NEON PATTERN SUNDIAL's debut EP One Moment Never Meant A Thing is out now! We chat the man behind the music, Ben Rizio, about the release and a whole lot more.
One Moment Never Meant A Thing, the debut EP from NEON PATTERN SUNDIAL, is an introspective collection of songs that documents the journey from self-doubt to self-assurance. We chat with NEON PATTERN SUNDIAL to learn more about the release, how this EP creates almost a time capsule of his growth over the year, just how his pseudonym came to be, and his musical influences, which heavily feature Bon Iver.
The musical project of Ben Rizio, NEON PATTERN SUNDIAL’s latest release sees the musician continue his eclectic brand of alt-pop that we’ve seen on recent releases, but in a more considered tone. With fleshed-out rhythms and tight multi-instrumentation, the psychedelic tinged soundscape is paired with melancholic and introspective lyricism.
No stranger to the music scene, Rizio formerly releasing under the name Ben Alpine. Speaking of the new trajectory of his music, the musician says: 'As I think more and more about where I see this project in the future, assigning it a single person's identity doesn’t make sense, and feels disingenuous to the process of the music. I don’t want this project to necessarily be a solo-project or a band, but to play on that line, and be open to embracing that fluidity in the future.'
One Moment Never Meant A Thing is out now! Read our full interview with Ben Rizio below.
Tell us a bit about how your musical journey began…
My parents got me a guitar when I was around 7, and after not practicing for a good few years my Mum enrolled me in a holiday program that put kids together in bands, I assume as an attempt to get me out of the house and doing something. Around that time, my brother showed me Daft Punk and I started discovering more electronic music which fascinated me. When I was around 12 I bought some DJ equipment because I think that’s what I thought electronic music was about. I eventually downloaded FL Studio and was hooked.
Congratulations on the release of One Moment Never Meant A Thing!The EP is an introspective documentation of the journey from self-doubt to self-assurance. How important was it to explore these themes and what prompted you to document them?
Thank you! It was never really my intention to write about those things, it was just what I was going through. I think for a lot of people writing lyrics can be a subconscious attempt at trying to understand and clarify your own feelings, and for me that’s definitely true. I knew that very early on in the process when I just had an idea of the EP, that I didn’t want to prescribe it any particular thematic direction, but wanted it to be somewhat sincere and touch on those topics of growth and introspection.
One Moment Never Meant A Thing is also a personal reflection on your own experiences, serving as a time capsule holding your personal growth. Listening to these songs now, what are your thoughts on the tracks retrospectively? And what emotions do the songs conjure for you now?
The bulk of the writing was done well over a year ago at this point, so I honestly already feel like it’s serving that purpose! I can’t listen to them too much now, but when I do it definitely brings back some of those feelings in a nostalgic way. More than anything I think about how much my perspective has changed since then. All In Your Strideand Winterare the big ones for me in that sense, they were written from a place of mental health struggles and I’m thankful for that to be in the past.
The EP continues your eclectic brand of alt-pop that we’ve seen on recent releases, but in a more considered tone. Fleshed-out rhythms and tight multi-instrumentation floating over psychedelic tinged soundscapes are paired with melancholic and introspective lyricism. How do you think your sound evolved and developed throughout creating the body of work?
It’s hard to say how much it developed during writing the EP, but towards the end of the process I was definitely more enthused by the songs that were more danceable or incorporated more electronic production. And that direction has definitely carried over to the material that we are working on now.
If you had to pick one song off One Moment Never Meant A Thingto play to someone who had never heard your music to make them an instant fan, which song would it be and why?
All In Your Stride. Sonically, thematically, and aesthetically, it’s the most true to what One Moment Never Meant A Thingis.
How do you feel your music speaks to listeners, and what messages do you hope they take away from the EP?
I so clearly know what I want people to feel but really struggle to explain it, though it’s very similar to the effect that a lot of my favourite artists have for me. It’s like a sense of sentimentality or personal reflection, and I hope the songs inspire some thoughts around growth and meaning in their lives. The EPs title comes from the song Wendouree, which I hope excites people about the relationships that are in their life at the present moment.
