How was the process of working on your latest release #KingButch and what were some of the inspirations you drew from for the project?
MT: The process for working on this last release was great! This was the first project that we completed with a producer and it was a great learning experience to work with outside people for so many of the different components of the record.
AR: In addition to having Chris Dunn of Concord Records as a producer on this album, a huge part of the creation of this music was our extensive touring that took place between 2017-2019. We had several headlining and opening tours in the states and abroad, which gave us lots of time and opportunity to play this music and let it evolve naturally before laying it down in the studio. Tunes like IDK, Love Lock, and Frontline were performed on stage many times before creating what you hear on the record.
How important was it for you guys to stay creative during the lockdown and what was your favourite live cover, so far?
MT: I think it was, and still is, very important for us to stay active. We spent the last few years building up momentum in various areas of our operation. When things began to slow down, we saw many opportunities available to us, on the digital side of things, that we felt were already available and any adjustments that we needed to make in order to maintain momentum were not too far out of our normal mode of operation so the transition has been pretty smooth as far as continuing to make content.
My favourite cover video so far has been “Remind Me” by Patrice Rushen
AR: For me, Mothership Mondays helped my mental state a lot during the pandemic. I know this time has been really hard for a lot of creatives who are out of work, struggling to hold on to their purpose in life. Continuing to work hard while all of our touring and shows got cancelled made it possible for me to feel like I had and still have a purpose in the music scene. Furthermore, since it’s online via social media, it really expands our stage to the entire world. I know a lot of people really love that series and if I can be a part of bringing joy to anyone’s life through music, I feel that my purpose is being fulfilled.
Favorite video: Everybody Loves the Sunshine
How was recording ‘Camden Session’ at Zelig Studios and how did recording that within a single day push your creativity?
MT: The session at Zelig Studios was a very special session. We were excited to spend the day working with Darrell and Casper from Gearbox Records. Tony Platt engineered the session! The vibe of the session was very group oriented as well. We would move through the different stages of the recording process as a group which allowed us to experience everything with the collective energy.
"...all the tracks were created in one day and we wanted
to keep it simple."
How is improvisation important for finding new creative ground and evolving your sound further?
MT: Improvisation, in my opinion, is extremely important for both of those. It helps with finding new creative ground by allowing the mind to reverse engineer ideas and it let’s the ear “feel out” the musical landscape, helping the ear to root itself deeper inside the structure of whatever one is improvising with. Improvisation pushes the evolution of our sound by pushing us to be logically creative. Our musical choices are heavily informed by our ability to produce music as a whole. That has made way for us to bend and contort the rules in so many different ways because we spent so much time becoming familiar with them. Logic creation, to me, comes when you are making brand new musical choices that are in line with the language, spirit and vibe of all of the other musical voices around it, and those decisions are based on a deep understanding of the underlying principles and are a contribution to the musical situation as a whole.
AR: Improvisation is a critical element of the Butcher Brown world, on and off the stage. It is a joy and a privilege to work with a group of musicians who are fearless on the bandstand. It makes for a situation in which the music can grow and evolve naturally over time and it also makes it always fun and interesting for us on stage. We don’t just play the same tunes in the same way every night, so it is just as exciting for us on stage as for the members of the audience. I think fans pick up on that and it’s a part of what makes the experience of a Butcher Brown show so amazing.
For a touring/gigging ensemble, so much of how we spend our time isn’t about playing music at all. Countless hours in planes/trains/automobiles, hotels/airbnbs, lost luggage, wandering around some town in Switzerland at 2AM looking for a quick bite, pulling into Detroit in the middle of the night to be informed that your hotel has been cancelled… Situations like this require that same aforementioned fearlessness from the shows. We’ve got improv in our spirits so even when we get slapped with adversity, we always find a way to calmly steer the ship back on course.
How do you feel that your sound has evolved since your first project ‘All Purpose Music’ and how has your creative process changed over the years, if at all?
