SONG PREMIERE: Wilkes-Barre’s Brendan Brisk gets funky ‘Fanfare’ from seductive single
It may be a cloudy, gloomy afternoon in Northeastern Pennsylvania, but Brendan Brisk is ready to help you shake off those Monday blues with a funky new song that’s guaranteed to get your toes tapping and head bobbing.
In 2016, NEPA Scene premiered the lead single from this now 28-year-old singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist’s art funk debut album, “Astral Counterfeit.” Today, he’s back with a full band for the exclusive release of “Fanfare,” the first single from his upcoming record that he recorded and produced himself at his home in Wilkes-Barre.
“Musically, the song sprouted out of thin air. The lyrical matter, however, is about having an attraction to someone but realizing it’s no good for you once it’s too late,” Brisk told NEPA Scene.
“Funny enough, this was the first song I recorded not too long after my 2016 release. It all started with that bass line and then grew from there. It sat for around three years until I finally recorded some vocals and had Miles [Orfanella] lay down some trumpet on it. I was listening to a lot of Pharrell Williams and Michael Jackson when I wrote the instrumentation. That all came together very organically, but it took a few years to finally have a vocal idea that fit. I have a lot of secret weapons that give me a great sound, and collecting recording equipment has become an expensive passion of mine. I performed and recorded everything in this song except the trumpet, and Eric Ritter mixed the entire thing for me at Windmill Agency in Mount Cobb.”
“Astral Counterfeit” was a solo project in every sense of the term, as Brisk sang and played the drums, bass, guitar, piano, and anything else he needed, other than Mark Wohl engineering the drums and bass on the title track. It was something he always wanted to do, so with that experience under his belt, he began seeking collaborators and found six musicians to work with, including the three other members of the Brendan Brisk Blues Band he formed in 2018.
“It had been a year or so since I played guitar with Fake Fight and Half Dollar, and I really wanted to do something on my own, so I asked Justin Malinowski and Bernie Gavlick if they’d play a one-time show with me at The Bog in Scranton. It was a show billed as a ‘folk night,’ so we played all blues covers and thus the whole blues band thing happened. People really enjoyed it, so we kept going, and about a year later, we were lucky enough to have Miles Orfanella join us on trumpet. He added a whole new flavor to the mix, and since then we’ve been entering into jazz and funk territory,” he explained.
“I think people would easily be able to identify us as a jam band. That’s the only genre I can think of to label us with. There has to be a better term somewhere. I’m just really happy to improvise, write songs, and play original music. 95 percent of the songs we perform are originals, and they all have a different feel to them. I am extremely thankful to have such incredible musicians in this band. We each have something unique to contribute, and I feel like we bring the best out of each other musically. There’s nothing in this world I would trade for that.”
Along with putting the finishing touches on his next album, Brisk has been studying music theory, singing, and songwriting, going back and forth between improvising musical ideas and sitting down with an acoustic guitar to try and tell stories.
“I’ve really fallen in love with songwriting. Songwriting and lyrics are two things I never really considered in my first album, and now I think about them all the time. I still compose and record songs the same way, but now I apply more music theory and techniques I’ve picked up through listening to The Beatles, Steely Dan, John Mayer, and some lesser known artists such as Nick Hakim, Esperanza Spalding, Shintaro Sakamoto, and Unknown Mortal Orchestra,” he noted.
“Very rarely do I ever have a goal when writing a song. It’s usually a feeling or emotion that I encounter and then realize it has potential as a musical piece. Once I start layering different instruments or ideas, the piece will always take on a life of its own. Then I try to sculpt it the best I can, usually abandoning whatever my initial idea was in the first place. I have been showing close friends and family rough drafts of the album, and everyone told me this song [‘Fanfare’] made them dance. I take that as a compliment.”
He hopes to release the full album, which features 11 tracks of psychedelic funk, blues, and jazz fusion, by the summer. His live performances often lead to vibrant improvisation, so narrowing those experimental moments down to what appears on his recordings has been “a lot of trial and error.”
“At least with recording, you have the choice to redo things. I always have an idea of where to start within the recording process, but all the best parts happen through happy accidents and experimentation. Happy accidents in the studio are the best! You’re playing the piano and your finger slips, then, ‘Whoa, what was that note I just hit? It sounded great; let’s try and do that again.’ Suddenly, your original idea just became 10 times better.”
What’s even better is hearing Brisk and his band play live, and they plan to bring their A-game to Stage West (301 N. Main Ave., Scranton) this Wednesday, Jan. 29 when they perform with acclaimed Texas guitarist Eric Tessmer and fellow Wilkes-Barre blues rockers Dustin Douglas & The Electric Gentlemen.
“I think an audience only deserves A-game because, otherwise, what else is there to enjoy? People can usually tell when a musician is playing for themselves in a selfish way, but when a musician is playing for the love of music, that energy will bounce throughout the room like a pinball machine,” he enthused.
“I think there’s a lot of respect among musicians in Northeast PA. It always blows my mind how many talented people exist in this area, and we should cherish that. I want to collaborate with as many like-minded musicians as I can because there is a lot we can benefit from each other. I think the best advice everyone should follow is not to put anyone on a scale. Music is an art form, not a contest, and the sooner we all respect that, the better off we will be.”
In that spirit, Brisk added that he would love to work with other musicians in the area as a producer and find different sounds or approaches to add to their material.
“I am planning to release more singles from this album within the next few months, so stay tuned. I can only hope people enjoy my music, but I also want this album to be a testament of what I can do as a producer. Thanks to anyone who has ever taken the time to listen to my music, and I hope you can catch BBBB perform live sometime!”
Learn more about Brisk and watch him play some acoustic songs, including the 2019 premiere of his song “Color Blue,” in Episode 101 of the NEPA Scene Podcast: