Posts Tagged ‘Liliane Avalos’

Los Angeles’ underground rising star Brick Bosso, the project led by MindFree and Ska’n’Bones keyboardist Keith Walsh, has started an unexpected transformation recently. A transformation that could be compared to a worm becoming an 80’s star, while skipping the butterfly step.

In a short lapse, Brick Bosso released two full albums, showing an impressive boom of inspiration. I decided to do a joint review, since they are somehow linked in the process. Brother albums? Sister album? The artwork being in both cases created by graphic artist Liliane Avalos, one may think it’s the case. Nonetheless, they are completely different from each other and the main link between them is precisely that very transformation, that sometimes separates a good record from a great one.

Phase 1: The worm.

1. Blues Song Don’t be misled by the title: this ain’t no blues song. The organ intro leads to a typical Brick Bosso, almost Beatles-esque, traditional pop song. The ska feel is still obvious in the choruses, while only suggested in the verses. A dramatic bridge brings a nice twist of mood. Keith Walsh’s voice is sometimes close to break, without reaching the point of no return however.

2. Everyone’s Hoping For A Great Answer A noisy intro brings promises, kept by a truly great guitar riff, courtesy of Anthony Feliciano, with energetic organ responses. Again, Brick Bosso doesn’t shy away from English pop in the bridge, that smartly features a short quote of ‘What A Wonderful World’. Brilliant song.

3. Looking For The Perfect Plaid Always that ska feel, with a more poignant bass line and intriguing synthesizer topping.

4. Literature Foreshadowing the next album “80’s Star”, “Literature” navigates into the 80’s new wave abundance of synthesizers. Beautiful mood. Though a bit short, this is another gem.

5. Under Control The crispy guitar is a signature of Brick Bosso’s past productions. Interestingly, Walsh sings like a teenage Ian Curtis. Deep, dramatic, yet lighter than our late Joy Division singer.

6. Not Quite Right Now if that’s not a children song, what is it? The double voice adds some (unwanted?) humour. Pleasant without being what I’d call absolutely essential.

7. Bully Walkie Talkie The vocoder makes this “Bully Walkie Talkie” easily memorable, though somehow less captivating than other tracks on this album. It can be the perfect single. The 90’s-sounding synths are an odd choice in my opinion.

8. Mouth Monster Oh, now that’s quite rare: a piano intro, smooth and almost romantic. The light swing and Mellotron-like strings make it irresistible. Singalong comes without even trying. Great infectious track.

9. Miss Begotten That could have been a good tune from the Korgis, who also carried on the Beatles pop spirits and took it to a more sophisticated level. Nice bass, to say the least.

10. From A Worm To A Butterfly A new wave-infused intro and a catchy chorus make this “Worm” a potential single and possible stage favourite.

Phase 2: the star.

1. Perfect One may immediately think: that’s another typical Bosso song. But there’s something new: the real and sincere smoothness of synth. The out-of-tune bells coming out of the blue are quite beautiful.

2. Wicked What a captivating song! Full sound, quasi-hypnotic electronic snare, funny voice FX serve a tasty arrangement. Not to forget the cool synth bass.

3. Enhanced Brick Bosso breaks the speed limit with a fast song that starts with a heavy brass synth intro, before leaving space for synth bass and some rock piano.

4. Eyes Everywhere (Okuloj Ĉie) Anyone remembers the Esperanto language? I love the heavily echoed drums, the again Beatles-esque parts, and the superb atmosphere thanks to the synthesizer. Cool synth solo but I’m less enthusiastic about the guitar solo, that I find too self-conscious, if it makes any sense.

5. 80s Star Strangely the least synth-oriented song of the album, considering the title, this is the most natural, organic, and should I say least 80’s-sounding? Pay attention to the lyrics!

Keith Walsh: ’80s Star’ is an ironic song because though I never became a star, in fact my music career went very wrong, while at the same time several of my lovers and bandmates did become huge 80s stars. That coda you refer reflects my lifelong wish to have one of these projects record and release one or more of my songs.”

“In addition to the irony, the concept of ’80s Star’ portrays the dialectic of fame, how someone can reach the heights of fame and fortune, but then in middle age find him or herself with financial or romantic problems. The entire album is about the ups and downs of stardom, about love, despair, and redemption.’

