beaux: 'I wanted to write with shows in mind'

The alt-pop artist speaks to M Magazine about writing his fourth EP to be played live, his mum's support, and not knowing anything about jazz.

Liam Konemann
  • By Liam Konemann
  • 4 Nov 2022
  • min read

When beaux started releasing music in 2020, much was made of his age. Having worked towards his dream of a music career from the age of 15, the prodigy label came quickly when he signed to Dirty Hit as a baby-faced 21-year-old. It seems like the kind of thing that could be daunting, or even minimising in the wrong light, but beaux seems unintimidated by the attention.

‘It was definitely very flattering,’ he says. ‘I was like, “Okay, I’ll take it.” I don’t know if it’s deserved, but there’s worse things they could write.’

It’s hard to imagine what negative lines people might take against him. Beaux’s brand of synth-pop is infectious and affecting, a melodic blend of humour and tenderness. His latest EP, how can I sleep? I’m wide awake, celebrates love in various forms, relating everything from the casual details of beaux’s relationship with his girlfriend to his desire to be a better son. First and foremost, though, it’s an EP designed to be played live.

‘I started writing this EP around the same time that I started to do live shows for the first time,’ says beaux. ‘So I was going to do a show and then coming back to a session, going into the studio and just feeling super inspired by the shows we’d been doing. I wanted to write with shows in mind.’

This EP features more live instruments than his previous three, with a ‘real’ kit taking the place of the drum machines he’d used before. ‘The first EPs were mostly made during lockdown, so I was just sat in my room on my laptop making the songs, so it was fun to get into the studio and work with people. We always played real guitars, but we added in live drums. So it was cool getting in and recording.’

It was an entirely different process to the recording beaux had done before, not only because of the studio setting, but also in light of what he was trying to achieve. Recording his first three EPs during the pandemic meant that there was no need to consider how the songs would play live, or even necessarily how they would play alone. His second EP in particular, a love letter to the moments outside, was conceived of as one entire project rather than a collection of tracks.

‘I went on this tangent where I was like “I’m gonna make a jazz EP.”’

When he started on this latest EP, beaux had a very different vision for how the whole thing would play out. He wanted to experiment with a new genre, but soon found it wasn’t the write fit. The only holdover from this phase, the bright and elastic all of this (and more), slots in neatly next to the newer tracks on the EP.

‘I went on this tangent where I was like “I’m gonna make a jazz EP.”’ says beaux. ‘I made a bunch of songs for that, and then just decided that wasn’t the mood. But all of this (and more) was going to be one of the songs on that.’

Looking back, he’s not entirely sure where the idea to go jazz came from. ‘I actually have no idea. You know, we were still just coming out of a lockdown. Maybe that got into my head a bit. I was just like “Jazz EP. It’s time for that,”’ he says.

‘It wasn’t a mood,’ he laughs. ‘I didn’t even know anything about jazz.’

It’s always a good time to learn, but beaux had more pressing matters to attend to. So the jazz idea was put to one side, and he carried on taking how can I sleep? i’m wide awake in a more familiar direction. With the release of lead single benadryl in July this year, he gave a glimpse into the EP’s off-kilter world.

bendaryl is a funny sort of love song. Driven along by a surf-pop riff and sunshiney vocal, the track is about lying in bed beside his girlfriend – beaux so wired he’s wide awake, his girlfriend drifting off because she’s taken an antihistamine. It also lends the EP its title, a seemingly casual line about this one specific situation coming to stand for a more general sense of excitement and optimism. On the day it was released, it took on a life of its own through fan-driven momentum, quickly becoming on of beaux’s all time favourite first days.

‘You work on a song, you put it out, but nothing really happens that first second. It takes a while to get responses from people or see how well the song is doing.'

‘Sometimes the first day of release is underwhelming,’ he says. ‘You work on a song, you put it out, but nothing really happens that first second. It takes a while to get responses from people or see how well the song is doing. But benadryl premiered on Radio 1 with Jack Saunders, and I heard him say during the show that people could text in to their WhatsApp number. So I thought, “Oh, this will be fun.”’

Taking to the Discord chat he shares with his fans, beaux suggested that everyone message the Radio 1 number and shout out benadryl. The uptake was strong. ‘So many people texted in, so throughout the whole show he was reading out those messages,’ says beaux. ‘It felt like there was excitement around the song, which was really cool.’

Having recently played his debut London headline show, beaux has had the opportunity to see how his live-oriented EP works in front of an audience. The more upbeat tracks like benadryl and let’s go have gotten the biggest reactions, he says, but can’t help but let you down has also found its crowd. A touching tribute to the mother-child bond, can’t help but let you down works through beaux’s desire to be a more present son while celebrating his mum’s support. ‘My mum’s always been so supportive of me and my music, and just in life in general,’ he says of the song. ‘I feel like I can never do enough, you know – I’m often doing something, I’m busy. I want to make sure that I can help her and be supportive of her, and help out with everything once I can. And I often feel like I don’t.’

Offering the same support that others give us is something many people worry about, and beaux is keen to give back what he receives. He’ll have plenty of opportunities to connect with the community that he’s built. Looking towards the future, he’s thinking about starting work on an album – crafting every song so that it will sound great live, of course. 

‘My genuine goal is to do what I can to facilitate doing live shows, because that’s my favourite bit,’ he says.

With the reaction how can I sleep? i’m wide awake is getting, those live shows seem like a sure deal.