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On Angelo: An Interview with Brijean About Their New EP

With their latest release, Angelo, out on all platforms today, Brijean delivers yet another colourful soundscape of groovy synths and dreamy vocals. The project, a brainchild of singer & percussionist Brijean Murphy and multi-instrumentalist & producer Doug Stuart, released its first debut EP in 2019, and has been sharing saturated, nostalgic-yet-new bops with the world since.

Praised by both NPR and Bandcamp, to say that the hype was high would be an understatement. The release is also immensely personal–put together in what the duo describes as “a period of profound change, loss, and relocation” on their Bandcamp page. Much of the work was done in a “travelling studio,” as they lived in four different cities over two years. It’s a project they used to “get out of [their] grief and into [their] bodies,” as stated–and perhaps that’s why it’s so danceable.

Right before Angelo’s release, we sat down with Brijean to get the inside scoop on Angelo, its creative process, and what’s ahead for the talented duo.

So, Angelo’s on the way. I love what’s already out–it’s really danceable, really fun and nostalgic, yet also a pretty fresh soundscape. I was wondering what the process was, because you take inspiration from a whole range of genres and eras.

BRIJEAN: On the back-end, we made [Angelo] in a lot of different places in our lives, geographically and mentally. We wrote the album throughout two years, and went through a lot of challenges. You know, obviously within the pandemic, those unique challenges, but also leaving our community that we’ve both lived in for the past decade or so–we left the Bay Area. And then we took care of family who were on their way to passing, and… [Angelo] was kind of our therapy in these past couple of years.

I think that a lot of the influence just comes from pulling on a lot of life experiences, and palettes that we had available within a small, “to-go” rig with different instruments. . . . Within ourselves, we found a lot of different sounds and feelings to express.

DOUG: Yeah, pretty limited in each of the places. Pretty limited space, and limited instruments. I guess on the technical side, there was a lot of one-mic percussion and programmed drums, as opposed to live, and drum machine. It kind of informed the sound, in a way.

BRIJEAN: Yeah. Kinda diving deep and high, as opposed to, like, horizontally, with our past–setting up a big room with lots of mics, lots of instruments, lots of friends… and this was more, like…

DOUG: Insular.

So it’s a bit of a difference from what you’re usually working with?

DOUG: Yeah, a little bit. A little more limited.

Maybe it’s just me, but it kind of feels like there’s a narrative arc to Angelo. It starts really dancey and celebratory, and then kind of eases down. Like, [the penultimate track] Caldwell’s Way really does feel more reflective and yearning. Was that intentional?

DOUG: I don’t know about narrative, necessarily, but figuring out the track listing is always kind of an elusive process. We usually try a lot of different things, and eventually, they fall into place and it just feels right.

BRIJEAN: It did feel good to close with [Caldwell’s Way] for me. The beginning of the album is more geared toward movement, dancing, kind of getting out of your mind and into your body, and the later half is more… introspective, and softer, in a lot of ways. But actually, in making the album, the first song we made was Caldwell’s Way, and I think that was just our flip-flop process of that segment in our lives. There was a lot of, like, nostalgia, and introspection, and heartbreak, but hopefulness in the beginning. And then, we shifted into getting into our bodies more than into our minds.

Here’s a question I always like to ask: who are some of your particular inspirations? As stated, your soundscape stretches across decades: 70s disco, 90s house, sly pop sensibilities… Who in particular has influenced that?

BRIJEAN: Going back into the 70s/80s disco would be Candido, and then on the jazz side in that era would be Tito Puente, and Lonnie Listen Smith…

DOUG: Totally.

BRIJEAN: Maybe a little Alice Coltrane? House, Moodymann. And what about for pop…

DOUG: Jim Sullivan.

BRIJEAN: So maybe some of those.

While we’re talking about inspiration and process: which track did you have the most fun with?

DOUG: I kind of want to say Angelo. That one felt like it came together really quick, and we were just kind of experimenting on this little drum machine that was used occasionally, but not all the time. It felt very fun to me.

BRIJEAN: Yeah, that was fun. And we finished it when we moved back to LA, and also in the process of making the album, I was running a lot, jogging. I experimented with the sequence of starting from a 20-minute jog, into the cooldown. It was just about keeping the cadence and keeping that feeling, and I remember going out a lot to that song. That was a fun one, Angelo.

DOUG: The title track.

Tell us about Angelo the car! Why did you name the EP after a car?

BRIJEAN: Conceptually, the album embodies a lot about transit, within times and spaces, within our lives. When we left the Bay, [we] got a car on Craigslist–it’s a 1981 Toyota Celica, and it’s just a little joyride. Super fun, got it for a crushing deal, and it turned into a fun cruise . . . I thought it’d be a nice little vessel to embody the idea of spiritual, physical, mental transit, and how we navigate that within all of our lives.

Another question, while we’re on movement and transit: do you have any advice for creatives dealing with their own turmoil? Having to be on the move, be in transit, or deal with loss?

BRIJEAN: Tapping into the things that bring you joy, with the most simplicity possible. For me, that was stretching, jogging, listening to music, eating good food, calling friends… Just having, like, gentle and tender times. Reading poetry . . . and also sweating it out was nice, and put me back in my body and out of my head. That’s what I would say.

DOUG: Yeah, I think on a broad level, making time for yourself. It’s easy to be preoccupied with other peoples’ needs, or things that are out of your control. So just like, on a broad level, making sure you make time for yourself, whatever that is–writing, reading, walking. Some little practices that give you space from whatever you’re going through.

That’s beautiful. Any poetry recs?

BRIJEAN: "Save Twilight" by Julio Cortázar, and @poetryisnotaluxury on Instagram is nice to follow for daily poetry.

Thanks! And what can we expect from the EP, once it comes out?

BRIJEAN: A music video.

DOUG: A music video. There are some more dance-oriented songs, and a few instrumentals. They’re kind of more textural, and lush. The goal is for it to flow as one piece–so hopefully, you can sit down and listen to it and enjoy the ride.

One more question–why the soda glass merch? And who did the art? Because it’s gorgeous!

BRIJEAN: Thanks! That’s me.

That’s awesome! So, why’d you do soda glasses?

BRIJEAN: I have a lot of these vintage glasses–like, old Pepsi glasses, and a couple of juice jars with cartoons on them, and I’m obsessed with them. They’re also really nice when you have people over–you don’t forget which glass was yours, and I’m notorious for that, just leaving a glass in a room and getting a new one. It’s nice to have illustrative glasses and bring that back, and it’s also utilitarian–I like merch that serves a purpose. I have glasses that were made in the 70s, and… they bring me joy, you know? I thought . . . that’d be fun to explore. And . . . yeah–I’ve done all the art for this album: the single art, the album art, and now Doug and I are designing some stage projections . . . That’s it at the moment.

So, stage projections–are you going on an Angelo tour?

BRIJEAN: Yeah, we’re gearing up for it! We have a couple headline shows in LA, San Francisco, and New York, and then we’ll see what happens in the next few months and whether we’ll do a bigger tour. Still figuring that out, but would love the visual accompaniment of the world that I’m building . . . and bring that into a way that it can accompany the live show.

Angelo is available now on all streaming platforms, and stay tuned for information about the upcoming tour. Also, view their new music video for Take a Trip here!


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