Since meeting one another at NYU’s storied Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music, songwriting duo Beshken and Halima have treated listeners to a slow drip of fluttering and elastic electronic pop: 2016’s “Dream Tracking,” and the more recent, “Holding Me.” Their partnership, formed after Beshken’s casual suggestion they work together, signals a budding promise between two New York artists steadily defining their sound.
“After class one day, Ben came up to me, and was, like, ‘Yo, you’re from London, right? You want to, like, make a track?’” Halima recalls. “I told my friends. I was like, ‘Oh my god. Ben wants to make music together.’ Because he was a little bit famous amongst us.”
Sit down with them today, and you’ll immediately notice how that pretense has faded away in favor of an earnest and easygoing friendship that serves as the foundation for their creative partnership.
You two worked on “Dream Tracking” back in 2016. How was that initial collaboration? When you came back together for “Holding Me,” did you notice anything that had grown or changed in the other person?
Beshken: We were both 18 or 19 years old, had just moved to New York, and had just met each other. Our chemistry was good; I feel like when we met, we got along right away. But the difference between writing [“Dream Tracking”] and “Holding Me” is that we’re just more comfortable with each other now.
Halima: Yeah, I agree. We knew who we were as artists and as people more [on “Holding Me”], so [we were] communicating and making shit and not worrying about what the other was thinking. “Does the other person think it’s whack or anything” wasn’t there anymore and it was a [more] natural, organic process.
Beshken: I think we had more of an idea of what we were going for when writing “Holding Me.” “Dream Tracking” was the first song we had written [together].
Halima: Yeah. We were in Ben’s dorm [when] he played the beat and I was like, “Oh my God. It sounds like fucking tripping on acid.”
Beshken: [Laughs] And I was like, “Oh, I just did that.”
How would you two describe your creative relationship? How do you feel it’s most effective in supporting one another?
Halima: Whenever we’re in the studio together, we always share what we’re working on with each other. I’ve always thought Ben’s an amazing producer, so I’m always so excited to hear new shit. It’s inspiring.
Beshken: We’re always sharing music with each other. We’re comfortable handling all the different aspects of making a song. On my own, I’ll write songs, and lyrics, and produce. Halima does the same thing. So when we come together, we’re both producing, writing, and coming up with melodies.
Halima: When you’re working with someone — especially with openness and a good creative relationship — it flows. You have less of a hold on what has to stick and what doesn’t. I’m a lot less precious with my ideas when I’m working with Ben.
How did “Holding Me” begin?
Halima: With “Holding Me,” we started with the strings.
Beshken: It’s a Nord Electro keyboard. We were just scrolling through sounds and we found this “pluck” sound.
Halima: Then I started playing a little melodic phrase which we recorded Ben started chopping it up and then found a bass line.
Where did you record it? How did you find that space?
Beshken: We were both abroad in Berlin. It wasn’t really much of a studio. It was a room that they called a studio, which had a keyboard, a few pedals, and a desktop. I brought my own monitors. No one was ever in there because you couldn’t book it. Friends would be like, “I’m going to the club. I’m going to Berghain tonight.” I was like, “Oh, sorry, I can’t. I have to make this beat.” And then I would just sit in there, drink beers by myself, and make music.
How often does this happen, when you two are able to sit down and start working?
Beshken: It’s definitely happening more now because we’re realizing that we like working together a lot—
Halima: Ben is just realizing that he likes me. [Laughs]
Beshken: [Laughs] Fuck off! No, we were both classic planners and cancellers. Now, we’re trying to get a little more serious and be more productive. We’re hoping to get together at least twice a week, if not more.
What do you see in one another? What dimension do they add to your sound?
Halima: Ben has crazy attention to detail and sometimes it’ll make him fixate on one kick drum, and I’m like, “Alright, Ben. It’s good, let’s move on.” But most of the time, I wouldn’t have even had the thought to try moving something here or reversing it or trying a different instrument. My mind doesn’t work in that way, so it’s refreshing to collaborate with someone who does.
Beshken: Halima has a really good sense of melody. I don’t usually write the way that she does. We’ll have a bass line and a drum beat; she’ll already be writing a melody and it’ll fit into the groove and that will become the song. She doesn’t see herself as a singer or just a producer. She’s a very well-rounded, creative person.
I think that a lot of the time, people just assume that the guy is the producer. When they see a female artist, they’re like, they’re like, “Oh, who’s her producer?” You know what I mean? I feel like she’s the embodiment of defying people’s expectations of that idea.
Halima: I rarely shout about it. But it is something that is an issue. A lot of women are naturally undermined because it’s not assumed they would produce or operate in that realm.
Beshken: I’ve even noticed it from the way that people have talked about “Holding Me.” It’s assumed that I’m the producer and Halima is the artist or singer when really it’s fully collaborative. We work together on all aspects of the music, and we’d like to make this clear in order to change how people commonly perceive collaborations like ours.
Halima: Fully collaborative. We have the power, it’s true.
Beshken and Halima’s latest single, “Holding Me” — out now via Level.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.