Brundlefly & the Swede's
Why we did this to you, and more importantly, to ourselves
So then, what is this record?
Brundlefly & the Swede is the haphazardly chosen name of Jason Socci (Brundlefly) and Matthew Kohnle (the Swede). Neither is either of what these names imply.
20 years ago, we were in a band, an instrumental quartet called “Daybed” (don’t bother googling, very little has made it to the net, and currently there is an unaffiliated group applying this name to themselves, and we wish them all the luck they can get). Daybed was a Tortoise indebted, unashamedly “post rock” band that had all the trimmings included (guys who switched instruments in a set, antiquated vintage gear, obsessions with Steve Reich, kraut rock, and some jazz implications).
Around this time, the two of us would break off and play together live, but mostly in private as “BF&S”, employing acoustic guitars and occasional flute- it was complicated, finger picked instrumental music, but also kind of exhilarating to work on. We enjoyed it very much, thank you.
As all bands unsuccessful must, Daybed ended, in 2000. Jason skipped town to Utah shortly after… Though we remained friends, it appeared our musical relationship had come to an end, as we had not worked at all together in that capacity since.
Yet, in 2010, Jason and I got together, rented a cabin in Asheville, North Carolina and decided to get back to it as BF&S. The result, was “Cabin Music”, a distillation of that era we left off in, filtered through 10 years of inactivity. We released that record in 2013, after embellishing the tracks we started in the cabin over three or so years. We liked it, at least enough to put it out, but also felt it was a “lets see what we can come up with after this long” endeavor. A bit tentative.
During one of the many visits to my home Jason had made through the making of Cabin Music, I shared an idea- maybe take it all a step further... make a new, longer piece of music built out of all sorts of small, seemingly quixotic sections and pieces, and lay them out over an LP side. All with an aim to force it to make sense. It was a riddle to solve, the kind of challenge to see if we could connect the dots, and find interesting and possibly elegant solutions to the many puzzles we created. We would call it a song, if only by the virtue of us saying so. It would be more playful, less self-serious than "Cabin Music" might have come off with it’s literal title, and it's fairly devotional presentation. This new thing would not bother with any of that... and, you know what, lets put the damn acoustics down for a spell.
“Pretense” is the realization of this idea- a massive, heaving, slab of music and the kitchen sink. It takes you all over, but doesn’t waste your time with “filler”- there’s no drafty, ambient bits to pad-the-bra, as they say. I do find it interesting that people, myself included, will come to a song that is real long pre-loaded with assumptions: maybe your delighted by the idea of it's length, or woefully suspicious of it… but what is the difference between a side of music, neatly boxed up as 5 songs, or blurred into a big side long "piece", replete with gate-fold sleeve to roll your joints on? Oh, yeah, pretension.
Well, look... it’s in the title, pal, so some of this has to be on you, you know...
It’s not lost on us that all of this is most likely ridiculous, but we also took all of the elements seriously. So that's what you get here, lots of music to sort through and contend with… has a toe or foot been shot in the process? Probably… But care has been taken in the reattachment.
So where do you go from there? Side two features two “shorter” songs, a straight up homage to Yes’s “Close to the Edge”. While this music has little, to no connection with anything on that record, the format worked perfectly for our needs.
On to side B, then. "Lil Rudy Nudity", a song name as stupid as it sounds, was written in the “room” as a duo, something we had never really done before. After laying out the concept of side one, with all of it’s twists, turns and effort thrown at it, what the hell do you do on side two of a record like this? Well, more of the same I suppose, because Lil Rudy is no less crammed with disparate ideas, and forceful attempts to make them play nice together. We’ll see how that shakes out to your ears…
If that second song was just another study in eclectic jury rigging (and to be clear, we don’t feel that to be any less valid than a through line of intent), the third song, “Adoxography” had no choice but to deviate from this formula.
We were exhausted when writing that. We had spent an intense, sleep deprived week of recording. After coming up with the framework and content for as much music as contained on the first two tracks, was enough to break us. If there was a moment when we had to say uncle, it was the morning we faced allotted to "come up" with the last third of the record. How about a “song”... like, one with more or less, one set of instruments, one basic tempo, and maybe even some vocals? That felt like the right move that morning, anyway.
Adoxography was our answer as to if can we make "songs" too, straight up, single narrative, lyrical songs with a consistent mood throughout. Its the cooler. An abrupt left turn, and Its a third of the record...
A record, which ended up taking 4 years. Just writing that, even to me, sounds like we were making “Use your Illusion” level bullshit here, but it wasn’t four years of constant work, of course. More or less, it was bursts of intense and unyielding effort to get something together, then a crushing sense of deflation after completing it, and then time to re-charge. Tracks were recorded at my home in New Jersey, and more were recorded at Jason’s apartment in Utah. We pushed to find additional musicians to add something, with Jason taking on the role of “Arranger” and talent co-ordinator. To this day, there is a real rush in hearing something you created adorned with instruments you, yourself, cannot play… and we have plenty this time- trombone, trumpet, vibraphone, hand drums, cello and violin. We are thankful to have these additions, even if the players may not recall when they were recorded, or frankly what in the hell they were contributing to in the first place. At most times, neither did we.
And then the feet dragging. The insurmountable task of mixing something like this, compiled of so many different elements and ideas, and desperately trying to make it sound legit… Piles of tracks and ideas abandoned all over the place in folders with confusing naming conventions, and little care taken to ensure we could find everything when we needed it. There were revisions, “mock ups” with the musical equivalent of frames of film that read “missing scene” in place of whole sections of music, and all the back and forth about minute changes. As we are the sole performers, (save for the contributions noted above) every small change, or decision can mean rewriting, re-performing, and re-recording (all pretty heavy disciplines to take on) just to ensure it works out right in the end. Most of the time, its a game of adapting to what you ended up with, not creating the pure vision from start to finish in a single bound.
Now do that for four years. Wash, rinse, repeat.
In the end, Its either great, amazing, or just regrettable… I can’t tell. I can’t hear it like someone who might come at it with something like fresh ears. Why the giggle at the start? Why the damn robot singing? Did you need 3 different drum tracks layered up at the end? Forget it, Jake, it’s pretense!
That's the rub. We spent four years going over these things, re-doing this and re-jiggering that. Trading files, back and forth, and mixing, always mixing. Did it need to take four years? No, but of course, yes. As I listen now, i'm kind of amazed just how much information is on this thing- how much detail and yes, exhaustion, is in them grooves… its not documentary, confessional, or improvised. Its bolted together, by us, only we also had the task of designing the bolts, and fabricating the rigging as well.
There’s no “touring” for us, its all just on the record. It seems to us that records are endurance challenges, made to be run with ever decreasing daylight before they are finished. What is clear to us, no matter how this one is received (if at all received), I don’t think we will be doing a record quite like this again. In that regard, let this one be the one that's "oh, that one", either to be stepped around and avoided completely, or maybe, the only one that mattered.
M.Kohnle (the Swede)