MT: I feel that the sound has become way more refined and intentional since 'APM'. Back then, and still today, the group had a lot of individual know-how and creativity. We have always been freelance musicians on some level and that was one of the elements that brought us to that point. Once we began heavy touring and opening for larger artists, that’s when our sounds changed as a band and as individuals. With each show, we became more in-tune with all of the components of the show and how they fit together in the different situations that we found ourselves in. As soon as we got the hang of how it would move when certain things were a certain way, we automatically started refining everything from horn and mic placement to see how close we could get to the end of the set without running over. All of those things contribute to the sounds on '#KingButch'.
AR: One major development over the years is how we conceive of our album. Before we recorded '#KingButch', we made the conscious decision to make this the best studio record we were able to produce, the most in-depth listening experience for our fans. This means things like DJ overdubbing multiple keyboards, Tennishu laying down a whole horn section’s worth of parts, and even Corey recording multiple drumset passes on one tune. Things like this are impossible to pull off live and in the past we would have strayed away from these techniques in the studio for that reason. This time around we just decided that the album and the show would be two different experiences, both equally exciting in their own right.
"...we really wanted to make some songs with proper structures ... instead of just vibing on a loop."
How important is it for you guys to incorporate all of your influences without submitting to genre boundaries?
MT: Not important to incorporate all every time but the fact that we have spent so much time learning and listening to the sounds of the greats, their influence is going to be there whether we want it to be or not!
AR: We never really think about genre boundaries. Also, we never try to push a musical agenda in this band. One of the most special things I realized about Butcher Brown as soon as I joined the band is that everyone can just be themselves musically. I have spent a lot of time and done a lot of gigs where I just need to “play the part” that fits the musical situation. It’s a critical skill to be developed for anyone looking to be a freelance musician. But when it’s time to play a Butcher Brown show or to hit the studio with these guys, it’s all me. I think everybody shares that sentiment, it’s our safe place to really be ourselves musically and it always works.
How do you feel that spontaneity plays a part in your music and what are the benefits of being able to create as organically as you do?
MT: Spontaneity is huge! We like playing what we want to play when we want to play it so go behind the curtain to figure how it works and then we decide what we want to play based off of the energy we feel at that moment. Keeps things extremely organic and because of that, each of us is free to play whatever we want.
"Performing and recording are two different modes so keeping a foot in both allows us to use all of the necessary weapons in game conditions."
How important is it for you to be as active in the live music scene as you are in the studio and what do those differing environments provide you with creatively?
MT: For us, being a part of both sides of the music industry is extremely important, mainly because it allows us to utilize all of the elements and components that we have available to produce the Butcher Brown Sound. The best way to stay spontaneous is to keep all skills, tools and equipment ready to go immediately. Performing and recording are two different modes so keeping a foot in both allows us to use all of the necessary weapons in game conditions.
Creatively, the studio is a place to lay all of your music ideas out on a “table” for you to hear. You can really see if a sound likes another sound enough to get along in the studio. The stage is where you see what effect those sonic relationships have on the people who listen to it. That environment inclines you to get creative with a different objective in mind, keeping us from becoming stale.
AR: The studio and the stage have really become two separate experiences when it comes to the music of Butcher Brown. The live show has that raw energy, spontaneity, and a real “show” experience that is a really special experience for anyone present. Like Tennishu said, the album is where we just lay out everything we can, sonically, that will add to the listening experience.
When did you guys first come together and what has been the mission of Butcher Brown?
AR: Butcher Brown, as we know it today, has really been in the making since 2008-09. That’s when I met DJ, Tennishu, and Corey. We’ve all been making music in one way or another since then and that is a critical part of what makes this band work so well, musically and otherwise.
Our mission is to make the best music possible. That means making records that you play over and over again, and it also means to perform unforgettable shows all over the world.
Being from Richmond, Virginia are there any local artists you would recommend?
AR: Ohbliv and DJ Harrison are a huge part of what makes Butcher Brown sound the way it does. I’d also like to shout out Alan Parker, Ruth Good, Grebes, Brunswick, and Calvin Presents. Over the past couple of years, Calvin has curated the Roots Jam, which is a local weekly jam session here in Richmond. Pre-pandemic, the Roots jam was central and vital to the local scene here in RVA. I’m very much looking forward to its return.