You may have seen him in Palm Trees. Or Umami, or Chev, or trio telfær, or some other act. Or, perhaps, you’ve overheard his last name used as often as the f-word at the Daughter or something.
He’s a drummer. A pretty damn good one. Pretty versatile. He played as a studio musician on the last Beach Station Blues. I have to admit, he’s a good friend of mine. We became friends long after I started listening to his music, though.
Brian’s drum style ranges, obviously. He can play a variety of different situations. What I like best about his drumming is his feel. You can tell he has a real feel for the rhythm and notes because of where he lands for each beat. He’s got the skill to know that a beat isn’t just a single moment in time — it’s a space, a small landscape through which you can drape sounds and strike tones and create an atmosphere of sorts in a moment.
He can play a range of dynamics and speed, too. Palm Trees is slow, intentional, calm, personal and still very impactful. Umami is often fast, always changing, very energetic and occasionally a yell. Trio telfær seems like a mix. And then Chev, a more classic rock sort of band, he can sit down and make it sound tight right away.
So I got a quick sit-down interview with Brian this week. We were sitting in his car on the way to Umami practice. I had a chance to get a bit nerdy with him, and ask specifically how the heck you manage to be in such diverse projects. Like I’m pretty sure he’s starting a hip-hop project with someone right now, too.
J: You guys dunked a guitar into your hot tub?
B: Micah like… I forget who’s idea it was originally, to just play and have the guitar sink into the hot tub, like as the song progressed. I think it was solly’s idea, and we just did it with one of solly’s old guitars. it was actually really cool to hear the guitar sink in and de-tune as it sunk into the water and as it got closer to the steam. He did not make it through that song.
J: All the bands you play in are different. Like trio telfær is really fucking weird.
J: What motivated you guys to get together and do that?
It happened the most organic way possible, where we were all living in telfer together. Me, Dan Diamond, Corey Hawkaway. It just originated from all of us living there. We would just jam, and me and Dan would both have our drum kits set up. Originally we were at opposite ends, facing each other. Which was really cool, because there was a good separation between us. We tried a lot of different configurations, but it burst out of us just from trying out two drummers at the same time and wanting it to work. And it always happened. And it was great. We always had friends over, which was like the guest aspect that made trio telfær what it is — not a particular line up. Lots of the time, it was Micah on guitar, or Scotty, and eventually Ryan would come in and other people like Dave would start playing with us. We’ve had multiple guests or auxiliary musicians.
J: I checked out the stuff on band camp and you have a ton of different people that play on a recording.
Yeah and we all go under aliases. We like to remain anonymous and faceless, except for like Josh Kovnats. He’s kind of our face. He’s on a lot of our album covers and he sort of represented what trio telfær was because he’s kind of guy that will just say whatever he wants, regardless of who’s there. anything that comes to his mind, he’ll say. and in a way, that’s what trio telfær is about. like the ability to express yourself openly and freely and feeling like you could do anything.
He’s in a lot of the spoken word stuff. Clips of his voice.
J: So where’d you find Umami?
Pretty sure Levi just asked me to be in his band he just messaged me and said hey you want to play drums in my band? This was after figure had broken up and Levi and Boreal still wanted to do something. Originally we went by economy. It’s a very cool band, we’ve had a lot of material we’ve done and turned over and scrapped. Like we don’t really play it anymore. Like Palm Trees has done the same thing. We’ve gone through like eight or nine different sets of material that we’ve practiced and rehearsed and threw away. But yeah Umami is very freeing in the way that I can explore the meaning of time with the band. Especially with the stuff we play in odd meters. It stems a lot from Boreal’s bass writing, how he approaches the bass. It’s like in a way timeless, and then we put time onto it so I can figure out where things are going.
(Boreal gets into the car)
(Band practice happens)
(Back in the car, headed home)
B: How the band had grown, recording Comfortable Lie was that new weird song that was weird and I didn’t really know what to do for it and I didn’t really know if i liked it. And now it’s just the classic umami song, it’s one of our oldest songs. And I think I feel the same way about our new songs, where it’s like ugh this is our weird new one and i’m not sure how I feel about it. But it could be one of our best songs.
I think that’s just the way Umami works. It has this kind of like, not really being sure abut the songs but they always come to full realization about what the songs actually are once they’re complete. and only once they’re complete can we realize we’ve always been on the right track.
J: Umami seems like a very… it’s different. there’s no other sound like Umami. Right?
B: I feel like we’re like a mix between Animal Teeth and Conduct in a way. Some of the sensibilities and the tonality of Animal Teeth and some of the angstyness or tonality of conduct too, or maybe a bit of the proggy feel.
J: It changes a lot. I like that part.
B: I feel like lots of the stuff I do with Umami, I can’t say “oh this is like the drum beat for a song I know,” or something. With other bands, the stuff I was playing I would reference directly other bands and say “oh this sounds like something,” so I would play something similar to what that sounds like. but with Palm Trees and Umami, I’ve never heard anything like this music. So I don’t know how to approach it in that same way, where I could just reference something I’ve heard before. It’s really just working from scratch and creating something out of nothing, trying to be influenced by nothing.
Umami is playing a show tonight at the Cavern.
To be continued…