I can remember the first time coming across Darcy Baylis’ work. It was like all my favourite musical influences had been wrapped up into one; post-punk angst, pop punk nostalgia, jungle mayhem and introspective ambient beautifully blending their similarities and differences on what – for me – was one of the most overlooked records of ’19, A House Breaking.
The Melbourne artists latest offering – Days After Breaking – is a little more club focused (I say a little: it has a lot more breaks involved, but you can still cry to it). On top of that, he put out a collaborative project with Wicca Phase Springs Eternal – of GBC and Tigers Jaw fame – channeling 80’s goth energy and punk aesthetics and thus showcasing the sounds of his past and present.
We sat down with Darcy just months after his return to Australia from Berlin to talk ambient scenes in Melbourne, Massive Attack and music that makes you think.
How is life now you have returned to Melbourne from Berlin?
It’s been good! I’m just chilling at home today, I was in the studio earlier. I’m just kinda hanging out. I only moved back to Melbourne a few months ago, so it’s all still kind of new. I’m adjusting to being home. I came back the end of September and was in Sydney for a bit, catching up with old friends. My dad’s there too so I finally saw him, and then back to Melbourne last month.
There seems to be so much forward-thinking music coming out of Australia, with the likes of Daine and yourself, and then electronically informed trap producers like Mutant Joe too. What is the scene like there? Do you feel there is a scene, or is it very much a bunch of individuals doing their thing?
There’s definitely a scene, but I don’t know if I feel a part of it so much. I think that’s because what I do is kind of different to what is happening within it. I really know about a small sub-section of the stuff going on here, but what I would consider the scene in Melbourne is ambient. There’s a big thing for that, which is kind of interesting as ambient music is pretty wide spread, but it’s rare that you can point to a specific place for it as it doesn’t revolve around shows or live music in the way that some other styles do.
When I think about Melbourne music I think a lot about Daine a lot, and dance music. I’m not that involved in the dance music scene nowadays. What I do is more inward looking, especially as I’m not playing shows these days.
There’s a really great live music community. Outside of dance music I probably spend more of my time listening to good punk and post-punk music coming out of Australia, particularly in Melbourne and Sydney.
What are your earliest memories of music? I grew up listening to Paramore, Taking Back Sunday, Death Cab for Cutie etc and I think it’s one of the reasons I’m so drawn to artists like you, Wicca Phase and nothing nowhere.
When I was ten or eleven, I got Linkin Park’s Meterora on CD. That was pretty seminal, I guess. If I look back even further to, I don’t know, four or five maybe; my mum would have played a lot of Portishead and Massive Attack around the house. I think having that as my first musical experience meant it was easy for me to fall into electronic music. It felt intuitive.
In my teens, when I started learning to play music, I was listening to mostly punk and hardcore. Things that I’m still into now. I was always listening to stuff that was on the edge of popular music.
On A House Breaking you mould many different styles together; from autotuned pop-dancehall to jungle and emo. What is the inspiration?
It’s very difficult for me to not see some sort of inherent value in a piece of music. I’ll never really listen to a piece of music and think it’s bad. I’ve always found some sort of value or meaning in everything that I hear, so I guess that translates into the way that I approach making music. It means nothing is off the table.
I think it’s also to do with being in Australia. The scenes are so small that they all speak to each other. The punk kids hang out with the techno kids, who then hang out with the kids that are into rap music. They’re all friends and they’re all into it. That’s always been natural and normal to the way we do things and I guess that translates into the way we approach music.
Who or what informs your aesthetic as an artist? We discussed the inward-looking perspective of your work. Even the tracks that aren’t lyrically heavy maintain an introspective mood.
I think the last record was so inward looking because I made the entire thing in my bedroom on headphones, which isn’t usually how I do things. I was living in an apartment with two roommates. Mainly it was about trying not to wake them up!
I’ve always been attracted to any sort of dance music, especially in a club setting, that forces you to stop speaking and have those inward, revelatory moments where you are feeling like you’re pondering the meaning of life, when really there’s just a really good piano riff happening. I’m more attracted to that side of club music, I don’t have an interest in making stuff that’s got crazy tension release as it’s less interesting to me than the stuff that makes you think.
Lyrically it’s the same. My main lyrical influences are all artists who produce very inward-looking music. I was listening to a lot of Elliot Smith; that insanely specific lyricism was a big influence too.
Your latest release, Days After Breaking is mostly scored by breakbeat and jungle. What’s your relationship like with jungle and breaks, have you delved into the UK scene much?
My thing with club music is; I would just hear it out. I wasn’t a person who would listen to it as I go about my day to day. When I go out, I would absorb the breakbeats. A lot of that stuff on the last record was basically me recreating stuff that I’d remembered or heard in a single instance. Jungle was really big in Melbourne for a year or two there, so it was pretty easy to hear a lot of it. A lot of it is trying to reimagine the sound.
You recently put out a release with Wicca Phase Springs Eternal. What was the experience in creating that and working with him like?
It was good, he’s such a nice guy! He’s very humble. He would turn to me for advice on some of the songs and I would be like, “what are you talking about? You don’t need to ask me, they’re great!” The fact that he was asking me and valued my opinion enough to have me as an equal partner on the release was great, you don’t always get that from an artist.
What’s next for you?
I’m working on the next record, very slowly. I’m going to give myself the next six months to a year to finish it. Hopefully I’ll be able to play some shows in Europe sooner rather than later, but for now I’m just really focused on this next record.