Botany, a.k.a. Spencer Stephenson

Botany, a.k.a. Spencer Stephenson


Quiet and somewhat understated, yet simultaneously methodical and keen, the DJ known as Botany continues to build his brand of ethereal electro with his upcoming full-length album, Dimming Awe, the Light Is Raw.

This is the fourth release in just five years for the North Texas-born DJ, also known as Spencer Stephenson. Much like his music, he doesn't seem to stop moving. His first EP, Feeling Today, came out in 2010. After a slight stint of writer's block and a few other roadblocks in 2012, the mastermind behind the calming, synth-infused tracks moved to a farm outside Austin to get away from it all.

"I moved most of my music equipment into a little living space that had been constructed out of a horse's stable," Stephenson says in a phone interview. "The isolation gave me a second to get my head together and focus on making music again."

After a few months, he headed back to Fort Worth, where he released his full-length debut, Lava Diviner (Truestory). (Around the same time, he released the song "Laughtrack" featuring Father John Misty.) A year later, in the summer of 2014, he decided to head to Austin, where he began work on his latest record. Today, he's regularly featured on the national indie-centric blog Gorilla vs. Bear and recognized by the likes of Fader and Dazed & Confused magazines.

Although a lot has changed for Stephenson, his impenetrable focus on making electronic music he can be proud of has not. For Dimming Awe, The Light Is Raw, he loosened the reins on every aspect of the recording process, from working on his own to adding featured vocalists on tracks such as "Monthiversary" and "Glow-Up."

"I think in the past I was kind of tightly controlling my music, really trying to dial everything in and make it absolutely perfect," explains Stephenson. "With this record, a lot of these tracks were largely improvised. I learned that I enjoy my music more when I think about it less. I feel like it's a truer reflection of who I am."

Two of the featured vocalists, RYAT and Matthewdavid, are also known in the electro community for their ambient styles. "Glow-Up," which features Matthewdavid, who mastered the entire record for Botany, comes in with a polished but streetworthy beat that makes for the perfect buildup to his swirling, in-and-out vocals. The track feels like a fluid, short-lived dream.

One of the busier tracks, "Raw Light Overture," is built with a similar hip-hop beat that melts into trickling, radiant harmonies that find their way to the forefront despite the layered intricacies.

Because his music relies heavily on samples and synths, Stephenson has had to work on making the live performance about something more than just playing the record.

"I don't want the entire show to be just the glow of my face lit from the light of a laptop," says Stephenson. "I've tried to find ways around that by using mostly hardware; no laptop, no mini controllers."

No tour dates are lined up just yet, but Stephenson says he's working on an announcement soon. Dimming Awe, the Light Is Raw is due out Sept. 18.

Brenna Rushing is a Dallas freelance writer.

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