Photo: Kelly Jacob
Photo: Kelly Jacob

Five Questions With... Eric Haynes of Busty and the Bass

It probably goes without saying that whenever an artist does a cover version, there’s a secret hope that the originator will hear it and approve. Montreal-based electro-soul collective Busty and the Bass recently had that satisfaction when Macy Gray enthusiastically voiced her approval of the band’s rendition of her 1999 breakout single, “I Try.” “Beeyooteefoh! WATCH DIS!!,” she wrote while re-tweeting the video.

The track is included on Busty and the Bass’ just-released new EP LIFT (Indica Records), which arrives on the heels of a sold out performance at Toronto’s Opera House during CMW 2016. That milestone was the latest step up the ladder for the nine-piece, horn-driven band that formed within the first week of all members beginning their individual studies at McGill University.

Before performing under their distinctive monicker, Busty and the Bass hammered out a fusion of musical styles that quickly made them a hit on the Montreal house party circuit. This led the group to enter the Rock Your Campus competition sponsored by CBC Music and TD in 2014, and upon winning, they made a conscious shift from their initial dance-focused approach to diversifying their sound for their self-titled debut EP later that year.

The growing buzz around the band led Indica Records to sign them, and in the summer of 2015 came a second EP, GLAM, which opened the door to a North American festival run, including trips to New York, Los Angeles, and Canada’s west coast, and highlighted by three sold-out nights at the Montreal International Jazz Festival. Now with LIFT, Busty has expanded their sound further, drawing on their hip-hop and jazz influences. Keyboardist Eric Haynes took few minutes to explain the evolution while the band is currently on tour in Quebec, with performances at Riverfest in Elora, Ontario and the Harvest Jazz & Blues Festival in Fredericton slated for later this summer.

 

What sets LIFT apart from what you've previously done?

LIFT was an opportunity for us to really explore our recording and creative process in the studio. It was self-produced and recorded almost entirely in our basement. With our previous release, we went into a studio and recorded for a week, but with LIFT we had much more time to experiment with production elements and make changes to the songs. We probably spent too much time locked in the basement in the dead of winter, and sometimes the process felt long and arduous, but it definitely helped us figure out a process that works that we're developing as we record our album.

 

Is there a story behind your choice to cover Macy Gray's "I Try"?

We all feel like On How Life Is, the album that "I Try" is on, deserves more credit as one of the best albums of the ‘90s. We had been playing a live version of "I Try" for a year or so, and it always went over so well with audiences that we decided to try making a living-room style video of our cover. We were totally floored when she shared it on Twitter.

 

What are the biggest challenges in being in such a large band?

It's tough for a lot of people to imagine being in a nine-person band—we joke around about how often people ask, "How do you all fit in the van?" The truth is, we're really proud of having the same line-up for the last four years, and unless we're trying to schedule a last-minute rehearsal or book flights there are a lot of advantages to having a big band. When we're on the road it's hard to get sick of everyone because you can always hang out with different small groups of people. We also have a huge, complex sound onstage, and our collaborative composition process lets us take full advantage of our diverse backgrounds and influences.

 

What has been your most memorable experience while touring in Canada?

I'm from Calgary, and the first time we played my hometown last September was huge for me. It was cool to have two different worlds collide like that. Also a bunch of the guys in the band had never been out west before and they were blown away by the drive through the Rockies. 

 

If you could change anything about the music industry, what would it be?

Well, there's a bunch: I wish people gave the same weight to a great live show as they do to a poppin' Soundcloud page, and I wish Canada's grant system didn't seem to favour well-established artists and bands that play certain genres of music. But one easy change would be investing in cultural supporters, not just stars. Teaching motivated young people how clubs, bars, and bigger productions work would enable them to help scenes and communities move forward, and help artists who often don’t have the time or business skills to create opportunities for themselves.

 

 

 

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