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Mario Villeda

Biohackers Tour, new Gravitas releases and more: An Interview with Psymbionic [Artist Interview]

 Psymbionic has been one of our favorites for a while, and it feels good to see the glitchy producer starting 2017 at a full sprint. Recently wrapping up his largest tour yet with labelmate CloZee, Psymbionic blazed through 45 U.S. dates followed by multiple shows in Costa Rica as well. As one of the head honchos behind Austin, Texas’ Gravitas Recordings, John Burcham is consistently making moves while dropping new music, cooking up fresh collaborations, and keeping the label roster locked and loaded with the freshest producers in the biz. We caught up with Burcham to pick his brain for creative advice, the latest releases from Gravitas, what makes Austin special and much, much more. Enjoy.

CYM: You just wrapped up your biggest run yet, the nationwide ‘Biohackers’ tour with fellow labelmate Clozee. What were some of the stand-out moments on tour?

Psymbionic: Honestly, it was one of the coolest things I’ve ever been apart of. CloZee is pretty much the nicest human being on the planet, and I think we did a great job of working together on the road to split up all the tour duties. The idea first came about early last summer, and everyone on my team put in so much work not only initially booking the shows but also with doing our damnedest to make sure each and every show was adequately promoted too. Without a doubt, it was the most intensive project I’ve ever worked on. As far as stand out moments, the biggest one was our sold out Gravitas showcase in Denver at Cervantes Masterpiece.. such an amazing night! Other excellent shows worth mentioning: New Orleans, Atlanta, Chicago (for our free make up show), Boston, Seattle, Washington D.C., and Oakland.

CYM: In addition to being a full time artist, you also run Gravitas Recordings with Jesse Brede. What keeps your palette fresh between producing your own work and managing releases from other musicians?

Psymbionic: In truth, I take a ton of inspiration from many of the musicians we work with. Sometimes it can be tough to balance the two worlds though. At the end of the day, I think Jesse and I are both people who have love a wide spectrum of different music styles — that’s why you see such a range of genres if you look through the Gravitas discography. Even just being able to love and release different kinds of music keeps us from feeling like we’re stuck only doing the same thing. A similar idea also applies to my own music; some days I’ll write a like heavy, wobbly, club banger type tune and the next day I’m writing weird piano shit that will probably never get released. Doing what I feel, both as Psymbionic and as label manager for Gravitas, tends to guide my choices and actions no matter the hat I’m wearing.

CYM: Speaking of Gravitas, are there any new artists or releases you’re especially excited for in 2017?

Psymbionic: There’s quite a few things I’m really excited for right now. The first full length album from Cloudchord is incredibly fresh.. Derek has been a long time friend and collaborator as D.V.S*, and I’m super happy to see him really flexing under this new project name as Cloudchord. Also coming up, we have full length albums from Psy Fi as well as Love & Light.. all of those guys are also people I’ve been friends for many years with and toured alongside as well. One of my favorite things about Gravitas is seeing how people you’ve known for a really long time evolve through the years. It’s incredibly gratifying to see your friends creating amazing art and being able to aid them in that process.

 Mario Villeda
Mario Villeda

CYM: What is the number one thing you think most artists don’t put enough effort into that could make all the difference?

Psymbionic: This is a super excellent question. In a broader sense, I just don’t think a lot of artists want to put in the work to understand when, where, how, and why to market their art. I also think that’s ok — it’s probably true that a lot of the best art is made by people that have no intention to spend time thinking about how to get it heard. The flip side of this is that in order to be a full time artist, you have to make compromises with your time and effort. I’ve seen probably hundreds of amazingly talented artists, people way more skilled than I am, essentially stop making music because at some point, they had to decide to focus on a day job to pay their bills. It’s a tricky road to walk no matter who you are. My advice to aspiring musicians would be to, at the very least, pay attention to those you see doing a good job and study how they do it. If you have a team of agents, managers, etc, be involved and don’t blindly trust anyone with everything you do. Plus the more active you are with your team, the more they will want to put in good work for you.

CYM: What makes Austin so special to you, and what do you think draws so much creative energy into the city?

Psymbionic: Austin to me is kind of this special blend of southern hospitality fused with the open mindedness of more west coast cities. I think that sense of familiarity, especially for a lot of folks who grew up in the south like I did, just make it into a hub. If you’re a creative individual, Austin brings so much more opportunity, both socially and monetarily, than say Dallas or Memphis. People are drawn here. I’ve traveled to a lot of other cities and the US, and I always really enjoy those adventures. But every time I come back to Austin, it just feels like home. Plus I really love gringo tacos.

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