INTERVIEW: BUSTY AND THE BASS

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By Sanjana Desai

Counterpoint had the chance to interview Busty and the Bass last spring, following their performance for the TD Rock Your Campus competition.

When 9 minds come together for the sheer love of music, everyone listening is undoubtedly in for a euphoric synthesis of sounds, personalities, and expression. This is exactly what Busty and the Bass has succeeded in doing over the past few years as students of McGill. Meet Nick, Chris, Scott, Evan, Eric, Mike, Milo, Lewis, and Julian; a group of guys with humble beginnings, who have since October 2014 been rising to the occasion of enlightening Montreal –and now all of the North-east– with their fresh take on electro-funk. As if it wasn’t incredible enough, they achieve their epic performance all while making a nine-piece band work just as smoothly as the songs on their latest E.P. Bustified.

Busty and the Bass has been all the rage on the McGill campus since their incredible achievement of earning the title of Canada’s Top University Band upon winning the “Rock Your Campus” competition. Hundreds of other young bands also fought for their chance at fame but Canada simply could not resist the Busty sound. Soon after, they played their first big show as the openers for Arkells in Montreal’s own Virgin Mobile Corona Theatre, beginning a legacy of sold-out shows and ecstatic audiences of their own around Quebec, Ontario and the Northeastern States.

By now, most of us are hooked on their brilliant vibes, so Counterpoint took the opportunity to get some deeper insight into what gives Busty and the Bass its signature flair. We’ve gained some perspective on everything it takes for this group of friends to go from pre-song to performance ready and how their journey has been thus far.


Who proposed starting the band?
Busty and the Bass: No one directly proposed it really. Our guitar player invited us over to a house party and knew that we were all musicians as well cuz we had met in music frosh, so he said just bring your instruments and we’re just going to play at a house party, which is often how it happens. It was nice because it was all coming from a vibe that relaxed, where you could just hang out. It was all loose, not like “Oh, these are the guys in the band. I’m choosing them and I’m the leader.” Nobody really took that leader position which made the experience very organic how everything formed with no imposed hierarchy. It was really just a bunch of guys that fell into the right thing.

What’s been your best experience thus far?

Busty and the Bass: I would say just figuring out how to make a group of really diverse perspectives work. I would say that’s been the most adventurous part. Since all 9 of us live together in 3 separate houses, it’s trying to navigate our personal, musical, and business relationships all in one unchanging group of individuals and everyone is the most different person that you could ever possibly imagine which is really cool. All of us are from different cities, think differently , and have incredibly diverse backgrounds. It’s trying to synthesize all of those personalities and find a common ground -which we have now- which has been the most rewarding. Very taxing but extremely rewarding.

Do you have a favourite show or performance that you’ve ever done?

Busty and the Bass: Yeah, the one at Corona back in November was really awesome! Hopefully some of the upcoming ones will be even better. We really do better when there are more people. Not that it’s ever bad when there’s a smaller group of people but it’s just a completely different type of energy. Sometimes we’ll have a hundred person line going waiting outside the door when we show up so theres just a massive amount of energy before hand.

What’s your opinion on the McGill music scene? Since that’s what we here at Counterpoint are trying to get more in touch with. We want bands on campus to really step up and make a show of themselves to bring another aspect to life on campus here.

Busty and the Bass: I look at it like less of the McGill music scene and more of the Montreal music scene, which is quite literally the perfect place to be to get started. I’m American and a bunch of my friends go to school back home or around the states and I never realized how different the experience was going to be. For example, here if you’re 18 and you get a gig at a bar, your friends can all come watch you play. While in the states, if you manage to get something at a bar, no one under 21 can even come see you. I never saw how huge an impact that would have, but here you’ve basically got a 3 year headstart. In Montreal, if you’re trying to get somewhere with your music, you can start playing gigs at little bars and stuff and then you can get that all out of the way and work your way to bigger and better places.

Do you have any advice for bands that are just starting up?
Busty and the Bass: Yeah, think of yourself as not just a band and not just musicians, just because that’s the only way you’re going to build enough to create anything upworthy. Coming from the music school, you see a lot of people that say they are just all about the music. Of course the music is extremely important but if no one sees you and you don’t have anything organized, you’re not really going to get anywhere until you graduate and then your band is going to break up. So there really has to be a viewpoint in the band to say “What are we building here?”. In reality, we spend at least 60 hours a week focusing on things that are not just the music. There’s a lot you have to deal with before you play a good show.

What is the process for writing songs, since you’re so many people how do you make all of the pieces come together?
Busty and the Bass: Over the past few years, we’ve been working with a super dynamic and collective song-writing process. Since we are 9 equally contributing, very diverse musicians, it’s been a crazy process figuring out what works. The way we’ve figured to do it is by creating an “idea market”, where everyone feels comfortable enough to contribute crazy ideas and then the group synthesizes those and comes up with the best combination we see for our music. Of course, sometimes we have to break it up into smaller groups, like we can’t have 9 people writing lyrics but every stage of the song-writing process is super collective. Everything is consensus based.

What’s the process when it comes to creating your own sound and your own take on a cover?

Busty and the Bass: Adapting a track that was initially made for just 4 people to make it fit for 9 is a good place to start. But that’s where having a jazz performance background really helps. We are very able to take something and make it more sophisticated harmonically and rhythmically and then arrange pieces for all of the instruments. Ultimately making all of these pieces fit for a good live performance is basically the Bustification process.

