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Golden Vessel on SLOWSHINE & "the power of friendship"

2 July 2019 | 7:05 pm | Caitlin Medcalf

The shiniest boy in the sunshine state celebrated the release of his debut record, SLOWSHINE, in mid-May. It's a moment GOLDEN VESSEL had been waiting for since he started writing the record back in late 2017.

SLOWSHINE is an ode to Golden Vessel's pals. Every track on the record has a feature, and as a result, a story to coincide with the creation of the track. It's a highly personal affair that saw him adopt new ways of thinking in order to piece everything together.

Featuring singles 'BIGBRIGHT' with bandmate ElkkleE^ST and Duckwrth, 'MOONSTONE' with bandmate Elkkle and longtime pal Akurei, 'DIZZY' with Oscar Key Sung and 'HIGHWAY' with previous collaborator Emerson Leif, the record is Golden Vessel's ode to his loved ones. A way to sonically capture this moment in time where his main modes of inspiration were coming from those closest to him.

Fast forward to now, over a month and a half on from the record's release and he's gearing up to take the record internationally. He'll be headed to the USA for the second time this year - the first being for SXSW - with a mammoth run of dates planned.

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With the tour kicking off later this week, we phoned Max last week to chat SLOWSHINE, collaborating and what's to come.

When are you flying off to the US?

On the 29th, so Saturday week.

That's so soon!

Yeah, it's very soon. There's a lot to do, but it's coming together.

It's not your first time heading over there, is it like your third?

It's my second time for shows, but the other times I've been were just for writing. I'm excited, it's going to be really fun.

What shows are you most looking forward to?

Probably New York. We had a really good one in New York last time. We also have a week leading up to that show just to hang out, which will be really cool. I think last time, we went during the polar vortex and it was so cold. Everyone was like "I wish you could see these places in Summer", and now we are. There are people who want to take us out on the lake on the boat. Some of these places I was like, man, they have potential, but right now they kind of suck [laughs].

How exciting for you, the record is finally. It's been a long time coming for you hasn't it?

It has. I finished it in July last year. I probably worked on it for a year, and then sat on it for ten months before it came out. Even just that ten month wait, I was pretty keen for it to come out. It's more of a relief to have it out I think.

Yeah, you feel like you can put that in the past and move on from it.

Yeah. It's a nice feeling.

I was reading an interview that we did with you in 2017, and there's a bit towards the end of the interview where we asked what you were working on. You said that you were just starting to work on the record. 

I remember that, I think I wrote the first song on that album, 'MOONSTONE', like two days before that interview. That's super cool that that happened exactly at that moment.

Yeah, so this interview feels a bit full circle! Now that the record is out, have you gone back and listened to it?

Yeah, I have. Partly because we're rehearsing it at the moment because of the tour, but it got mixed and mastered in January. The mixing process was pretty arduous, so I was like, "I'm not going to listen to this ever again". I didn't touch it for three months. Then I sat down, lit a candle and I hit play, and I was pleasantly surprised. It wasn't as bad as I remember it sounding.

It's nice that you can listen to it now and it's all polished, with the visuals and everything. How would you describe the record in a sentence or two?

I think it's just me and my friends having fun. That's what I wanted to capture. There's so many people that contributed. I wanted to create heaps of different ideas, and then condense it into ten songs. I wanted it to be a space where I could have friends come in, and record a guitar or try something a bit weird, and then I would try and make it work in the context of a full song. I think that was the goal.

What makes a successful collaboration in your eyes?

I think meeting in the middle. I do a fair bit of research I guess, like a lot of people I'm working with are friends that I've known for years, but I guess if it's like a new collaboration I'll do a heap of research into how they might think, and sometimes I get surprised. I do things like look at their catalogue, their digital branding and those types of things, and I try and think about how I could meet them in the middle. Usually I'll bring a lot of ideas, like 10% ideas. Sometimes it's people that are so far from what you do, but it's about that middle ground. I think that's a successful collaboration.

What did this album process teach you about your collaborative process?

What I realised was that I love to take things away and tinker with them for a long time. That first moment with someone else in the room is like really special. I think that's my favourite part of making music. I usually find that a song sticks if something happens, sonically, that is kind of odd or that I'm not expecting. So if someone brings out a sound or a melody that is just like something that I would never think of, I get really excited. Then I guess it's my job to take it back and tinker. Sometimes I tinker for ages, like a year or something. The way I tinker is that I listen to all of the songs I like a lot, nearly everyday and I might change one thing, and then I open it the next day and see how I felt about that change. There are some songs that get finished in the moment. It's nice just to go with the flow, is maybe what I've learnt. If I need to spend a lot of time by myself, then you've just got to make it happen, but sometimes you've got to run with that first idea and just wrap it up. There's no one way of doing it.

That would be one of the toughest things to learn too. What was your favourite session from the record?

Probably the best sessions were when Elkkle and I were at BIGSOUND around September 2017, because we did 'MOONSTONE' and 'BIGBRIGHT' like three days apart from each other. 'MOONSTONE' was with Akurei, and 'BIGBRIGHT' was just us two. They just both happened, because we were feeling really excited about where we could take things, and we were bouncing off each other really well and the first two singles had happened days apart. I think that was a really exciting moment because I remember thinking a lot about what I wanted to do, and to see it kind of come into fruition was exciting.

Looking back on it, a month or two after the record's release, is there anything that you would change about it?

