When a 15-year-old Tim Bettinson stood watching US band Daughter at Australian music festival Splendour In The Grass, do you think he dreamed of supporting them three years later, and recording a debut album in LA right after high school? Probably not.
We had a chat with Bettinson, the Brisbane-based creative force behind Vancouver Sleep Clinic.
TB: It was a pretty hectic thing for me to have kind of finished high school and it all kind of started to take off, maybe four months after I graduated? I turned 18 and I went over there to record the album. So it was a pretty hectic switch up. I kind of just went straight into it, so I didn’t know what I was doing. It was a bit of a whirlwind experience, but I kind of love how that was how the album was made, it makes it a whole lot more real to me because that album is basically written as I was experiencing being away, being surrounded by new things, so it’s kind of like, you know, that whole process of adapting and all the different emotions on things that came with that. It’s all in the album.
It just felt really natural with Al from the start. When I met him, I’d just done a bunch of sessions with different producers. We just really hit it off and it felt very natural writing music with him and working with him. I mean I know he’s done some stuff that I really look up to. We both just really felt like we were making cool music together. Very natural and fun.
“When I started envisioning the album, I knew I wanted it to be very progressive. I come from folk and instrumental music, and what I wanted was something more like hip-hop and R&B. Al Shux really understood what I wanted to do. I wanted to make big statements, and he helped make that possible.”
TGW: What was the most valuable idea or take away from working with Shux? Whether you’re inspired by something that he did or did he give you any advice while you were working together that you feel like’s gonna stay with you?
TB: I think just watching him work… awesome things just from my production and my understanding of it all. Especially drums. I think his drum sounds and his natural feel for the song is amazing. So I’ve learned a lot from him there. I’ve been starting to write new music now and that’s become a real influencing factor. It was a really good experience.
TB: I basically wrote all the songs in my home studio and they all just naturally come out very honest and natural, and I wanted someone who would put a cool spin on the songs and make them our own sound for the record, make them a hybrid space. So I wanted to bring someone on board for that and he was perfect for that.
TGW: As far as the other creative part to the album and the music videos, you recruited artists for the visuals for the video, how do you put together that team of talent? Georgia Hudson was the director of the music video for SOMEONE TO STAY – we’ll talk about the video first. So how did you find Georgia. Was she put in front of you? Do you know her?
TB: Georgia was just put in front of me. I actually couldn’t tell you how, in the chain of our team how she was put there but met up with her in London – I was meeting with other directors – and I just really like where she was coming from for that song. There isn’t a whole lot more to it. I just wanted to find the idea that I could relate to the most. She had an awesome idea, I thought she did an awesome job.
TGW: Are you big on liner notes? Did you thank everybody you know?
TB: Do you mean like a booklet?
TGW: Absolutely. How much detail did you go into? Did you thank everyone in your life?
TB: Definitely, we put all the lyrics in there and a bunch of art as well, which more art that hasn’t been released which I’m pretty excited about. I haven’t gone absolutely crazy with it but I think I’ve got the important stuff in there, and I think people will dig it.
TGW: One of the great reasons why I’m most happy to be interviewing you is because we’re a style website that incorporates a lot of art, and artists from around the world. There’s a natural synergy between what you’re doing and what I publish. I wanted to ask you about the digital sculptures and also the design by Argentinean artist Pilar Zeta. How do you find those artists?
TB: I’ve been working a lot with this creative agency called Maven in America. They have these artists and I remember when we started working with them, I was just looking through a bunch of their portfolios and those two really stood out to me. I wanted someone who could do some basic symbology and design in that respect and I think Pilar is awesome, and for the art I sort of wanted someone who could 3D sculpture natural human life artwork and Pandagunda (Sweden) had done a bunch of that stuff. I think he was recommended to me. Maven is awesome. They have so many cool groundbreaking artists on their roster. It was a really good set up for us I think. When the Pandagunda artworks were coming through I was getting so excited.
“It’s definitely some of my favourite artwork that I’ve seen come through for a long time. It just made me so happy seeing exactly what I wanted to see for the songs. He’s done such an awesome job, I’m super proud of it.”
TGW: Next I wanted to ask you a little about your touring in North America. What was it like opening for Daughter? They’re one of my favourite bands.
TB: It was unreal. It was such a good match up for us because I feel like our music both exists in similar spaces. It was great, cos we hadn’t done a proper tour with the band. We got a really good platform out of that. Daughter was amazing – definitely one of my favourite bands and I think the first time I saw them I was 15. They played Splendour In The Grass.
TGW: I find that there’s a real melancholy with their stuff whereas yours, even if the lyrics are sad, it just sounds beautiful, so they do go well together.
TB: Right, yeah I feel the same way.
TGW: So just with your headlines shows in LA and San Francisco, what were the crowds like? Do you have a good following over in the States already?
TB: Yeah it was unreal. We actually sold more tickets in LA than we did in our Australian shows, which is pretty crazy. I think it’s just the internet and weirdly America’s been really supportive of our music quite a lot.
TGW: Do you find you’ve been more well accepted in LA than home sometimes?
TB: No, I think we’re accepted here for sure, and we still sold out our tour. It’s just really encouraging as well to have that response in other places. It’s good travelling to other countries now that I’ve never even been to before that I couldn’t imagine going to, playing for people – who speak other languages and they kind of still share the same listening experience. I think it’s just unreal.
TGW: With all the time that you’ve spent in the States over the last few years, how do you feel you’ve changed the most?
TB: I think it’s just given me a lot of experience. Confidence as well. I’m still very far from understanding how everything works and the direction I want to go in, as opposed to being edgy and not really knowing what I was doing, I’ve kind of learned a lot in short space of time. I think especially being in LA where you’re surrounded by everyone who is trying to do the same thing you are, and everyone has ambition, working towards a similar goal. I think in that environment it made me want to learn things quickly and become inspired by the people around me. It was a really positive experience for me, overall .
TGW: And so, what did you miss most about home while you were recording over there?
TB: Oof. The beach, definintely. I mean their beaches… nothing beats Australian beaches. Family and friends.
TGW: Did you miss pies?
TB: Oh man, I actually found this crazy pie shop in LA, run by these Australians.
TB: I couldn’t believe it. It was down on the street from where I was staying so I actually got my meat pie fix.
TGW: Woo hoo!
TB: Yep, a necessity of course. So yeah, friends, family beach. The normal Australian things.
TGW: So what’s been the most awe-inspiring moment of the past year for you, asides from finding a pie shop in LA?
TB: <laughs> [Pause]
TGW: You can mention a couple. There are no rules.
TB: I saw Kendrick Lamar play somewhere in LA. He did a really small show with 800 people. I remember seeing that (I hadn’t seen him before) and the culture that he creates with the music. It’s kind of this big family in the venue. I remember seeing that show and thinking that I want to make music for a long time and work to creating that environment where people can feel they’re part of something. I can’t remember why but that show in particular just blew my mind and inspired me a lot.
“I remember seeing [Kendrick Lamar in LA]… and thinking that I want to make music for a long time and work to creating that environment where people can feel they’re part of something.”
TGW: I think the best thing about being in the States is the incredible line ups that they have on any given night.
TB: Oh, it’s crazy right? Like you don’t realise how little music we get here compared to the States and you go there and they have shows every day of people you want to see. It’s hectic.