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Interview | Bien Et Toi

May 03, 2024 9 min read

thE lANA dEL rey and arlo parks producer talks ep, "london safari ii"


Continuing to step out from behind the shadows, the artists latest EP is a feast of genre-bending and collaboration.


Photography by Jack Gray

“It's definitely cool to have moments like this where someone like yourself is asking me questions about what I’m doing,” Gianluca Buccellati aka Bien Et Toi tells me. It might seem surprising to hear a Grammy and Ivor Novello-nominated musician find novelty in the mere undertaking of promotional activity. Press is an aspect of the job many artists would take for granted and he’s a week ahead of the release of third EP “London Safari II” when we connect via zoom. However, Buccellati is still adjusting to having a voice in the conversation around the work he’s made.

As the man behind the buttons for everyone from Lana Del Rey, Arlo Parks, Biig Piig, Paris Texas and many more, the New York-born, LA-based producer has been a hidden linchpin in some of the biggest musical successes of recent years. Such contributions have been integral, but can fly under the radar. “I’ve had situations where I’ve been so instrumental in projects and then I look at the write-up on some website and they’re talking about how they made it all themselves,” he admits. “So I really love for people to know that I am a serious musician and really capable.”

His musical dexterity is laid out in all its splendour on “London Safari II”. The spiritual follow up to his debut project “London Safari” and successor to 2023 EP “Voici” is an eclectic, genre-traversing exploration of sounds and creative partnerships, heavily rooted in the English capital and his synergy with its crop of musical talent (Lil Rayne, Deyaz, FJ Law), as well as New York-based Halima and enigmatic LA hip-hop twosome Paris Texas. As he tells us below, it’s quite literally a safari of the musical wonders he encounters, a venture into new habitats and optimal for getting lost in on the approach to the weekend.

Below, Buccellati talks “London Safari II”, collaboration, stepping out from behind the desk, and how he went from a 10 year old rock enthusiast to the decorated musical mastermind he is today.



Hi Luca! How are you doing?
I’m good, it's 5 am in Hawaii right now so I’ve just woken up. But I’m wide awake, so we're chilling.


I thought you were in LA, so I was expecting it to be early but not this early!
I was supposed to be in LA but we decided kind of last minute to come out to Hawaii for my girlfriend’s 29th birthday. We're mostly just going to the beach and having a good time hiking and stuff.


Congratulations, first of all, on “London Safari II”. How are you feeling ahead of release?
I'm pretty excited. it's really nice to have another chapter to this project and I feel
like I'm only really just at the beginning stages of what I'm doing with Bien Et Toi, but, you know, this is sort of solidifying the potential of what's possible and I'm just really eager to do more, I think. That's really how I'm feeling.


Part 1 came in 2022. What prompted you to return with another instalment?
Well I put out the first EP and I guess the nature of it was a collaborative effort and I think there was a through line of sound, you could listen to that EP and be immersed in the vibe of the project, but it was sort of my friends and I just sort of making music. And then I did an electronic EP called “Voici” and that was very different in nature it was just electronic, dancey type thing and I was pulling together some songs for the next project and I realised the nature of it was more similar to what went on the first EP, so I figured doing a series of these collaborative songs under the name “London Safari” kind of kept everything.coming from the same place.


Where did the title “London Safari” originate from?
I think it was 2021 and I was in London and I was wearing a Hawaiian shirt and a weird jacket and weird hat and my friend was like, ‘You look like you're on some sort of London Safari right now’ and that phrase just stuck in my head. And I think it was pretty much a month after that trip that I came home and I decided, ‘I love doing this production stuff, but I'd really prefer to explore coming forward as an artist.’ I started making the project and started making the instrumentals, I started pulling songs together and it just kind of clicked for me. I just love the ring to it, and I guess when you're on a safari, you're looking at a bunch of different animals in their habitats and I think a lot of the music that I've made, and that I work on, comes out of England. So it just all clicked together.


Because you make so much music, working with other artists too, do you often find yourself flicking through drafts of other songs or things that you've worked on in the past thinking, ‘Should we pick this up again?’
Sometimes, yeah! I just make a lot of stuff so it allows me to be flexible when I’m approaching and collaborating with someone. Ideally, when I’m sitting with someone, I’d love everything to stem from that moment but sometimes you make something that stems from that moment and you're like, ‘Okay well an hour's gone by, you're gonna be here another couple hours. Let me just show you what else I’m working on, what i have worked on, some of the instrumentals I have and i'll flick through a bunch of things and a lot of the time people will be like, ‘That one. What's that one?’ And then we'll sort of open it up and try some things and I have countless songs just kind of sitting that may never see the light of day, but “London Safari” provides them with an avenue for people to hear them.


