Pick a PIper is a collaborative project by Caribou drummer Brad Weber with Angus Fraser, Dan Roberts and others. Combines dance-music structures, polyrhythmic percussion, atmospheric sound design, loopy melodies and a focus on electronics and production technique to create a sound poised between the organic and the synthetic. Debut LP out NOW on Mint.
It wasn’t about Peter Piper or whatever! It wasn’t even supposed to be all that clever. It was basically just about the only name I randomly thought of that I didn’t hate! But it turns out that it kinda makes sense with this record since we have different guest vocalists on each track. I didn't even think about that until the mastering engineer mentioned it!
- But who are you?
Brad Weber. I grew up in Waterloo, Ontario and live in Toronto.
-And if i ask you why do you make music and what does it mean to you?
It's really the only way I can express myself, play around with strange concepts and perhaps be a bit vulnerable all at the same time. Although I dabble in photography, I was never much of a visual artist, even though I kinda always wanted to be. But once I started playing drums as a kid, it all came pouring out from there. To me, it's something to explore and learn about constantly. I don't think I'll ever actually figure out music... and I like that.
-Pick A Piper is a collaboration between friends. Let's talk about the Pick a Piper's project..
The idea with Pick a Piper from the start was for it to be a collaboration between like-minded friends. In the beginning it was just Dan, Angus, Clint and I (Clint has since left to become a daddy). We stated out wanting to make dance music with mostly acoustic sounds. We hadn't even tried to write dance music before at that point. Over the course of a couple years, we started adding more and more electronic elements into the song, kinda blending the two worlds.
-Talking about the compositions of your new album “Pick A Piper”: how and where is born?
I wanted to blur the lines between organic and electronic and bring my current sense/excitement of electronic music production to create something that sat somewhere in the middle. A lot of the songs on this record started out as little loops that I created in the back of the tour van or on an airplane. Between tours, I’d come home and flesh these ideas out into complete songs. Some songs on the record were just written by Dan and I or Angus and I, but some had several people contributing small ideas, be it a melody, bassline, vocal idea or whatever they had in mind at the time. The overall process I would describe as “sampling my friends”. I would ask people 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 choose what I liked and then cut up and manipulated what they had given me and arranged full tracks from it. We often had vocals already demoed, but in some cases the singer came up with their own part or added a part that completely changed the feel of the song. I love moments like that. I think that's why collaboration really speaks to me. I feel like we were able to mix together the ideas of many people while still maintaining a unified vision and sound.
- How would you define your sound?
As I mentioned before, Pick a Piper was originally formed to channel my impression of dance music using organic instrumentation. We had loads of drums & percussion, acoustic guitar, glock, turkish saz, flutes and a ton of other sounds and samples to create something funky and dancey with. The structures and feel were very much alike with dance music, but the sounds weren’t. As I’ve continued to listen to a lot of contemporary electronic music and DJ mixes, our sound has slowly evolved into something more electronic while still maintaining a lot of the organic roots. I’m really interested blurring the lines and leaving the sound source up to the interpretation of the listener. I like that people have no idea which beats I played and which ones I programmed and if a sound is a flute or a moog patch.
-You are also drummer for Caribou, what are the differences between yours with Pick a Piper and Caribou music ?
I think that's up to the listener. I'm sure there are similarities as we both love a lot of different music and enjoy trying to incorporate a vast array of influences into the music we make. He flips me a ton of amazing records, so of course I've been freaking out about a lot of the same music he has. I don't really set out to make a certain type of music. I write tons of songs and ideas and eventually hope that enough of them line up to form some type of coherent statement.
I love old afro-beat and highlife records, Turkish pysch/funk, kraut rock and cumbia music. I'm also into a lot of contemporary electronic producers. Some of my recent favourites are Kenton Slash Demon, Chancha Via Circuito and Luke Abbott.
-You come from Toronto. What do you
think about the music coming from your country and how do you see
yourself in relation to them?
I don't really think about the origin of modern music much, unless it really bares the stamp of the locale it's from. So I guess I don't think of my music as Toronto music or really know how it fits into the overall scene here. Toronto is changing a lot too. Ten years ago it was known mostly for indie rock with the boom of Broken Social Scene and the likes. I find these days Toronto is finally discovering electronic music and a lot of good producers/DJs are coming to play here and better clubs are popping up all the time. I'm curious to stick around and see what transformations go down here in the next 5 years or so.
-Who do you think are the most relevant musicians nowadays and who are
you listening to the most?
I guess in contemporary music, I am into electronic artists more than bands right now. I think it's really interesting how people without any past musical background can create really stunning productions. Of course people with a lot of formal training can do the same. We're in an era where ideas matter the most. That being said, I'm super into the Senegalese band Jeri Jeri. So it really goes to show that I'm open to anything and everything, I just happen to be most excited by sounds closer to the electronic realm of things. Some of my current favourites are: Chancha Via Circuito, Xavier Leon, Actress, Lone, Clams Casino, Ryan Hemsworth, Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, Luke Abbott, Nathan Fake, Kenton Slash Demon, Jonas Rathsman, Sinkane and Love Cult to name a few, haha.
-Do you have a favourite artist and song?
Can't really say so. But one of the first songs I fell in love with as a very young child was "Good Vibrations" by the Beach Boys and I still love it now.
-How much does the live element matter in your music?
Many of the sounds on the record were performed live but many weren't. It's just most important to us to get an organic, loose feel to the tracks so they don't sound too rigid or quantized. As for the live show, that's really important to us. We have 3 drum kits of various sizes on stage and lots of keys, samplers and effects to hopefully create a really spontaneous and exciting show.
-If you could pick an artist or a band to play with on a stage, who would you choose?
Maybe Pharoah Sanders or Tony Allen. Or a reincarnated Can! I'd be stoked beyond belief if Chris Corsano hopped on drums with us for a few songs.
-Do you plan to tour Europe?
Hopefully sooner than later. We'll see what happens!
I feel like record deals matter less and less at the moment. It used to be the case that labels were the only ones with the ability to push your music onto the ears of the general public. Now anyone can do that. Then it mattered that labels could give you financial backing to help kick start your career. Now there's not much money to go around since record sales are way down. I would personally recommend that new artists get out there and see tons of shows and meet the people who are doing exciting things in their music community. From there you'll only meet more and more like minded people that will help you get good shows and get your tunes into the hands of more and more excited music lovers that will tell their friends and so on. I think contacting blogs and online magazines and developing a personal relationship with them is important. A lot of them won't respond to your emails, but keep trying and spend your time making better and better music so that next time they will pay attention. Publicists can be handy since they have connections with a lot of these publications, but I think a lot of writers are sick of hearing from publicists too. So really my advice is just to put yourself out there, meet interesting people and keep working on making better and better music. Maybe it's frustrating but there's no one surefire solution like there used to be. It's both easier and harder to get noticed nowaways, so maybe don't think about it too much!
- What about future plans?
We're playing shows across Canada all summer and are looking into ways to go aboard after. No clue what exactly the future holds, but I'd love to find new people to collaborate with and continue to challenge myself.
-And at last an easy one: Beatles or Rolling Stones?