In Conversation with ByLwansta.

In the digital handbook of ByLwansta‘s SPIJONGET, it is described to be “set as a coming of age comedy drama that follows the different stages of a character named By”. The album is a captivating and immersive experience that not only takes you through the motions of this character through lyrics but also via the intentional style of production and sampling. Colour also plays an important role with each chapter having a certain colour and imagery linked to it.

Chapter one, takes us through the process or experience of being in love with an easy going and laid back style of production that already sets the tone for what is to be expected within this chapter. Chapter two signifies a shift and this is also apparent in the colour that presents the chapter (blue) with the chapter following the difficulties and challenges that come with growing up and how despite being in an uncomfortable situation, growth is still essential and has to happen nonetheless (hence the image of the African lily sticking out of ByLwansta’s nose). Chapter three is the final chapter of the album which perfectly concludes the sonic journey that we have taken with the main character. Now being in a more comfortable place in their life hence the imagery of the yellow couch and also properly positioning themselves in order to execute all the plans that he has.

The best part about the entire listening experience is how the visual aspect is as prominent as the sonic aspect of the album, leaving the listener with a vivid image in their heads of what each song represents.

Read below as we chat to ByLwansta all things NORMVL, branding, and of course music…

Branding, what have you gotten to learn about self-branding lately and its importance, be it how you present yourself, how you dress, how you look, etc?

So firstly, we (NORMVL) are not advocates for “artist personas”, and I’ll explain why. One of the first things I personally learned about self-branding is the importance of firstly knowing and accepting who you are, and then romanticising it to the max. You don’t need to look anywhere else when creating something based completely on you. It’s very easy to be yourself, the artist persona and façade become very difficult to maintain, especially when consumers of your product buy into it fully and keep receipts. 

So with that said, I think it’s important to develop a brand from the ground up based on what makes you you, otherwise you’ll find yourself only engaging on social media when it’s release time, and people see right through that, and in your mind you can only engage when you’re “in character”, and that’s sad, ‘cause you won’t always be in character, but guess what you always will be though? You.

Once you’ve wrapped your head around the brand, then consider the various touchpoints like how you dress and look and whatnot.

Likewise, what have you learnt about artist management and the little things like having press kits, constantly updating and having pictures, artist logo, letter hands etc.?

I learned that admin needs to be something you have to learn to love, from keeping personal cataloged records of your releases and their respective SAMRO numbers, ISRC codes, etc, to ensuring EPKs, press photos, bios, online profiles and more are all up-to-date and aligned.

Because you’re essentially managing a business, YOU, you just need to reframe your mindset from just artist to artist-entrepreneur. By virtue of having chosen the artistry as a career, you’ve subscribed to entrepreneurship and that needs to be present in the running of your business.

Also, I’m not a big fan of artist logotypes, the idea of being confined to a specific typeface that might’ve worked really well on the one album is a bit too limiting for me, I prefer a cohesive visual language per era. That’s just me.

How have you been dealing with your growing audience more especially from a social media perspective?

I believe it’s of the utmost importance for us to do our very best as NORMVL Sound (our label division) to pull those people out of the internet and into our shows (at NORMVL Agenda – our events division) where we have way more touch-points for them to engage with, more of our human senses to trigger, and more to experience. 

I used to think a lot about what it means to “make it on the internet” and it not being the final destination, because I feel like the ByLwansta brand had to then “make it off the internet” where I believe it matters the most, because of the multiple touch-points and experiences I mentioned. 

You can’t hold a Spotify or an Apple Music and personally I’m not willing to sacrifice my sense of touch to the digital age, so we do our best, we think of concepts and cost effective ways to nurture that human interaction. We do this without forcing it though, hence we haven’t made CDs at NORMVL because technology’s moved on, so we (NORMVL Ideas – our creative agency division) make stickers with QR codes instead. 

We’re big on creative problem-solving, that’s a major part of our business model.

Shot by: Sherwin Hulley

You are very detailed with your craft, how important is it for you (if at all) that your audiences pick up on little details, intentions and nuances that come with the work and offerings of ByLwansta?

