Music / Features
They Made Me Do It -
Talking Influences with Mild Minds
Words by James Lynch
Tuesday 19th February, 2019

Ahead of a huge run of shows across America for Big Wild's Superdream tour, we catch up with Melbourne electronic producer Benjamin David, the mastermind behind Mild Minds, to find out what inspired the sounds we’re hearing on his debut EP SWIM.
Despite being regarded as one of Australia’s strongest electronic producers, Benjamin David began his newest endeavour as a means of wiping the slate clean, to enable himself to create without being limited by his own expectations. As he explains, “I wanted to do something that was completely ‘me’ in that moment. After being used to working with songs that had elaborate visions over long periods of time, it was nice to make music simply as it came out.” However, with a skillset as impressive as David’s, even his most spur-of-the-moment music is hard to ignore, and sure enough, Mild Minds quickly garnered the interest of ODESZA and next thing we know their record label Foreign Family Collective was releasing the debut EP SWIM.

Brimming with otherworldly sounds and tasteful hooks, SWIM is a burst of immersive synth-pop that leaves even the most casual electronic listener completely captivated. The EP kicks off with the title track, a chilled-out journey through a world of colourful synths, infectious grooves and David’s luminous vocals, before we drift into the lo-fi house vibes of ‘Weak Signal’, with its mesmerising beat and layers of sparking synth work. Finally, the EP rounds out with highlight ‘Don’t Want Ur Love’, a track that could easily set a dance floor alight with its funk-infused electronica and a vocal hook that will stick in your head for days.

Mild Minds isn’t so much a producer reinventing himself, instead it’s an artist taking what they do best and truly stepping out on their own with it, which David clearly demonstrates across SWIM’s tracks. To dig a little deeper, we got in touch to find out what inspired the new project.

My visit to Japan in 2017 was probably one of the most stand-out experiences of my life and consequently, one of the biggest inspiration for Mild Minds. I know everyone probably says that, but it truly was a big turning point in changing how I saw the world. It was the first holiday I’ve been on where I didn’t think about work or wasn’t constantly checking emails. I tend to find exploration and enrichment far more relaxing than trying to do nothing on a beach.  If you’ve had that same issue, I’d suggest Japan for your next trip. The two major differences I noticed with Japan vs everywhere else I lived were; firstly the strength of tradition and secondly the respect they have for each other, their surroundings, and their culture. It was good to see that humanity stands a chance when dictated by the right attitudes. I felt a lot of anxiety was lifted from my shoulders in general, while time seemed slower and life more beautiful. This culminated in an ‘epiphany’ of sorts when a friend and I visited this ambient music bar in Golden Gai.

Samsara, directed by Ron Fricke
When we were in the ambient bar in Golden Gai, they were playing Samsara or something very similar (which I have not been able to find). The film is a non-narrative that explores the cinematic beauty in both the mundane and miraculous found on planet earth. Finding beauty in things like industrial farming to abattoirs. Watching this to an ambient soundtrack felt like my life was on pause. It was really liberating, and reminded me of the beauty that we miss in our everyday world. This was a really nostalgic moment for me as it took me back to how I used to see the world when I was younger. This piggy backed on my overall Japan experience and was possibly the first time I truly felt “in the moment” in my life. I then took this approach to making music, as I needed to stop anticipating why something will or won’t work, and stop succumbing to expectations and simply create in the moment. It was something I hadn’t done for years.

Time alone

After the realisations above, I found solace in spending some time alone. I decided to spend a few weeks in Joshua Tree, and Lake Arrowhead to take another "breather" from the distractions of everything around us. I think we’ve forgotten what it used to be like without the high anxiety, distracting, attention demanding life we live these days. On top of this, incase you haven’t noticed, the news is always bad news. It’s click bait, and it’s often quite toxic. It leads us to believe that the world is a far worse place than it has ever been - when in fact it is statistically better in almost all categories. So even a few hours without the negativity from the news and social media distractions makes a difference... let alone a few weeks. If the news has been making you feel like the world is a horrible place, take a break. Suddenly, there’s only you and your goals with nothing in between them. Let me iterate that this doesn't need to come from a place of privilege either. Quite literally, anyone can do this and deserves to. The media is not good. Unless you’re planning to do something about it, you don’t need to know about all the death in every country of the world, all of the time. Take some time to focus on what’s around you in your immediate localised world, after all that’s all we really have some control of.

Now, back to the musical influences...

'Lush' - Four Tet
This is one of the songs that helped me get back to my roots when making music. I had focused on writing songs for so long, but then suddenly I see this track that is doing really well without lyrics, without an epic pre-chorus etc. The minimalism in this track also reminded me of how simple music can be. I’ve always loved making music with an ostinato (repeated melodic motif/loop) over a simple bass line or chord movement. It was common with classical music as well as the more modern French house - think Daft Punk ‘Around the World’ - as well as most early Lifelike or Kris Menace songs. It’s also found in Touch Sensitive’s ‘Pizza Guy’.  If you get this combo right, it is usually a mesmerizing loop that can go on forever. It was a way of writing I used years ago, but then I abandoned because I felt it was limited to particular genres. However, when I heard this song I realised there were other genres for it to live in, and other ways to do it. In particular, with organic sounds. I was refreshed and excited to start using this technique with a new genre.

'The Rest Is Noise' - Jamie xx
When I first heard Jamie xx, I knew I liked it, but I couldn’t conceptually understand how he could be so popular. After all, it was quite foreign to everything I’d learned and heard that was “popular”.  A few years later after becoming increasing sick of writing pop structured songs I realised again why I like him - because he isn't adhering to many rules. This song really stood out to me as a great example of what you can achieve by somewhat abandoning standard song structure. It reminded me of the innocence of creating music before you begin to learn the rules.  I remember only choosing to learn the ‘rules’ because I was hoping to one day break them, but I feel like that day never came. Instead, it required abandoning much of what I had learned to get back to that innocence and thats what this project is all about.

Caribou & Toro y Moi
Years ago both of these acts planted the seed that you don’t need to be a "singer" to sing. When I started out in music I never imagined I would even try to sing. I didn’t want to be shit, and I could tell I definitely wasn’t any good. These acts helped redefine my understanding of what singing can be. I prefer singing that is more about capturing a mood and a feel than the simply the vocalist's strength. These acts both have that. Finally, when I started to try I felt a new level of connection with the music, vocals come out immediately as opposed to when I write for others it can often be disconnected and takes a while to come up with things . I know a lot of friends who wish they could sing, and for me I’ve found that it is mostly about confidence and an ear for knowing what you want. Anyone can do it if they just give it a go!
Have a listen to SWIM above, and follow Mild Minds on Facebook to keep up with everything he has going on, including a huge US tour with Big Wild.