An interview with Bickle

Bickle. Art by Srikar Poruri.

The Georgia artist talks about the ‘burbs, the art of writing “simple ass songs” and his debut album Biblickle.

Bickle’s introduction to making music was on a PSP. When he picked up Beaterator, a DAW made for the console by Timbaland, he realized “there’s something here that I’m about to do, like, forever.” 

Through producing music, playing instruments and going to shows during the 2010s EDM explosion, Bickle created a world for himself in the suburbs of Duluth, GA, where he was surrounded by a Christian family, churchgoers and worship music. “I had to find everything cool as I grew up,” he says. “A lot of music that people grew up almost taking for granted, like Stevie Wonder albums, or, like, Thriller or something.” 

The PSP DAW Beaterator.

In the video he made for his single “Naked,” digital flash photography of Bickle flaunting his bare body around his studio and town coalesces into a vivid stop motion. Shiny synths and groovy drum programming complement electric lyrics about music freeing you of life’s woes and ennui. The song and video helped him secure a record deal in 2020 that enabled him to escape the stuffy confines of Duluth for sunny LA. Two months later, COVID eliminated every musical opportunity and heightened the already isolating sprawl of the city. Bickle had to move back to Duluth.

Back home, Bickle reconnected with the creative circle he had growing up. He also got to work on his debut album, Biblickle. The region Bickle was trying to escape now provided inspiration.

Out now, Biblickle is filled with bubbly songs about a love lost in the mundane suburbs. Drawing from electronic production, the warmth of ‘70s pop and Bickle’s internet-brained palette, Biblickle swirls together classic strings, talkboxes, dub guitars gated into blips, Italo-disco synths and record scratches into some sincerely bittersweet bedroom pop. Hooky, simple songwriting that strikes a balance between melancholy and optimism grounds the sound.

When I called him earlier this year, he was back at a quintessential Duluth location: the parking lot of a thrift store, in the car of a friend since middle school, his visual collaborator Nick Khan. Before he had even decided a release date for Biblickle, we spoke about fighting the algorithm with digital crate digging, working alone versus working with people, and why your goal shouldn’t be to flee the suburbs. 

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Srikar Poruri: How do you listen to music regularly? How are you finding stuff? 

Bickle: I guess I kind of got bored of the discovery on Spotify in general. I used this app that I got put onto in this Brian Eno interview called Radio Garden

It’s literally just a globe of the world. There’s green dots all over the world, and you can just kind of tune into any radio station anywhere. That’s been a nice palate cleanser for me.

Radio Garden.

What I’ve been listening to a lot recently, thanks to Radio Garden, is a lot of Italo Disco. I love disco. Everyone back then kind of gets genre waves a little late. American disco was kind of already over by the eighties, but Italy was just finding out about it. But they also had synthesizers in the ‘80s, more synthesizers than the [American] disco era had. So Italian disco uses all these synthesizers and sequenced basslines and shit.

The best disco account on Twitter.

Radio’s not dead. That’s something that’s been on my mind more recently. I love buying old radios from thrift stores and just carrying them around. There’s something nice about tuning into a radio station. You never know what you’re going to hear. I mean, sometimes you do. If you live in a place that has a bunch of shitty DJs, they play the same stuff for the most part.

The coolest part is you never know who’s listening with you. If I’m tuned into the station, there’s a whole group of people that are also tuned into the station. We might not have anything in common besides the fact that we’re both listening to the station. I just love that someone with a completely different context in life is out there soundtracking their day in the same way as you.

I remember seeing some tweets of yours that were about a deal you took for “Naked” that helped you leave your hometown, and how you just took the first deal that let you leave and that you regretted that. Could you talk a little bit about that?

Yeah, I mean, I guess I won’t get too deep into that today. But what I will say about that and purely the context that you brought it—this is me talking to young artists right now—do not be motivated by your need to leave or see more.

It was the era where I was really just focused on things like, Oh my God, I have to get out of my hometown more than anything else. That was what I cared about. And it just led me to overlook some parts of some situations that could have been very important to building a better career. I guess it’s the Cliff Notes version of where I was.

Know the limits of your tunnel vision and be careful with what you motivate yourself with. Spite and needing to leave somewhere can be good motivators. But it’s energy that only lasts a finite amount of time, you know? And then once you get out, what do you do now? What are you motivated by? I kind of experienced that in a very whiplashed way, I’ll say.

Yeah, where? In L.A. or New York or something?

Yeah, we just moved to L.A. for a little bit, and then just upon being there, it was just kind of like, Oh? I guess I won’t say too much about that today, but it was interesting, and I was young—“Oh, my God, I just need to leave.” Like it was my whole personality. And then look at me, I’m back in Duluth. 

Did it work? How is it in Duluth?

I love Duluth. I was trippin’ a few years ago. It’s great here. I got lots of loved ones out here, and it’s a very diverse and interesting place out here. I still have my sights set on New York, though. I’m a New Yorker at heart. Every time I go to New York, I’m like, Oh, that’s home

How would you describe your music?

I like to think of it as pop music, but only because I think of pop music as just the catchiest version of any music. In that philosophy, I feel like I try to make pop music. I’m not necessarily inspired by a lot of other pop music. I’m inspired by all these disparate genres and types of music. And then I just glue it together. 

Would you say that you’re a part of any scene like the “Atlanta Underground,” or some online scene?

Short answer: No. I’m kind of very interested only in my own little lane out here. But I think in a weird way, that is the Atlanta scene. The Atlanta scene is a bunch of people in their complete own lane. And then once it’s proven that you’re really in your own lane, then everyone else in their own lane starts fucking with you.

I guess Atlanta definitely encouraged me to just like really be in my own shit and just kind of find out what’s something that’s specific to me to do. And scenes breed drama and drama breeds headaches. And I like peace.

For a while I had a hard time finding my mode collaborating, and it was just kind of easier to do something like “Naked,” shoot a music video by myself or something like that, you know? I’m grown up now, though, and just realizing that collaboration is fun and necessary. I mean, if you have to, do it by yourself. But I feel like it’s a rare situation where you absolutely have to, you know what I mean?

In a Riovaz interview he said that he started making dance music after listening to “Naked.” I don’t know if you’ve heard. How does hearing something like that make you feel?

I did hear that, shoutout to Riovaz. That’s pretty fucking cool and just weird shit to me. I feel like I’m in a position where I’m influencing other artists and there’s a lot of artists who fuck with me and are fans and I just haven’t really crossed over to the regular listeners yet or whatever the fuck.

What do you want to get out of creating? 

I’m not necessarily in this to get a bunch of praise and worship for myself. Like, getting attention is nice, but I really like making more than any other aspect of doing this for a living. I love making the shit. I love the literal creating. My main goal is I really hope that people get inspired to create stuff for themselves. Like I really hope to ignite that in other people.

When did you start working on Biblickle? What was like the kind of whole process of it and what can we expect from it?

Expect Simple. Ass. Songs. In the best way. I really, really wanted to hear songs with simple songwriting and simple production to match, and this record’s taken me about two years now, which is crazy.

I think the oldest song on it that ended up on there was from March 2021. It’s hard to make simple music and it’s not my first nature. I like noise. I like, you know, producing.  I wanted to hear really simple music really badly. This is my response to just hearing a lot of verbose songwriting and wishing there were more repeating motifs or something like that and just not hearing it. I just noticed a lot of things in older music that we’ve evolved out of as music progresses that I just don’t think should get lost to time. And like, I don’t know, I guess this is just my attempt at writing really classic style songs, you know? Simple ass songs.

There were a few years where I was making, like, a million beats. I’m going to make this song transition into this beat that I made two months ago, and then that’s going to transition into this outro I made last night and blah blah blah. 

It just was fucking everywhere. I just wanted to make a project that was simple. It’s as straightforward as you can possibly be because, yeah, we’re going to many other places on this journey afterwards, I’ll say that.

What do you mean by that?

Biblickle is not necessarily indicative of where the Bickle sound is headed. It was very necessary. This album is something I thought I had already made many years ago. But I wasn’t at the skill level. I didn’t have the life experience to write the songs or the music experience to do it well and yeah, it’s very much that at its core. And I’m like, All right, fuck it I actually made it this time that I can really go to where I’m trying to go, which is…who even knows?

I’m just trying to collaborate a lot more in the future and I got some pretty fucked up ideas about how music should sound in general, and I just feel like I had to buy my ability to have people trust me, take them on that journey.

Is that your studio in the “Naked” video? Do you play all the instruments yourself?

Yeah. I’m definitely a jack of all trades, master of none type of guy. I can play anything enough to get the recording. Making recorded music is what I’m mostly interested in, rather than becoming an instrumentalist or a crazy performer or anything like that. I’m shifting more to being a freakier performer these days, but for the most part, over the years, I’ve really just kind of enjoyed being in a studio, right? I can play anything enough to get the take, but I’m not going to, like, outplay anyone.

Did you teach yourself?

I mean, we all have the internet, if that counts as teaching ourselves. Instruments and rawness are a very important part of Biblickle. So my good friend Ezra has been putting a lot of violin and string embellishments on all the songs, and it’s added a nice dramatic flair that I have needed. I have this very simple bedroom-song, kind of eyebrows-up ass music. The strings kind of help ground the drama. it makes it feel more real in a way.

There’s a certain point a couple of years ago where I wanted to stop processing my voice as much, stop using Auto-Tune or formant shifters or things that are easy to hide behind. I just wanted to become a bit more of a skilled vocalist. I’m not hitting runs on anybody on this album. I’m not going crazy here. It’s not like any Olympics or anything like that. But it was definitely in response to a lot of heavily affected music out there.

And you produce your stuff yourself, do you use FL?

I come from an electronic background. I use FL to make all my music very digital. So there is something interesting to me about doing really instrumental songwriting as music in that context.

I’m trying to make music that’s more in common with ‘70s music using FL Studio. Part of the magic of that music is tape, and just what’s going on in the world at the time and just the context of the songwriting is all different. So you’re never going to make a ‘70s song, they already have them, but you get somewhere else trying. And that’s a cool place to be.