Big Brave interview (08/2023)
|Conducted by:||RaduP (e-mail)|
I had a Big Brave interview planned from as far back as planning to see them at Roadburn after discovering them with A Gaze Among Them. Life got in the way, and in the meantime Big Brave released three more albums, all of which I got to review, and I also got to see them live twice at the same festival I was supposed to see them in the first place. With the band ending the festival season with festivals like End of the Road festival and Supersonic Festival, we finally got around to exchanging some questions and answers over email with guitarist vocalist Robin Wattie.
What was supposed to be
Radu: When I first wrote questions for an interview with you, it was right after A Gaze Among Them was released, one of my favorites of that year, and I was excited to see you performing at Roadburn, but we all know how that happened. How did the whole tour canceling experience feel for you personally?
Robin: I think because we were witnessing countries being shut down one by one, and massive amounts of people dying across the entire globe, while watching our tour getting smaller and smaller while our days jobs ceased to exist, it wasn't surprising haha! Yeesh. But it we were sad because we were really looking forward to going as its one of our favourite festivals.
Radu: How hard is it to get the desired amplifier feedback sound live compared to in the studio?
Robin: I can't speak for Mathieu, though I personally find it harder to get the feedback in the studio than it is to get it live. The studio can feel static and I tend to need to relearn how to get the tones and feedback I'd like mostly because half the amps and cabs I use during the recording isn't what I use live. Thus, during the recording the recording, most of the time it doesn't work and I don't always try to make it work - so when playing live, I utilize the dynamics and acoustics of each venue to my benefit (and sometimes detriment as the acoustics change from soundcheck to the live performance because of bodies and temperature etc).
Radu: I was very curious about ever seeing the band re-embracing the folkier sound of the debut, and that seemed to have happened with the collab with The Body. Do you feel any connection between Feral Verdure and Leaving None But Small Birds?
Robin: Curious. I'm not aware of any connection to be honest. We didn't set out to do anything like Feral Verdure when we wrote and recorded Leaving None But Small Birds. Feral Verdure sounds to me more post rock and minimal than our collab with The Body. in fact, it was Lee that had the idea of making an americana style collab record like The Band because both himself and Chip are from Arkansas as was Levon Helm and we are from Canada, as was Robbie Robertson.
Radu: How did the experience of doing Leaving None But Small Birds impact the work you did solo on Nature Morte? Am I reading too much into the folkier elements I felt in it?
Robin: No, not all! Regarding the lyrical style and titles of the album, I definitely took inspiration from how I went about the lyrics and titles of the collab.
Radu: I’ve seen you talking about all sorts of music as influences for the sound you have, from minimalist composers, to folk and country, to spiritual jazz. But the one band that instantly came to mind when I first listened to your music was Swans. Am I overestimating their impact on your sound?
Robin: There are elements of repetitiveness and minimalism that Swans has that we have as well, but they aren't a main influence.
Radu: As someone who only knows John Cage for more conceptual compositions like 4’33” or As Slow As Possible, how should I start diving deeper into his music?
Robin: Oh, good question. I think just doing more research and going into a rabbit hole of listening and cross referencing and branching off and looping back on the internet I suppose. the internet is vast and has almost everything one would need to know about John Cage.
Radu: Why are minimalism and repetition such a powerful force in music despite their inherent simplicity? Is drone music the closest thing we have to the most primal music that humans first started conceiving, as something spiritual, communal and ritualistic? Is that why we love minimalism and repetition?
Robin: Being that these are huge questions and that I am definitely not an authority that should answer, I will say this: Repetition is contagious in its nature especially if the repetition is simple in its phrasing because it can be picked up quicker by the listener. I really can't say whether or not drone music is closest thing we have to what you call primal music. However I will say that in drone music, there is a simplicity and a form of repetition by way sustaining a note per se that can have meditative or calming effects on the body and mind and have been used as a tool to help work through manual labour of all kinds. Through logic one can say that yes, since humans could use their voice for communication, then one could imagine that there has been song which most likely had elements of repetition and minimalism.
Radu: As someone with entry-level knowledge of American folk music, who still cringes at the mention of country due to the bro-country coming out of Nashville, what would you say are some not really underground but not entry-level americana/country/folk albums that we should dive into?
Robin: Oooh good question! Well, I think starting with The Band's The Last Waltz live performance/doc is a good entryway into their impact and talent and music. Gillian Welch's Time (The Revelator) and Hell Among The Yearlings, George Jones' Fine Country Wine.
Radu: Why does loud music feel so good in spite of how dangerous it is to our ears?
Robin: I think it is perhaps when playing music loudly whether it is live or on the sound system you prefer, we tend to want to feel it and/or embody it. There can be a catharsis in playing music loudly. Plus it is only dangerous if you don't have proper earplugs or are listening to it too loud in your earphones/headphones for extended periods of time.
Radu: With Big Brave’s music being as slow, melancholic and droning as it is, what would be the complete opposite of it, something like some potentially mainsteam straight-forward pop, that you really really love?
Robin: Oh goodness, so much! I personally love soul and R&B from the 50s & 60s (Carla Thomas, Edie & Ernie, Irma Thomas, Wendy Renee, Dionne Warwick, Jean Wells, Sam & Bill, The Untouchables... the list is long) and from the 90s (Groove Theory, TLC, Sade, Whitney Houston, Mariah Carrey, Toni Braxton... the list is also long). I'm also a huge sucker for a well produced song/album with a good hook (Big Thief's song "Not"; Rihanna's album Anti; Tirzah's (and Mica Levi) album Devotion; Solange's album A Seat At The Table... I could go on!).
Radu: What do you wish more people understood about “the gaze” that you experience? Has your life in that sense been affected by your relative success as a musician? Have you had any awful fan interactions?
Robin: Other than touring more, there is no real impact on my life that the band's perceived 'success' has had. When I get home it's down to business and working my day job and catching up with my dearest friends and trying to get out of debt hahaaa... aieaieaie...
Radu: What other art forms besides music are you most interested in?
Robin: Mathieu and I are are very interested in visual arts. We both went to art school - the same art school in fact!
Radu: What is something that you’re really interested in and want to talk about, but no interviewer seems to bring it up?
Robin: Oh thats an interesting question... I'm not certain at the moment. we do however have a whole long list of things we'd rather not talk about haha! but we are happy to partake in all interviews provided we have the time
Radu: Last but not least, what the hell is that ‡ symbol in your band name and why do you make me copy-paste it every time I want to correctly type your band name?
Robin: That symbol is a double dagger that separates both adjectives. and you don't have to copy and paste it every time you want to use it, there is a line you can use too that we've used time and time again.
||Posted on 24.08.2023 by Doesn't matter that much to me if you agree with me, as long as you checked the album out.|
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