Interview: Five Minutes with BYLJA
Image credit: Alexander Hjorth Jespersen
Hailing from Denmark, electronica duo BYLJA have just released their EP Sojourn via Springstoff.
Atmospheric, melodic compositions set the scene for BYLJA’s distinct themes and soundscapes. With dark Nordic melancholy and inspiration from astronomy, the duo creates a tide of smooth ambience and elegant beats which take you on a journey through an electro-organic universe. Their music quickly engulfs your senses and creeps under your skin, creating a dream-like state.
BYLJA hits the electronic genre broadly, drawing inspiration from IDM, downtempo and ambient electronica. Marchel Mørk and Emil Aagaard met each other at a school musical and bonded over their love of cheese and synthesizers. Shortly after, they both decided to drop out of University, where Emil studied Physics and Marchel studied History, to begin anew at the music conservatory where they could dedicate themselves to music. Inspired by artists such as Kiasmos, Jon Hopkins, and Boards of Canada they formed BYLJA in 2018.
We caught up with them for a chat about their insights and inspirations.
Which comes first when you’re producing – the sound or the idea?
It’s hard to say. Usually, sounds from our synthesizers inspire us the most, and we could listen to one long prophet-pad all day long. When we decide to record something, the creativity usually follows.
Does your material feature any collaborations?
Yes. We collaborated with the Danish electronica artist – Rumpistol, who did some co-producing and mixing on the tracks of the EP. We are great fans of his works ourselves, so it was kind of an honor working with him.
What’s on your current playlist?
Jon Hopkins, Kiasmos and Bonobo is always on our playlists, and are never-ending sources of inspiration. At the moment we are both very much into newer compositional and ambient stuff, like A Winged Victory for the Sullen, Lightbath, and the works of Janus Rasmussen.
Tell us about the chemistry you have with your fans on stage.
For us, our live shows are not so much about being in focus as musicians, but more of a combined visual and auditory experience which don’t leave much room for direct communication. Since our live shows are quite introverted, we don’t really use many words on stage to communicate with our audience.
The ideal situation for us is to observe, when people in the audience close their eyes and get into the vibe. We are always happy when someone reaches us after the show to tell us about their experience of how our music touches them.
What techniques do you experiment with to get your original sound?
We primarily work with samples and synthesizers, and are very much into granular synthesis on the modular system. We also often include manipulated piano or guitars to get the mellow vibe we associate with these instruments.
Take us through a day in the recording studio.
The day usually starts with a nice cup of coffee, before we decide on what to work on. We always start with the practical stuff, like sorting and answering mails, messages, etc, because it sort of makes us focused on what is currently happening and what to prioritize.
When we’re done with that, we often open a track in Ableton we’re working on, or start mixing if we’re in that stage of the musical process.
When we start a new track, it’s usually never from scratch or a blank project, but often one of us brought an idea or recording from earlier that week. Usually the creativity starts as soon as we start fiddling around with the idea, or play a big fat reverberated Prophet Pad.
We are good at reminding each other to drink a lot of coffee during the day, rest our ears and get some air when needed, and try to view our day as a normal “work-day” from 8-4. We find that we’re most productive this way.
When we take a break, we have a lot of fun when bonding over spicy memes, and it’s always a great time working with each other.
Was there a specific moment in your life where you thought, “this is what I want to do”?
When we actually bought our first synthesizers.
What do you keep close by while you’re playing a set?
Each other, and lots of water!
Any emerging artists on your radar?
What gets your creative juices flowing?
Freshmade coffee, the weather and light of the day, and a fresh patch on the modular synthesizer.
Take us through your collection of gear, tech or software that accompanies your creative expression.
Prophet-6 is our most beloved synthesizer, and is used on every track we make.
The Juno-106 is also a very dear synth of ours, but we mostly use the modular synthesizer currently – especially Morphagene.
We use the Moog Sub 37 for almost all bass, so you can tell, we really like the classic synth-sounds.
Marchel plays on his Fender Jaguar guitar, which always sounds very crisp.
Lastly, we use Ableton 11 as our main DAW for producing and performing.
Any side projects you’re working on?
Each of us have our own solo-projects (Infralyd & Phonietone), which are more in the ambient and experimental realm of electronic music.
How have you refined your craft since you entered the industry?
Practice and good habits
Breakdown the news for us: what can we expect from you this year?
We did a lot of concerts before Covid-19 locked everything down, and all our gigs were cancelled. This got us working a lot in the studio though, but we plan to play a few really nice and ambitious concerts in 2022.
Famous last words?
If you wish to make an apple-pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe. <3