Did you encounter any challenges whilst creating music during the COVID-19 pandemic, or did it allow you the time and space to immerse yourself within this musical project?
Yes and no. We obviously weren’t able to play any live shows, which I think was good considering that I was probably just about to burn myself out in April/May trying to put that together amidst finishing the EP. But also having such an empty calendar enabled me to just do nothing but work on the visual branding and single releases which wasn’t great either. I definitely had some periods of quite an unhealthy work ethic.
What prompted you to take on the pseudonym NEON PATTERN SUNDIAL?
I just liked the sound of it and it gave me a ‘larger than life’ feeling, which was very attractive. It doesn’t have any real meaning behind it, though it’s somewhat a homage or reference to Neon Pattern Drum, a song by Jon Hopkins which I love. I sat on a lot of names prior to arriving at this one, and kept it to myself for a while to work out if I really liked it before letting others opinions influence me. A few people tried to err me on the side of caution, being such a long and abstract name, but at that point I just knew that I really liked it!
Could you tell us a bit about your creative process when writing and recording songs?
I’ll usually start an idea by myself, by recording and producing a demo in Ableton Live on my laptop. It could start from anything, sometimes a lyric or a guitar idea that I’ve recorded as a voice memo, but usually I just sit down and start playing with synths and effects and manipulating samples. Which is very much an approach I picked up from my background of making purely electronic music. Eventually my own momentum will slow down a bit, and I’ll bring it to Marc's studio for us to work on it with Alex. We’ll also bring in other friends when we can to hang out and contribute. We record, produce and mix everything out of Marc’s studio from that point.
Australia has a diverse and vibrant music scene, who are some of your favourite Aussie acts?
Golden Features, Mansionair, Parcels, Tame Impala, Northeast Party House, Nick Murphy, Flume.
The current pandemic has obviously put a halt to touring and performing live, what are your touring plans post pandemic? If any, what can people expect from a NEON PATTERN SUNDIAL live show?
I’ve got plans but it’s hard to say! I’ve definitely been guilty of talking up projects which have ended in compromise. What I can say, is that the live versions of the songs are likely to be very different to the studio recordings. I want the show to feel very live amidst all the electronic instrumentation, which I think will be a challenge considering how layered the songs are, and I want to avoid the use of backing tracks as much as possible.
For this EP, The Japanese House and Hippo Campus.
Maybe Matty and George of The 1975? I relate to how they tackle pop music with a background of electronic music.
Album that has had the most impact on you?
Bon Iver’s 22, A Millionfor an infinite amount of reasons.
How do you define your musical style in 3 words?
Big, euphoric, sentimental.
Best song of 2020?
The 1975’s The Birthday Partyor Bon Iver’s Jelmore.
If you could create the soundtrack for any film, which one would it be?
I was going to say a sci-fi but on second thought, The Secret Life of Walter Mittycould be interesting, as it captures a lot of the feelings I’m trying to convey with my music at this point.
The best/most memorable show you’ve ever performed?
St Kilda Festival 2017 as my old band Echo Mono.
Album you would listen to on repeat on a road trip?
Dominic Fike’s What Could Possibly Go Wrong?or Bon Iver’s i,i.
Best concert you have been to?
First thing that comes to mind is Madeon and Porter Robinson’s Shelter tour. I used to be a die-hard fan of both those artists, so seeing their joint tour playing mashups of each others music was amazing.
Last concert you went to?
Local Melbourne acts Earnest Jackson and Orange Orange, right before lockdown in March.
Guilty music pleasure?
Golden Features, Jaden Smith.
If you were a Spice Girl, what would your Spice nickname be?
Robo Spice. I’d exclusively sing ad-libs with auto tune.
The most amount of people you’ve ever performed in front of?
St Kilda Fest had to be a few hundred.
If you could support any artist on tour, who would it be?
Probably The 1975.
An artist you think has had the most influence on the music industry?
What advice would you give yourself a year from now?
Slow down, be intentional. Maintain balance in your life.
The moment you knew you wanted to be a musician?
After discovering solo electronic musicians like Madeon.