Better Person: “I miss being around people – I do not miss soundchecks and hangovers”
Berlin based sad eyed crooner Adam Byczkowski is bringing under his Better Person persona multicolor glamour to our black-and-white-world for some years now. So far mostly as a one man show but def with all the potential to go soon on stage with a huge orchestra. Adam combines in his songs and appearance a ghostly David Lynch vibe with George Michael-es pop star qualities and a sophisticated turn on lust for life. Now is the time to step up for him with his debut album “Something to lose”.
Thomas Venker and Adam Byczkowski exchanged questions and answers between Cologne and Berlin.
Adam, I heard you catched Corona a few months ago and still feel the after effects.
Yes it’s true, I caught the virus back in March already. It’s been a wild ride, both me and my partner haven’t been able to fully recover. She’s a little better now so she can buy our groceries and prepare our meals but I’ve actually have been getting worse. It’s been seven months now and I still spend most of my days laying in bed trying to get enough energy to even get dressed.
Very sorry to hear so.
Coming from that: Your debut album is called „Something to lose“ – what did you have originally in mind when you chose the title and did the meaning the title has to you change over the year through those experiences?
Originally the album title was “True Love” since that’s what most of the album is about. Soon after I decided on that my friend Devon Welsh released an album named the same, so I had to change the title. I think that “Something to Lose” is actually a much better fitting name for it. It works in many ways not only in the love context but also the general feeling about the world.
One of the song you prereleased to the album is “Dotknij Mnie“. Not only did you decide to sing it in polnish you also present a very close image of you in the video to the song. What are you singing about in the song? It is about a time of depression in your life, right?
Yes. Since I was making an album about love, I needed one song that was filled with doubt and pain. It’s an inevitable part of every relationship. I wrote this song in a darker moment of my life and used it as a cleansing tool. It ended up being my favourite song on the album. I guess I’m just a gloomy person after all.
What made you sing this song and also „Na Zawsze“ in polnish?
I try not to filter myself when it comes to that. Sometimes a song comes to me in Polish and I let it be that way. I also enjoy the way it sounds, it’s a beautiful language and I think that it sounds very intriguing when put in a pop song context. Most of the time though, it’s just convenient to use english, to get my thoughts and feelings across a wide audience. This way I get to avoid all the annoying youtube comments asking for translations haha
Why do you think is love such an important topic for your lyrical approach?
Falling deeply in love was a huge experience for me. Big enough to make a record about it. I feel like I’ve complained enough in my music and I’ve been very self centered in my lyrics. I wanted to make a piece of work that has much more of a universal message, a positive one. I don’t want to make music that is political in a “current problems” way but I wanted to create a world that could be a door to some kind of positive change. On top of that I’m also a romantic in general, I love love! Hehe
What are you right now most afraid of to lose in your life?
Right now my biggest fear is to lose my ability to live freely the way I used to before I got sick in March. I’m terrified that it might not happen.
You recorded the album ins Los Angeles with Ben Goldwasser from MGMT.
First off: Do you feel that the often described Westcoast Vibe had an influence on your songwriting process? Do you feel the songs on the album are much different regards the inner core than your earlier songs?
It didn’t have much of an influence on the songwriting per se, since I wrote all the songs in Berlin but it definitely inspired the way the album feels, sounds and some of the arrangement decisions I made. I was a fan of Westcoast yacht rock and soft rock from the late 70’s before spending time in Los Angeles but when I was actually there I really started noticing that kind of vibe creeping into my arrangement choices. The atmosphere of the album seems to be much lighter than my previous work probably because of all the beautiful light and ocean breeze. Some of the Euro-clouds have lifted from my music.
And of course I am curious to hear how the dream team match of Ben and you came up?
I met Ben on the stairs of the now closed Berlin club Internet Explorer. We were fans of each other’s music and quickly got along. He invited me to come to Los Angeles to work on my album together so I went deep into my overdraft and moved there to finnish it with him.
What is the most significant thing you took home from working with him?
I think that the whole process helped made some of my beliefs stronger. I was a little worried that after working on an album in a “fancy” studio I would start relying on equipment and hardware synths, that I’d become one of those people that just buy instruments and expensive plug ins and never finnish anything. But in reality I realised that I’m just not that kind of person, I just don’t care about equipment at all. What I care about is songwriting and sincerity. If I ever feel the need to run my midi tracks through an expensive hardware synthesizer in the future I can always bug Ben to do that for me.
How long did you work together on the album and was it a linear process or do you see looking back different phases?
I spent a long time writing the songs at home in Berlin, I’d say about six to eight months. Then after bringing the material to Los Angeles the studio work with Ben took a good couple months as well. We spent a long time running my midi through his synthesizers, re-recording my vocals and adding “real” instruments in the arrangement, things like acoustic and electric guitar, bass, percussion instruments, saxophone, flute etc. For that we invited a handful of guests and friends (some of them included Ben himself but also members of bands like TOPS or Wild Nothing). After that we spent an extra month on mixing the material. So all together it took a whole year to complete the album from beginning to end.
Do you remember the first time you thought of being a musician?
I actually don’t remember ever not wanting to make music. Since I was a child I knew that music is really “it” for me. I never wanted to do anything else but to write songs.
Isnt it weird: on one side the album is full on international – but it comes out in the most local times we all experiences in our lives so far, in a time when even the idea of touring the USA or Asia seem like an unpossibible mission?
I feel like there is something romantic about situations like this. Releasing an album in the middle of a world wide pandemic feels to me like playing a show to an empty venue, something that I’ve done many times in the past. It’s sad but it also gives me a strange kick, like I’m starring in a movie about myself. Hopefully people have a bit more time to listen to quieter and softer music like mine and let themselves go a little bit these days. It’s a good time to take a walk with it on headphones, or listen while staring out the window.
You toured like not many other people out there and played an endless stream of shows with the songs of your ep „It´s only you“. Now as the machine is stopped, what do you miss most from the tour life? And what do you not miss at all – if there is something?
I miss touring dearly. As you said, I’m a road person, I love being on the move, travelling and performing, working. I love hotels. I miss being around people. I do not miss soundchecks. And hangovers.
The album is coming out on the Montreal based Arbutus Records label and your Berlin home base label Mansions and Millions as a joint venture. To me this makes perfect sense, coming from the roster of super likeable indie acts like TOPS, the early Sean Nicholas Savage, Blue Hawai or also the early Grimes as well strategically as by that you are strongly positioned in North America and Europe. How do you feel about the set up?
I’m super happy about it. Both labels are run by good friends of mine and I feel like Mansions and Millions and Arbutus are representing similar qualities and vibe but on different continents. Arbutus Records is extended family. It makes total sense to me to release this album on both labels.