Bran Van 3000
If video killed the radio star, no one told Bran Van 3000.
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Just two years ago, Jamie "Bran Man" Di Salvio was pursuing his calling as a filmmaker and music video director -- a career that began when he was a teenager. Suddenly, after years of flirting with music as a DJ, a re-mixer, and a commandant of music video clips, Di Salvio got hit by something called Bran Van 3000 (BV3) -- a full-on musical monster of his own creation.
Thing is, Di Salvio couldn't help but to think of his music in terms of film. He took on the role of director, and over the course of a year and a half assembled a cast of some 20 Montreal musicians, producers, singers and rappers, all of whom would help give shape to the recording of his songs. Everyone got involved, from singers Sara Johnston and Jayne Hill to local lo-fi legends Shine Like Stars! to soul singer Stephane Moraille, Doughboy John Kastner and naughty boy Jean Leloup.
Bran Van 3000's debut album, Glee, is the joyous result of these sessions. Its pop songs, hip-hop breaks and sampledelic swirl walk a line between the raw charm of indie rock and a beat-driven future. "All I knew going into this was turntables and DJ culture," says Bran Man. "But as I was doing the album, I met all these people along the way and I realized that I really do love guitar bands as much as I like trip-hop, hip-hop and ZZ Top."
The first single, "Drinking in L.A." flips back and forth between Moraille's soul lady vox and an inebriated flow by Bran Man. Call it beer hop. "Exactly Like Me" nods to naive rock with violin, acoustic guitar and the sweet-femme vocals of Johnston backing Di Salvio's lead. Meanwhile, "Couch Surfer" is a silly beatbox ditty laced with kazoo and Bran Man's distorted rap.
Di Salvio decided to take the plunge into music during a stint in New York, where he was directing a video for jazz star Branford Marsalis. "It gave me some money," says Bran Man, "so I called my friend "Electronic-Pierre" Bergen in Montreal and we went to 42nd Street with $10,000 in cash on the subway and bought some studio shit." Together they came up with Bran Van 3000. Videos would now have to take a back seat to the Bran Van. Along with producer/engineer Haig Vartzbedian, Bran Man and E.P. committed the BV3 sound to tape. Vartzbedian is also responsible for Zoobone Records, which acted as a base for much of the Canadian hip-hop scene.
Out of all this, BV3 has become an actual band. In addition to band director Bran Man, there is E.P. as album co-producer and DJ/keyboards. Responsible for much of the album's electronic flavor, he has also produced a number of underground projects in Canada. Leading ladies Johnston and Hill are relative newcomers to the music scene, as is guitarist Nick Hynes. Soul diva Moraille has also lent her voice to a number of dance tracks, while rapper Steve "Liquid" Hawley is known in the underground hip-hop clubs of Canada. Rounding out BV3 are bass player Gary McKenzie, perhaps the group's most experienced musician, having made a career of solid gigging, and drummer Rob Joanisse, who brings a jazz background to the BV3 hodgepodge.
"It's almost like a marriage took place at the end of the album," says Di Salvio, "and that's the family that crystallized as a result."
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