Golden Vessel on the power of friendship, Frank Ocean, and pushing himself
GOLDEN VESSEL, AKA Max Byrne, has been an ever-evolving project over a number of years. Stemming from a bedroom producer as a teenage, to his first encounters with collaboration a few years ago working with the likes of TIANA KHASI, Byrne has rapidly developed his sound, his style and ultimately his project into a fully-fledged force to be reckoned with in the electronic landscape, both here in Australia and beyond.
From his prolific output of collabs with fellow Brisbanites, to a slew of remixes and mashups, Byrne has always consistently pushed himself to not only be better but to try new things. Not content to just be another anonymous Soundcloud producer, he is hellbent on not being defined, and even more focused on having fun while he does it, naming his collaborators as his friends first and foremost.
With an EP released in 2016 titled Before Sleep, to now, on the verge of releasing his most ambitious EP yet in Right/Side, Byrne has the same humbling whimsy he’s always had, but he’s increasingly self aware of his abilities due to how excited he is by his own music. We often get excited about artists breaking through and doing new things, but the way Golden Vessel has progressed has us particularly intrigued and excited to watch. Now encompassing RnB, hip-hop, pop and more, Golden Vessel has not only found his wings, but he’s learned to spread them as far as they can go, and with the release of Right/Side, he’s set to soar.
We spoke to Golden Vessel the day after his BIGSOUND showcase to get to know more about him, his love for Frank Ocean and the power of friendship. His EP drops at the end of September, and he’s got a busy year planned supporting The Kite String Tangle (who is coincidentally the head of the record label Byrne is now signed to), and performing at THIS THAT festival.
How’s your BIGSOUND been?
BIGSOUND’s been really fun! It’s good to get the showcase out of the way on the first night, and I’ve just had meetings yesterday, interviews today – you know how it is.
How was the showcase?
It was good! We had a few technical difficulties at the start, but people were still there which was cool. I was like, “If I were you I would’ve left by now!” But we jumped up and played well. The sound was kind of bad, but we had fun. We’re getting really good at rolling with it and not letting it get to us. A year ago I would’ve been freaking out, but now it’s just like, “Let’s just put on a good show.”
It was very different to your showcase last year, too.
Yeah! Last year was more just, “How many friends can I bring on stage?”
Is this the direction you’re going in now then?
Yeah, Connor [aka Akurei] and I will share vocals more and he can now cover the female parts while I have a lower register.
Yeah! He was singing Kate [Gurren]’s part in ‘Less~More’ which was really nice!
Yeah, he also does the Mallrat part in ‘Shoulders’ too.
As you know, I’ve been a fan of yours for a few years now. It’s been really interesting watching you develop from a bedroom producer to a really collaborative effort where you’ve got lots of people involved and now to this, with someone like Connor as an integral part to Golden Vessel. When did you decide that you wanted to get other people in in such a big way, and really open it up?
I think at first, I was just making chilled, electronic music and using vocals made it more interesting. As an 17/18 year old, I was like, “I should work with vocals because that’s cool.” Now, I know exactly what I want. This project is meant to be collaborative and about friendship in a non-corny way. I guess when I’m working on music now, I try to capture that, you know friendship or whatever and put it in the music. Everyone I’m working with is either an old friend or a new friend, and hopefully that’s captured.
Do you think working with your friends enhances the music in a different way than just an artist you’re collaborating with and you’ve never met them before?
Yeah, in the biggest way. I feel like a lot of people, I might have been taking to them online, and then we go into the studio and we become friends because of that, and then we might have a second session because we’ve become friends so it’s better than the first. It’s just playing to each other’s strengths, like my friend elkkle – he’s all over the EP I’m putting out. He’s someone I’m getting quite involved with because we play to each other’s strengths so well, and it’s exciting! If I’m just in the room by myself, I do things a certain way, but if he’s there, we work an extra 10% harder because I’m trying to impress him and he’s trying to impress me.
A bit of pressure!
Positive pressure! I do better in that situation, so that’s what the project is about.
Do you think that because you’re friends, you feel more comfortable with them, and that’s why you’ve started experimenting more and you’re starting to feel more comfortable in that experimentation?
Yeah! I’ve got a few friends that put me really hard because they know I can do better or I can do it a different way, which is good for me because they understand me. I overthink everything so it’s nice to have people to be like, “No, this is good.” It’s important to have those people.
I’ve been listening to the new EP and it sounds so different to your past works, even way back with your song with Tiana Khasi to now. Can you talk me through a bit about that and how you got to this point?
I feel like there was a little bit of a trendy sound, and I wasn’t copying people, I was just making the music that I enjoyed. That kind of chilled, electronic, down tempo style. It has its place, but it’s kind of had its day as well. That’s not why I changed, but I just realised it was a trendy sound and it was kind of like a fashion. I just wasn’t interested by that anymore. Then Blond came out by FRANK OCEAN, kind of when I started making this EP. When I listen to music, words don’t appear to me until the sixth or seventh listen because I’m thinking about melodies and textures and stuff like that. But because the Frank album is so sparse, it forces you to look at the lyrics, and his lyrics are insane, so I think that type of thing and getting more into hip-hop, I’ve been trying to bring that in in an interesting way. I still listen to indie-folk and everything, but I think it’s just new influences and I discovered more of what I wanted to do with this EP. I’m still proud of what I did though. I’m just coming into my own a bit more.
You can definitely hear that Frank Ocean influence with hip-hop in there as well more than the older stuff which was obviously more James Blake inspired. What about hip-hop and Frank Ocean draws you in like this?
