SweetSweetMusicblog spoke to Bradley Skaught about Boxer At Rest, the new record by The Bye Bye Blackbirds.
What was the moment you knew you were on to something?
This record made itself known as something special right at the beginning of the writing process. Even though the feelings and ideas that fed the songs were kind of dark and complicated, the writing itself was just effortless – I felt like I just turned on a tap and stuck a bucket underneath it. Once we started working on them as a band in rehearsal, too, there was so much positive energy to the process. And the instant live reaction at gigs, as well – people coming right up and telling us “oh man, those new songs…”.
How did this record come together?
Once we had everything cooking in rehearsal, we all felt like we wanted to give these songs a real chance to shine on the record. Hiring a producer to help with that felt important, and Doug Gillard was such an obvious choice for us – we knew him a bit, but also he’s got this amazing body of work for decades and is also a brilliant songwriter. We knew he’d get it. Chris von Sneidern’s engineering skills combined with his connection to Hyde Street Studios was a super exciting prospect, too – this legendary room and a guy who knows it well. Chris is a great writer and musician, too, of course, so it was such a strong team.
As an artist, you chose to show your emotions to the world. Is it always comfortable to do so?
I think it is. I don’t really plan out what I’m going to write, so it’s not a process of deliberately sitting down and thinking “I want to share this vulnerable moment”. The stuff that has an intensity and emotional or spiritual momentum to it is the stuff that’s going to show up in the songwriting process and my job is really to just be receptive to it and not get in the way too much. And since whatever arrives in that way is fundamentally meaningful, it feels like the most natural thing to share, you know?
Is recording a record easier than getting it heard nowadays?
Oh absolutely. And everything we do is DIY – no label, PR, distribution, management, etc. So it requires a lot of patience and a lot of work for every listen. But it also requires a lot of self-checks – reminders of why we do it, why it’s meaningful to us, the love and joy of being creative, and the fun of making cool things happen. It’s why I appreciate the Wednesday night rehearsal every bit as much as the show at Great American Music Hall or whatever. And once you press your songs up on a record it now exists in the world and who knows where it might end up. You just try to give it a chance to find its audience – do the best you can by the music and not get overwhelmed by the rest of it.
Recording music. What’s all the fun about?
Partly the process of discovery. Even though you rehearse and plan and have a strong idea of what you want, so many factors come together in that environment to change and influence how it all sounds. It’s the exciting combination of realizing your vision and discovering the song in the moment at the same time. I also love the immersive aspect of it – from the moment you wake up until the day is over, all you have to worry about is playing and listening and being creative. It really is my favorite thing.
Playing music in front of a crowd. What’s all the fun about?
I like making a big loud noise. I imagine it’s how people with motorcycles feel when they’re revving their engines at a stoplight or something — just sort of laying waste to the senses of everyone around you with cool sound.
released April 24, 2020
Produced by Doug Gillard
Recorded by Chris von Sneidern at Hyde Street and Tape Vault Studios, San Francisco
Mixed by Doug Gillard and Chris von Sneidern at Tape Vault Studio
Mastered by Dave Schultz at D2 Mastering
The Bye Bye Blackbirds: Bradley Skaught, Aaron Rubin, Lenny Gill, Joe Becker, KC Bowman and Kelly Atkins
Doug Gillard: additional acoustic and electric guitars, keyboards, harmony vocals, finger cymbals
Chris von Sneidern: harmony vocals
Bill Swan: trumpet
Tom Griesser: baritone saxophone
Paul Flum: tenor saxophone
art and design by John Conley/blkbrix
band photo by Scott Evans/live photo by Patric Carver
all songs by Bradley Skaught