Bryndon Cook has worked with some of the most influential musicians of our generation, from Dev Hynes, also known as Blood Orange, to Solange. His stage name, Starchild and the New Romantic, was coined while he was still a teenager in college studying acting. Unsurprisingly, the actor turned musician found solace in music at a young age and has since turned it into a full time profession. With the release of his 2016 EP, Crucial, and, following that, his 2018 album, Language, Cook proved his aptitude for musical poise and elegance. We caught up with the rising star recently asking him about the semantics behind his music, his writing methods and the inspirations behind his brilliantly aestheticized artist image.
Bryndon! Your project name, Starchild and the New Romantic, is beautiful, whimsical and rich with narrative, like many of your musical choices. How did the name come about?
BC: “Starchild & The New Romantic is a name that hopefully symbolizes the duality of my musical fabric. I’m very much based and informed by black music, soul and funk. I am also equally based and satiated by New Romanticism, New Wave and things outside of the box. Releasing music under my own name seemed very finite to me, especially in the beginning when I hadn’t started yet. This moniker gives my own world to never stop growing within.”
Your sound is incredibly unique and very saturated with layers of production and instrumentation. What’s the process when you start writing?
BC: “I usually start with a hook or chorus that sticks with me and grows with me over time. Or an idea or phrase. I take pride in the fact that all of my songs can be performed and enjoyed with just a piano/voice or guitar/voice, as they were primarily constructed that way. From a production standpoint, I try any and everything that give that original idea legs and make it come to life for other points of view to enjoy, including myself.”
In 2016 you released the EP Crucial, and following that two years later, you released the album Language. While they are both tastefully unique to your sound, I do hear a maturity spanning the progression from your first collection to your most recent. How do you think your music has changed between the two releases?
BC: “Very conscious of practice and progress. There’s always a necessity to progress within in myself, even if it’s in the smallest of ways. Crucial was very much a warmup and Language was a full exercise. I played more, produced more, sang more, rapped more. I did everything that I knew I could do, or learned I could do…and just did more of it. For my next record, Forever, I’m actually doing less in some places because less can quite often be more.”
What is something you hope your music conveys? Any messages or topics you focus on over others?
BC: “More than anything, love and honesty. Those things look different sometimes and have different contexts, so I like to always shoot from that hip and stand on that word.”
One of really spectacular aspects to your musician image is your stage presence and performance. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing you live and was in awe. How would you describe your take on the bond between the music you make and the performance aspect of it including dance, aesthetic, ambience? Are they very attached to one another?
BC: “I would definitely say they all run together in accordance. Rehearsal, Performance, Dance & Song have been with me since I was a child and throughout my days in conservatory. As an artist, I definitely fall victim to the sensation of “creating music that makes me want to dance” and then I end up dancing. I also believe in true expression and the things I do live certainly personify my most meaningful truth. For example, I grew up teaching myself MC Hammer dance moves because as a kid I historically knew that his record label was contractually obligated to pay him per/new move. Not that this was a financial incentive for me, but it opened up the world of dance in a way that was fun for me.”
How would you describe your aesthetic as a musician? Do you curate most of your looks and dance moves?
BC: “There is a confluence of influences that surround my spirit. Those influences continue to grow and evolve, but because most of my life has been navigated by this desire to connect my story with a greater story outside of myself, much of my actual being is directly correlated to my influences. Therefore, my stage persona I believe, may be the closest representation of who I truly am. Either on stage or when I am sleeping. So I don’t curate things because that’s too controlling, in my opinion. I like to set something up with a lot of care and research to create a safe container of expression, and then I set myself fly free and let it rip.”
What interesting projects do you have coming up that you’re excited by?
BC: “The third record, Forever, is my favorite thing I have made. Each record at the time gets that place in my heart, so It feels good that feeling has returned. Excited for everyone to experience the next level.”
Check out Starchild and the New Romantic’s new live album, Live at National Sawdust here!