So when working on the ByLwansta brand, we try our best to create from the consumer’s perspective, we’re lovers and fans of a lot music, so we pull from those experiences, how certain albums and visual campaigns impacted us, and then we attempt to replicate that feeling for lovers of By’s music, so with that being said, it’s not terribly important for audiences to pick these details, intentions and nuances up, because we don’t have control over how they consume our product, or what they like about the brand, but again, because we’re creating from that place I described earlier, nurturing our inner children who owned the 808s & Heartbreak CD and had the poster it came with, we’ll continue to focus on these little details, creating digital booklets. Fans of our work will be very grateful when it’s time to look back and appreciate those moments. 

To touch briefly on the music, which song of yours in recent times has surprised you in terms of the reaction it’s pulled and why?

None of them have surprised me, in all honesty. I believe that each ByLwansta song has a different part of our lives it speaks to, they won’t all slap at once, they’ll have their moments though. It’s life music, and life isn’t one thing. PRETTY STARS won’t slap as hard as STAY NAKED when you’re happily in love. But beyond that, I have a good understanding of what people like about ByLwansta, he’s cute and funny, and STAY NAKED is both of those, and that song gets one of the best responses live, next to ASMR because we’re all really horny at heart.

Do you have a favorite song from each chapter, if so, can you name them and explain why they’re your favorites?

I do, on Chapter One, it’s STAY NAKED, it’s so wonderfully conversational in nature and in its delivery, it translates really well live. On Chapter Two, NIGHTCRAWLERZ, also translates quite well live, in the middle of the set, we get really close and personal to listen to the very detailed story. On Chapter Three it’s WHITEBOARDS – it’s got a triumphant, quirky energy to it, it has a lot of moments in it that, again, translate really well live. 

Live is really where it’s at, where you get to experience your own music differently, because of that opportunity to reinterpret it for the showcase.

What role does your music play in your lived life away from it, does the one influence the other or vice versa?

I shared some of the new music we’re creating right now with Solo Ntsizwa Ka Mthimkhulu the other day. One of the bits of feedback he gave was that he recalls a lot of what I’m saying in this new body of work is stuff we’ve discussed before, and he applauded how well it was articulated. He did note that you have to know me to have that experience of the music, but I’m an oversharer, so if you’ve had a conversation with me that’s longer than 30 minutes, some things will ring a bell when you hear the music. So with that being said, I romanticize my life, and I believe that’s what makes my writing the way it is.

What do you want people to take away from your music? How important was it to let your listeners in on not only the end product but also the process of making your music (this is in reference to the “wait you produce too?” series on Youtube and the behind the scenes for ASMR)

I believe that oversharing is closely related to the fear of being judged. I’ve been misunderstood for most of my life, I’ve tried to embrace it, I’ve felt lonely as a result and I love people, I love community, so I’m very honest in my music as a result, if you gravitate towards me based on what you heard, it’s very affirming. So I want people to take away the human I am from the music, and decide whether they like me or not, if we can have a coffee together or not. 

As far as letting listeners in on the behind the scenes, I believe it’s an added layer and opportunity to connect further once you see how things are made. I like process videos, of things being built, film BTS, how the special fx teams work, but I’m super fascinated by the human train of thought, how we get to certain decisions. So based on that, I like to think there are people out there like me who appreciate those sorts of things. Also, there’s a blueprint we’re unconsciously building, so there’s that too.

On twitter you posted the 2021 version of ASMR alongside the official release of the song which both sound different to each other, are there any alternate versions of other songs from the album that we may never get to hear?

Yeah, definitely, but they’re all in my head now though because the hard drive I sorted all those files in crashed, but I’ll name some. Firstly, ZULO’s partly responsible for the direction I decided to go with ASMR as people know it.  IT’S LATE’s first verse was written as the 2nd verse of a more lo-fi STAY NAKED. WHITEBOARDS was the first verse of a birthday song I initially wrote with Mpho Sebina back in 2020 (hence the “I just turned 25” line). Of the new songs I’m writing right now, there’s a song that’s about to go through a 3rd instrumental, I’ll share those one day, maybe in a special, exclusive album package.

As bland as it may sound, what do you credit your growing success to? Also what is success to you – what does it ideally look like?

TIME. Taking time, making time, keeping time, letting time, finding time,
Success to me is being able to do dope shit without restrictions. Financial freedom to create.

How’s the immediate future looking, what can we expect from your side?

NORMVL’s going to have an interesting next few years as we continue to grow and develop our structures and form strong and meaningful strategic partnerships. We’re building a machine and we’re testing it constantly as we go. A win for NORMVL is a win for ByLwansta, so I’m all in.

Connect by ByLwansta below…

Shot by: Oliver Motimer