Interview: Bénédicte on the Making and Breaking of Human Connections

Photo by Mary Chen

Bénédicte is the musical project of producer and sound artist Maxime Gordon–an artist from Toronto, Canada, who is now based in Montréal. Her upcoming album, “When It Binds”, out Feb 26 on Brooklyn-based label Blueberry Records, is “a collection of songs composed over the last 3 years…Bénédicte’s personal exploration of what happens after an emotional connection is established with someone.”

As Blueberry Records describes, “Bénédicte’s music is a study of restrained feeling, containing soaring synths within a landscape that is strictly minimalist. She distorts field-recordings and vocal samples, splicing the human and familiar with the unnatural.” The result is a tender, evocative album which immerses the listener in a world of deep emotion and expansive, nuanced sound. 

We chatted about her album and creative process, deep human connection, loneliness, navigating social media and self-marketing expectations, learning how to produce from Grimes on tumblr, and using water-droplet signals to make music.

“When It Binds” Album Artwork by Ginwawa (@2fffff7)

Heather Mitchell for Soul Feeder: This album explores deep transformative human connection–what drew you to explore this subject? Has it only been in retrospect that you figured out that was what you were exploring?

Bénédicte: I think it’s more of a retrospective understanding of the album. It took three years to complete and I’ve met a lot of people in these years. I’ve been influenced by a lot of connections with people that I’ve been making or breaking.

SF: Is it not necessarily all a reflection on connectedness, but also the relationship between breaking connections and loneliness?

B: Yeah, definitely. I think since I moved to Montréal not so long ago, I really left a lot of people that I was in a community with in Toronto. Coming here [to Montréal] I was bringing these songs and also reflecting on these relationships that I had distance from…missing them, and trying to conceptualize myself in a new place.

 

SF: I found the album a bit bittersweet. How do you balance aspects of joy and sadness when exploring human connection?

B: I think a lot of my songs can be kind of like melancholic. I’m not an overly sad person, but I like to listen to that kind of song. Also, when I moved here, I was going to a studio that was really solitary, and I was like, always alone. Maybe that’s also why some of the tracks on it are kind of sad. I was in this weird winter-Montréal, and didn’t know anyone, [and was] working alone in a cold studio all the time [laughs].

SF: I was also really interested in what you mentioned in the SBVRSV interview about the process of collaboratively curating and going through music that you’d already made with FaltyDL [who runs Blueberry Records]. How did you get to know FaltyDL or develop this kind of mentor relationship? 

B: I DM’d him on SoundCloud and I was like, “Hey, check out these tracks!” And then I was like, “Maybe we can do an EP one day”. And he was like, “Yeah let’s do it”. And that was kind of it.

SF: Hahaha I love that proactivity–just hitting up people you think are cool. 

B: Haha yeah exactly.

SF: I also wanted to ask about your process and gear, did it evolve over the three years you created this project?

B: Yeah, it’s definitely evolved. I’ve been using Ableton since I first started out. I think the biggest change in my setup has been using Max/MSP for live signals, like using water signals [from a water-drip machine I made] in an interesting way.

3D Model showing what became the physical “Water Drip Machine”

SF: Were you feeding water-drip information directly from your water-drip machine into Max?

B: Yeah, it would change audio effects, but also some triggers about when certain sounds would come in, and when certain processes would or wouldn’t come in. It’s nicer than having the Ableton timeline. The pros of using Max for this is that you can create the timescale that you want. 

SF: And maybe bring a more organic feel.

B: Yeah

SF: How did you get into music originally?

B: Well, it’s kind of a funny story, but I had dropped out of university and I was 20 and didn’t know what I was doing. And I saw this tumblr post by Grimes which outlined, like, “This is how you can make music on a budget with just a laptop.” And I was just like, “Oh, I didn’t know that was possible.” And really wanted to make music so I basically just followed that tumblr post.

SF: Haha what a great origin story. So following that Grimes post, how did you keep learning and honing your production skills?

B: I guess I’ve just been learning bit by bit [through] online resources, like YouTube tutorials…solitary exploration on the internet of how to make music. When I first started, I had to Google things like “how to record in Ableton”, everything. I didn’t know anything. My friend Jesse, who is XGLARE and has a feature on one of my tracks, gave me a lot of resources as well. 

SF: I know you’re not a big fan of seeing your artist’s career and projects in a super linear way, so instead are there moments that stand out to you that you’re particularly proud of?

B: Yeah. I mean, I think I liked Toronto…even though I have a weird relationship with that city. I met a lot of great people through the music I was making there. I guess the highlights are meeting other people who had similar interests and [that] we could support each other in some way. I definitely feel like I’m more of a Toronto musician than I am a Montreal one, but…

SF: There were aspects of the city that you weren’t a fan of?

B: Yeah I guess just, it feels really corporate. Like you have to kind of have a brand for your music or really have a strict branding identity in a way that I don’t really like.

Bénénedicte in her studio, photo by Bénédicte edited by Heather Mitchell

SF: Do you struggle to navigate that pressure to have a solid brand and branding project? And the self-marketing expectations placed on artists? 

B: A little bit, I think. There’s something about running all these different social media sites, like Twitter…having all these accounts that I find pretty anxiety-inducing. So I don’t like that part of it. At the beginning, when I started making music, I wanted to really have a brand and have this strong identity, but now I’m not as focused on that. I’m really just trying to just be “focused on the music” in a cheesy kind of way.

SF: I respect that–I feel like that’s a sentiment that I hear a lot of people expressing, but it’s hard to actually do that. 

B: Yeah, definitely. But also there’s like no shame in doing the other one as well. It’s just like something that–I don’t think I’m that good at first of all–and yeah, I just don’t really feel the need to play that game right now.

“When It Binds” comes out February 26th 2021 on Blueberry Records. Pre-order and listen on bandcamp here.

More from Heather Mitchell

Interview: Cakes da Killa

I caught up with Cakes da Killa recently for a chat after...
Read More