03 October 2008

10 Questions With...Brett Kull

echolyn has been one of my favourite bands for over a decade…and I try to stay away from using the word favourite. There’s no better word in this case, however…I love the emotional purity so much of their best material exudes, as well as the instrumental flights of fancy and intricacy that earlier material presented. The band has evolved greatly from their earlier days, and today echolyn explores as much Americana as they do anything else.

I’d be hard pressed to pick an echolyn album I enjoy more than others. …as the world was my introduction to the band, scant months before they fractured following the difficult times being signed to Sony/550 Records brought about (a note to musicians on indie labels…majors aren’t necessarily a better choice at all), and certain songs on that release can still bring me to tears. Suffocating the Bloom was perhaps their early masterpiece, with the 12-tone exploring, 23-minute “Suite for the Everyman” a masterpiece of progressive music in general. The debut, while ‘derivative’ in the words of much of the band, still shows a band on a mission, filled with energy, fire, and a message.

I’m not trying to ignore later-day echolyn; the last three studio albums (Cowboy Poems Free, Mei and The End is Beautiful) show a matured band, far more confident in their songwriting and playing abilities, and willing to strip things back to the essence of the song. Sometimes less is more, and these last three echolyn releases prove that edict with gusto.

I’ve corresponded with Brett Kull and the rest of the band for several years now, and one would think that asking them to participate in this interview series would be a snap. However…I think Brett was the last person I asked in this initial wave of requests, mostly out of respect for what I consider to be a friendship that is special to me. Having said this, Brett agreed with earnest to take part, and I’m pleased to include his answers below.

1) How do you feel echolyn has changed or evolved over the years?

BWK: I think the biggest thing is that our playing has gotten better and thus more understated. We can say more with less so to speak. We keep trying to simplify and find the heart of the song, making everything sell that emotion. Our singing and lyrics have also gotten better. That comes with age and because you sort of get a handle on who you are the older you get.

2) When writing songs, do you feel you write differently for a solo release when compared to a potential echolyn release?

BWK: Well not really. I tend to come from different places depending on who I'm playing with. It's all still me. When echolyn gets together and writes I go to that echolyn spot which obviously is different but yet overlaps other aspects of my writing. There are different energies depending on who you make music with. It's just like when you hang with different people…you sort of act slightly different because of the relationship you have with them...but it's all you.

3) In the past you've been fairly critical of the first echolyn album. Was it difficult, therefore, to revisit "The Great Men" for NEARfest?

BWK: Let me say this for the record. For sentimental reasons I love what the first album stands for and represents. With that said going back and trying to play something that really has not stood the test of time is difficult. I have to be self critical of what I do. It makes me progress and get better at my craft. I can't get behind playing something that just doesn't work for me. There are aspects of "The Great Men" that I love but overall it's unfocused and derivative. I can say that because I wrote it.

4) echolyn has released several 'official bootlegs' of live performances. Will we see any official live album in the future?

BWK: I don't know. We have some good live recordings in the vault and one coming up that is being recorded and filmed in California. Right now the priority is my solo album and getting back into writing the new echolyn album.

5) How is work proceeding on the new echolyn album?

BWK: We have about 6 songs in demo form right now. They are different in approach to what we've done before. It's taken us a while to lock onto something new and exciting. I'm hoping to get more "air" into this recording... and more raw emotion and playing.

6) How is work coming along on your new solo album, The Last of the Curlews?

BWK: It's done! I'm finishing up a new website then going to start promoting the music. This will involve the normal press stuff and 2 videos. I'm really excited and love the vibe of the CD. I captured something pure on this that is timeless. Just the fact that I was able to see this thing through to the end... well, I feel like a crossed a chasm of sorts.

7) Do you have a particular favourite instrument to play (i.e., your SG, Strat, et cetera).

BWK: I've been digging playing and writing on piano. I bunch of my new album was written that way. I have a real "Man's Guitar" I've been playing lately. It's a 1967 Gibson 330. Really fat tone and a great play. It's inspiring to write on. I'll be using that on the new echolyn album.

8) Has there been a single moment you could label as your high point in music?

BWK: There have been some real highs in my career. A single moment? They are usually when you get into the zone and the people you are playing with are all firing and grooving on the same wave. I have lots of those. I remember the Sellersville Theater playing "Mei" and just melting away in pure magic as the strings, woodwinds, tuned percussion, bass, keys and drums took me to that goose bump zone. You stop thinking during those moments and just open up to pure feel. I have lots of those memories. Good times!

9) You're very active outside of your solo and echolyn work. What other projects are you currently involved in?

BWK: I work with a variety of artists engineering, producing and playing guitar. I'm working with Francis Dunnery right now playing in his band. I just mixed James Sonefeld's album (hootie and the blowfish). I produced a cool band from DE called "The Scenic Route" and am mixing another right now called "The Roddies". I have some cool projects in the near future with "The Syn" and "It Bites". I am working with a great singer from my area. Her name is Lindsey McKay. I'm also about to start teaching Audio classes at Wilmington University and Drexel University.

10) Any parting thoughts for our readers?

BWK: Nope, I'm a man of few words. Thanks very much for your interest. I enjoyed answering your questions.

(photo of Brett Kull from NEARfest 2008, taken by Bill Knispel.)


Kevin C said...

Heh, my cousin goes to Drexel. I'll have to tell her to take one of Brett's classes :o)

Anonymous said...

"I captured something pure on this that is timeless."

Really? I hate to say it, but he kind of sounds a little arrogant. Who actually says they've made something "timeless"?