6. Woe Superb hypnotic synth intro, echoed drums and low voice: “Woe” is Tangerine Dream meets Joy Division.

7. All We Are The butterfly visits the IQ / Yes territory with another great riff, followed by a haunting whistle synth.

8. 8 Billion Beautiful People Wasn’t the hippie movement born in California? Obviously it’s still alive in this hymn to human kind. Some might think of it as a cynical view, others might find it sissy, but as a song it’s a great way to close an album. Brick Bosso’s transformative album. That great album.

Keith Walsh: ‘8 Billion Beautiful People’ is a sincere song celebrating the value of every person. Sure, it’s idealized, as there are people with flaws that make them irredeemable. The song is also kind of a hippy song, celebrating peace and love. I would say it has a spiritual meaning–it’s meant to provoke thought about seeing the good in others.”

Controversy If you visit Brick Bosso on Bandcamp (https://brickbosso.bandcamp.com), you’ll notice a different track listing, with the song ‘Lucky Magic (Metroid)’ being part of the album, while on Spotify it’s a separate single. Actually, Keith Walsh doesn’t hesitate to poke at people who hurt him, whether it’s an employer or his former fellow musicians who he worked with just before they hit it big with Berlin (the band, not the city). If you think ‘Lucky Magic (Metroid)’ bears some resemblance with Berlin’s ‘The Metro’, you can’t be more right. We asked Keith Walsh to explain the reason why.

Keith Walsh: I deleted ‘Lucky Magic (Metroid)’  off the streaming distribution of the album except for Bandcamp because it’s a sound-a-like of the Berlin song ‘The Metro’ and includes soundbites from Berlin members. There’s some legal protection for things like that but if my old friends in Berlin asked me to take it down, it’s easy on Bandcamp, but on Spotify, Apple Music etc I would have had to recall the entire album. However, ‘Lucky Magic’ is available on all streaming platforms as a single.’ (They’re soundbites from VH1 Bands Reunited featuring Berlin, from about 2004. Samples are Terri Nunn, John Crawford, David Diamond and unknown narrator.)

I like to include a naughty song on every album. My first was ‘Here Comes Mr. Faketapes’ ‘The Hyper Supermarket’ (about a former employer) was a recent one, as was ‘Mouth Monster.’ And another was ‘Leaky Connections. These songs are messages to people who have hurt me in some way. ‘Lucky Magic’ is my newest and most naughty song experiment so far.

Brick Bosso. Photo by Anthony Feliciano.

Brick Bosso. Photo by Anthony Feliciano.

“From A Worm To A Butterfly” and “80s Star” were released within a mere 2 month lap. Is it that you had a sudden, unexpected blast of inspiration, or was it carefully planned? Can one be the volume two of the other, in a way?

Keith Walsh: It was actually four months, but yeah, I had some reservations about releasing actually three albums in 8 months (Birds and Believers was released on the first day of spring, Worm to A Butterfly on the first day of Summer.).Part of it was definitely being inspired to write, and making an effort to write more, but a major factor was having fewer distractions because of the global quarantine.

 

Aren’t you afraid that releasing two albums so close to each other in time would spoil their promotion? I mean, people usually love to get used to a record, and wait a year or more before the next one comes out.

Keith Walsh: Yes, I had some reservations, but promotion and marketing is something I worry little about. My main concern is just to create something good, and to have it heard. I don’t have the patience required to wait before releasing something, once I have a collection of 8 or 10 songs that are ready to go.

 

Both albums are rather short, from 27 to 30 minutes, which can make them fall into the EP category. Do you think that people are tired of 70-minutes long albums that became the norm since the CD arrived?

Keith Walsh: They’re short, but they have at least 8 songs each. It’s more about my short attention span than any concern about people’s preferences. It’s probably a lack of planning that stopped me from putting in an extra verse of chorus for a guitar or keyboard solo that would stretch the songs out a bit. In MindFree we have plenty of solos, and as a result the songs are longer.

 

With the “80s Star” album, you seem to take bold steps in experimentation (I’m talking about the songwriting), yet staying into a pleasant melodic mold. Have you consciously changed your songwriting approach? 