One of my favourite albums in high school was Acid Rap by Chance The Rapper, so I’ve always been into hip-hop but now it’s just exciting for me. It’s such an exciting scene and I’ve been really captivated by the personalities in the scene as well. Someone like Kendrick Lamar how he’s pushing the industry and people’s opinions excites me, whereas an anonymous producer who makes nice-sounding music – it’s not that exciting. Also the story, everything Frank does is exciting. It’s him, but you can also tell it’s very marketed behind it. It’s really clever.
You can particularly hear that hip-hop influence in a track like ‘Daylight’. How has it been to shake off inhibitions that you may have had before and really start to love experimenting with these kind of sounds?
It just feels right. ‘Tell The-Girl’ was a good bridging point. It’s quite similar to the new EP, but it brings the older stuff into it as well. It was a good step up, and one of the first ones I worked on for this EP. ‘Shoulders’ is kind of the newer sound. I’m actually excited by what I’m doing, which is really nice.
You’ve spoken about developing your sound through art and fashion as well – can you talk me through a bit about that? Are these mediums you might also go down?
One of my favourite pastimes is taking films photos, and jumping on photoshop with a nice album on and just chopping up photos. It’s nice to do stuff that isn’t music but is still creative. I’m always trying to think of ways that I can bring that into Golden Vessel in an interesting way. I like to be “hands on”.
You can see that in the videos more and more.
Yep, all the videos and the artwork I’ve had a hand in. I’ve got a pretty clear vision and I like to find people who are so talented, but also get where my head is at. Like with the videos, those boys – I’ve got them for life. I just want to work with them on everything now, because they’re so exciting to work with. I get really excited about Brisbane now, people are starting to push art and not just music. It’s got such a cool music scene, but there’s so much more [to it]. People like Sean Pyke, he’s just looking after everyone and he’s giving Brisbane a really cool visual tone. It just makes Brisbane even stronger as a collective, so now I’m discovering people who are doing cool fashion things here now too. I’d like to see more of that.
The ethos of a collective is something that really stands out in your work, so it makes so much sense for you to be on a label like Danny [Harley]’s label. How do you feel now, being on Exist.?
I hit Danny up when I was 16 or 17, I sent him a song and was like, “Hey I’m a big fan.” [Laughs]. He’s the most genuine, lovely person, he just cared and kept an eye on me and gave me some pointers. Coming to now, he just said, “We really want to work with you and give you a platform to help you do whatever you want to do.” That was exactly what I wanted because I still wanted to try stuff and experiment, so it’s been really cruisey. I’ll send him a song and he’ll send a 1500 word email, and 98% will be why he likes it and 2% he’ll be like, “Maybe you can try this instead. You don’t have to though!” He really cares. LASTLINGS are also so cool, they’re doing some really awesome things too.
It’s so cool too because it’s all local and all from Brisbane. I know from my experiences, I like people that stay in Brisbane and make it a better place instead of leaving, so that’s obviously something you’re passionate about too!
Danny was kind of one of the first electronic musicians from Brisbane to blow up, so is he someone you look up to in that sense?
Yeah, I think artistically but also his ethos. He’s a cool person that cares.
Looking forward now, what have you got going on next? You’ve got The Kite String Tangle tour obviously, and the new EP out soon. What else can we expect?
I’m starting to work on an album. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for ages. I’m just trying to make it as exciting and interesting as possible, and… I don’t know, destroy myself as much as possible so it sounds good? [Laughs]. Go a little bit crazy. I’m just trying to turn it around quickly. It gets me down when people take two or three years to write an album, I want to be an artist that’s constant. It helps with production too, like the OKBADLANDS EP is about to drop and I produced that, and I’ve got music with Connor and Emerson Leif. I’m just trying to be as proactive as possible.
You’ve always had that prolific output, there’s never been much time between releases for you even back when you were doing remixes. You’re planning on continuing that?
Yeah! I don’t want to burn myself out, but yeah. I’m up for the challenge.
I guess it’s better to just cut it and be like, “Yep that’s done,” and then you can move on, right?
With other artists, it would be harder because there’s so much more reliance on other people, but for me, I just do it all myself. Also, the project is so collaborative that it makes you work faster and harder.
Golden Vessel‘s Right/Side EP is out Friday, 29th September via Exist. Recordings. Catch him on tour with The Kite String Tangle at the below dates:
THE KITE STRING TANGLE NATIONAL TOUR DATES
Fri 6 Oct / Fat Controller, Adelaide
Sat 7 Oct / Oxford Art Factory, Sydney – SOLD OUT
Sun 8 Oct / Oxford Art Factory, Sydney
Fri 13 Oct / The Triffid, Brisbane
Wed 25 Oct / The Corner, Melbourne
Fri 27 Oct / The Corner, Melbourne – SOLD OUT
Sat 28 Oct / Jack Rabbit Slims, Perth – SOLD OUT
Sun 29 Oct / Jack Rabbit Slims, Perth
Also performing at THIS THAT – 4th November, Wickham Park Newcastle. Tix here.
Interview by Emma Jones
Image by Joseph Crackett/ONLY ODD for Purple Sneakers. View the full gallery here.
GOLDEN VESSEL CONTINUES TO PROVE HE’S ONE TO WATCH WITH NEW VIDEO FOR ‘LESS~MORE’
GOLDEN VESSEL, MALLRAT AND ELKKLE TEAM UP FOR STELLAR TRACK, ‘SHOULDERS’
LET GOLDEN VESSEL TAKE YOU TO THE SUNNY SUBURBS WITH HIS NEW CLIP FOR ‘TELL THE-GIRL’