Exploring Brendan Philip and The Galaxy in his Mind
Recently, we had the pleasure of sitting down with local artist, Brendan Philip of Fake Art Records, and got to pry the galaxy of innovation that is his mind. We talked about the fusing of genres in this day-and-age, we talked about his upcoming Brendan Philip Project and E.P., and most importantly we talked about the significance of cultural quilting and his creative processes.
IX: Mr. Brendan Philip, introduce yourself.
BP: I'm Brendan Philip, i’m with the FARøUT geo gang. We got Keita Juma, my best friend from way back. We got Jamal. We got Yannick on photos, we got Marcus on bass. Joseph on guitar. Yeah, it’s good.
IX: It sounds like you have a big team supporting you. How did that get set into motion?
BP: About 3 years ago now, Jamal had been living in New York for a bit, and when he came back we decided - you know - we got jobs and stuff but we also got musical talent. I would go to the shows and we hung out, KJ and I went to high school together. I used to M.C. but I wanted to switch it up and start writing songs and stuff. We've been working on these set of songs for 3 years.
IX: That's wicked. I just watched a SoundClash contest you participated in, can you tell me about that experience?
BP: Well, we found out Harbour Front hosts a SoundClash, a contest where a bunch of competing bands gets whittled down. We were in the final 5 and got to play a day time set… It’s kinda like, you do your set for the public, then you canvas it… "Hey! We’re doing this thing. This is our music". It was interesting because i’m not a big social media buff but we played, and turns out we won. We got first place out of a bunch of other talented bands, won a bunch of money, and got to open for Badbadnotgood in August 2013. It felt really promising, and started to really showcase me as a local artist on the move with my team.
IX: Is that experience what solidified your path and where you’re going? Have you played with other big names?
BP: Throughout, say, the past 6 years I’ve had some really cool opportunities with Manifesto. One of my favorites, was opening for Bilal. He's not well known, but he's featured on a few of Kendrick's albums. He’s a Julliard alumni, a jazz vocalist versioso with a crazy blues style... We also got a show with K-OS coming up. I remember waking up to go buy their first record, thinking there's this divided world. All you have to do is work hard and come up with something that has a lot of reception. It takes a lot of focus and hard work. Nothing's promising unless you do the field work. We’ve been moving around and using the connections we’ve maintained and bringing them together.
IX: Very ill. If you had one piece of advice for an aspiring producer in 140 characters, what would you say?
BP: I’d say: "Do you. Cause nobodies gonna care, you have to care. You know?". I think that’s what’s got us through, we all care about each others individual goals and aspirations. It’s a brotherhood, it’s a serious camaraderie. Even though we’re touching Hip Hop and R&B in a certain way, we have a whole other focus on a futuristic sound and pushing things far ahead… It's about introducing ideas and visuals and sounds that people don’t see normally in Hip Hop and R&B, left of center pop music. We want to add to that quilt. I think music is quilting, you can’t be jealous of anybody when they get an opportunity, because what actually happens is that the more opportunities you get, the more land locked you are. An audience makes it difficult to stray from that. Just do what you want to do so you can create the box for yourself and not let anyone else define you.
Just do what you want to do so you can create the box for yourself and not let anyone else define you.
IX: Can we talk about your aesthetic?
BP: Absolutely. I’ll go through different primary colors, color therapy, just sitting at my computer and looking through that. I like to re-watch movies I love over and over again so I can pinpoint all the nuances that make it a powerful visual feature. I’m into a lot of Industrial design and furniture design - I follow a lot of that on Instagram. I want to see things in constant flux and people always creating. You can plan a whole idea but a lot of times the more work you produce, you actually find out it’ll tell you what it needs to be in the end. It’s a part of humbling yourself in the creative process. This shit flows through you, it's not yours. Once I go on stage, and I sing the song or it's posted online, it’s not mine anymore. Whatever you want to say about it and however you feel about it, it’s none of my business. I have my own personal attachments and feelings but outside of that… I’m really making a conscious effort to take organic raw material to edit it and whittle it down. In an ideal world, it’d be cool if everyone thought your ideas were interesting. But the showroom and the factory are not the same thing. Get it down, make it digestible, deliver.
In an ideal world, it’d be cool if everyone thought your ideas were interesting. But the showroom and the factory are not the same thing. Get it down, make it digestible, deliver.
