Psychout is from Portland Oregon and makes psychedelic pop music. If you like synthpop, electronic or experimental pop music, you’re in the right place.
In this interview, we chat with Benton Barnett about his influences, the experimental music scene, and his newest project.
Full Q&A, links, and streams below.
Let’s dive a little deeper into You, the artist and your music. What attracted you to this genre(s) or style(s)?
Hi! My name is Benton Barnett and I’ve been writing experimental electronic music since 2003 under a handful of different monikers. I love exploring fringe genres and subcultures and putting a pop spin on them. My latest album, Psychout is a collection of fun, light songs about psychic visions and mannequins coming to life.
Over the last year, I’ve been really attracted to vaporwave and synthwave which lead me to pull elements from various micro genres and turn them into something a little more accessible. I feel like both vaporwave and synthwave are two sides of the same coin, where vaporwave dwells on the dissatisfaction of contemporary living, synthwave celebrates it’s optimism.
What led you into this journey with music? And further, what drives you to push it out to the public?
I started out listening to a lot of minimalist composers, specifically Phillip Glass and Steve Reich. I was writing minimalist compositions and performing them around art galleries in Phoenix, Arizona in 2003. Minimalism can just be so stuffy, you know? So I started introducing comedy elements and pop structures to my songs to give them an edge. I wanted to return to that time, when music seemed more fun, so in a lot of ways I guess Psychout was the album I wanted to write 13 years ago.
Who or what influences your creativity? Have your tastes in music changed over time?
The experimental music scene has been very influential. Big names like Oneohtrix Point Never and M83 down to smaller artists like Vektroid and Ella Guro. Although, I have noticed I’ve become much more forgiving in my music as I’ve gotten older. I can appreciate the slick production of Taylor Swift just as much as the bedroom realness of artists on Soundcloud.
Were you trying to accomplish anything specific on this new project? Creatively or otherwise?
Experimental music has this image of being dour and it’s often presented as serious music for serious people when in reality a lot of experimental producers are downright goofballs. I guess I wanted to see a hearty dose of fun injected into the scene and to make an album of silly pop songs. The album uses themes of the supernatural to discuss loss in an age where everyone is connected. But like, in a fun way.
What was the last song you listened to?
It was a Grimes song. She is so inspiring to me. It’s hard to overstate how difficult it is for a niche artist like her to break into the mainstream and I think she has pulled it off spectacularly. She’s made smart compromises while still being true to herself as an artist and I am just tickled that she’s being rewarded for it. Seriously, if you’re wanting to break into the music scene, Grimes just wrote the playbook on how to do it.
Which do you prefer? Vinyl? CDs? MP3s?
While I do have a hearty vinyl and CD collection, the most meaningful music to me are MP3s my friends have sent me. I associate those tracks with such a specific moment in time that they become more than just songs, and are instead a gateway back to that moment of time.
How about this one…. Do you prefer Spotify? Apple Music? Bandcamp? Or something else? Why?
Soundcloud! I make an effort to listen to artists that have less than 1,000 follows on Soundcloud and the range of music I’ve been exposed to has been exhilarating. Seriously, it’s free and a great way to expose yourself to new musical ideas. I’ve even made some playlists to get you started.
Other than the digital era overwhelming us with access to an abundance of music, what is the biggest challenge you face when trying to connect with or find new fans?
I’m going to level with you here, my music has pretty niche appeal. And, because of that, I need a large number of people to hear my music in order to find people who connect with it. In my career, I’ve had the best luck with live shows. If you’re a small artist, or trying to grow your audience, get out there and ask to play a set. You’d be amazed at what people will say yes to if you just ask.
Where is the best place to connect with you online? Discover more music?
You can follow Psychout on Soundcloud *knowing wink*
Anything else you’d like to add before signing off?
I want to thank you for this opportunity. And encourage everyone to be more open about the music they listen to. There’s something good in all songs and I think we owe it to ourselves to hear it.