Keith Walsh: It wasn’t so much a conscious change as it was just letting things happen. I used to think very actively about using a ‘intro/verse/chorus/verse/chorus/middle 8 /outro’ structure, but lately, and especially on 80s Star I’m relaxing a bit and just letting the songs happen. Part of that comes from not wanting to do the same thing over and over again.

 

The cover artwork of both albums has been designed by Liliane Avalos. How did you meet her and how do you guys collaborate? Is she inspired by your music?

Keith Walsh: I approached Liliane after seeing her work on the Facebook page of a friend, Cirilo Rios, aka CD Rios, who also recorded and is mixing MindFree’s debut album. In fact, her artwork inspires me to perform better. I asked for her work on 80s Star before I was done, and then was motivated to finish sooner than I might have. Her work on both albums is so, so good.

 

Mostly with “80s Star”, your sound is less ska, warmer, more into synthesizers. Is your work with MindFree allowing you to loosen up a bit and explore different universes?

Keith Walsh: Playing with Mark and Moe in MindFree definitely changed me stylistically, because of their different influences. “All We Are” has a progressive rock riff that I wouldn’t have even tried except that these guys gave me confidence to try something more complex. Moe has played jazz, world music and rock, Mark is into prog, indie, and everything. We have a lot in common musically, but it’s the differences that helped me grow. The fact that the songs are more synth based is partly just a stylistic choice, and partly because keyboards have always been my main instrument. A few years ago I was learning guitar and was writing everything on an electric or acoustic, but felt, especially on 80s Star, that an abundance of keyboards was appropriate.

 

“Woe” starts with beautiful hypnotic synths, before segueing into a more typical Brick Bosso mood. Have you ever thought of letting yourself go and create some techno instrumental music, à-la DJ?

Keith Walsh: Someone recently suggested I could make some money doing music for meditation and massage music. I said ‘I have a friend named Gilles who does that.’ As for DJ and instrumental techno, I haven’t thought about it much. I think “Eyes Everywhere” is the closest to that techno sound. But this ties into the previous questions, part of why I’m exploring new sounds is because of all the new synths the latest releases of my DAW have added. Another part is just wanting to break away from bass/drums/guitar/organ/piano and try new things, partly because I didn’t want to repeat myself.

 

Do you construct the songs as ideas arrive, or do you first record demos?

Keith Walsh: I usually have a melody or a theme in my head that I can build a song around. Then I’ll sit at the piano and create some chords, verses and choruses, for the songs. The demos are just recordings I do on my phone. This is also so I don’t forget what my inspiration was. Then in my DAW I flesh out the song and do the arrangement.

 

Are there unreleased songs from these two albums? If so, why aren’t they released on the albums, is it a matter of not suiting the concept, or simply you don’t feel they’re good enough?

Keith Walsh: There might be a couple fragments that haven’t developed yet. “Under Control” from “Worm To A Butterfly” is something from 2016 or so, but I didn’t feel that it was strong enough. Then in 2020 I added some parts and now I feel it’s one of the better ones. Same for “Wicked” and “Enhanced” which are from 2012 or so, and show up on “80 Star”. I rummaged through my hard drive and was able to mix them and add parts, as well as add new lyrics (for Wicked) that I feel made them something worth listening to.

 

Are songs from these two albums becoming live material for MindFree?

Keith Walsh: So far, “All We Are” is the only one that MindFree is doing now. We played it at rehearsal today and it’s sounding awesome.

 

About MindFree, is it a reference to some 70’s seminars like the EST training or Mind Dynamics, that so many artists loved to join?

Keith Walsh: MindFree comes from the title of a song that Mark wrote, one of the first ones we played after getting together. It’s a song inspired by Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain, not about one of those inspirational programs at all. But definitely we try to be inspiring and positive in our music and message, and don’t mind that our band name could be thought of that way. The name MindFree is definitely meant to have associations with positivity and inspiration, something we all believe in and try to live every day.

 

The listening corner

Brick Bosso on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/artist/6UFTEtXrJ9asWWv6MvD45B

80’s Star special: https://brickbosso.hearnow.com/80s-star

Liliane Avalos: https://www.lilianeavalos.com

MindFree: https://www.facebook.com/MindFreeBand

Ska’n’Bones: https://m.facebook.com/skanbones