BBNG Take The Proust Personality Test
Play it clean, jazzman!
BBNG have had a pretty busy, pretty buzzy itinerary of late. They came to Australia earlier this year to play a string of gigs, and triggered the more sensitive pro-Trump corners of the internet last month after dropping the ~contro~ video for their Snoop Dogg collab 'Lavander' (below).
We forced the whole crew — Matthew Tavares, Chester Hansen, Leland Whitty and Alexander Sowinski — to hang out with us in Prince Alfred Park on a drizzly summer's day when they were in Sydney. Under the flimsy premise of fresh air and scenery, we questioned the jazz collective on death, Earthly happiness, moving to Mars and the lowest depths of misery via Marcel Proust's quintessential personality test. Take 'er away, boys!
Madeleine Woon: What's your current state of mind?
Chester Hansen: I feel pretty peaceful right now, pretty tired, just had a lot of food, yeah. Calm, enjoying the park. There are a lot of birds here, it's cool.
James Hill: I think I feel pretty calm but every once in a while I get aggravated by the flies.
That's Australia for you.
Alexander Sowinski: State of mind… happy, tired, and I guess calm and peaceful. I feel pretty good right now.
Leland Whitty: Yeah same sort of thing, pretty zen right now, full, tired.
What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
James: This is a really tough question… I'd say dying basically would be pretty miserable. It makes me uncomfortable which sort of instigates what's real I guess, so dying.
Alex: I feel like losing control is the lowest depth in my opinion because, you know, you can get so miserable that you can't even control the possibility of becoming un-miserable.
Chester: Maybe when you can't think of a reason to even [live]… like, you just keep questioning, "What's the point of life?" or "What am I doing". Or when you wake up every morning and you're like, "What's the point of getting out of bed right now? What am I even going to do today?" That's pretty miserable.
Leland: I've had a lot of dreams lately about dying… it's been pretty miserable, and also kind of like what Chester was saying about feeling useless.
What's your idea of Earthly happiness?
James: Great tours, good friends, good weather, bad weather, all kinds of things… Earthly? Sex.
Alex: Sex, great food, positive environments no matter what, no matter who you're with.
James: Yeah, Earthly happiness is when I just surrender to the fact that I have no control over anything other than myself, and once I surrender to that I feel honestly truly happy. So surrendered, for sure.
Chester: Truly living in the moment even though it's pretty much impossible to say if you are or not, but if you reach something close to just totally being there, and being present, you can't ask for more than that.
Leland: I guess just trying to reach a full multiple state of mind is kind of peaceful in a way, because it lets you embrace everything that's happening to you.
Alex: A time when you realise you haven't thought of other bullshit the entire time you've been enjoying yourself.
Who are your favourite heroes?
Alex: John Goodman.
Alex: No. [Laughs].
James: Steve Buscemi.
What qualities do you most admire in a person?
James: Confidence is the first thing that comes to mind. Warmth. Someone who you feel like you can trust and confide in. Those last two were selfish things.
Alex: Sick bebop player, for the sake of this interview.
Chester: I don't know man, just people who have good presence and energy. And maybe people who create openness or understanding, or you know, comfortability for anyone. That's always inspiring.
Alex: People who also pace themselves at, like, one eighth of the speed I pace myself at. I always find that like inspiring, in terms of slowing down.
Chester: I don't know, yeah that stuff — honest people, smart people [laughs]. Great scientists… Bill Nye, what's his name, Elon Musk? People who are changing the game.
James: Fucking Steve Jobs, Kanye West, Kim Kardashian!
What's the trait you most deplore in others?
Chester: Probably judgment — it does the opposite of the things that I like most in others.
James: Unwanted arrogance, maybe? Because we can all be arrogant, but if it's unwanted I don't want it.
Alex: Yeah, closed-mindedness and stale energy.
What would you guys be doing if you weren't in music?
Chester: Probably be a great historical figure of some kind, or a scientist.
Alex: I'd be a fucking sweet librarian [all laugh].
James: Librarian? My mum is a hairdresser, my dad's an architect, so maybe one of those? No, for real though, probably something else in the arts. Before I started music I was really into visual art, I would draw and we used to sculpt a lot and make jewellery. I'd probably do something with my hands that's not sexy touch therapy.
Chester: I was really into writing before music.
James: Oh fuck, you'd be a good sci-fi writer.
Alex: That bird just swallowed a whole piece of gum.
James: Oh, I was actually thinking of maybe being a pigeon racer. That's been a dream of mine since the other day, I just discovered it was a thing here in Sydney.
What trait do you wish you had?
Chester: Confidence, social skills [all laugh].
Deep! And, how would you like to die?
James: On stage playing the song 'Out of Nowhere' like Warne Marsh — a famous tenor sax player.
Alex: How did he die?
James: He died playing the song 'Out of Nowhere' on stage.
Alex: But what happened?
James: Oh he had like a heart attack or something, somewhere in New York.
Shit! How long did it take the audience to realise that he was dead?
James: Well seeing as he did a dying gag at like every performance, it took them a couple hours [all laugh].
Alex: I'm curious about what drowning would feel like.
James: That would be the last way to die!
Leland: Imagine the thoughts you'd have in those last moments, because it takes time to die drowning so you're fully aware of the fact that…
Maybe you just make peace?
Leland: Exactly, as opposed to getting shot or something which can be really abrupt.
Chester: The ultimate goal would be to be so at peace in your life that it would be okay if it just happened out of nowhere and you had no idea.
James: There have been times in my life where I've been with people I love, and I've felt so comfortable that I could die and I would be satisfied with my life; you're not thinking about life on like a time scale, you're just happy in the moment. So one of those moments for sure. How would you die?
I honestly don't know! I like the idea of dying right after doing something you love, though.
Chester: Spontaneous combustion.
Alex: Black hole! Being a part of a science experiment, you'd like that?
Chester: I think I'd rather die during the present state of space exploration. I'd rather die on Earth than in space.
James: Because it would be so stimulating, you'd be like, '"No, I'm just seeing this for the first time. Fuck!'"
Leland: There are people who've committed to moving to Mars [in the future], but you can't come back to Earth obviously because it's way too expensive. Imagine if there's no civilisation or Mars isn't even properly prepared for you to live a normal life. I wouldn't want to be one of those people now, 'cause your stuck with the same 15 people until the next batch arrives.
James: It would be like a tour that never ends, man.
What's the entertainment sitcho like?
James: On Mars?
Chester: Mars Bars…
James: Sex with guys, girls, aliens, dogs, robots.
Alex: I mean, if they had a lot of drugs it would probably be fun.
Words: Madeleine Woon
Photography: Alex Johnstone