Mild High Club may have cancelled the Victoria stop of their West Coast tour, but I got a chance to chat about upcoming projects and other neat things with the man behind the music, Alex Brettin, from his home in L.A.
Mild High Club’s 2015 album, Timeline, is Brettin’s latest work, and as he consistently jumps back and forth between studio time and touring, he’s already planning to release new content later this year.
In describing Mild High Club’s music, Brettin alludes to “certain hyper-realities and postmodern philosophies of repetitiveness.”
“A lot of it is just my day to day and me trying to [create escapism],” he says.
Timeline is a hybrid recording by means of digital and four-track cassette. Brettin wrote the album, and said he usually ends up recording on his own. “It’s not always easy to get people in the same place at the same time,” he says. “‘There’s not a massive budget to do so, but if there was, I would totally make a rock opera with like thirty people.”
I asked him about a statement I had read where he attributed the title of Timeline to the weirdness of online personas. “Yeah, [the internet is] kind of doppelganger-y — [it’s an] avatar-world [of] personas, dualities . . . I love every moment of it,” Brettin says. “It’s fascinating.”
Aside from the virtual realm, Brettin said he’s devoted to working on music every day even though he doesn’t have a studio at home. He said it’s essential for him to harness his creativity and unleash it when he finds recording space.
“During the off days . . . a lot of listening is going on. Not so much playing,” he says. Right now Brettin’s listening to Yann Tomita’s album Music for Astro Age (1992); Tomita’s band, Doopees, and their 1995 song “Doopee Time”; XTC’s 1986 album Skylarking; and Minnie Riperton — an admirably vast taste in music.
Brettin credits some of his musical success to moving to Los Angeles, where artists are constantly creating, touring, and playing shows. He met singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Ariel Pink through a mutual friend while hanging out in East LA, which resulted in Brettin being featured on Pink’s album Pom Pom, playing guitar on the song “White Freckles” and writing his own guitar segment for “One Summer Night.”
“Ariel is a mentor of mine,” says Brettin. “It’s pretty sick to be able to work with someone who you gain a lot of knowledge from.”
Pink also collaborated on Brettin’s song, “The Chat,” from Timeline. “Obviously [Pink]’s set some precedent,” says Brettin, “so it’s cool to be able to make some stuff and have the OG [put] his stamp [on it].”
But Brettin’s OG too — his musical interests manifested sometime around the age of eight, and he was a proud member of his school’s band. “At the time, I thought it was a little bit weird that I was the only boy in the flute section,” he says. “I wish I could actually play woodwind instruments.”
Brettin grew up in a Chicago suburb, overrun with jam band culture. He was helped by “amazing high school band directors” who exposed him to jazz and deepened his technical understanding of music.
I asked what advice he’d give to aspiring musicians, whether they’re licking reeds in the suburbs or trying to make careers as bands in the city.
“Everybody is special and the internet is a massive cache,” Brettin says. “Don’t get too hung up on making it [as a musician], it’s just music — it’s not some sort of biblical moment [when you do].”
“I don’t necessarily make money,” Brettin says, “but I’m a bit wrapped up in some little fantasy I have — [one] that I can live out right now.”
Mild High Club has new music coming soon. Keep your ears in the soundstream.