‘Perseverance Through Struggle’ – BRONSON Talk New Album, Transcending Expectations & Personal Growth
Absolute beasts.
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Possibly one of the greatest crossovers of all time…

There are plenty of legends in the EDM scene, plenty of sonic wizards pushing the limits of genre and sound, crafting electrifying bangers never before experienced, and impossible to replicate. Their art is totally unique, and a completely personal creation that unites by the tens of thousands. So, what do you get when two of those artists join forces? What do you get when one of Australia’s favourite sons, responsible for one of the most monumental albums to come out of the country in recent years, links up with one of the most dynamic and eclectic EDM duos to ever grace a stage? Perfection. Nothing short, and nothing less.

BRONSON (made of up of Sydney’s Golden Features and Washington’s ODESZA) are an EDM lover’s dream. A stunning melting pot of vibrance, darkness, minimalism and exuberance, they encompass all facets of the human condition, including the parts not visible to the human eye. Those very parts exist in a totally other dimension where only pure, unfiltered art exists, and the duo’s debut self-titled album (out today) is a one way ticket to that very nirvana.

Already blessing fans with gorgeous hits like ‘HEART ATTACK’ ft. lau.ra, ‘VAULTS’ and ‘KEEP MOVING’ (including some sick as hell music videos), BRONSON have truly proven that they’ve struck gold. But hell, we didn’t need them to even drop music to know that, we all knew it to be true from the second the project was announced. But if there was at all any doubt in anyone’s mind, the BRONSON album will gently soothe it into accordance with some colourful synths, before of course pounding it into oblivion with the hardest of drops and drums.

We caught up with the very masterminds behind BRONSON, nailing down Sydney’s Golden Features (real name Tom Stell) and U.S. megastars ODESZA (made up of Clayton Knight and Harrison Mills) to get deep on the record, working together, and of course, their plans for live shows (just imagine Features and Odesza taking to the stage together). The result is a super cool insight into the minds of the world’s greatest EDM talents (with some hilarious banter sprinkled in for good measure).

Check it below.

You’ve said that one of the core motifs of the album is ‘perseverance through struggle’. Can you guys unpack that a bit for us?

Harrison: When we started this thing, we were all kind of dealing with our own things, whether they were physical or mental things we were dealing with. But perseverance was, thematically throughout the record, something we thought about a lot because the music we were writing was kind of our way of persevering through those issues. And it kind of worked as a form of therapy for us as we were writing.

Do you reckon struggle is necessary for new and exciting art?

Harrison: That’s a big question [laughs]. I don’t know if anyone has the answer to that one. We talk about it sometimes. Go ahead Tom.

Golden Features: You know what it is? You’ve got to struggle, but then you’ve got to fucking relax when you’re making music. If you’re struggling while you’re making music that equals shit music. But you need some fucking dark shit to think about while you’re relaxing.

Harrison: [laughs] There’s some truth to that. I think struggle brings a lot of inspiration, through those moments, you get some insight that I think you wouldn’t have otherwise. And I think you can bring that into whatever art you’re creating around that so that it definitely drives a creative element, for sure.

Listening to the album was chaotic, anxiety-inducing, beautiful and just totally cathartic. Was recording and working on it the same?

Clayton: Yeah. I think when we started it, there was no real template that we were working off. But, as we started writing more and more together, we found there was a nice balance between obviously both sounds and projects but all three of our individual tastes as well. So, I think it shows a good range and a good diversity and everyone’s odds and ends, you know?

You chose the name ‘BRONSON’ to remind yourselves that this was something different, and sort of transcend the expectations of your respective projects. Was that mantra hard to maintain throughout working on the album? Given you both have such unique sounds.

Golden Features: I think so. I think we both have a sound that is going to come through a little bit no matter what, but the truth is, a lot of the time, if we couldn’t pigeonhole the sound or it didn’t sound like either of us, that was the stuff we’re getting excited about pushing forwards. So naturally, we’re going to come through, but I guess the name at the end of the day was something to be very clear, that this isn’t either of us and it doesn’t come with the expectations that either of us put on ourselves.

I want to get into the track listing. I’m absolutely in love with ‘TENSE’. It’s literally everything I love from both of you in one tune. Did you guys know you’d killed it after cutting that track?

Harrison: [laughs] That was actually the first song we wrote, but it wasn’t finished for a long time. We had the first drop and we didn’t know where to take the second one, so that kind of like sat on the shelf throughout a lot of the record being made. But we just really wanted a really aggressive song to be in the middle of the record to really just hit a climax. And so, we came back to that one and worked really hard to try to get that second drop to feel different but the same and still kind of rise in energy.

The tune itself is pretty dynamic, like you leave a full minute at the end just for synths and a real atmospheric send off. What was the reason behind that?

Golden Features: I think like it’s just a very operatic song and that’s a very operatic arrangement. Instead of it being a pop song we figured out that the song doesn’t repeat itself once. Some of the synths and stuff are the same, but there’s no two sections that repeat. So I think it felt right to end it on a big kind of glorious moment.

It flows into ‘CALL OUT’ so beautifully. The tracklisting as a whole is so dynamic and non-linear. Was it a conscious choice to make it unpredictable like that?

