A Life In Music - An Interview with Echolyn's Brett Kull
Echolyn has just returned from a 15 day European Tour in support of their new CD The End Is Beautiful I spoke with Brett Kull and wanted to ask him questions that dealt with where the band and Brett are today. Their latest release continues in the Echolyn tradition of complex music, and infectious melodies. Make sure to check out the band's website as they give detailed accounts of the European tour. There is also a "Guide To The End Is Beautiful" where Brett and bassist Tom Hyatt discuss each song in detail. Here is what Brett had to say about the tour, the CD, and his daily work at his studio MM3.
Eric : Hi Brett, it is a pleasure to get to talk with you. So, I am sure the fans are wondering how did the European Tour go?
Brett: The tour was a lot of work but well worth it. We all had a blast. It was a good combination of people to travel with.
EP: Why did the band decide to try to put this tour together?
BK: It has been a dream of ours for some time. Initially, during the Sony days, we had hoped something like this would be possible. It was a lot of work, arranging our schedules, and putting things on hold to do this, but it was worth it.
EP: Would the band consider touring Europe again?
BK: Some of the clubs have already asked if we would come back, which is great. It would be tough since Echolyn is not our full time occupation, but we would certainly consider it if the circumstances were right.
EP: How were the venues and the audiences you played to?
BK: The venues were all excellent and varied. From small to big. We were very happy with the turn out at all the clubs. The people could not have been more friendly. Everyone was very responsive to the music. We got so much back from the audiences.
EP: What was your favorite song to play live from the new record?
BK: "Georgia Pine" and "The End Is Beautiful" are my two favorites to play live.
EP: How did it feel to be on tour with the band and getting to play almost every night for that two weeks?
BK: It was work and we loved it. You get very good playing that much. Our voices held up for the most part. That's the hardest thing to manage. We don?t gig as much as we used to - so we really enjoyed it.
EP: So, do you miss playing out regularly?
BK: Yes and no. I do miss getting that reaction from the fans. I also get a lot of satisfaction just from playing and writing with the band in our studio - that energy and excitement is still there, and we have fun together.
EP: What is the best story/incident that happened?
BK: Lots of stories. I slept outside on a few nights. Once on the steps of a club and the other in a warehouse. I felt homeless. Monkey Mountain in France was kinda cool, too.
EP: Will you be playing any US dates this fall?
BK: I'm not sure. More likely early next year. We have a lot of catching up to do before we can make a serious attempt at playing again. We do have a promoter working with us - probably going to hit the Northeast and up in Canada (Quebec), and possibly a date or two in Michigan.
EP: I just want to say - The DVD - video for "Make Me Sway" is great! Was it done as a gift to the fans, or are you trying to get it some airplay on any video channels?
BK: Thanks! No, I have not thought of that. Do you remember Don Kirshner's Rock Concert show on TV? I always liked those old videos the bands did and just thought it would be cool to do.
EP: Congratulations on The End Is Beautiful, it is a great record, and I heard that you have sold out of the first pressing already?
BK: Thanks, glad you are enjoying it, and yes - the first pressing has sold out!
EP: The website says a lot of the songs were built around Paul's drum patterns/grooves. The record is really tight, and has some of the bands heaviest material to date. Can you explain the band's writing process?
BK: Since we wanted a more aggressive album I wanted Paul to really shine. Paul, to his credit, knows how to lay down a great groove without over-playing, but on this one I wanted a bit more flash from him. Not too much but just a bit. I kept trying to get him to do more fills! Once Paul gets his act together the song really takes off. We all played in room together and wrote the entire album over a 3 month period. We recorded it over another three months.
EP: You are credited with mixing the record. How hard is it to play back the final mix for the band, are there a lot of issues with more keyboards here and turn up the vocals etc??
BK: Absolutely not. We are all really concerned about how the song feels, not just listening to individual parts. They leave the specifics up to me. We all think alike, so I get the mixes 99% done, then it's just a few minor tweaks.
EP: I really like the sound of this record, stuff like how in "Georgia Pines" the guitars are in one channel and the keyboards in the other. All the little sound effects, noise bites, percussion which have always found their way on Echolyn records. Not being a pro, how much time is spent on arranging and mixing the album compared to the writing process?
BK: Just as much time is spent on the recording of the album. You can really ruin a song if it's not recorded right. That's not to say there is one way to record a song, it's just that whatever way you decide to produce it, the song should dictate how you proceed. Arrangements are very important to us (especially me). I don't want to be distracted by an arrangement.
To get the energy on this record we played the basic tracks live as a performance.
