First of all there is Edo van Breemen’s silky smooth story telling voice. Combined with the dreamy pace of the songs based on the well crafted musical arrangements weaving together the different textures of clarinet, trumpet, guitar, synths, voice and rhythms, Brasstronaut has produced with their second full length record Mean Sun a beautiful genre-switching album, that surely will get similar rave reviews as the predecessor Mount Chimaera. At a fundamental level the members of the Vancouver based sextet are good friends who find inspiration and cohesion through the seeming disparity of their individual influences which contributes to the creation of their characteristic eclecticism of indie-rock, brass, pop and hints of jazz. „Look out for this exciting new Canadian band“, said Gilles Peterson. So we had a little chitchat with the band about their new album, imaginery stars and their plans to tour Europe. Enjoy!
Hey guys, can you tell us a little bit about yourself? How did Brasstronaut start out? And what’s the story behind your name?
Sam: Brasstronaut started out as a duo between Edo and Bryan who met at a house party. They decided to record their little collection of original songs for what would become the “Old World Lies EP” and they employed Brennan and John to fill in the band. Opportunities came like opening for Why? and Kid Koala in Vancouver and eventually a show at Pop Montreal. They then got a recording residency at the Banff Centre, a multi-disciplinary facility in the Rocky Mountains to record their first full-length album. At Banff they met me – I was studying at Banff separately, and I started collaborating on some tracks on “Mt. Chimaera.” Then after our first Canada/US tour, Tariq joined the band on guitar and eventually this became the full six piece line-up.
The name Brasstronaut was coined by an ex-girlfriend of Edo’s. They liked the idea of combo names, like our friends ‘Japandroids’, etc. and Brasstronaut seemed to be unique enough.
Tariq: It’s funny because a lot of people have given us grief about the name over the years but at the same time, some of our fans really like it. I happen to really like it personally because I like word play and puns ALOT and our name definitely falls into that category.
Astronomers define the mean sun as an imaginary star, moving at the pace of our equator’s rotation… So, what’s the album title all about?
Edo: The title Mean Sun comes from the idea that trying to attain one’s goals can become a vanishing horizon for happiness. It’s about the illusion created by a culture where we’re constantly brainwashed into thinking that we will eventually “arrive” and that the stress and toil of the journey will evaporate upon reaching that abstract destination. But the implication here isn’t entirely dark. There is hope in that we find a way to be happy with the routine itself, and not so much the elusive outcomes of that routine. This is kinda how we wanted the album to feel like overall. Not hitting you over the head with overproduced hooks and melodies, but instead richer waves of sound texture that can be listened to again and again.
You are six members, that’s quite a lot, can you tell us a little bit how you guys work together dynamically? Is it difficult to put together all different styles and opinions? Or do you have a clear allocation of roles within the band?
Sam: Well, yes it can be a little complicated with six members. We all have our strengths and I think we play to those. We are all very different people, but more often than not, musical ideas are shared pretty openly, now more than ever. As far as business, well, we have struggled a little bit taking a very DIY approach to things and that is sometimes hard to work out, but as time moves on we are slowly ironing out these problems, since ultimately we all want the same thing, to be working in a slick, efficient band with a good team, and keeping the creative vision the most important thing.
Tariq: Some of the band members come from a more jazz-centered background whereas others don’t have a lot of formal training at all. I definitely fall under the “not formally trained” category and most of my knowledge of music relates to writing folk style songs. So, yes, sometimes when we’re working on a new piece, all our ideas come crashing into each other and the whole thing falls apart–but more often than not, it actually works. It works because we all have an ear for what sounds good and what doesn’t. I know that sounds like an oversimplification, but that’s how it works. And the more we play together, the more we get in synch about what we want our “sound” to be and what we don’t want it to be.
What is the best piece of advice anyone has ever given to you?
Sam: Phil Dwyer, once told me about the music industry, that if there is a 99% chance something will happen, it probably won’t. All that means, is it is important to take things one step at a time, and don’t buy into hype, you just got to keep the right perspective on things if you are going to stand the test of time, and don’t get too discouraged when obstacles present themselves, its all part of it.
Tariq: Two years ago, when I had just joined the band, I simultaneously got accepted into the creative writing master’s program at UBC. At first, I thought about turning the opportunity down. I had a job, and I had the band and it seemed like I was busy enough. Then one night, over a beer, my friend told me I would be foolish not to go to school, so not long after, I accepted the placement. I’m really glad I did and furthermore, I’ve been able to balance both my passion for the band and my passion for writing. There really haven’t been too many scheduling conflicts apart from one European tour that I couldn’t go on. And now I can write stories about all the crazy things that happen to us on the road.
What are you listening to at the moment?
Edo: At the moment mainly to the broken heater in my room in Brooklyn…not a great sound. Apart from that a mix of old and new…Adriano Celentano, Dire Straits, Ali Farka Toure…or Rangleklods and Unknown Mortal Orchestra…also some Soundtracks such as Beasts of the Southern Wild or Tree of Life.
Tariq: I’ve really been into that older Grizzly Bear album, Veckatimest, all over again lately. The song “While You Wait For The Others” is just so good! Other albums that have gotten some recent play on my iPhone include: Bob Dylan’s “Oh Mercy,” M.Ward’s “A Wasteland Companion,” Jen’s Lekman’s “When I Said I Wanted to be Your Dog,” and Fleet Foxes’ “Helplessness Blues.” I know there are some newer albums out, but I’ve been stuck on these the last few weeks.
Sam: I am listening to a lot of the Doors and Sade and Fleetwood Mac for some reason. But also enjoying some Sam Lee that I just discovered, very cool.
Whats next? Are you going on tour with the new album?
Tariq: We just released a video for Mean Sun and as well, we are making plans for a European tour sometime in April. We were going to tour Europe in November, but we decided to postpone until the spring. That was a good decision, I think. Now, we’ll be coming at it with the help of a new booking agent and so we’re excited to see how things go. We’re also thrilled that our album came out in Europe. We’re looking forward to what’s coming in the months ahead.