SXSW Interview: Golden Vessel on his debut album Slowshine, Oscar Key Sung and falling in love with songwriting

One of the many Australian artists making their debut at SXSW last month was Brisbane’s Max Byrne, who has spent the last few years producing some beautiful indie electronic music under the name Golden Vessel. Arriving in Texas off the back of his new single “Dizzy”, we sat down to talk about his experiences in Austin, filming his latest video in Japan, and what we can expect from his debut album Slowshine, which will be released in May.

We’re sitting at Australia House during SXSW, this is already your second show here this year.

Yeah, we just had one, on the first night I took a screen to Queensland showcase, just a bunch of people from Brisbane, it was really nice. Now we’ve got two today, and two tomorrow, then a couple of days off. Actually pretty crazy so far.

You’re here off the back of your new single, “Dizzy”. Talk me through a little bit about how everything has come together for that track and what the response has been like so far?

I’ve been listening to Oscar Key Sung since I was 14 and found his weird demos on Bandcamp. I think he was overseas for 9 months, in Mexico and Berlin and LA and he got back to Melbourne. I was there and we had a conversation, I moved my flights, got us three hours in the studio and we teed it up somehow. I didn’t even think he’d seen his mom yet and it was really quick. And then it was pretty much done. It was probably the easiest song to write and the response has been really nice.

I went to Japan with a friend and we filmed a couple of music videos, including one for “Dizzy”. So it’s been fun to put that out too.

Yeah I love the music video, I was gonna say, getting to make content like that in Japan most have been pretty fun.

Yeah I just called my friend up and I was like, “If I was to book you a flight to Japan, would you want to come?” He’s like, “Yeah.” So I just did it, like couple of weeks later. It was fun.

You’re touring as a duo here. Is that the kind of the normal set up for you now or are you?

Yeah, I don’t usually do shows without him… So I perform with my friend Connor, he has a project called Akurei and we kind of just like scratch each other’s backs. I help him out with the video, he helps me out with a bit. We do a three piece when we can with a drummer, which is a lot of fun. Yeah, generally it’s just me and Connor.

How have you been finding your sound to be developing live, as you’ve been obviously producing music for a little while now and working with great artists like Oscar. How are you finding that sound, not just to develop in the studio, but also on stage?

At first, I think I just got up on stage and I just realised how bad I was. And you’re like, it’s definitely a learning curve, but yeah, now it feels very fluid and I think … Because I work with a lot of vocalists generally I’ll have the song and me and Connor will sit down, Connor’s got a bit of a higher voice, I’ve got a bit of a lower voice and we kind of just like, “All right, which part are we gonna sing?” And we just cover all the vocals. So yeah, Connor will generally do the female vocals or the higher parts, and then we see what works. And it generally does. It’s pretty easy now.

Dizzy’s a bit of a taste of what’s going to be coming for you later this year. Can you talk us through a little bit about what the release plans are for you as the year continues?

I’ve got an album coming out in May (Slowshine on 17th May) and another single out in a couple of weeks, (look out for “Highway” when it drops tomorrow). Yeah, really excited to put that out. Been sitting on it a little while, so it’ll be cool to show people finally.

Can you give us any hints about what we might find on the record?

Yeah, I think it’s just me trying to cram as many friends onto the album as possible. It’s been a lot of fun to make. Pretty much everyone on the album’s a friend of mine and, yeah, I guess that’s it. Just friends.

You mentioned that when you went in and you worked on the track with Oscar, how easy it was. What do you think facilitated that ease? What was the catalyst for something that may be an easier process than with another artist?

Of course, yeah, who we aren’t gonna name…. *laughs*

Yes, they should not be named.

Yeah, I think we just clicked really well, and I think some people are really quick. I feel like I’m quick to throw sounds together and Oscar’s pretty quick on the lyrics. Yeah, I think actually what we did with Dizzy was, we just hit record and sang for 10 minutes, and we just cut it up and just put the mumbling into words. When that happens, it’s really fast, yeah but works well. Yeah, I think he’s just quick.

Does that reflect your writing process in general or is it just kind of case by case with, depending on who you’re working with?

I think it’s case by case. I think it’s better to get lyrics done first, but sometimes it’s just fun to jump in and not think about it too hard. And sometimes the result is almost cooler than what you would have done if you’d forced it.

So you got lyrics first. I imagine though you probably have like a slew of a few samples and ideas of musical bits and pieces lying around?

Yeah I generally like to sample myself a lot, I’ll have just a synth in front of me, I’ll record it for 20 minutes and then when I’m with someone else in the room I’ll whip it up and cut out little parts. I feel like, as I’ve done music for more and more years, I’d realised that song writing is probably the most important thing. Sounding good is obviously important but like, if the song sucks, I don’t think you can hide that behind good production. But maybe like four years ago I would’ve been like, “Nah, production is what makes a good song.” But yeah, so I’m just really into songwriting at the moment so, yeah, whatever I can do to facilitate that.

Are you writing for other people as well?

Yeah I do like a but. I don’t so much like writing songs for other people, but I do like doing production and co-writing and stuff like that. I did a bit on the Cub Sport record, stuff with Mallrat and Allday, and there’s a good friend of mine from Austria, who I am doing pre-production on his next stuff.

Oh cool.

And that stuff’s probably a lot of fun for me.

More like scratching your back, you scratch mine later on.

Exactly, yeah.

And here at SXSW, what does it mean to be a part of, the Sounds Australia event alongside all these other great Aussie acts?

It’s really cool hey? I think I heard that everyone on average spends 20k to come out here, which is like ridiculous. But it’s cool to just see people investing in themselves and trying to put on the best show they can and such a small amount of time. Yeah, I really appreciate that.

Any acts that you’re trying to check out, or you’ve seen that you’ve enjoyed?

Yeah, I saw Dreamer Boy yesterday. He’s American, he’s really cool. And I saw SHIGETO as well last night. That was someone that I really liked. But yeah, it’s so overwhelming. I just go where people go and I’ll see what I see. I haven’t really planned out too much.

That’s the only way to do it. There’s so much going on. For every three things you see, there’s a hundred things you miss.

Yeah I know. I don’t even wanna think about it. Just let it happen.

Too much FOMO, too much FOMO. Well, you’ve got four more shows to go.

Four more shows, yeah.

Are you ready?

Yeah. I think so, yeah.

Right well we’ll see you for a drink after it all finishes.

Or before.

Or before.

Yeah.

Or in between, yeah, wherever it lands.

“Dizzy” is out now. His next single “Highway” drops tomorrow. You can look out for his debut album Slowshine on 17th May 2019. Keep tabs on Golden Vessel via his Facebook Page

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Larry Heath

Founding Editor of the AU review. You can find him on Twitter @larry_heath or on Instagram @larryheath.