EP: I love the guitar playing on this record (and all your stuff really). For example - in the title track "The End Is Beautiful" - you have slide guitar, acoustic guitar, wah wah peddle, and volume swells. You seem very aware of creating atmospheres and textures, where most guitarists feel the solo section is their statement in a song. Do you feel like that when creating your guitar parts?
BK: Yes, it's all about vibe for me. I always am looking for something different to do. I'm glad you noticed. I really try not to overplay but rather to be part of the big picture. I hate solos in general and only use them to take a song to a different spot. Most bands just use solos to yank off.
EP: Why didn?t you allow your solo at the end of "Arc Of Descent" to keep going? - it was just starting to roll!!! Ha ha - but extending that out would be great!
BK: I wanted to have a quick "70's AM Gold" kind of ending. Of course, you'd expect it to keep going, but that's why I didn't do it. As a listener it makes me want more and that's not a bad thing. I really like the way that solo turned out. It's very different in a subtle way.
EP: What is your favorite track?
BK: The title track. It captures our essence as a band and communicates the lyrics. I can really feel it. I've cried many times while working on it because it has connected with me.
EP: How is being in Echolyn today, with all the other responsibilities of full time jobs and families compare to when your lives revolved around the band as a way of life?
BK: It's more fun! We are a lot mellower and better at our craft. I have a hard time listening to the old stuff. We are not the same anymore.
EP: How often are you guys able to get together to play/rehearse?
BK: Usually once a week, maybe twice a week if we have something important looming before us.
EP: Can you tell me about any projects you are currently working on at MM3 studios?
BK: Right now I'm working on an animated story to help children deal with bullying. It's going to be available on DVD for the Pennsylvania School System first then the rest of the country. For this project I got to animate, score, foley, do sound design, write the theme music, and create a children's song. It's been wonderful. It's called Stressball Sally and Friends. I also just produced a wonderful singer- songwriter, Mitch Linker. He's been getting great reviews. I'm pretty busy in general.
EP: How lucky do you feel owning MM3 and being able to be involved in music for your living?
BK: Very Lucky. But I worked hard for that and have made many sacrifices over the years that most people wouldn't do.
EP: I am a guitarist - so I would be interested in the type of gear you use (pedals, effects, amps, guitars) etc?
BK: Oh cool. Well for the new album I used my 1975 Gibson SG and 1983 American Standard Stratocaster. Primarily I used a 70s Marshall Head and 4x12 cabinet , a VOX AC30, or a Marshall DSL 50 through a Mesa 4x12 cabinet. I definitely was going for more tube edge then say Mei which was all Strat and Fender Bassman. My slide solos on the title track were done with a glass slide on my 1980 Gibson ES 175. I used my 1949 Gibson Lap Steel for the solo at the end of "Lovesick Morning." I played my 1971 Martin D-18 on "Heavy Blue Miles," the title track, and "Arc Of Descent." I used my Guild hi string on "Make Me Sway" and "So Ready." I used a Dan Electro Baritone Guitar as the primary instrument on "Make Me Sway" and "Lovesick Morning." It?s very rich sounding. I like to make myself uncomfortable when coming up with guitar parts. It makes me react more instinctively rather than rely on old tricks. For pedals I used a Line 6 delay pedal (the green one). That was also used on many of the keyboard parts as well. I have a Boss SD 1 distortion pedal that I had modified with a better chip to give me a more "brown sound." It really kicks ass for soloing. That's about it for guitar FX. My Thomas Wha Wha was used sparingly.
EP: Do you have plans to work on another solo album?
BK: Yes, I'm working on it now. It's a very sad album.
EP: What artists are you currently listening to?
BK: Sufjan Stevens' new one, Aimee Mann's new one, Neil Young's new one. There are a lot of bands out there who are really doing great things like Wilco and Radiohead. These guys are all progressive in that they are doing things that are different and writing some great music. I also find that the lyrics are more important to me now than when I was younger.
EP: Finally - What is your proudest moment as a member of Echolyn?
BK: For me it was playing Mei with the strings, tuned percussion and woodwinds at Sellersville theater. It was a very magical night for me. I got lost in the song. It carried me into the heart of it. I'm glad it was captured on film. It just flowed out of all of us.
Suffocating The Bloom (1992)
...And Every Blossom (1993)
As The World (1995)
When The Sweet Turns Sour (1996)
Cowboy Poems Free (2000)
As The World (2005 expanded reissue)
The End Is Beautiful (2005)
Stars And Gardens Vol 4. (2004) (DVD)