Local label founder, podcaster, DJ and more: Xander Byng’s talents traverse the musical universe. We bring you a mixtape from the Melbourne-based party-maker, developed as a meditation on psychogeography: “I’ve always found that experiencing unfamiliar settings, especially in a familiar environment, really helps me to think more positively.”
Never underestimate an Internet joke: Xander Byng is Bander Xyng to many. “Social media monikers can determine people’s assumptions of identity,” he says. Resisting identity determinants appears to be fundamental to his creative work: this graduate of sociology, ethics and international relations is now doing musical things about town. Xander co-founded and managed the local record label Houses in Motion (together with Oliver Francis), and with Louis Mokak he ogranised the Native Tongues parties – which have raised funds for Elizabeth Morgan House Aboriginal Women’s Services, and the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC). “I attempt to bring people together in the name of beautiful music, in any capacity – nothing has such power in incorporating such a range of demographics and passion”.
These days, he works between Ferdydurke, where he has just had a year-long residency, and Section 8 next door, with Body Party (with Sophie McAlister). With Louis Mokak, Xander is currently developing Dusk till Dawn, a podcast project that will explore new ways in which digital technology has allowed us to consume music: in particular, the ever-increasingly important relationship between visual imagery and music – and the EARS mixtape for us is a taster of what the project will bring.
Of the mix, Xander says: “This mixtape is full of some of my favourite music to listen to as an escape. It’s melancholy at heart, and each track either aurally or lyrically touches on themes around urban living, particularly the struggle that I observe within myself between familiarity of my environment and trying to have stimulating experiences. When discussing the themes within the music, another friend alerted me to the awesome concept of psychogeography that alludes to playfully exploring the urban environment in order to see new things and feel inspired.
“I made the mix when I was experiencing some negative emotions towards the monotony of suburban life during winter. My housemate has this cute theory that if you take a different route than your standard A-to-B (e.g. home to work) it helps prevent or delay the onset of Alzheimer’s. I’ve always found that experiencing unfamiliar settings, especially in a familiar environment, really helps me to think more positively. In the same vein, music has a significant impact on my emotional state, as both a nostalgic and unpredictable encounter.
“But, pretty much, just beautiful tunes that will make you feel connected with the ground, or the floor.”
EARS #30: Escape to the Suburbs, tracklisting:
Mike Andrews interviews Brian Eno for Riverside in 1983 (BBC2)
Harold Budd – A Stream With Bright Fish
Funkadelic – Mommy, What’s A Funkadelic
Patrick Watson – Adventures In Your Own Backyard
Tornado Wallace – Lonely Planet
Firekites – Same Suburb, Different Park
Yussef Kamal – Remembrance
Erik Enocksson – II. Non Lupi
Wes Montgomery Trio – Too Late Now
King Krule – The Noose of Jah City
Aphex Twin – Alberto Balsalm
Nujabes – A Day By Atmosphere Supreme
The RAH Band – Clouds Across the Moon
Virna Lindt – Underwater Boy
Jonny Nash – Ding Repair
Burial – Stolen Dog
Jon Hopkins – Abandon Window
James Blake – Lindisfarne II
Radiohead – Talk Show Host
Portable – Surrender (feat. Lcio)
Kyle Hall – Ghosten
Delta Spirit – House Built For Two
What is your favourite city in the world, and why?
It’d have to be Mumbai. I’ve never been somewhere so vibrant. Despite the blatant presence of its tumultuous colonial heritage, the city succeeds in embracing all the positive and negative consequences of its past. I can definitely say I’ve had better experiences in other cities, but you can’t go past the excitement of being surprised every way you turn.
What is your favourite building, and why?
I almost feel as if I’m not well-versed enough on this subject to pick one, but I recently spent some time in Japan and visited Naoshima Island. The Chichu Art Museum (designed by Tadao Ando) on the island was really something else as a structure as well as an art space. The building satisfied my love of easy escapism; as soon as I walked through the entrance, I had lost my bearings completely. Built partway into the earth, it aims to help rethink the relationship between people and nature, and utilises natural light throughout.
If there were no practical constraints, where would you live? What would you do there?
This is exactly where I’m at in my life right now, constraints or not; it’s always a bit of “anywhere but here”.
Cape Town. I haven’t been yet, but my mum was born there and I have this feeling I’d love it. I’d make music, explore and read fantasy. ‘Gotta change things up sometimes, I like spontaneity.
What comes to mind when I say ‘the culture of living closer together’?
Living in Melbourne, I can’t help but think of this in the literal sense. Every week I see a new structure being erected in my area and it’s hard to garner a proper feeling of sharing space with an increasing number of people. The changing nature of living closer together in Melbourne is kind of a culture of cultures. It is creating an environment which is more tolerant and accepting of different people, yet it’s contradictory because people tend to stick to their bubbles of people who share their heritage and values. This is a generalisation, but I think it’s relevant when looking at the irony that is people’s need to identify with certain cultures themselves.
Thank you Xander for sending us on a sonic journey through and out of the suburbs – and best luck with your upcoming podcast project! Thanks also to Tom Ross and Alex Lama for contributing photographs to this story.
Tom Ross is a photographer from coastal Victoria with a studio in Melbourne. Trained at the Victorian College of the Arts, and Massachusetts College of Art, he works with architects and storytellers and has been published internationally.