When Brasstronaut chose to name their debut album Mt. Chimaera after the Greek mythological beast that’s part lion, goat, and serpent they couldn’t have picked a more fitting title. Much like the legendary multi-headed beast, Brasstronaut, a six-piece based in Vancouver, brings in seemingly separate styles of music, like jazz and klezmer, into one streamlined pop package. But vocalist, keyboardist and frontman, Edo Van Breemen explained that it wasn’t their first choice.
“A friend suggested the name to us. We looked it up and it is this serpentine beast with a bunch of different parts. Then we found out Mayhem, a Norwegian black-metal band, had already called an album Chimera. So we just altered it a bit to make it Mt. Chimaera,” said Van Breemen over the phone. “Greek mythology is not one of our hobbies, but we’ve certainly done some reading.”
The material for Mt. Chimaera came from a seven-day recording session following a two-month residency at The Banff Centre, a world-renowned establishment that brings in artists and aims to inspire creativity. But Van Breemen felt that the time spent in Banff was “simply not enough time to come away with a complete album.”
After finishing their session in the Rocky Mountains, the group returned to Vancouver with eight songs in hand. Of the original eight only six, which have been heavily rewritten, made the cut on the final version of Mt. Chimaera. Van Breemen still believes his time at The Banff Centre was not wasted.
“You do as much or as little as you want to. There are a lot of people there for other artistic reasons, whether it’s visual artists or filmmakers. Part of the experience there is meeting and collaborating with other people,” he said. “I think you really miss out if you just hole up on your own work and hibernate.”
The reworking of their Banff Centre material took much longer then expected; Mt. Chimaera was slated to be released in June of last year but was then pushed back to October. When October rolled around the band was still not content with the album and cancelled a tour that was planned for later that month. The album was finally completed in November and released on Unfamiliar Records, a label that Van Breemen co-owns, in March.
One of the most distinguishing features of Brasstronaut is the fact that they are comfortable including odd instruments like the flugelhorn or the EMI, a breath controlled synthesiser.
Originally, the band began as a four-piece but has grown out of what Van Breemen describes as “utility.” Now fully rounded out by the two additional members, and their unlikely instrumentation, the songwriting process has become a natural collaborative effort.
“It’s not challenging. I think we’re learning how to develop songs together. We haven’t really tried to define how we work either. Someone brings an idea and we listen to it then we jam on it,” he said. “We’re really good friends and there’s not really any egos, it’s just a natural process.”
Of the five other members in the band, four of them have training in jazz. But despite some of his bandmate’s backgrounds, Van Breemen maintains that Brasstronaut is a pop group. “I think ultimately what we’re making is pop music. It’s sometimes frustrating that we get all of this press that says “this is a jazz band.’ We’re absolutely not a jazz band. We try to bring everything into the picture.”
Catch Brasstronaut March 24 at Le Divan Orange.