Don’t let the name fool you – Brasstronaut is neither an esoteric jazz trio nor a gimmicky metal act that performs in space suits. Rather, the Vancouver six-piece draws on a palette of influences ranging from Miles Davis to Bon Iver to produce a sound as accessible as pop and as nuanced as jazz.
Brasstronaut is currently touring North America in promotion of their recently released debut LP, Mount Chimaera. I called lead singer and keyboardist Edo Van Breemen while the band was driving to a gig at the Red Dog in Peterborough, Ontario to get the inside scoop.
[Please note, the following transcript has been edited for brevity. For an audio recording of the whole interview, see the bottom of this post.]
Lewis Kelly: Brasstronaut has a really unusual, remarkable sound. Where does it come from?
Edo Van Breemen: I think it’s just like how any other band would write, but we might not use the traditional instruments for an indie rock band. But at our heart, the band is a pop band or an experimental pop band …. We’re drawing from a lot of different places, and that’s why you get something special when you have six people putting that together.
EVB: It was a tough decision, I think, because we all wanted the album to come out in the summer, and then we pushed it back to the fall, that didn’t happen. We wanted to feel really confident about what we were putting out …. It was just admitting to ourselves that this was something we had to work on a lot more.
LK: Do you think the album is better because you did it?
EVB: Completely. We would never dare to put out what we came away with immediately from the Banff Centre.
LK: How do you feel the new album compares with your début EP?
EVB: I think it’s a lot deeper, it’s more complex, it’s actually representative of a band playing together, versus, you know, me and Bryan [Davies, who plays trumpet and flugelhorn] together, writing songs and then having extra musicians come along. We’ve grown to a full band now, something much bigger than we could have ever imagined. It’s got a lot more depth, I think.
LK: For the stuff on Mount Chimaera, did you guys start [the writing] from music, or did you start from words?
EVB: All music, yeah. Always music, that’s the way that I write, and then lyrics are placed in.
LK: Most artists – or at least singer-songwriters – start from words and then go to music. How do you think that changes the nature of your sound?
EVB: I see the song as a template for a mood or a feeling, or some sort of experience in my life, and then I just plug in the lyrics accordingly. When I think of instrumental compositions, I have very visual connotations, and usually I can attach that to some kind of experience or theme that I can write lyrics for.
LK: For a band named Brasstronaut, you guys have Bryan, who plays trumpet and flugelhorn – that’s still just one guy, though. Fewer brass elements than someone might expect. What’s the story behind the name of the band?
EVB: My ex-girlfriend Sally, who did the artwork on the new album, named it. She was going to Emily Carr [University] at the time, and she’s a big fan of Japandroids. She said “why don’t you have a compound-word name, like Japandroids?” I was going out of my mind trying to come up with a name for this band, and she just suggested Brasstronaut. I think another one we were going to use was Brass Antlers, but I think Brasstronaut was a bit more fluid.
Click here to hear the full-length interview (14 minutes).