Carrying the scars of growing up one-of-a-kind in a conformist environment, Loïk Gomez aka BFRND went from suffering the condition of weirdo to reclaiming it. The power of difference, and the sense of community that lies therein, is also the driving force when it comes to his music—from his soundtracks for the Balenciaga shows, a product of his creative and life partnership with Demna, to his forthcoming debut album.
PHOTOGRAPHY: TOBIAS SPICHTIG
INTERVIEW: JORDAN RICHMAN
JORDAN RICHMANCan you tell me about the first time you picked up an instrument or made a track?
BFRNDI think it was at the age of nine that I got my first guitar, even though it was a very cheap guitar.
I never went to music school, I just wanted to do my own thing. Experiment until I could actually do something that sounded the way I wanted it to sound. Maybe at the age of nine I made my first track,
but it never ended anywhere. I recreated it for my upcoming album.
BFI’ve been working on this for, maybe, three years now, and the album is called Afterlife.
JRDo you have a concept for the album?
BFSo, it’s really about being born again. My life before was about becoming who I am now. I feel like I gave birth to myself through the experience of life. And it’s really about my emotions, my past. It’s kind of a therapy in a way, because I speak a lot about what happened to me. A lot about society versus me because it’s an everyday life topic for me, how society treats me, how I feel towards society. I speak a lot about love because I’m in love.
And style-wise, it’s not just one genre. It really goes from something really hard to something really beautiful and full of love. There is the electro-pop part, a bit harder fusion of hip hop, hardcore, and harder electronic, and then the atmosphere switches completely, and it goes into ballads.
It’s a mix of everything that composes who I am. A lot of people think that they know who BFRND is because, until now, I just showed electronic stuff in fashion shows. But actually, no one knows that I almost prefer the ballad part, because in the electro-pop parts I almost don’t speak about myself.
I invent a lot of stories. It’s imaginary, it’s a fantasy-kind-of-situation. The ballads, they’re really deep for me—my deepest and most true emotions.
JRWhat would you say are your deepest emotions?
BFWell, it’s mixed feelings between everything that made me suffer in my past. Being different, being rejected, being kind of alone because I grew up in a very small town with parents that taught me that I have to be strong by myself. But in these ballads, I also speak a lot about love. It’s a lot of love letters for Demna because he changed my life. Love changed my life and made me a different person. It helped me to find myself without having all these fears and this suffering that blinded me for years when I was younger. I was beaten up almost every day going out in the street, I have scars on my body because of that. And every time I look in the mirror, I see them. It will be a part of me forever, and I think it’s good that I use my music to put forward a message of acceptance, of tolerance.
JRDo you hope the album will make people like you feel seen?
BFYeah, give hope to someone that goes through similar stuff, that is suffering, that would be the best gift. If one day someone says to me that my songs actually changed their life or gave them hope my mission is accomplished. Everyone is different, but you relate to something that makes you either dream or gives you an energy to fight for who you want to be, to achieve what you want.
JRTotally. I’ve heard you refer to yourself as a weirdo before. I feel like the term also really evokes others that are part of the Balenciaga community. What does it mean to be a weirdo?
BFIt’s not a choice. There was a time where I was tired of being treated like a weirdo. I just wanted to blend in. Maybe I have a face that makes people feel that even if I dress like everyone I’m still different. Maybe it’s my behavior, or the way I move.
Body language can give a lot of information, even if you try to disguise yourself. I am the way I am and I cannot force that, you know? And so, being a weirdo has been suffering. Today, I think it’s a force. I accepted it. It’s a part of myself. I identify more as an alien rather than a human. Maybe it’s going to therapy as well that helped me to understand that it’s okay to be different. Everyone has their own community that understands what they do. I’ve always been attracted to alternative cultures. I’ve been in the gothic environment my whole life. When I see someone in the street, someone different, someone extreme, to me they’re a part of my family. And we always make eye contact. Even if we don’t speak to each other, we understand that we are the same. And it’s funny because in the last Balenciaga show, there was an actual print saying, “be different.” Because being different is being yourself.
BFEveryone is unique, and you should embrace that uniqueness.
BFYeah. Conformity, to me, is a nightmare. It’s a prison. If you try to blend in, you’re not doing anything. And I think to move things forward, to change the world, you have to be different. You cannot expect to be ahead of time and also be like everyone else. That’s not how it works.
JRThe world doesn’t need any more of the same people.
JRYou’re from the country originally, and now you’re back living in the country, outside of Zurich. How does music exist in the country differently than in the cities?
BFIt doesn’t exist. That's why it’s so good for me because in the countryside, it’s just silence. It’s nature and that’s what allows me to connect to myself, to hear myself. I do music every day of my life, so when I'm in Zurich or Paris, I do music. But the music I do changes depending on where I am. When I’m in Paris, I do music that I don’t like because there is this whole city energy that actually sucks my own energy there is a lot of brain noise and I’m less concentrated. Maybe I will do stuff that is not good yet, and I need to come back to the countryside for it to be digested, and then get good without this big city noise environment.
JRI know during the lockdown you were sober. Are you still today?
BFI’m not anymore. Because I think going to extremes is never good. It felt right for a moment, because I needed to look at my inner self.
JRWould you consider yourself a severe person?
