treat it like it’s an autobiography”, he told Notion
Here, we dig even deeper into beaux’s process in the creation of ‘A Love Letter To The Moments Spent Outside’. Dive in!.
What is the story behind ‘a love letter to the moments spent outside’?
I made the whole EP at home during lockdown in 2020. Once I had the initial overarching idea to create a peaceful, cohesive, nature-inspired project, it just flowed so quickly. Even though the world, including my own life, was at an utter standstill, I just felt so motivated and inspired. I think the fact that I’d recently been signed based on my first EP, gave me a big confidence boost in my abilities as a songwriter and producer, I thought, ‘Maybe I actually do know what I’m doing’. It was a real pleasure to make.
I feel like I developed a more unique sound with this project as well, I expanded on ideas that I’d started on the first EP, ‘I Don’t Want To Make It Alone, I Want To Make It With You’, and introduced a lot of new elements that I’d found whilst messing around in Logic or with new equipment.
In terms of the EP title, the majority of my best memories have taken place outdoors in past summers, and last year, more than ever, it wasn’t really possible to meet with family and friends indoors, so EVERY good memory I made was outside. Hence, ‘a love letter to the moments spent outside’.
A lot of people have felt a deeper connection to the outside since the pandemic, have you always enjoyed the outdoors, or is this a new-found love?
Most of my fondest memories from my teenage years involve being outside in the summer. My friends and I would often go skateboarding, particularly around this lake that’s quite near to where I live, we’d skate about 10 miles and then get food by the river.
My friend Callum and I would also do this thing where we’d go to the train station, pick a random place on the ticket machine, and just go explore that area for the day.
I’ve also always gone on big nature walks with my family, especially when we still had dogs. I feel like I spent most of my childhood outside, at least those are the parts I remember, and family holidays were always about going out and exploring for me.
Since the pandemic, I’ve not really been able to go into London. Usually, I love going to museums, looking around little shops, and getting food – my girlfriend and I have a checklist of places we want to go that we add to when we see something cool online, but obviously, we’ve not been able to tick much off in the past year. So, although it’s not a “new-found love”, I’ve definitely developed a deeper appreciation for the outdoor areas around me, as they’ve been the only places I could really visit in the past year without jeopardising the safety of myself or others.
Give me a window into your writing process for this EP – how did you go about building it?
The initial idea for the EP started when I bought the Behringer Model D Synth. I’d never owned a physical synth before, I only started producing in mid-2019, and up to that point I’d just done everything on my laptop using virtual synthesisers. So I started messing around with it, and I ended up making this soft, high pitch sound that felt quite mesmerising. This became the foundation of the intro to the EP, “come outside, it’s sunny”, and at this point, I decided it’d be cool to create a whole EP within this peaceful world, by reusing certain elements in each song.
So next I wrote “by the lake” which shares many of the same sounds from the intro. This was also when I lyrically solidified the idea of wanting to write the EP about my life during lockdown, or events from not long before that.
For two of the songs, “what’s the point?” and “i’ve got a best friend”, I worked on the production with Bram Inscore. He lives in LA, so we obviously collaborated virtually, which was another first for me. For the most part, we just bounced ideas over iMessage, and I actually found it to be a really efficient way of working, it meant that I could go away and write in my own time, and just throw something his way when it was ready. He’s great to work with because whenever I explain an idea, he sends something back in a way that’s exactly how I heard it in my head, which just makes things flow so quickly.
Whilst making this EP, I became quite obsessed with using a pitch altering plugin called Little AlterBoy, and it’s quite evident when you listen through the song. Sometimes, I used it just because it sounded cool, like in “i’ve got a best friend”, but for the most part there was a point to its use. For example, in “oh dear, oh beaux”, there’s meant to be a conversation between two people, so I used the higher voice to represent the other person. In “when i talk to you”, the deep vocal is meant to represent my internal monologue, and I did something similar in “by the lake”.
How do you feel you’ve grown – personally and musically – since your last EP?
I was quite sad when I wrote the first EP and I’m not sad anymore. I’m also a lot busier now, which I think is a big positive, it’s not great when you feel like you’ve got nothing going on.
I suppose, in some ways, it’s quite hard to know exactly how I’ve grown, because I still feel like my life’s on hold, we’re still stuck in this weird confined-to-our-homes limbo.
But, in general, I’m happier, I’m working harder and I feel excited about a lot of things that are going on at the moment.
My debut EP was my first attempt at production, I was just experimenting and learning, I wasn’t even trying to make a project, it just ended up falling into place. With my new music, I’m still finding plenty of ways to experiment and learn, but I now have more of a foundation that I’ve been able to build upon, to create a more cohesive and individualistic sounding project.
Lyrically I’ve become far more specific since the first EP. By being so specific I don’t think it’s possible for the words to come across as disingenuous, like when I say, “I’ve taken to just taking long baths, I tend to have a shower but with all this time I’d rather make it last”, there’s no way you’re sitting at home thinking I’m lying about taking more baths lately… But in all seriousness, my hope is that this sincerity and detailedness only heightens the overall sentiment of the songs. These songs are word for word my life, so maybe you can sometimes relate, or if not, you can treat it like it’s an autobiography.
