How A Nine-Piece Band Came To Defy Genre & Tour The World: A Q&A With Busty & The Bass

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Photo: Greg McCahon

The best phenomena tend to manifest themselves naturally. Take Busty and the Bass for example–how else would a nine-piece band from Montreal come together to create a genre-defying album and tour the world? Through a serendipitous jam session at a house party, of course. Since then, the band has come to be known for their ability to “take certain things about [themselves] less seriously and to really hone in on what matters.”

When it came to their debut record, Uncommon Good, Busty and the Bass recruited legendary producer and mixer Neal Pogue (Outkast, Snoop Dogg, Earth Wind and Fire, Nicki Minaj, Aretha Franklin, Lil Wayne) to guide them into unexplored territories where funk, soul, hip hop, dance, and gospel exist in harmonious unity. By merging classic influences of Michael Jackson and Earth, Wind and Fire with modern touches of Kendrick Lamar and James Blake, the band managed to create a sound that’s eclectic, fresh, and yet familiar all at the same time. 

Moreover, Busty and the Bass’ sound somehow translates into the live space impeccably. The band’s high energy and natural chemistry allows for two trumpets, a trombone, saxophone, guitar, bass guitar, piano, keyboard, and drum set to miraculously and cohesively thrive on stage. See it for yourself on Busty and the Bass’ upcoming tour, hitting Europe, Canada, and the States through early March–find your city here.

Get to know Busty and the Bass in our Q&A below.

OTW: How did all of the bandmates meet or cross paths?

Almost everyone who’s in the current iteration of the band actually met and played for the first time at a house party. Our guitar player Louis was living in a small apartment complex where all the tenants would team up and have these combined hangs with their courtyard and everything. We had never really all hung out before but some instruments came out and we happened to be the people jamming together for most of the night. 

OTW: What’s the story behind the name Busty and the Bass?

The name came out randomly during our first week of meeting, and it stuck. We had thoughts of finding something more serious, but we like the irony of us as a collective having a name with this mystery front person. There’s an element that everybody has their chance to be “Busty” at different times. We’re in an era right now where a lot seems to come before the music, where image and so much more can get to your head as an artist. The name, along with the ridiculousness of it helps us to take certain things about ourselves less seriously, and to really hone in on what matters.

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OTW: Your tunes are so fun and danceable. What do you hope to achieve with your music?

Our goals probably don’t differ much from any other artist. We’re simply hoping that people will enjoy what we create while we find our own joy in the process. The danceability definitely stems from the fact that we started so live oriented; it’s a wild experience to play energetic music for an energetic crowd. That said, as we’ve gotten more time to be in the studio, we’ve embraced a lot of different sides of our sound. Right now we’re making the music we feel like making, and trying to take our listeners down that path with us. Sometimes it’s dance music, and sometimes we want to slow things down and look at things in a different way. The last thing we want is to put ourselves in a box of what type of music we’re supposed to be making.

OTW: Was there a particular theme/message that drove the creation of your first full-length album, Uncommon Good?

It’s funny, there was never a planned theme but after we decided on the song order we realized that we placed them entirely chronologically based on when they were written. The album ended up accidentally being the roadmap of our growth and change. It starts with a playful side from our days fresh out of school and ends on some more introspective tones as we’re tried to figure out the real world. The album took over a year and half to make, and for a bunch of us in our early/mid twenties that’s a lot of time to become very different people.

OTW: What is your creative process like? Do you all collaborate at once or divvy up the writing?

Our creative process varies a lot, especially at the outset of anything new. Sometimes a song will be the baby of 1-3 people, and they’ll bring it in to the group. Often though somebody will come in with a sketch or idea and then it’ll get tossed around the band as people put their own touch on it. We tend to write the core elements of a song in smaller groups, but by the halfway point of any track, it becomes a completely collaborative thing. We’ll hammer out the arrangement and a lot of specifics while all in the same room with our instruments. This gives us a lot of freedom to experiment as well as a solid idea of what the finished product will sound like.

OTW: With so many members in the band, how do you manage to stay on the same page in terms of musical/branding direction?

Being on the same page has progressively gotten easier the longer we’ve been together. In ways we’ve started to rub off on each other, becoming a bit more likeminded through our conversations and debates. Most importantly, we’ve learned how to talk and disagree the right way. We all want what’s best for the band and as long as we remember that, nothing is ever right or wrong. I feel like in 20 years we should all get some fat contracts to work with Google on their team-building retreats or something. I don’t think there are any people better at working in groups than those who have played in bands.

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OTW: What is each band member’s role & what they’re known for (besides the instrument they play)?

I think we’ve done a great job using our numbers to our advantage. All of us kind of naturally slipped in to these roles, mostly based on the things we’re best at putting up with. Some of us will do more interviews, some guys will be a bit more hands on with PR or merch design. Milo, our bass player, does the bulk of our tour managing, Julian our drummer is running the socials, and Chris our trombone player brings four different kinds of hot sauces on tour while heading our sound setup. We take pride in the D.I.Y. model. Right now we have a bit of a fantasy of pulling up to a big festival slot where everybody else is rolling with huge teams, buses, techs and roadies, then we come in with two minivans and our trombone player running the soundcheck. 

OTW: What’s the Montreal music scene like, and where do you guys fit in it?

Montreal is one of the best cities to live in as a creative artist. It’s pretty much the cheapest cultural center in North America, and the money pressures that it alleviates trickle in to every aspect of the scene. When artists don’t need as much to get by, they focus less on the monetary value of their work, which is the healthiest thing for creativity. People are willing to collaborate, perform and contribute without the promise of big money or a percentage on a hit song; everybody working in the scene is there because they love their art. We’ve gotten to start collaborating with some wicked Montreal artists like Husser and Pierre Kwenders, and the vibe in these sessions feels like the complete opposite of the modern industry’s model. Nobody is coming to attach their name to something or using the clout of another artist in a vain reach for recognition–everybody’s just down to make music and see what happens.

OTW: What’s in the works now? 

It feels like we’re perpetually on tour, so we’ve got a lot more of that lined up. We’ll be in Europe for most of October and then come back for a North American run from November until the holidays. On the recording front, we just put out our first full length, and the business side of the release process just makes us want to run back in the studio ASAP. We’re going to try more collabs and to get some new stuff out in a smaller, more single-based release before we dig in to what album #2 is going to be.

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OTW: Who are 3 artists on your Ones To Watch list?

Right now we’re jonesing on Daniel Caesar pretty hard. He’s killing the soul game and is a month or two away from being a complete household name. Charlotte Day Wilson is probably going to drop her first full length soon, and it’s definitely going to smash. Also we just played a show with this singer Ralph who we really dug–she’s doing this cool 80’s inspired dance music thing that we get down with.

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