IX: So what inspires you everyday?
BP: The sound of the actual world. Cars going by, planes, hearing conversations. I don’t listen to music on public transportation that much, I try to hear the sound of the world that is the organic element that makes things really cool. I feel like, life is actually inspiring and overwhelming enough that you can look at other things or listen to other things but whatever. My favorite thing is to go out and walk around, hear wind in trees and stuff. I wouldn't consider myself a hippy, I just think there’s so much good shit out there. There's so much you don’t know already. Life is what i’m always talking about when i’m creating music.
IX: Right now, music and genres are moving and changing and evolving, what are your thoughts on the music industry and where your sound can go?
BP: It's funny because my team and I talk about that a lot. Like, things we thought were challenging to listen to. Take Outkast's, "Stankonia" (i.e. Miss Jackson) for example. The record as a whole piece is so dynamic. I think we live in an age where peoples acceptance of music is more like… Okay fine, i’ll take it. There’s so much, you can decide in 10 seconds you don't want to listen but I think for this project, the E.P. and The Brendan Philip project, I look at breaking down barriers. I want you to have a cinematic experience in your mind. I want you to hear the weird story that is this music.
Shadow Ceremony is a song about an actual relationship with a universal intelligence, kind of like in the film Her when the man falls in love with his IOS - only this song isn't about a computer program, it's about the programming of the universe and how we engage and what our relationship is with it and bringing that into a more digestible form, that is love and a romantic relationship. You should want to be as romantic with yourself as possible. When you’re dressing yourself, that’s romantic. The world and how you engage with it and take care of it is a form of romance. I’m taking a very old idea of “romance”, which is something I cannot shake out of my life and system because it’s how I am and who I am, and applying a scientific or David Lynch type approach. Something like Haruki Murikami, I like the idea of taking something that's so beautiful as it is, like the world; how a sunrise never gets old, and coupling that with some other kind of strange instance. I think people are ready for that, and I'm glad I didn't quit making music even when I was trying to introduce these strange ideas earlier in my career. I feel right on time, even though I was early to the party, I was right on time.
I feel right on time, even though I was early to the party, I was right on time.
IX: Let's talk about some of the themes in your new E.P.
BP: There’s a lot of longing, there’s a lot of romance. Another track called Warning, is about partnering up with someone you’re in love with and how you work to change one another or help to see more of yourselves through each other, to change the world you live in. Songs like For You, it’s straight up. Like, just when you thought there's nothing else to be in love with about life, a surprise comes out, and it's truly the only surprise that I like. Life surprises. I don't want a surprise birthday party, I don’t even want to be surprised with a car, I just want like, these natural springs of life. I’ve always been about poetry and philosophy and how philosophy is so poetic, yet so dense and straight faced. I think overall, the music i'm working on is about your culture and your power and the power of culture, how you engage with the world and the people in it. You can close doors on people, you can close doors on yourself, or you can leave the windows and doors unlatched. In the real world, that's not a comfortable scenario but as an analogy, it’s good.
IX: Speaking to culture and this generation, you mentioned social media and how you’re not too heavily engaged. What do you think about these communities that exist, and social media's ability to create an aesthetic and a brand for an artist?
BP: I really appreciate it because it’s like, human beings really like to pat themselves on the back one minute, and also be really self deprecating the next. It’s amazing to see how we’re always trying to find a way to stay connected. That just really speaks to the fact that there isn’t really a true individual. But that's okay, that's fine. We're quilting art and life in general. You find something you can contribute and just participate, you know? I know a lot of people aren't participating but it’s like, your anti-participation is an example of participating. I can still see you and assess something about you, and I think it’s great. One thing my team has is Fake Art and FARøUT, which is us doing our own form of counter-culture. We like pop, we like high art and we like low street art but we also have our own cultural experiences. Some of us are West African, some of us are Caribbean or West Indian and some of us are American. I think there’s something with Black Americans that we can put into a pot and make a nice gumbo out of it.
You can close doors on people, you can close doors on yourself, or you can leave the windows and doors unlatched. In the real world, that's not a comfortable scenario but as an analogy, it’s good.
Another thing i’m developing right now is something called “culture power” which is just trying to get in touch with my Caribbean roots, and bring them over here. One thing I see on Tumblr is these West African communities that really show out. They put on their traditional garbs and they jazz it up with modern flair and I like that. I think that's important. We’re expanding the culture by a certain proximity and we have a certain responsibility to forward it to people. We should bring what we do, and i’m excited to share that.
IX: Who some of your biggest influences that inspire your music?
BP: I really like D'angelo, George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic. I like a lot of 90’s stuff. What's really informing what we’re doing here is Sun Ra and The Arkestra, John Coltrane. There's these groups of people that essentially started a movement and I don't think they meant to. They weren't counting on followers. The intention was to have a message. I think that's the commonality we have. In this modern world you can't depend on people's attention spans. Sure, I want to keep you engaged and entertained, I want to keep you thinking, but I don’t want to control your life... I think it's important to show that this is an open space and if you have interests to contribute, be it in production, ideology, visuals or whatever the case, we are open to that because we’re trying to make sure our platform stays wide, broad and engaging. Full of life and love.
IX: If you could create a hashtag for yourself, what would it be?
BP: I would have to borrow one from some good brothers in Seattle, #newblackwave. It’s touching the past and it’s touching the future, while standing in the center at same time. Touching every point of the time and space spectrum and always being in touch with that. The scariest thing to me is to be only of the moment. Then, you're already dated. To start a style someone else is doing, you’re kind of already dead in the water. I'd rather be scared of doing something forward thinking, not sure if people will get it than do something that's a for sure thing. I know that's a scary place but there is a joy in ignorance, and not racial ignorance, but the whole saying is "ignorance is bliss where wisdom is folly". I understand what it means to be blissfully ignorant, to not know, and then you're like, let’s see what we can make of this. You MacGyver your life. Not everyone is comfortable but i’m not everybody so, it is what it is.
... We’re trying to make sure our platform stays wide, broad and engaging. Full of life and love.
IX: Let's touch back on the idea of quilting your life.
BP: I feel like each one of us has something to offer even if we don't know we're doing it. The more people that are born on this planet, we're all expanding the universe as we speak now. That's why we don't know where the end of it is because it just never stops growing from the time it first happened. In the smaller context of music and this blurring lines of genre, is that, yeah Kendrick will put free jazz and a satire of spoken word and also make it sound like a 90's gangster rap film from L.A. There’s a way we put our influences on a quilted square: I’m gonna choose my own color grid and the type of needle i’m gonna use, and so I have my own tools and you have yours, and we piece them together. You don't have a job if I don't work. We're creating this huge blanket, this huge quilt that we can all share and reference and when I'm done with my square, I can pull out any point, I can look, I can see what other people are doing, and I like that there’s a choice to do that too. I can decide how much I want to take in, I think it’s important because life doesn't stop when you die. It doesn't stop when you're born. That moment is a great moment for your parents, and it's a moment for them to start putting into practice how they were brought up, they take some new shit, quilt you, and you're gonna do the same thing. I have a son and we sit and we talk, and I think he's really smart. He’s his own little person, he's brilliant and all I have to do is give him guidance so he can contribute to his own quilt and that's what I encourage him to do.
IX: Woah, okay. Last question I want to ask you is what is your favorite quote?
BP: I heard it pretty recently when the magnolias and cherry blossoms were blooming. I was hanging out with some homies when this lady came by us. She was one of those people that probably talks to everyone, and it’s like well, you’re not nuts but you personally might not always have that energy in you to engage like that... She dropped a bomb on all of us. She was all, "Yeah, the magnolia’s so and so..." and we were like, "Yeah, but it’s a shame they only last for about 4 days or whatever"... and i’m chincing her quote, but shes goes… "Beauty is bought time. Which really means to take it for what it is. If this is the moment you have to look at this beautiful thing, take it, internalize it and just move on. There's nothing sad about it just because the petals fall because then it does another thing. Some green leaves bloom out of it, and maybe there's a group of people that like that more than seeing the big petals. There's something there for everybody. You can't just want to have the world to be beautiful how you want it to be, for as long a you want. Take it for what it is. It’s okay things are gonna go away, so make sure you have a beautiful, wonderful time. Don't trip too hard unless you need to, or where it's necessary in some capacity. If you don't need to argue or battle, be quilting and be expanding. you know?
IX: Yeah BP, we know. It's like, "Be kind, for everyone is fighting a hard battle". Big ups to you.