Written by: Andrew Boyd
If you are someone who enjoys turning your brain off and rocking out to cookie-cutter pop music, AE Bridger’s new album Museum is NOT for you. However, if you enjoy music that forces you to feel and think introspectively, then strap in and enjoy the haunted amusement park that is “Museum”.
Museum is a visual album that will take you down a dark, hauntingly beautiful road filled with emotion and personal reflection. AE Bridger is an experimental writer, a noble approach in today’s music industry. Accurately defined as “outsider music”, his music is eclectic, but not in a contrived way. You can easily feel the honesty at the core of this album. The music and visuals embrace the dark feelings that exist in all of us in a way that breeds acceptance. You can’t help but become absorbed in the music as you listen to Museum. You have to respect someone who is not afraid to push boundaries to make music that elicits such strong emotion.
Today’s overcast skies and single digit temperature in July couldn’t be more fitting for the release of Museum. AE Bridger will be celebrating the release with his band The Bridesmaids on Saturday, July 9th outside the LSPU Hall at 10:00 pm and 10:30 pm at The Ship in partnership with Sound Symposium's event Night Music.
Rock Eden: What would you say to someone who asked you what to expect at an AE Bridger show?
Alexander Evan Bridger: I would say “expect the unexpected”… just kidding, I would say to expect sonically adventurous alternative music leaning towards the traditions of so-called psychedelic music of the 60s and 70s. No two shows are the same, as I draw from a fairly large pool of collaborators and switch up the band often. My group The Bridesmaids has electric guitar in it, but I don’t always use guitar, despite it being my most proficient instrument. I tend to do shows with a bunch of brass and woodwind instruments these days.
RE: Frank Zappa said: “Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible”. Am I wrong in assuming that you purposely deviate from the norm with your songwriting? What motivates you to write in the genre-bending style that is AE Bridger music?
AEB: I don’t purposely deviate, no. I think some of my material is rooted very strongly in several traditions. If the idea demands that the norm be subverted, I will subvert it. If it’s not necessary to deviate from the norm to convey the feeling or idea, I can be very “normal”. We do traditional folk songs, but we also do music that is basically improvised. Because I am often addressing confusing or scary feelings in my work, I have to make confusing or scary music, but those descriptors do not describe the entirety of my output.
RE: As a multi-instrumentalist, how do you decide which instruments to include when writing/recording/performing? Do any particular instruments tend to drive songs more than others?
AEB: A couple years ago I became obsessed with the accordion, which led to a pretty dramatic reinvention of my songwriting approach. My new album Museum is the first offering from this new approach. The mechanics of the accordion made me more interested in wind instruments, so when I came to St. John’s I started playing with Chris McGee on saxophone, which led to me collaborating with his wife Maggie Burton, and this intuitive process has brought me to where I am today, which is working with usually about 4 horns. Although I can play a bunch of instruments, I’m way less interested these days in actually doing so. I see music as a divine conversation between the musicians, and I can only play one instrument at a time, so it’s more practical and rewarding for me to have that conversation with other people.
RE: Museum is a visual album and is released as one video which extends the full length of the album. Did the visuals come after the music was completely written or were they developed during the writing process?
AEB: They happened side by side. The music informed the choice of footage to use, but I went back and changed the music once I saw the film. The film dictated major components of the album, such as track order and the inclusion of the Mooger Fooger analog delay treatments.
RE: Will these be visuals be incorporated into the live album release show?
AEB: I have something else planned for the album release. I think it would be a bit too much to have images of me taking my clothes off projected on a screen behind us at The Ship.
RE: Who/what are your influences?
AEB: I’m not sure I can answer that meaningfully. Museum was very heavily inspired by Mark Rothko’s paintings and his ideology about art. My favourite contemporary musician right at this moment is probably Colin Stetson, but I was listening to different stuff when I wrote this music. My influences change daily, and the experiences that brought me to these songs have very little to do with what I think people can draw from them.
RE: Were there any songs that didn’t make it on the album? If so, any particular reason?
AEB: I had a grant from the Quebec government where I composed and recorded music full-time for a year, and during that time I wrote and recorded Sculpin XO, a very long instrumental piece called Slow Swirl at The Edge of The Sea, another more aggressive album that will probably not be released, and the music that ended up becoming Museum. I had the opportunity to record in a really good studio with Michelle LaCour, and I chose to bring Museum to completion. During the McGill sessions, we did two other traditional songs that didn’t make it onto the album. The performances weren’t satisfactory on my end, although Zafer Zephyr and Hannah Boone did a great job on everything we tracked then.
RE: Why did you choose Museum as your album name?
AEB: A strong sense of place and atmosphere is very important to me in most art that I enjoy. I also like titles or words that have layers of meaning or interpretation, depending on how close you look. Museums have a very distinct atmosphere that I always enjoy, the peaceful quietude, the open expansive rooms, the sense of sombre reverance for the objects contained in them. As a word, "museum" represents both the building itself and the objects in the building, and those objects in the museum can also represent the memories and historical or cultural significance that landed them in a museum in the first place. The word “museum” itself is also a nice aesthetic object; it is almost a palindrome.
RE: Any good/funny stories that happened during the recording of your album?
AEB: Nothing good or funny happened at any point in the process, have you heard the record? This is serious stuff. I don’t think I’ve smiled for the last year.