Yeah, I listen to it and am like, I would have maybe done that a bit differently, but it's like a journal entry. Thinking, yeah that's how I thought, or approached things back then and that's kind of cool and hopefully with the next stuff, people can see growth and improvement. I think what I'm thinking a lot about now is simplicity. SLOWSHINE was quite a busy record, in a good way. Looking back, there's a lot of ideas in a short amount of time. But it was fun because it was all of my friends jumping in on it. I wouldn't change anything at all.

That's the beauty of a record, you've got this concept and this idea, and you can kind of run with it, or choose to wrap it up. 

It feels so good to wrap it up [laughs].

How has it been working on music post-release? Have you been creating with a different mindset?

Yeah, it's been very easy. I think I started before the record came out, so there's heaps of music in the works at the moment. I'm really excited by where it's heading. It's cool, I've just been reinstilling where I want to take things visually and sonically. It's a fun process just being really intentional with working out is the concept for a full record? How can I run with that for the next year? It's been really nice to move on.

You've been part of this industry for a long time now, beginning your career at around 14/15. What would you say you've learned about yourself as a musician in that time since releasing your debut?

So much. My approach for this year was to keep working hard, but to also take things a bit easier. It's nice just to go with the flow. I feel like if random things happen or things happen that you didn't expect, and you just have a really stable mindset about it, it doesn't really weigh you down. I think before, every little thing mattered to me so much, but now it's nice to have more of an open perspective. I think that's come with age more than anything, but as a teenager, I thought about everything a lot. It's just nice to know when to take a break and to not take a break, I think I've become more aware of that type of stuff. Finding a good balance.

That strikes me about every aspect of this project for you, like the record was about finding a balance between your sound and the collaborators' sounds, and even the visual aspect of it too. The consistency between the two mediums is really balanced, it's beautiful.

Thanks. Balance is the word.

What did it take for you to develop such a clear vision between your music and the visual aspect of the project?

A lot of the songs, lyrically, were kind of talking about a lot of words that had to do with light or space. That's just what I was really into at the time. I have to give a shoutout to Woodes. I went to Japan and took a picture of a guy standing outside of a fire station. On the guy's jacket, he had these reflective strips, and I took the photo with flash, and they were lighting up. I remember Woodes commented and she was like "You should do something with that", and I thought about it for a long time.


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GV_PF*__03 People of Japan ??

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I did a bit of research into reflective material, and you see it everywhere now, but I was kind of like that could work really well with the way the lyrics were headed and the sound was headed. I worked really closely with some friends, one of them is Sean Pyke, who does all of my photos. I bought some rolls of 3M and we started sticking it on clothes and taking photos. I liked how it looked, so we brainstormed how many ways we could explore this with the singles and the album. It just happened naturally, but it all stemmed from that comment from Woodes, so props to her.

Was it nice to be able to take a break from the music aspect of the record and focus your energy into the visual aspect?

Yeah, I love the visual side of it. It's almost as fun if not more fun. I think it's maybe more fun because I do it less, so it feels like a bit of a treat. I think just cause I had good friends around me that I'd been learning from and watching, it was cool to apply some things that I've observed. Especially from people like Sean, and then my friends Matt and Harry who direct my videos, and just watching the way that they work and thinking how I could do that as well.

You took a trip to Japan and filmed a few clips for the record, including 'DIZZY' and 'HIGHWAY'. What is it about Japan that draws you in?

It's so special. Everywhere's really beautiful. The culture is so interesting because it's very nice and friendly, like everyone helps you and you feel very welcome there. There's also this really deep-seated loneliness to the country. It's almost like the loneliness there is out of control. The more time you spend there, the more you notice it. When you first land, it's very touristy and you can see that everyone's really happy here, but I don't know, at the same time, it feels very welcoming. It's beautiful, the food is amazing, the architecture is amazing, but it's got a bit of complexity to it, so it's interesting to go there and see that further.

I love the way that you captured your clips was very much you doing things around the city. What you just described to me, I think the clips really reflect that.

That's literally all we did. We took a couple of cameras, me and my friend Matt. We had a couple of rough ideas, and we just went with it. The 'HIGHWAY' one we shot in a taxi, we asked like 12 taxis and they all said no, but the 13th guy said yes and we only took like four takes. It was fun.

Are there any challenges that come with having a clear vision?

I don't think so. I think because I have so many talented friends around me, it's not like I have an idea in my head that is unattainable, because it just involves my friends and they're all very talented. I might have an idea where I'm like "Akurei, it might be sick if you do something like this" and then he does it and I like it. Maybe if my friends weren't talented, it would be hard, but I'm really lucky to know so many people where what they do excites me. That makes it easy for me just to make what I want to make.

The power of friendship. 

The power of friendship.

You're two EP's and an album down now. Would you change anything about your journey as an artist?

No. It's been gradual and a slow build, there's been really cool people involved. I feel really blessed to be where I am and to get to do what I'm doing. I don't think I would change it.

I know music isn't about success, but where would you like to see this project headed in the future?

I'd just like to keep getting better and improving. Maybe put out some more records, try to get a more concise idea every time. I think ultimately, I'd love to end up being an older person that just works on other people's records and writes music for other people. Behind the scenes stuff. That's kind of like my endgame. When I hit 30 or 40, transition into doing that 100% of the time. I love to work on other people's records. That stuff's really exciting to me. And just keep doing more visual stuff with Golden Vessel. 

If there's an opportunity that comes up, take it. That's the goal, I think.