Words: Dylan Murphy
Photo Credit: Aidan Cullen
Dylan Murphy caught up with New York-based polymath Binki about wrestling with his generation’s biggest challenges and how the journeys of icons like Tyler, The Creator give him confidence in his own.
With such an overwhelming amount of choice for listeners, often the problem is not getting your music heard, but getting it to stick. When algorithms are feeding us with hundreds of similar-sounding artists all vying for the same audience it can all start to feel a bit disposable.
New York-based artist Binki slices through the noise of the internet with a flurry of indie-adjacent anthems that are built for repeated listen without compromising their relatability. The kind of songs that go off at a barbeque but still slap different during your Sunday self-care routine. At the core of it, the New York-based crooner writes hooks that burrow their way into your frontal lobe and given that’s where our motor function is housed it’s a fitting title for his debut EP.
Moreover, his rapid rise feels even more impressive given that he’s done it on his own terms, letting his music do the talking rather than relying on TikTok virality or online clout to push his sound.
Ahead of the release of his ‘MOTOR FUNCTION’ EP, Dylan Murphy caught up with the actor turned singer about reintegrating back into a fast-paced world that was halted abruptly and how he focuses on his craft in the era of online comparisons.
Hey man, how are you?
I’m doing well man, thank you. How are you?
Well, It was the hottest day ever in Ireland a couple of days ago, we are in the midst of a heatwave and I’ve never seen anything like it.
No way, how hot did it get?
Like 30 degrees celsius, so about 86 Fahrenheit, so for here, that’s insane.
It’s been oppressively hot in New York. I used to live in Brooklyn, but I just moved to the city.
You used to live in Pennsylvania, right?
Yeah, that was my childhood. I was born in Indiana, but I moved when I was 4 years old. Most of my childhood was in Hershey PA, then I moved right before high school I moved to North Carolina.
I stayed in PA for about 3 months in a place called Lackawaxen, it was up in the Poconos, real hillbilly country.
Pennsylvania is very much like the south, there’s a lot of farmland and rural areas. The capital of the Amish community is in Lancaster which is very close to where I used to live, so it’s definitely an interesting place to grow up.
What have you been up to in the last few weeks, have you been back into EP mode?
Nah not really, I haven’t really been doing much writing at all. I’ve been writing by myself on guitar. I just got an acoustic guitar I’ve been playing a lot. I’ve just been letting myself do other shit. I think it’s like a lot of it, it’s really easy to feel like you need to work on music all the time. I think there needs to be a balance of experiencing life normally and not feeling like “oh I always need to be making shit”. I’ve been filling my day with other shit, I went to a concert last night which was sick. I’ve been starting to go to gigs which is really important to me to get the wheels going. I get a lot of inspiration from seeing other people do shit.
Yeah, for me the whole year in music has felt very transactional. When you aren’t going to shows or talking to people in person about music it becomes difficult and you almost feel like you are forcing it which it should never be about.
Exactly. The show last night was this New York band called Been Steller, I went to this place the Sultan Room. That was the first proper venue I went to. It was great, I was reflecting, I was like “Damn this is the first time I’ve been able to do this in so long”.
When was the last time you got to play live?
January 2020, I played at a college, it was interesting cause normally I’ll have a beer or two before I go on but the college didn’t have any alcohol so I was just sober going in. They had free yerba mates and I was just chugging them which is the worst thing to do before a show. It was dumb and gave me more anxiety, but it was fun [Laughs].
For your new ep was it written before lockdown or when did it stem from?
Middle of lockdown, the end of 2019 going into 2020 I just signed to The Fader, I was getting ready to start working on new music I just moved into a new apartment with my producer and brother. There was a lot of changes going on and quarantine happened and I wasn’t focused on music at the start I was just trying to survive it. Then around summertime, I was starting to feel the pressure, I wanted to start making stuff and quarantine was really hard for all those reasons we spoke about. I don’t have any one way of making music so being inside and having a monotonous schedule was not great.
I started renting a studio, so throughout quarantine, I was learning to produce and play piano but I didn’t really have any songs I was happy with. Then I started meeting with these guys The Slaters who live in Brooklyn so we started working on some shit and then I took a trip to LA. That felt like when the EP really started. I was there for ten days and had sessions every day. I was just in this mode of having a sense of urgency. I wanted to finish songs and not overthink shit, it was really great. I had great sessions every time and had a lot of songs I was happy with. ‘Revolve‘, I made it in a day and it was the first song I finished on the EP. I think I rode that momentum and I feel like that was the hypothesis of the EP and the statement song and after that, I felt like I knew where that shit was going. Sometimes I feel like writing a song, the process of it, If I can figure out the first line it’s way easier.
