Singer/songwriter Ben Rizio of Neon Pattern Sundial stops by THEAUSSIEWORD.COM for a special interview.
How and where did it all begin for you? What drew your interest to the music industry?
I guess just between the ages of around 8-15 I slowly realised that this is what I like doing more than basically anything else. When I was 13 or 14 I downloaded FL Studio and got into production and I became particularly excited by it all.
What motivates or influences you in your quest to make great music?
Well I’m definitely inspired by a lot of other artists, whether they’re musicians or visual artists or whoever.
But I’m also excited by the idea of trying to make something unique and exciting to my own taste, and to push listeners a little more beyond what they’d expect. Like trying to incorporate unlikely combinations of styles in one song, or using a style of sound design or production that typically doesn’t align with the context I’m putting it in, or putting two songs next to each other on a release that I don’t think people will expect.
I also have a fixation on larger works such as albums or EPs, but also series of albums/EPs as opposed to just individual songs. I feel like with larger works like that there’s more space for the aesthetic or themes to come through. I love artists that are extremely committed to an aesthetic, that’s one of the most inspiring things to me.
I get a lot of enjoyment out of brainstorming tracklists for albums, and imagining what the mood or style will be for each track as well as the titles and artwork associated with them. I think aesthetic concepts are often more exciting to me than even lyrics or melodies.
What are some of your biggest goals you hope to accomplish?
One of my ‘goals’ is an immersive AV show. Visuals, lighting, and a setlist that consists of alternate versions of the songs, medleys, and all sorts of fun stuff like that. I’ve always loved hearing live versions and unreleased music at shows of my favourite artists, to me that’s one of the most exciting parts about live music.
What can we expect from you in the coming months? Any plans to tour?
I don’t imagine any touring in the current world but, there will be a new single soon and some very exciting news to come along with that. I can’t wait to play some shows once we see this all through, I’ve got some ideas for that too.
Tell us a bit about your latest release and how would you best describe your music?
‘Wendouree’ is a song that took a long time to finish and still often confuses me! But I’m proud of it and its uniqueness. To me it’s about trying to be more involved in the present as opposed to dreaming about a change of scenery in the future, because our lives are never going to be the way they are today. So let’s try soak it up before it passes!
I think I better understand how to describe my music once people describe it to me. It’s been described as poignant which I love. To me it’s just guitar-driven alt-pop scattered with synths and electronic production.
Give us an insight into your creative process. What gets you writing songs?
I definitely work in unpredictable bursts, which I’d say usually means I’m quite slow as a writer. It’s almost laughable… I’ve put quite a bit of thought and effort into trying to cultivate my workspace all nice and whatever, but I get a lot done sitting on my girlfriend’s couch hunched over my laptop screen, after I opened a project because I “just wanted to give it a listen”, but then it’s been a few hours and I’ve got two new sections to a song. And then… I don’t touch it for weeks! Months even! Apart from playing the demo on repeat of course.
In all seriousness though, I do also spend a lot of time making lists of what I need to fix in a demo I’m working on and then going and fixing those things and then repeating the process with many many iterations of lists. It’s a combination of those two processes that eventually gets it done for me. It’s quite a system I’ve got going.
Is there a hidden meaning in any of your music?
Not necessarily hidden meanings (yet), but definitely links between songs and releases. As I release more music I’m sure a lot of people will work it out pretty quickly.
Success, what is the secret to it?
Hahaha haa ha… The secret to success is to define your own! Make sure that it actually aligns with your values and not just looks or seems pretty. Stadium tours with full AV production are pretty cool, but also seem pretty intense and stressful. I don’t think I’d call that success… If I can just live off my music and go for a nice walk that’d be sweet. You know?
What has been your biggest career highlight so far?
Hmm well, it’s been an incredibly short career so far, so I’ll mention an experience from my old band Echo Mono… Over the course of about 9 months or so we worked our way up through the Battle of The Bands competition in Victoria, and performed at the St Kilda festival here in Melbourne. We were on the smallest stage in the afternoon, and we started with just a few friends and family watching. But there was a point where we realised that an enormous crowd of passer-bys had stopped to watch us. I have no clue how many people it was but it really had us all smiling at each other on stage. Holy shit! People actually like this song we made!
Which stars of the music industry do you find inspiring?
Justin Vernon, Matty and George of The 1975, Amber of The Japanese House, Jon Hopkins, Madeon, all come to mind pretty quickly.
Are there any new projects in the pipeline?
The music industry is constantly changing, where do you see yourself in a few years?
Oh man, really the only thing I’m sure of is what I want to release in the next few years. I’d love to do a few shows around Melbourne before hopefully branching out to Sydney and some regional areas. Doing some production for other artists would be awesome too.
What is your favourite and least favourite part about this line of work and why?
I love writing and producing, trying to build an aesthetic around my music, and trying to expand my processes a little bit all the time. I also love playing shows and can’t wait for that to happen again, as I’ve never performed as this project!
Unfortunately I’m not particularly enjoying occupying my social media profiles, which is a relationship I hope to improve. Occasionally I’ll have a great interaction and it’s great to hear from someone who has enjoyed my song, but for the most part I would rather just be working on new music.
Name a few of your favourite Australian artists.
Apart from my super talented friends I have a real soft spot for Golden Features. There are so many great Australian artists I wouldn’t know where to start.
The shape of the music industry has changed significantly over the years, including the use of social media, how do you feel about the industry as a whole and what does it mean to you in getting your records out into the public eye?
Personally, I don’t love social media. I definitely wish it didn’t exist sometimes. But it makes complete sense as to why it does exist and why I need to be there. Peoples attention is always going to gravitate towards the most bold, fast-paced, bite-size form of media that they can digest quickly, so it’s no surprise that the newest platform that’s making waves has a maximum video length of 60 seconds, and a focus on snappy, loud content.
This sort of thing has obviously impacted the music industry hugely in terms of the way musicians are marketing themselves and gathering an audience. It’s all become very casual and improvised. Which is by no means a bad thing.
But there are certain platforms I don’t want to exist on despite knowing that they could result in a lot of benefit for my music. Social media is already something that affects me in a largely negative way, and it comes down to if I want to take up that trade-off at the consequence of me having to spend more time creating and interacting with content.
How will you continue appealing to the international market?
One step at a time… I’m just gonna think about Melbourne first!
Do you collaborate with others? Who is on your wish-list?
Everything that I’m releasing this year is the result of working closely with a few of my friends. Particularly Marc Scollo who recorded and mixed everything. I bounce all my ideas off him now from very early in the process, and he let’s me know when an idea is really dumb. I’ve also got a song coming out this year with my friend Jonah Orbach who’s a member of the band Blue Belly.
There’s plenty of big and small artists that I’d love to work with. The artist Goldwater interests me a lot as I delve more into electronic music again. I would also love to work with another vocalist and produce for any rappers.
What advice do you give for other artists wanting to follow in your footsteps?
What’s on my mind right now is that being an independent musician involves acting as a few different roles. And it takes a bit of work to figure out how to dedicate some time to general admin and your social media presence, while still remembering that the music comes far above all else. Especially if you’re trying to do your own PR, artwork, production, etc.
A message for your fans. How do you best interact and respond with your followers and fans?
Instagram messages are chill.
Any last words?
Thanks everyone for the support so far, it’s been really really awesome. And thank you Brian at the TheAussieWord.com for having me! I’m particularly excited to share the next few drops and the music I’m currently working on 🙂