We caught up with the synthwave producer Brandon ahead of the hotly-anticipated release of Retrochrome, his most polished release to date.
It’s been a little while since 2016’s EP ‘Neon Haze’. What have you been working on in the meantime?
Since the release of Neon Haze, I’ve released a bunch of tracks as singles. While these all fall into sub-genres of synthwave and retrowave, they each differ in style and production somewhat, and were a way of me ‘testing the waters’, so to speak. I wanted to see which of the styles people liked the most, without straying too far from my intended light-hearted, 80s pop-inspired sound.
Now, two years later, I’m finally releasing ‘Retrochrome’- a 6 track EP that I think best captures the tones and styles I’m aiming for. I’m really pleased with how it has turned out.
Do you think your production style has developed since Neon Haze?
Most definitely! When I started making music within the synthwave / retrowave scene two years ago, despite being a long-time creator of music, I had to learn a number of new production techniques, and establish rules for myself, in order for the music to sound exactly the way I intended. That was also another reason for writing and releasing a bunch of singles of differing styles. It meant that I could use a wide variety of production tricks to help me convey the iconic sounds of 80s pop.
With the new Retrochrome EP, I lean on the ‘80s’ sound a lot, but as it is still modern synthwave / retrowave, there’s plenty of modern production techniques thrown in.
What inspired you to start writing Retrochrome?
The inspiration, and more so the direction, of Retrochrome didn’t really come about until after the first collaboration between myself and SJBRAVO. ‘She’s On Fire’ was the first song to be written, and when it finally started to come together, it felt to me like one of those songs that might have been written as part of an 80s film soundtrack (think Top Gun or Beverly Hills Cop and songs like ‘Heat Is On’ and ’Take My Breath Away’). T
hat then inspired me to think of the Retrochrome EP as a whole as being like a very pop-heavy 80s film compilation soundtrack (not a ‘score’, but rather ‘songs from…’). This then meant that I could have slightly differing styles across the EP (while still keeping it light-hearted and very 80s). So there’s a rock-flavoured track, a ballad, a summer-y pop track etc.
This is the first time you’ve worked with a vocalist, how did you decide to take this step?
I had been wanting to work with a vocalist since releasing the Neon Haze EP in August 2016. Towards the end of that year, I received a message from Sam (SJBRAVO) telling me about his collaboration with Sunglasses Kid on the then-upcoming Graduation album. He told me he was looking to work with more synthwave producers, so I was very interested in hearing the tracks he had already worked on and finding out what he was capable of.
As much as I love collaboration between artists, I’m careful to make sure that the person I work with cares as much about what they do as I do, and that their attention to detail is high, meaning the quality of what they do is good. Thankfully Sam is an insanely talented, singer, songwriter, musician and producer, so there was certainly no doubt in my mind that he would deliver something awesome! And he did!
What was your process with Sam (SJBRAVO)? Did you go to him with finished instrumentals or did you collaborate from the beginning?
I’m pretty sure the scenario with all of the tracks was that I would send him works in progress (30 second clips, or chorus/verse ideas etc) and he would send back vocal / lyric demos, and we would build up the songs that way, sending ideas back and forth as we were working remotely initially. When it came to properly recording the vocals over the finished instrumentals, we met up at Sam’s studio in Nottingham. Being in the same room allowed us to get even more creative with the songs and was a great way of working.
Do you have a favourite track from the EP?
That is difficult to answer because all the guys that I worked with – SJBRAVO, Sam Hughes and Laurie Covell – all did such a great job on each of the tracks they worked on. I like all the tracks because of what each of those guys brought to them. If I really had to choose though, I think it would be ‘Real To Me’, because I was so surprised with how well that came together and I love the end result!
What’s next for Brandon?
It was great collaborating with SJBRAVO, Sam Hughes and Laurie Covell, and I hope to work with each of them again. But having worked with a male vocalist already, I’d now love to collaborate with a female vocalist. There are certainly several fantastic female singer / songwriters working within the synthwave / retrowave scene.
How can we listen to Retrochrome?
Retrochrome will be available in digital form as of Friday 3rd August over on my Bandcamp page, as well as on all the major streaming and download services. It will also be available to pick up on Limited Edition Silver Mirrored Cassettes and on 12” Black Vinyl. I hope people enjoy listening to it!