Covers can be challenging because they could either go really well or very wrong… you guys have been good with creating covers that people really enjoy amongst your live performances.

Busty and the Bass: Yeah, we’ve been pretty successful with covers so far. But there’s also the aspect that people want to see something original. At the beginning, we were playing mostly just covers and we had a few original tracks, which were the ones people really wanted to hear more of. So for us, it was a really long process of absorbing that people want to hear what we can create originally and that’s what’s been driving us for the past 8 months or so. A lot of the stuff that’s happened [with our success] has come along with us recording and creating a music video for one of our original songs. So that’s been a big focus for us. We’re actually getting in the studio tomorrow morning!

Are you guys satisfied with your sound?

Busty and the Bass: Oh, never! We’re of course happy with where things are moving but it’s a never ending process of refining. That’s actually the coolest part of our writing process. We know that we’re striving for a sound and a process where everyone is feeling equal which hasn’t always been the case thus far. It’s a process of getting everyone involved. Finding the middle ground for everybody is where we’ll really find that innovative Busty sound.


Interview with Milo (bass)

Sanjana: Any Information on your background?

Milo: Well, we met in our first year during frosh and started playing at a house party and from there more house parties then events and now… we’re here 4 years later. Yeah, it’s always been a group of guys hanging out and as we’ve gotten more official that hasn’t really changed, which has been super nice.

Has it always been all 9 nine of you?

Milo:Yeah, there were a few switch ups around the beginning, for example I joined about 8 or 9 months into the process but for the past few years it’s always been all of us.

Cool! That’s quite an adventurous idea, having a 9 piece band all starting out from just house parties and such.

Milo:Yeah, because we were in school we didn’t have to worry about anything that would typically break up a 9 piece band, you know, we had 3 years to like dick around and not have to worry about commercial viability. But as we near graduation, we really had to think “whoa, we really need to get our shit together.” But we had that cushion of time to let us just mess around and find what worked.

Even with what we’re studying, like I’m doing a business degree, one of the other guys is studying psychology and did a month long silent retreat in India. We’re literally one of my diverse groups of people that you could ever possibly imagine.

Also, based off my personal experience, it’s really a great opportunity having the business school, the music school, and the recording department all within a city where you can start playing at 18. It’s the perfect combination of elements to create the perfect storm of a band-business.

That’s something that’s always been very apparent to us, because we knew that if we wanted to continue this, then it has to be about more than the music. It has to be about the experience and it has to be about us and all of the other factors it takes to become a successful band. There are a lot of aspects that you just take for granted when you perform a show that people had to take into account to make our progress successful.

Has performance and performing always been your goal as an occupation?
Milo: Oh no, it definitely wasn’t. I played a lot back in high school and the institutionalized music experience really wasn’t what I was looking for and in 2nd and 3rd year I was pretty unhappy with the music program. But then Busty was sort like my saviour for music. I only really saw the hardships and the grinding of the lowly independent jazz musician life and that was the only one I had really seen until we [Busty] started getting our stuff together and I realized that THIS is how you make a living from music. I guess the possibility of making a living playing music only materialized when Busty came together.

Has your view changed now? You would see yourself playing for the rest of your life, or lets say, the next 10 years?
Milo: Absolutely! That’s definitely the model now. Live performance is what we’re definitely about for now.

Do you ever improvise?

Milo: As our shows have increased in size we’ve gotten away from that, and since we’re so many people, nothing can be completely improvised. But when we first started up with just playing house parties and such, we’d do it all the time and sometimes we’d be jamming out on the same song for like 15 minutes. As the stakes get a little higher, that becomes a little less possible. We try to make room for it especially since we went from a completely improvising almost everything we’d play to now, a more structured set with almost no improv, so we want to cover the entire spectrum.

What’s your take on genres? How do you find the sound that you want to take on?
Milo: We definitely don’t like genre titles, because it’s kind of boxy. It’s limiting especially when we like to create a such a vast variety of sounds and experiences. When we’re writing, lets say an EP, we go into it knowing that we have a number of tracks to work with and we want to explore a range of styles, because that’s what we enjoy and that’s what we know is succeeding now. We like to create a track for everybody where, no matter what you’re into, you’ll find something on our album to enjoy.

What’s the weirdest or quirkiest thing about each of you?
Milo: Oh wow, that’s a whole other interview… Let’s just say we spend a lot of time with each other so we’ve got sort of our own terms for everything. But since we are working so closely with each other all the time and we have a powerful connection with all of us putting so much into this, we operate on kind of our own wavelength, which can be seen as pretty weird sometimes (haha).

Do you have any pre or post concert rituals?
Milo: Yeah, before every show we have a Busty huddle. Right before going on stage everything becomes very intense, with people moving around very quickly and everything happening so fast, which can at times get you out of the best mindset to put on a good show. So we like to remove ourselves from the tension for a second, just huddle up and get on the same wave length to find an awesome dynamic before going on to put on a good performance. It takes your mind off the million things that could possibly go wrong so we try to counteract all of the distractions.


Their latest EP, Glam, is available free for download on their website. The band will also be preforming live in Montreal on November 20th. Check out the event here!

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