Call & Response: Brian Borcherdt
I remember the first time I read about a new instrumental project East Coast musician Brian Borcherdt started called Holy Fuck. I knew him from being a guitar player in By Divine Right around that time and I had accidentally seen him perform as The Remains of Brian Borcherdt once at the Horseshoe and liked what I heard. But when I finally saw Holy Fuck perform live - I was an instant Brian Borcherdt fan for life.
Brian's long road to success was recently documented on CBC Radio 3's Podcast #181. The dude's done a lot of cool stuff. Check it out.
His new solo record is called Coyotes. Some call it "haunting". Some call it "haunted". It's a very quiet and stripped down record produced by Jose Contreras (By Divine Right) in Jose's living room. It's out on artist James Mejia's new label Hand-Drawn Dracula.
Brian plays the Danforth Music Hall on December 6 as part of a nation-wide tour supporting Martha Wainwright. I spoke to Brian about his new record, touring without an iPod and living out of boxes in a basement.
blogTO: Your new record is great. When were these songs written? How long did it take you to record the album?
Brian Borcherdt: The songs were written only over the couple months and weeks prior to recording. I was still writing some of it as we were setting up the mics to record. The recording only took about four days to record and mix. But those days were stretched over half a year. We recorded the songs one evening in July 2007 with a couple more recorded the following morning. We didn't get the overdubs and mixes done 'til February of 2008.
You've had a lot of success over the past few years, yet this record sounds sad. Am I wrong?
My acoustic or "solo" writing is pretty much consistent in tone. I hopefully get better as I keep at it, trying to hone in on something sincere to myself. But it has pretty much had the same style for years now.
The process of attaining success can be slow, at least it seems to have been for everyone involved in Holy Fuck. It's one of those situations where we are consistently looking forward, trying always to improve things, our music, or our tour life, etc. It's not like we're high fiving each other saying, "Yo, we rock!" But also we don't wish to take anything for granted. We've had so many personal triumphs and fun moments these last couple years. It's nice having an opportunity to tour, play for festival audiences, etc. We're happy about that. But we're still the same people we've always been. I like playing music that is introspective. I like listening to moody records.
Did you and Jose consciously keep the record stripped down from the start, or did you make that decision during the recording process?
We sort of knew right from the beginning that we were going to try to record a minimal, very live feeling record, just songs in a room. On one hand it is a better representation of what I enjoy doing musically, it's more honest, but also it took far less time to record. We wouldn't have been able to make an epic rock opera with our schedules.
When you were adding those few extra elements to each song, how did you decide what to add to your voice and guitar? Was that harder to do than recording Holy Fuck?
No, it was easy to add the overdubs. The songs were pretty much whole as they were, as little moody acoustic songs. So the little wisps of sound, the harmonies or electric guitar, they were just the few things we thought the song absolutely needed.
You co-founded Dependent Music a while back which was a tightly-knit collective. Now it seems you're a part of a similar collective at Hand-Drawn Dracula. How did that label come about?
Hand-Drawn has intentions of operating as a "real" label, as in it won't be a non-profit collective. It has a great vibe so far. I'm only on the sidelines. The real motivation behind it came from James Mejia. It has obvious aesthetic similarities not only in that James created a lot of the artwork for Dependent but also in that we're already all friends and still excited to work together. Therefore the bands so far are from the same pool.
What do you like best about living in Toronto?
Good food. Great people. Ha...that sounds like a slogan for a shitty chain restaurant. Honestly, I think Toronto has a lot going on right now. There's a lot of people genuinely interested in making something, either music or film or some variety of artistic expression. Also, these same people like to drink and go out. It's not too pretentious.
I saw that video clip of you moving right before heading out on tour - having to leave the packed boxes in the middle of floor. Have you finally had a chance to settle into that new place?
Not as much as I'd like to. Pretty much the extent of time off I've had this year can be reduced to about six weeks if you add it all up. So having two of these weeks spent in an unfinished basement living out of boxes was sort of sad. I felt like I was still in a transient place.
And now you're on the road again across Canada with Martha Wainwright. How's that going? How do you like playing to older, seated crowds?
These shows are great. I still feel like I'm going through a learning process. I haven't been able to play and sing in front of audiences for more or less three years (with the exception of little shows here and there). It feels like I don't even know how to breathe. The audiences have been kind to me. It's fun.
What music are you listening to right now on the road?
We'll not listening to anything good I can tell you that. We don't have iPodability in the rental car. So it's been nothing but radio. Can you believe we had to listen Big League by Tom Cochrane TWICE today?! Eventually we just left the dial on the classical stations.
What's next for you and Holy Fuck?
We're excited as we're heading to Australia/ New Zealand soon. We fly out the day after I finish with Martha. When we're done that we're working on finishing our record. Which is also exciting.
Martha Wainwright w/ Brian Borcherdt
Thursday, December 6
Danforth Music Hall
147 Danforth Ave
Tickets $27.50 at Ticketmaster
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