Film influenced your first EP, did any other arts influence ‘a love letter to the moments spent outside’?
My favourite song on the EP, “scene on the train (love from zero)”, is the first song that I’ve written from someone else’s perspective. It’s written from the perspective of Zero, a character in Wes Anderson’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel”. I imagine he’s called Zero because he came to the hotel with nothing, his family had all been killed and he’d been forced to flee his home; he arrived with a clean slate. As a boss and mentor, M. Gustave gave him a purpose and taught him everything he knew, I think Zero’s appreciation was shown through his unwavering loyalty to him.
I wrote my song from Zero’s perspective, following the death of M. Gustave. Zero inherited a fortune, including the hotel, but I don’t believe he ever found happiness in any of that. His happiness and comfort came from the memories he had of M. Gustave and of his late-wife, Agatha.
The song is essentially him saying, “Look at me, I’ve got it all. I just wish you could be here to enjoy it as well.” I also imagine that Zero couldn’t help but feel somewhat responsible for the death of M. Gustave, who was shot whilst attempting to defend him from soldiers. So, I wanted to include that feeling of guilt, and also that of his gratefulness for everything that M. Gustave had done for him, with both of those sentiments culminating in the final line of my lyrics: “I’ve taken the blame, I’ve taken the blow, you gave me a place, ‘cos I was at zero.”
Your new music “finds confidence in new relationships and friendships”. How did you do this while tackling the loneliness of the pandemic?
I FaceTimed friends who I couldn’t see in person. I’m lucky that my friend, Tate, who played the keys on “She Won’t Love Again”, lives a few doors down, so we could go on walks and make music together when restrictions were eased.
My girlfriend, Bee, stayed at mine during the whole first lockdown, as she couldn’t go back to university, and we went skateboarding around the local area quite a lot. I live with my mum, so we also went on a lot of walks, and it’s been nice having all this time to spend with her. In the summer, we were allowed to have BBQs in the garden, so I could see my siblings and their kids.
To be honest though, I also quite enjoy being alone, I like just getting on with my music, or watching those educational YouTube channels in my spare time, I’m easy, so even when the guidelines have been strict, and I’ve not seen much of people, I’ve been happy just doing my thing in my own little world.
For the record, my 91-year-old grandad lives with us, so I’ve made sure to follow all of the government guidelines throughout this pandemic, and if you’re reading this, follow the rules so we can start going to gigs again, please.
Do you feel as though being self-taught brought you any particular advantages in the music industry?
You know what, I thought my somewhat lack of technical music understanding would be a far bigger issue than it’s so far proven to be. When I first started talking to and working with other people, I kept thinking to myself, “Oh man, I don’t have a clue how to explain anything in a technical manner, I don’t even know what I’m doing half the time, I just fiddle with plugins until it sounds good, they’re going to question how I even got signed.” But, I’ve since discovered that, whilst the people I’ve worked with definitely have a great technical understanding, they’re all still just fiddling with plugins, and trying things out, and feeling unsure about the thing they’ve created just like me.
For the most part, at least with my area of music, there is no 100% THIS is the right way of doing it, it’s all just whatever feels right and sounds good, and in the cases where you do have to be more technical, everyone always seems more than happy to teach me what they know and I’m quite a fast learner.
I think there are definitely advantages to being self-taught, the main things being authenticity and new, unconventional ideas. I guess my music is mostly ‘bedroom pop’ and with that, I think you WANT it to sound a little unpolished. You want there to be elements that you wouldn’t necessarily hear in conventional, tried and tested pop music, I think that makes it feel more real. Things don’t have to be technically correct to work, it just needs to sound cool.
What can we expect in terms of visuals to accompany your new EP?
I wanted the visuals to encapsulate the sentiment of the whole EP, which is, as the title suggests, a love letter to the moments spent outside. The director, Callum Lloyd-James, and his team at Head & Wrecker sorted out this grid of sixteen old screens, and they act as a backdrop throughout the performance in the “what’s the point?” video, showing different summer scenes that hopefully transport you from the cold winter sound stage in London to the sunny places I’ve written about.
The idea that the screens act as a backdrop is sort of a nod to my childhood theatre days where there are, of course, different backdrops on the stage that set the scene. Along those same lines, the song that precedes ‘what’s the point?’ and plays at the beginning of the music video is called ‘interlude’ – which is meant to sound like the orchestra warming up in the pit at a musical theatre show during the interval.
Lastly – what do you hope people take away from this new project?
After I released the first EP, I received a few messages from aspiring artists who were inspired by my music, and that was crazy to me, I felt very proud that something I created could elicit such a response from anyone. So I hope this EP can have the same impact, I got a lot of satisfaction out of responding to those people, and answering any questions they had for me because younger me would message EVERYONE: when I was 10 and trying to learn video editing, I’d send long paragraphs to my favourite Visual Effects artists asking for advice; when I was 11 I sent a DVD to the CEO of Gibson asking for a free guitar; when i was 14 I’d message big Viners, telling them I’d do visual effect editing for them if they’d collaborate with me or repost my singing covers. When these people would respond to me I’d feel so inspired, and so if this project makes more people feel like they want to reach out to me, I’ll feel pretty good about being able to respond to them.