Interview: Pick a Piper
Published on March 8th, 2013 | Jonny Abrams
Pick a Piper is the brainchild of Caribou’s live drummer Brad Weber, who samples a revolving cast of friends and collaborators to produce such colourful and richly percussive tracks as splendid new single “All Her Colours”, which features the vocal talents of Enon/Brainiac/ man John Schmersal.
A debut LP is penned in for a 2nd April release via Mint Records, so we sent Brad over a set of questions that he proceeded to answer with all the utterly delightful relish of a true music fanatic…
How and why did Pick a Piper come into existence? Is it a one-off project or can you see it taking on a sustained life of its own?
Pick a Piper was formed in 2009 after I did my first stint for a couple years with Caribou. I needed a new outlet to get my own ideas out of my system. I recruited some old friends and was amazed how the project came to life. I guess the best way to describe it is “collaboration with central guidance (sorry, that sounds like something from a board room meeting!).
I’m basically guiding/producing/arranging the whole process myself, but I certainly couldn’t do it on my own. I plan to keep this as my main personal creative outlet whenever I’m not engaged in other touring commitments. I plan to get other friends in involved in the future too.
What can we expect from the album? Feel free to be as abstract as you like…
The record combines many organic and electronic elements to create tracks with dance music structures (for the most part – there is the odd verse-chorus-verse song) without really being able to classify it as dance music. I kinda describe the process as “sampling my friends”. I recruited lots of friends whose musicianship I trust to come in and record various ideas/loops/bits along to tracks that I had already started. Often two or more people would record along to the same base tracks without hearing the other person’s ideas.
I did this with both my main bandmates (Angus Fraser & Dan Roberts) as well as a bunch of other good pals. I choose what I liked and then cut up and manipulated what they had given me and made full tracks of it. In the end I had a few good pals re-record our vocal ideas with their voice, or in some cases (like “All Her Colours” for instance) give me entirely new vocal ideas that were amazing! I believe a lot in collaboration, you’ll find a lot of that on this record, but also tricking the listener into thinking it’s the ideas of just one or two people.
The album seems to have been a while in the making. Was this due to interruptions caused by touring commitments?
Definitely. But a lot of the tracks started as little loops I made in the back of the tour van or on an airplane. I’d bring these ideas home and show them to Angus and Dan and developed them slowly over a couple years between tours.
Are the drums predominantly organic or programmed? Or is it a mixture of both? Who’s doing what in terms of the instrumentation?
Some drums I performed live. Some were programmed. Some were old jazz/funk breaks that I cut up and made my own. So far most people can’t tell which are which. I’m hoping to keep it that way! Like I mentioned before, the ideas come from a variety of sources filtered through me. I like that you can’t tell who plays what for the most part :)
Who did the album artwork? I find it a particularly good visual accompaniment to/representation of the bubbly synths in “Lucid in Fjords”.
A Toronto artist named Bridgit Lanni (http://bridgitlanni.blogspot.ca). She’s super talented and works with loads of cool mediums. This piece was done using coloured beeswax on board.
Do you have any festival appearances lined up? Any plans to come to the UK at any point?
Playing a few Canadian festivals this summer at the moment. Would love to come to the UK, but depends how well things go over here. Gonna start in Canada, then head south, then see what happens!
You mentioned previous solo recordings of yours in this interview – are these available and/or catalogued anywhere?
Yah you can find them if you look around, but they are super old now and pretty amateur! I’ll let listeners seek them out if they’d like :)
I love your African DJ mix. How/where did you come across all the source material? Did you hear Tony Allen’s Rocket Juice and the Moon album with Damon Albarn and Flea, and if so what did you think of it?
I’m a huge fan of funky music from that continent! The bulk of it being from the ’60s-’80s, but there’s certainly lots of awesome contemporary jams too. I just scour lots of African blogs and wanted to throw out a mix of some of my favourite stuff!
Tony Allen is one of my favourite drummers of all time. He is credited by Fela Kuti himself (he was his drummer) for creating Afro-Beat in the late ’60s. Fela’s music however does overshadow two incredible solo records he put out in the late ’70s called Jealousy and Progress. Everyone should hear these.
I saw Tony in Toronto two years ago and despite being in his seventies, he’s still got it in a major way. Oddly enough I still haven’t heard the whole Rocket Juice record yet. Gonna fix that now! The jams I did hear are pretty cool. Tony’s drumming makes it for me though.
Is Mr Snaith working on anything at the moment?
Dan is spending most of 2013 working on a new Caribou record. I’m excited to hear the results!
Which were your favourite albums of 2012, and/or which are you most looking forward to in 2013?
Actress – RIP
Andres – “New for U” (track)
Avalon Emerson – “Pay Off£ (track)
Ben Pearce- “What I Might Do” (track)
Burial and Four Tet – “Nova” (track)
Chancha Via Circuito – Semillas EP
Clams Casino – Instrumental Mixtape 2
Daphni – Jiaolong
Dreams – Flyte EP
Flying Lotus – Until the Quiet Comes
Four Tet – Pink
Invisible City Sound System – Possibility of an Island mix
Jeri-Jeri – Mbueguel Dafa Nekh / Dub Dafa Nekh
John Talabot – Fin
Kelan Philip Cohran And The Hypnotic Brass Ensemble
Les Sins – Fetch/Taken
Luke Abbot – Modern Driveway
Morra Derey and Heavy Quarterz – “Ayobaness” (track)
Pachanga Boys – “Time” (track)
Ryan Hemsworth – Last Words
Sinkane – Mars
Space Ghost – You’re There
Tame Impala – Lonerism
Todd Terje – It’s the Arps
Usher – “Climax” (track)
Clearly I like shit in alphabetical order! 2013 I don’t know. I like not really having any idea what’s coming up and being surprised/blown away by something when it does drop. I like surprises.
Finally, if you had to spend the rest of your life with the entire works of just five different artists, musical or otherwise, whose would you choose?
Hmmm… not the best at questions like this. I need a lot of music in my life!
Those are the first five that came to mind. Otherwise this question would take forever.
Brad Weber, thank you.
For more information, please visit facebook.com/pickapiper