Bronze Whale have been dropping jam after jam after jam so I reached out to talk to the duo behind the whale, Aaron Jaques and Benny Alley, and get a glimpse inside their songwriting process. We discussed their upcoming music, took a look back at their first release, and they shared who they’ve been listening to lately– including a couple PB & Good Jams favorites. You can find the full interview below.
To start, do you still have the original GoodWill bronze whale that you based your name off of?
B: We do! He’s definitely aged over the years though.
How was the experience of performing at SXSW for the first time being from Austin?
A: Playing in our home town is always a lot of fun and SXSW is no exception. It’s a crazy mess spanning a week and there are just so many shows and meetings coming at you at full speed. It takes a good week of decompression after it’s all said and done.
I’ve heard about this Magic Magic Collective, can you tell me more about it? What does it mean to you guys?
B: It’s evolved over the years. We started it as a label just to release our own music. As we featured other artists over the years, we realized it was a great place to showcase talent that we believed in. We started locally, but have expanded on that recently.
A: I think the final goal for me would be to have a large space with writing rooms and a big conference room for artists, managers, and other creatives to grind out ideas together and support each other.
How did you each first start producing?
A: I got a demo copy of Acid 3.0 around the year 2000. Had a lot of fun with it and made some terrible music. I just never really lost the interest, and as technology got better, as my music got better, the interest kept growing.
B: I met Aaron in late 2011. He had a music blog (Waxhole) that I was interested in growing with him, and was looking to learn production. The project just kind of blossomed out of that, in a really unique way at first since I didn’t know production at all. I think that’s a big part of why the projects progression has been so interesting. Learning from Aaron and mirroring his sound, to slowly finding my own voice and adding those influences over the years.
How do you look back now on your first release, your War of Art EP?
A: It was definitely a learning period. We had never made a body or originals before and got a lot of pressure from our manager at the time to make an EP. There we a lot of firsts. My main take away from it was learning to not overthink songs.
B: That EP really taught us some major differences in the writing process. Both writing separately, collaboratively, songs that flowed easily, and ones that had to be heavily worked and re-worked. I remember it was really important to us to make something that felt unique and I think it still holds true to that.
What’s your song making process like?
A: It’s constantly changing. Being a drummer I tend to start with drums and then bass, but sometimes it starts with some chords I stumbled upon. We tend to have periods where we each try to make a “starter” a day for a month or so. Then we go through them, pick the best ones and then work towards finishing them.
B: I’ve always started with a melody. Tempo and beat structure will come second, but the notes have to do something for me to move forward. I’ve been lucky to work with a music partner who likes to mix it up as much as I do, so we’re constantly pushing each other to take on different elements of each song.
And what’s your DAW of choice?
Should we be expecting more of Benny’s vocals in your music?
B: Maybe? Possibly.. yeah probably. I actually did the vocals on an original years ago called Say It. We had always played with the idea, but the Bronze Whale project really thrived on collaboration, so we tabled it. One of this years big goals for us was to build momentum with releases, and a tight timeline isn’t always possible with collaboration. We really tried it as an experiment, but it’s been super well received, so there will probably be more!
What was your inspiration for “Gold Grain”?
A: After a late night at a bar with our good friend Jon we decided to go to the studio. We set a 10 minute timer and each took turns producing the instrumental. We each had probably 3-4 rounds before the core idea was there. So I guess it was pretty random haha.
B: Yeah that original just presented itself out of thin air. I remember listening back to it the next day and being like.. what happened last night? That really stuck with me when I went to write vocals for it. I wanted a little anthem about the process of creatives. Late nights, getting lost in the process, and the resistance that comes with being so obsessed with it.
Your music seems to combine many different genres from trap to funk, how do you classify your songs— or do you like the fact that they can’t be classified?
A: I’m ok with it being hard to classify, for sure. I think because we don’t try to mimic sounds much, it keeps the style pretty unique. We definitely tried to copy synth styles in the beginning dubstep days, but quickly realized we weren’t very good at it so just kind made our own sound the way we figured out how.
B: Both of our music backgrounds are such a mixed bag that I think those roots present themselves a lot in our writing. Aaron’s heavy hip hop influences, and my indie rock and metal backgrounds play a part in how we try and augment the norms of electronic music.
Your recent singles from 2018, “Warm”, “Patterns”, and now, “Gold Grain”, all play off each other really well with this downtempo yet bouncy feel. Do you feel like you’re really honing in on the sound you’ve been looking for or do you think there’s still new genres and sounds to be explored within the Bronze Whale project?
A: We are definitely having a good time with these styles of drums and the general BPM range for a bit. It’s safe to say that our sound will continue to grow and evolve.
With so much going on in the world, from rap beef to politics, what’s something that’s captivated you lately? And, is it hard to stay focused on making music with all this background noise?
B: For me, music and creating art has always been the escape. Diving into the DAW, creating song art, or a video, refocuses me and pushes all the noise into the background. That being said, it’s hard to focus while Boston Dynamics are creating horrifying, door opening, back-flipping robots..
A: I never got into video games and the DAW became that for me. It has never been work to me, it’s my getaway.
What’s some new music you’ve really been digging lately?
B: Robotaki’s Science EP. Ye.’s Trails EP. Kasbo, Shallou, and Ramzoid on regular rotation.
A: 92elm, Madnap and Jaron have caught my ear lately. Also was pretty happy with some of the new Lykke Li album.
And what are some of each of your all time favorite songs or artists?
B: Ah.. the impossible question. It’s always changing. I can listen to Rufus Du Sol’s Innerbloom until the wheels fall off. Same with James Blake. Glass Animals is up there for me, along with London Grammar.
A: Yann Tiersen is a big one for me. “Eleanor Rigby” is probably all time favorite song.
Anything you’re really looking forward to this year?
B: Super excited for Float Fest next month! We’ve also got a few writing retreats planned and are going to be putting out a ton of new music!
A: More tunes!!
And finally, what’s something that not many people know about you guys?
A: Introverted nerds. Actually everyone knows that.