The internet is an incredible tool. With sites like YouTube, SoundCloud and Bandcamp, these days it’s become easier than ever to discover new artists. While these avenues help make music more accessible to all of us, it inevitably means there’s a lot more material to sort through. Often times many talented artists can get lost in the shuffle, but once in awhile, you’ll find that diamond in the rough (pardon the cliché), making it all totally worth the effort. While I won’t claim to be the first to discover 20-year-old producer, Birocratic, I would like to take some pleasure in introducing him to you all today.
Instrumental music has never exactly been my forte. Often times instrumentals can seem drawn-out and repetitive, which in many cases ultimately leads to boredom. Birocratic succeeds where others fail, because he keeps things simple. At an average of nearly two minutes, his compositions are easy to digest, yet still possess enough layers to consistently keep your mind stimulated. Biro’s sounds are never boring, even if they are perfect to relax to. As you’ll soon find out, the man behind the music is even more intriguing than the pieces he samples.
TMN: Since this might be the first time many of our readers are hearing your name, let’s start with the basics. How did you come to be known as Birocratic?
Birocratic: My name is Brandon Rowan, and when I first got to college people took to calling me B-Row. Biro is essentially a phoneticized version of my nickname, which I lengthened to Birocratic because I like the subtle tongue-in-cheek connotation. I find that the idea of a bureaucrat who makes hip-hop is a satisfyingly ironic image, and so the name stuck. Also, I didn’t want to be confused with a ballpoint pen, which is called a “biro” in British English.
TMN: I guess that’ll be our little fun fact of the day. Maybe if you decide to pick up the mic one day, Biro might be a more appropriate moniker for you.
Birocratic: Heh. Well, I highly doubt that’ll happen. If anything, I’ll sing rather than rap, but I’m ironically way more comfortable speaking with instruments – drums, bass, guitar, keys – than with words themselves.
TMN: Let’s follow up with the next natural question. Where did you grow up and where do you currently reside?
Birocratic: I grew up in central New Jersey in a place called Hopewell Valley, a super typical suburban/semi-rural area right smack between Philadelphia and New York. I lived in a farmhouse in the woods there from when I was six until I graduated from high school. From there I moved to Cape May, at the Jersey shore, where my parents still live. I split my time between Cape May during the summer and NYC during the school year, as I’m currently a junior at NYU.
TMN: Alright, let’s dig a little deeper into your background. When did you first get into music, and how long have you been producing for?
Birocratic: My parents put me in piano lessons when I was four. My cousins had moved to Germany and left behind an antique Steinway upright piano, and I used to bang on it until I figured songs out by ear. My parents noticed and got me a teacher, so I learned piano formally until I was 14. I also grew up on a steady diet of classic rock, thanks to my parents and WTHK radio from Philly, which sadly no longer exists. But from there it just kind of blossomed – in late middle school I formed a band with friends, quit piano and taught myself guitar, and steadily became more and more engrossed in music until I realized it was what I wanted to do with my life.
Production started when I was a junior in high school, after I got my first laptop. I kind of just saw it as a natural extension of my passion for music – I could make entire songs by myself without having to get the band together. It was an awesome mental and emotional release, and it was accessible without dealing with the headache-inducing logistics of organizing band practices for a bunch of teenagers who are barely old enough to drive.
TMN: So what impact would you say your environment/upbringing has had on your music?
Birocratic: Man, it’s hard to pinpoint. It’s funny because I make hip-hop now, which is so different from the music I used to listen to during the most formative years of my early childhood. I guess just being surrounded by music all the time and being encouraged to explore my passion is what led to where I am now, even if the specifics don’t seem to line up. And I think some of the unrest I experienced early in high school—mostly traceable to living in the ‘burbs and feeling like everything was so small-time compared to the big city, which we used to visit as a family every year—had a large part to do with my tendency and desire to express myself via music. It allowed me to feel bigger than what my town and my school would allow for, especially since I was always such a quiet kid and had a tough time expressing myself in social situations. It provided the all-too cliché “escape” for my pining young self.
Read the rest of the interview and stream more from Birocratic after the jump