What would you say nowadays you look for in a collaborator?
It’s definitely changed over time. I think originally, I was just looking for to work with anyone. I got into producing and collaborating sort of as a mistake. My girlfriend at the time, I think it was
2012, asked me to listen to her demos and help her record them. I always wanted to be an artist so I was in a band, I was writing my own songs and playing shows. And I helped her record
her songs and long story short her music became globally successful overnight and I realised, ‘Whoa this is really cool, I can help people with their music.’ And so, early on, I was just looking for people to help and to hone in my skills and craft. I wanted to explore different genres. I wanted to work with a bunch of different voices and build my confidence. And I think the further I’ve gotten into it and the longer i've been doing it, what i really look for in collaborators now is just a sense of confidence in themselves and the ability to deliver whereas I used to have a lot more patience for sitting around and wondering ‘What should we write about?’ or really diving deep. I really want to work with people now who know who they are and I can do my thing and they can do theirs and I can record it and not have to do too much heavy lifting to make it sound good.


When you’re making music for your own project, what's your studio set up like? Are you quite regimented or do you find that it's much more casual?
I guess it all sort of happens at once so with these projects it's not like I I sit down and I say, ‘Okay this next two/three weeks is going to be devoted to Bien Et Toi. I'm always working on someone's record and those those days tend to be longer than the days that I work on my own project, because I think I'm easily pleased when it comes to my project. But typically, I need to exercise before I go into the studio. I need to make sure I'm well-fed, hydrated and I typically like to start up at 1 or 2 pm and finish by six. And I think about it as though I’m harnessing my creative energy, so I can be completely effective and intentional with what I'm doing in a small amount of time. I've had moments in my career where it's 8 am to 10 pm and I’m exhausted. I don't like to work like that. I like to be quick and effective.


Do you feel like there's an extra confidence that comes with making your own work and knowing that you solely who’s in the driver's seat?
Yeah I think so. I think there's different elements of confidence in each aspect of what I do. Sometimes I'm really confident in the way I can help somebody come across as honest in their own project and helping them is where I feel confident. And then when it comes to my project, I think it's just fun. I try to make it more fun and I think maybe there's slightly less confidence in a way because I just wonder if the [collaborator’s] gonna want to put it out or if they're going to want to take it for themselves in their own project or if they're not going to want to put it on my project. That's where I'm like, ‘Oh I really hope they want to put this out on my on my EP.


When you look back, what's your earliest memory of music either as a consumer or as a musician yourself?
I grew up in a really musical house. My dad collected a lot of instruments and recording equipment and he was very forthcoming about putting instruments in our hands as kids. We'd always be listening to albums and finding our favourite songs and learning how to play them. And then I think traditionally people around me, who I went to school with, they would like the music that was on the radio and we watched TRL and the countdowns and music videos that were happening at the time. But it was predominantly orchestral music that was the outlet for a lot of kids my age, so people would play clarinet or violin or do orchestra, but around the age of 10, there was a variety show and these three kids got on stage and played “Black Dog” by Led Zeppelin. I had been playing Led Zeppelin's music since i was like five years old with my dad and my brothers, and I always thought you had to be like my dad's age to be in a rock band. And when I saw these kids playing, I thought
‘Oh my god,’ there's people my age playing rock music. And that was what set me on the journey to want to do music professionally for the rest of my life and I became obsessed with putting bands together. I also started studying music in an educational sense and really wanting to get a well-rounded understanding of music and what it does to people and how to harness that power and make something that could intentionally make someone feel a certain way. That's what really gets me going.


And did music always feel like it was going to be the destination?
I think so. From 10 onwards, I started writing songs. I would go after school into the studio and just write. But I did have good grades in school as well, so I always thought maybe I’d go back to school and study astrophysics or something. I studied philosophy in college as well, but I don't really know practically what philosophy would have brought me as a career. I’ve always been going in the music direction but at one point, I think I had the option to have a more normal life, but I got a scholarship to Berkeley College of Music and then I was playing in a band for a while and then once I made that music with my girlfriend, it started doing really well and I’ve just always had so much to do. Like from then, every week it's just been people asking me to work with them and now that's been over 10 years of that. So there's never really been down time for me to consider to do anything else.


Obviously as a producer, you've had many achievements and award accolades, does it feel different to receive praise or love for your own work?
It’s a really weird feeling and I’m not really used to it because, you can work on someone's project as a producer and be responsible for 90% of what's going on in the project and at the end of the day, an artist could just put their photo on the album cover or promote it themselves, and I think that this project offers that outlet for me to own what I’m doing a little bit more than when I’m hired to work with someone. And it's definitely cool to have moments like this where someone like yourself is asking me questions about what I’m doing and I’m really grateful for that, because I’ve been doing it a long time without people asking me. So it’s nice that this is happening.


What would you say making this project has taught you about yourself and your artistry?
I think that I prefer doing artist stuff. I think I just really want to continue doing artist stuff and
having that direct relationship with my fans. I love production, I love helping people
but i think I’m just more creatively fulfilled being an artist.

"London Safari II" is out now


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