Clayton: For sure, we spent a lot of time on the track listing. We had a couple different versions that just didn’t feel completely put together. Because it is such a diverse range of sounds. We wanted to make everything obviously sit together well but not take away from anything, so it was a lot of back and forth. It took us almost, I’d have to say, two, three weeks to finally settle on the track listing we finished with. It was a process, but I think we landed on the right flow for sure.

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The album is also very vivid from a listening standpoint. While working on it, given you both are known for such incredible live shows, did you guys at all discuss possible visuals for when you eventually tour it?

Golden Features: We started to. This year has not been the best for the old live shows.

Clayton & Harrison: [laughs]

Golden Features: We were kind of in the midst of it and obviously, right now, we would love to tour. Just every day there’s a new hurdle or a new development that makes us think we’ve got the red light or the green light. And I think, to be honest with you, both our strengths are live shows. So, man, let us do it.

Speaking of the live show, have you guys got any plans on how you’re actually gonna play it live when on stage together? Given that ODESZA is more live instrumentation and Golden Features is more synths/ mixing. 

Harrison: We’ve definitely talked about it [laughs]. I think you don’t really know until closer what you know you’re actually playing what you want to make for those types of shows. But yeah, I think it would definitely be an amalgamation of those things. But it’s going to have to fit the music and what we decide on that performance being. Because there are moments of that, but yeah, until we get closer to knowing what, what it truly is going to be, it’s hard to know what we want to make, you know?

Now talking about the collaborative process, Tom, why did you bring the ODESZA boys to Berry to record the album?

Golden Features: I brought them to Berry because I just did a statewide search of Airbnbs that were remote and we wouldn’t be bothered with neighbors. I know the South Coast, being from Sydney, and I thought it would be nice for them to see the bush, you know?

ODESZA, what did you guys think of Berry?

Harrison: Yeah, it was really cool. I mean, to be honest, we didn’t go very far. We were working like 14 hour days, but what was nice about it was, it was so beautiful and the sun was always shining and there was a lot of nature around us that allowed those brief moments where we could escape to be revitalised.

Did you guys ever butt heads in the studio? How’d you get past those creative hurdles?

Clayton: Oh all day [laughs]. No, we work pretty well together. Honestly, it’s been really easy to flow. The time difference is probably the hardest thing with finishing the album, Tom being in Australia and whatnot, but it was kind of nice cause we’d be going to bed and Tom would kind of pick it up and then we wake up and then have songs done, pieces done. So it was a new experience every day and we ended up ironing out the kinks, but nothing too serious in terms of collaborative headaches or anything like that on our end.

So there were no songs you guys couldn’t come to an agreement on?

Golden Features: I think, naturally with these things, in the beginning everyone’s very amicable and everyone gets along and then it’s when you start trying to get, like it’s the dumb shit you argue about, like “that hi-hat should have been louder”.

Harrison: It should’ve been man!

Golden Features: [laughs] We’re not going back there right now bro.

Clayton: You’ll lose friends over the mixing process [laughs]. It’s kind of the last five to 10% which is always the hardest with an album because you’re so close to it. And of course, we had back and forth over that, but I think everyone’s pushing and pulling and it ends up being for the better.

How have the ODESZA and Golden Features projects grown individually as a result of BRONSON? What have you learnt from each other along the way?

Golden Features: These guys are like… There’s a few things. One, their work ethic is insane. I thought I worked a lot and hard but being around them is so motivating and inspiring, just to see the amount of love and care that goes into everything they do, so I’m going to take that with me. And lot of what they do as well is like… I don’t know. I feel they’re a lot freer than me sometimes in the way they write music and explore ideas before doubling down and refining something and they come to a lot better decisions as a result of that. If that makes sense. They have a much lower tolerance for bad ideas whereas I’ll try and make something work. So that’s a huge thing I’ve taken out of it. That’s something I’m excited to take back to Golden Features album two.

Clayton: Thank you, Tom.

Harrison: So sweet, so sweet. We learned a lot from each other. When you’re around each other, and I think we had a lot of different references growing up musically, you start to bleed in with each other as you’re explaining methods of the way you record certain instruments or the way you like to try to do a baseline or the kind of the go-to synth that you like for this style of pad, you start hearing other people’s techniques and then you start talking through them and you actually find out new ways to do things through that process. And even something like Tom was saying where he likes to make things work that, on the other hand, we’ve learned from that too. Don’t keep changing the sound because you think it can always be better. You can actually push a sound to be the right sound. And I think that’s what’s so great about collaboration is that that process is such a learning one and that’ll stay with all of us and change the way we create forever.

Clayton: I have to say it, Tom’s a master of minimal structure, minimal elements. Whereas when Harrison and I write, we just throw a lot of stuff at the wall and see what sticks and do a lot of layers with the Odesza project, because we want to capture that lush sound. But it was really new and refreshing to work in a more minimalistic approach where you only have three or four elements playing at one time and really refining those sounds and really dialing stuff like that in. Just a new way of working, which I found really productive and really insightful.

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Can we expect more music from BRONSON in the future? Or is this gonna stand on its own?

Harrison: That’s a good question! I think we could easily go back into the studio and write some more music. We have a bunch of stuff that didn’t make the record even. So who knows?

Bronson’s new album is out now. You can buy/ stream it here. Be sure to keep up with them on Facebook and Instagram to stay up to date on all their latest projects. 

Words by Amar Gera August 7, 2020
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