BFI am definitely a severe person, especially with myself. I’m a perfectionist and a control freak. I need to be in control not only of my music, but of my whole image and everything that goes around it— because for me, BFRND is not just music, it’s a big part of my identity, and I want to keep it clean from any sort of clout shooting.
JRWhen listening to your music, I hear a creative thread to Rammstein. Who are your musical Gods?
BFYeah. It’s funny because when I was younger, there was of course Rammstein. They’re, along with with Marilyn Manson maybe, my biggest inspiration— this whole Gothic thing. Today, I find the music industry has suffered a lot. I can’t relate to anyone anymore, and that’s maybe why it allowed me to do what I do today, because I do what I would like to hear. It, maybe, sounds arrogant, but I would like to discover BFRND. That would be the music I would look up to. So I just do what I like to hear and that I feel doesn’t exist in the industry today. But of course, bands like Rammstein, for me, are an inspiration. We are quite similar in some ways, in the sense that you have the hard parts with this shot of adrenaline, but you also have the deep ballads that are really beautiful and sentimental. And there’s the fire, the pyrotechnical things, the bold look. Everything is so impressive. I just love triggering emotions in people with music. So, that’s maybe why I relate to them more than anyone else. Maybe the only person I could relate to today is Kanye West because to me, every album is unexpected, and he triggers emotions. His concerts trigger emotions. And that’s probably the only person I’m looking up to.
JRYou share a very similar aesthetic with the artist Tobias Spichtig, who photographed you for the KALEIDOSCOPE cover. You almost appear like an artwork he created—very angular and thin. What is it that draws you to Tobias’ work?
BFI guess people who like darker things always recognize each other, so it’s very natural when such entities meet.
JRIs there anyone else in the scene in Berlin, Paris, or Zurich who inspires you?
BFTo be very honest, I’m not familiar with any sort of scene. I go to see concerts most of the time because then I know the music will be what I like, or not. I think the night scene is a bit stuck, it’s missing strong and impactful performances where you go home still shocked by what you saw. As we grow up, we tend to become less and less impressed by anything that has been done 3000 times before. That’s why it’s our mission, as artists, to set our asses on fire and deliver something no one has seen before—not just some random cash-machine concerts with ugly t-shirts standing next to the bar.
JRI have to say your soundtracks for the Balenciaga shows are the only fashion show soundtracks I’ve ever listened to on their own or played at a party. Do you contemplate this afterlife for the music post-show when you’re composing?
BFNo, I really concentrate on the collection, the set design, basically the story of the show.
Demna does clothes and I have to transform these clothes into music so so that they can speak.
That’s really my main mission for fashion shows and also to make people feel emotions, like fear or adrenaline.
JRI would definitely say from my experience of Balenciaga shows, the music plays a significant role. Would you explain the importance of sound for a fashion show, and what it contributes?
BFYou know, it’s like a movie. Let’s just take an example. You have a girl walking the street at night. If you put on sentimental music, maybe you can start imagining that she just met someone or broke up, right? But if you start putting scary music on, you’re going to be scared for her because you think that something bad is going to happen. Or you can just put on no music at all and it’s a random scene with no attached meaning. You can create parallel stories. You can give sense to what’s happening. You can create contrasts. For the blue parliament show, when there was this new type of sneaker that was really innovative, Demna wanted to have the most beautiful and classical music because sneakers are often affiliated with modern-age music, but when you pair it with classical music, it takes a whole other context. So it’s also these kinds of contrasts that we are playing with.
JRWhat is the process of collaborating with Demna and Balenciaga on the soundtracks for the show?
BFI mean, we share everything. When Demna does his research, he shows it to me. I basically know the collection, what the show will be like, before the designers even know. So, I immediately start to process and I ask him, even if it’s very abstract, “what do you think the mood is for the music?”
JRObviously, you share an intimacy and a deep understanding of each other. How does this affect the work together?
BFYou have to be very professional—we are here to create together.
JRDoes the space of the show and music inform one another?
BFOh yeah, definitely. For our next show in May, I actually didn’t see much of the collection. It was really about the set design that inspired me a lot. It really gave me the vibe that had to be present. And it was maybe one of the fastest soundtracks I ever composed. It was made almost in one day because I just felt it immediately. Sometimes you just know, like it’s been inside you for so long.
JRAre there musical archetypes or genres that you’re subverting, similar to Demna with clothing archetypes?
BFI really like to give my perspective on pop music or hip hop, because when I do hip hop, it doesn’t sound like anyone else’s hip hop. And because I’m such an outsider, I think that’s what allows me to bring something new with this genre. And ballads too. Those are the main chapters in my music.
JRThere is also something that’s very cinematic about your music, with references from Hitchcock to John Williams’ score for Jaws (1975). Is making scores for films also something you’re interested in pursuing?
BFThat’s my dream. Even as a kid, I knew that, one day, I would be doing movie scores. It hasn’t happened yet, but I think you have to meet the right people—it’s like falling in love.
BFRND (French, b. 1992) is a self-taught composer whose sound has accompanied every Balenciaga show since fall 2017. In 2022, BFRND will release his debut album Afterlife.
Jordan Richman is a creative director and writer based between Los Angeles, New York, and Berlin.