Wednesday, February 16, 2022

DJ Interviews: Eric Brombacher

 Here's my interview with Eric Brombacher of the band Eric & The Soo

How'd you get started in music?
It's been a long road, and I guess I've been a bit of a late bloomer.  I didn't start playing guitar until the age of 19, and put my first band together at 32.  That said, my passion for music runs a lot deeper and earlier than that.  I recall obsessively sitting around the record player as early as age three, and I started collecting records of my own at age 7.  I think a lot of what informs my creativity is the fact that I have listened to a vast volume of music and have also attended an enviable number of live music performances in my lifetime (thanks in large part to Toronto's vibrant music scene).  My first band, The Septembers was formed in Toronto in 2004.  We started out as a cover band; I was the lead guitarist, and my mate Frank Miotto was lead vocalist.  We played in and around Toronto for a few years, and Frank and I eventually started writing our own songs.  After some personnel changes The Septembers morphed into Shattervox and we went on to release a few full length albums, plus some singles and an EP.  In 2015 Shattervox disbanded, and I decided to try my hand at singing.  So I formed Eric & The Soo at the end of 2015, taking on the role as lead vocalist and rhythm acoustic guitarist.  It's been a wonderful ride so far, and I'm proud of all of it.  I'm especially proud of Eric & The Soo and really grateful for the great musicians that have supported me in this project.  After several years of evolution and development, we now have a solid core lineup consisting of drummer Dino Naccarato, bassist Tim Bradford, and lead guitarist and blues harp slinger Ken Yoshioka.  Occasional guest musicians include violinist James McKie and pianist Julian Fauth.

Who are your inspirations or influences?
I listen to a lot of music.  My influences are wide ranging, and eclectic.  Key influences as far as songwriting goes include John Prine, John Hiatt, Neil Young, Jackson Browne, Tom Petty, and Warren Zevon.  As far as bands go, I love AC/DC, The Eagles, Pink Floyd, The Rolling Stones, and The Beatles.  I also really like classic country music such as Merle Haggard, George Jones, Johnny Cash, Buck Owens, and Kris Kristofferson.  My love for country music led me to discover some other great influences such as Gram Parsons, The Flying Burrito Brothers, which in turn steered me towards Linda Ronstadt, Willie Nelson, and Dolly Parton.  Recently I've started to delve into Jazz, particularly artists such as Wes Montgomery, John Scofield, Herbie Mann, and Oscar Peterson.  All of these influences find their way into my music in different ways, AC/DC has taught me the use of space and time, and that sometimes leaving empty spaces in a song can be as effective (or sometimes more so) than filling those spaces in.  The songwriters taught me wordcraft, artists like Tom Petty and Gram Parsons taught vocal melody and composition, while the Beatles and Eagles have informed my love of vocal harmonies.  Even my recent love of Jazz has influenced our latest 'experimental' release "It's Ok To Be Beautiful" which came to me after a night of listening to Wes Montgomery.

I should say that I am also greatly influenced by the many great musicians and creators that surround me in our rich musical community here in Toronto.

What advice would you offer aspiring performers?
Write songs.  Don't worry about trying to write a hit, just write songs.  In the early days, I used to try to write hits with big anthemic choruses, imagining an army of people shaking their peace signs and singing along.  Perhaps a worthy goal, but alas, one that proved elusive.  Upon the founding of Eric & The Soo, perhaps somewhat chastened by the tepid response of my hitmaking attempts, I decided to stop trying to write hits, and just let the songs evolve organically.  Surprisingly this new batch of songs were much more encouragingly received.  Once I took the pressure off of trying to 'fit in' and 'write hit songs',  I naturally started writing from the heart, and that presented an authenticity and honesty in the writing that people seem to respond to.  Also, I now feel I have the freedom to explore freely as a musician because I am not worrying about how the song will be received.  Rather as a band, we create songs that we like, that we would enjoy listening to, and we use our skills to craft and represent them as best as possible, in the hopes that the listener will enjoy them too.  Having said that, once a song has been composed, we do make every effort to make it commercially viable through our songcraft.  But the art always comes first, and the commercial viability is lower on the list of priorities.

How do you set yourselves apart from other bands or singers?
I've been lucky in that I've been able to pull together a very talented band.  Each member is a star in their own right, and with that in mind, we strive to create opportunities in the crafting of our songs to let everyone shine equally.  We also put a lot of effort into songcraft, we create tight (mostly short) song arrangements, and we do everything in service to the song.  We are ruthless in our editing and crafting of songs, and the song is king, and it tells us what it needs and what it doesn't need.  And we listen.  And sometimes this means that a technically brilliant instrumental section is left on the cutting room floor, because it didn't serve the song.

As for production and recording, we take an old school organic approach.  We record in the studio with the core band performing live off the floor.   Overdubs, such as harmony vocals, or additional instruments such as piano, violin, percussion are then added as needed.  This means that each Eric & The Soo song that you hear, is centred around a 'live' performance.  This brings challenges in the recording process, but I think it allows the songs to breathe and ebb and flow, and it ensures an element of humanity in the performances, which I think can get lost when you are forced to record individually to a click track.

Any new gigs or albums in the future
Yes! We are scheduled to go into the studio in March with a six piece band and we'll be recording a collection of new songs which we hope to release later in the year!

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