Funny how in going away for ten days you can get so much more done than months in your house. I think there’s something about physically taking yourself into a new space that’s so important.
Oh my god, yeah man, I’m just trying to follow that instinct. I read something talking about how the best thing you can do for yourself creatively is move. It just changes everything. I’m going back to LA for a month soon, the work culture is different. There’s a lot more sessions and it feels like it is easier to get shit done. I also want to see some homies and see some stuff this time. If I could just travel 90 per cent of the time that’d be ideal [Laughs].
There was a lot of changes going on and quarantine happened and I wasn’t focused on music at the start I was just trying to survive it.Binki
Something I was thinking about with the EP was there were previous songs that did really well that you could have included but didn’t, was it a deliberate decision to not include those songs and reintroduce yourself?
These first four songs came out staggered and then I signed and that kind of felt like a bookmark or a chapter. Then along with that, that was the first time there were articles written about my shit and there was an audience. I was feeling all those feelings an artist feels when they are examining a reflection of themselves and feeling the ripples of the shit they make. So with this new shit, I just wanted to be different and sound different in as many ways as I can without alienating the audience. I wasn’t too worried about it being as successful as other songs, but it was definitely intentional and to have a new dimension.
You said you moved in with your brother, is he directing your stuff as well?
He was the first one to ever direct a video for me. He was always putting me onto music and was actually making music before me so when I started making music he found it on my laptop and was gassing me up. My first single I put up ‘Marco‘, he was like “you got to make a video” so I drove to Atlanta and he helped me shoot the video. So we’ve worked on videos when we could. He was in Atlanta for a while and he moved up before quarantine so he’s been a big collaborator of mine.
The video for ‘Clay Pigeons’ is shot on a football pitch, do you play?
No, I’m actually terrible, so many people have asked if I play but I played some pick up the other day. It’s funny I played football, basketball, I was terrible at all of them, I don’t think I ever scored a point after middle school.
Is that a N.E.R.D hat on your wall? Are they influential on your music?
Yeah even as a secondary influence, they influenced so many people I listen to. But as I’ve got older I’ve gone back and listened to more of their shit.
I was listening to Pharrell’s first solo album for the first time in ages the other day and you can really hear his influence everywhere now. I heard little bits of it in Tyler’s latest album, in terms of those worlds that Tyler and Pharrell make, in the bigger picture are you wanting to extend it beyond music?
Definitely, I have a lot of ideas and I’m trying to pace myself. It’s really easy to look at other artists, especially Tyler who started so young so if you compare yourself to him it’s depressing [laughs]. So many artists started way later and were able to change the world. I’m trying to just learn as much as I can and keep growing. I think a lot of people stop growing, it’s really painful being shitty at stuff, going back to the drawing board and starting from square one. People stop doing that as they get older, it’s less encouraged cause you look stupid. My tolerance for being embarrassed is very high, I don’t give a shit. I want to learn how to take better photos. I want to make movies and write more shit.
I think social media encourages people to think it’s a very linear path and you are either good or bad at stuff and people only really post their highlights essentially. If you don’t get immediate results people just don’t do it, but shit takes a long time to get good at. I always say you start shit and get less shit.
That’s a big challenge for our generation. We have infinite access to all this information and resources, instruments are cheap and recording is affordable. Our challenge is the mental challenge, feeling like you can be shitty and being ok with being shitty in front of the world. If you can be ok with that, then that’s 90 per cent of the battle. If you actually consistently practice and keep growing you are going to get it eventually, you are going to figure out what your strengths are and what you like, develop your taste. Being patience and being consistent is most of the work. I’m really happy with where shit is going.
In an ideal world, where would you eventually see yourself?
I would love to just keep doing music, I studied acting in school so I’d love to get back to that. I miss that shit. Since I’ve left the school system, for me and my taste I’m probably going to have to be one of those guys writing his own shit. I feel like I need to get better at writing. I’d love to write and produce movies, obviously the videos we are already doing but I’d love to have a production company with my brother someday and make our own films. Having that freedom to pursue what I want and to continue to do what I’m doing with the music. Going into producing my own shit is a big goal of mine, but a lot of these things take a long time.
Binki’s MOTOR FUNCTION EP is out now, listen below: