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Brian Campeau

Written by Michael Carr on September 30, 2009

Ok. So I’m going to be honest with you people for once. I did this interview like a month and a half and ago and due in part to having missed the deadline, but mostly due to laziness I have left it till now to get on with.

This has nothing to do with Brian Campeau. He’s fuckin awesome. He’s fuckin awesome and he’s released a new album. It’s fuckin awesome. And he’s half way through a tour. Fucking awesome

Music Feeds: What’s life been like for you in the last few months?

Brian Campeau: Ridiculously busy. I’ve just been trying to organise myself, trying not to pull my hair out and scream at people. Other than that it’s been alright.

MF: Fuckin awesome. Let’s talk about the new album. There’s obviously a different approach to songwriting on it. What inspired that?

BC: There were a couple of things. When I did the other album I did a lot of production work, there were a lot of layers going on. It was really busy. I tried to keep the sound on the this one clear. I don’t want to say minimal because it is really layered and lush in that way. But with this one I didn’t wanna do another electronic album. I didn’t want to have so many layers. I wanted to limit myself.

Before I started writing, a visual artist and myself wanted to make a different album where we would limit ourselves; I would write four songs which were fifteen minutes each, using only one instrument and using only a whole tone scale, which is a pretty limited scale.

MF: What made you want to do it with that scale?

BC: The idea was that we would give each other limits and he chose to give me those limits. The idea was that these four songs, no matter how you arrange them, they all sound like one song. Like if you arrange them in a playlist, no matter the order, it sounds like one song, like they join. His challenge was to make four paintings that matched the songs, only using two colours; I think he wasn’t allowed to use straight lines or something like that. And no matter how you arrange these paintings as well, they look like one picture. So he did one painting and I did one song.

I started doing other stuff like that. So this album I was doing, I had these songs written and I figured I may as well try and do the entire album using only one instrument per song because that’s a really good limitation. It’s gonna prevent me from sounding electronic. And also it’d be good to get those tones out of there, to realise that one instrument can produce so many sounds and still sound full.

The melodica, sitar and harmonium tracks on the album all have this very percussive feel behind it. But the mouthpiece of the melodica is made of plastic, you can rub it against the keys of the melodica itself and get a really cool sound. So I used some of those things as percussion.

MF: How are you approaching it live then?

BC: I’ve got an accordion player, cello and drums plus I play guitar. So the arrangement’s gonna be different. I’m still playing almost everything on the guitar, there’s maybe one song I don’t play the guitar. It’s the upright bass song on the album, I’m going to get a friend to play it on electronic, make a real funky version. The rest of them though, I’ve just done arrangements that work to what I do live. Part of that is out of convenience but the part I’m happy about is that it does give it a different dynamic to the album and I prefer the live show to have that different sound. So if you buy the album there’s still a reason to come to the live gig.

MF: So where did the inspiration for the lyrics come from? Did you choose the instruments based on the lyrics?

BC: The lyrics were written because of what I went through over the last two years. I went through a shit time. A lot of lyrics came with that. The choice of instruments for those songs did in some way have something to do with the lyrics. The last song on the record was something I wrote when I was hanging out with Alana, who’s the accordion player. She was getting extremely frustrated with the music industry. I think every artist goes through little phases of frustration – you know, if you’re going to push originality and be kind of left of centre, why is it that you get no support from the mainstream?

Triple J wants to play stuff that sounds like The Strokes and that’s a common complaint. I find myself getting frustrated as well but then I think I’d rather sound original than try to sound like somebody else. In the end it’s originality that manages to push evolution. If everybody copied everyone else we’d never have anything new. So with the last song I did choose to do it on the saxophone on purpose.

MF: There’s an EP tour coming up, what should we be keeping an eye out for?

BC: The tour coming up is likely to make me lose my hair and wallet. That tour starts in Katoomba then Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, possibly even Townsville.

The intriguing Mr. Campeau has got a few dates still left on the tour. Fucking awesome.

His new album, Mostly Winter Sometimes Spring, is out now through Intertia. Find it on Brian Campeau

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