Bedouine :: The Aquarium Drunkard Interview

On the heels of two outstanding studio records, singer-songwriter Azniv Korkejian (Bedouine) has crafted an enviable trajectory sharing a creative space akin to the folk sphere of Karen Dalton or Nick Drake. The immediate embrace of the material is only matched by Korkejian’s intriguing, dizzying path to date: incessant touring, globetrotting relocations from hometown Syria to eventually landing in Los Angeles (where she presently resides).

With this rising momentum, it’s curious that Korkejian has taken a self-proclaimed “detour” with her new, self-released album, Waysides. With the excessive time of the pandemic providing an impetus, this deeply reflective collection of songs date back over a decade to a time before the singer-songwriter had officially released any music into the world. Ahead of the forthcoming lp (out October 22), Bedouine joins us to discuss the nuances of the project, including the ability to truly focus on the recording and musicianship for the first time. Or, in her own words, “songs for the sake of songs”. | m neeley

Aquarium Drunkard: I’m guessing this was said somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but you dubbed the new record Waysides as your “LP 2.5”. Is that an accurate way to label it?

Bedouine: I don’t think I meant it as a pejorative, necessarily. Honestly, what happened was: when I sat down during the pandemic I had a list of songs in front of me. At first I had a folder called “LP3” and I was desperate to start writing from scratch. In the past I hadn’t really done that, because I tend to write so intermittently. Basically when I come to a landing spot for a record, I typically cherry pick the songs, but this time I chose not to do that. I wanted to really decide what the record was going to be ahead of time, and make that come to fruition. I came across a collection of old songs in a folder called “Waysides”. At first I wasn’t interested, but also I couldn’t really turn away from them. In that context, I sort of think about it as sort of a detour from the direction I was heading.

AD: How far back do these songs go, exactly?

Bedouine: I think the furthest back is 2007 or so … maybe fourteen or fifteen years ago, up until about 2017-2018. Around when I released the first record.

AD: So well before you had actually released any recorded music?

Bedouine: Yeah, so in a way it is sort of a prologue … that’s probably another reason I think of this one so differently.

AD: Was there perhaps any initial interest in first releasing this as some sort of EP-type project, instead?

Bedouine: I don’t think so, because there was so much material to pick from. So it was really about doing it in a way that was thoughtful, and I knew that I had more than enough. I like full lengths … I can be kind of a purist in that way. I like the thirty minute experience. It’s such a weird dichotomy, because in my mind it’s either singles or LPs. EPs are sort of a strange, in-between space that I can’t always wrap my head around.

AD: Unlike the previous two on Spacebomb, this record is self-released. I found it interesting that you have said doing so allowed yourself a little more freedom to contribute to some of the auxiliary components. Did you enjoy that more hands on approach?

Bedouine: I really did … but I wouldn’t necessarily use the term “freedom”, because I’ve always had the liberty to make aesthetic and musical choices. I think I would use the word “intimacy” … this felt a lot more intimate. It may sound cliché to say, but this really was a pandemic project. With this abundance of time, it really was sitting down and organizing old songs and demos. Also because they were so old, it was kind of like revisiting a younger self in a way. With the perspective you gain looking back fifteen years ago, you feel like you’re the closest person to that. Which sounds like a weird thing to say, but it felt like it was coming from somewhere that no one knows about.

AD: What about in terms of your direct approach with the visual counterparts?

Bedouine: A lot of that is out of necessity. I chose to self-release it because it felt like an intimate thing, since I had the time to do it. There was no advance, and we had a lot of help from The Orchard (distribution company). With the visual stuff, I wanted to lean in on archival footage (which we had used in the past), but this time I was doing it on my end. By happenstance, I had this footage of me performing the song “The Wave”, shot by my friend Dre Babinski from a photoshoot. I was able to stitch it into this karaoke-style lyric video. In my experience so far, I don’t think that not having a label necessarily means that you do less. I think you just don’t have the same type of community to bounce ideas off of.

AD: Do you think these songs would have ever come to light if not for the pandemic?

Bedouine: No, I really don’t.

AD: After so much relocating, you’ve been in Los Angeles for a little while now. Local themes have arisen on previous work, rather pointedly on a track such as “Echo Park”. Given the age of these songs and where your career has now been established, would you say there is any sort of modern lens or throughline that manifests on Waysides?

Bedouine: I don’t think so, really … I kind of go back to the intimacy component. A lot of these I started in my little music room, with an Apollo Twin and little ProTools rig. That was pretty different from the last couple records … and I had a lot of time to spend with these songs, so I really felt like they were under my fingers. It was one of the first times that I could really sit down with the songs in a recording context: figuring out the tempo and the keys, in a barebones approach.

AD: Was this actually recorded at home?

Bedouine: Yeah, my partner Gus (Seyffert) who is a producer/musician, he has a proper studio on the first floor, and we live in an apartment above it. I started the songs in a little, small-scale space upstairs. At first, Gus was just going to mix the songs. But given all the time we had, he really threw a bunch of stuff at it and it really exceeded my expectations. At first this was just going to be a guitar/vocal record … I actually even thought about just putting it up on Bandcamp one day sporadically. But it just sort of evolved into something so much more produced and thoughtful, so we thought why not roll it out with a proper release.

AD: There’s a great vocal duet with Gus, “Sonnet 104”. I read an old quote where you first sought him out as “the analogue tape guy”, when you went to record your first record. And now, he’s been a frequent collaborator ever since. What is it about that chemistry?

Bedouine: That’s a good question. First of all, he invested so much of his time and effort, the first record would have never been done in that way without him. It was a passion project between both of us before I got a record deal. This one was a little bit different because I started it on my own. It felt a little bit more like a co-production. When we work together, I feel like it’s a little bit like it becomes greater than the sum of its parts, the way we challenge each other and make each other better. Sometimes too much, but usually just enough. Also, for better or worse, it’s just very comfortable to continue to work together.

AD: What was the impetus for including the cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Songbird?”

Bedouine: That song kind of represents the pandemic to me in a different way. As soon as things shut down, I worked on a lot of different cover songs for charity compilations and things like that. I was getting in the habit of recording all these demos, which led to my little home studio rig. This was one of the songs I wanted to put down, and there’s a few different reasons. It was a really special song to me at the time that most of the songs were written, 10-15 years ago. I also really love how it is called “Songbird”, which kind of ties into my last record (Bird Songs of a Killjoy) in a way. And there is also something kind of meta about that, which is how I think about this record. Songs for the sake of songs, rather than some sweeping concept. It just made sense. So much of my stuff is mostly fingerpicking, it also felt really good to play the organ, the one other instrument in my room besides my guitar and a keyboard. Pretty early on I wanted the album to end with that.

AD: Do you have a particular first memory of discovering Fleetwood Mac?

Bedouine: I think my boyfriend at the time really loved them, and that’s why I got familiar with them. I also remember really early on, at a thrift store in Kentucky, I found a copy of the sleeve of Rumours. Just the sleeve, not even the cover! I think I even put it in a little square frame and gifted it to him. Now looking back, what a strange thing to do. That was one of my earliest notable memories. Wait, looking now, I think it was actually Tusk … I remember now that the design of the sleeve was all collaged.

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