Q + A with Psych-Pop Group Mild High Club

Interview with frontman Alexander Brettin

Hailing from Chicago, but based in Los Angeles, Mild High Club frontman Alexander Brettin visited Indianapolis last week to play a show at The Pioneer. Brettin launched the music project by himself in 2012 and has since grown to include numerous contributors that come and go in his tracks. Before the show, PATTERN chatted with Brettin about his ever-changing band members, his creative process, and jazz.

Aubrey Smith: You began Mild High Club as a solo artist then later brought on additional members. How has that worked? 

Alexander Brettin: Everything definitely began at home in my living room and has  since expanded to… I don’t even know how many people have come through the band. There’s a core group now, but we we try to add people at each new performance. I have the final say on what gets turned in.

AS: How do you recruit new members to the band?

AB: The Internet helps a lot. I’ve been around a lot of musicians for over a decade now, so naturally my networks have expanded. It also helps to travel and tour. A lot of the people are in my immediate communities as well as Chicago and Los Angeles.

AS: What about when you first started out? How did you get the word out that you wanted to collaborate?

AB: There were a couple of different factors. I had a psych band in Chicago at the time. It just rolled into a katamari world of people.

AS: Were you expecting that?

AB: Absolutely not. There’s no preparing for that. The only thing you can do is be real… as much as you can. It’s sometimes difficult not to.

AS: Do you think that’s a challenge with this career path?

AB: For me, I find myself to be lucky more than unlucky. So things are going well for me. I don’t know; it’s such a mystery. There’s no protocol that I’m aware of. It’s not like rock and roll.

The only thing you can do is be real… as much as you can. It’s sometimes difficult not to.

AS: So you have this core touring band. How did you decide who that would be?

AB: It was all people who I had a lot of faith in their ears but also their ability to put up with me.

AS: How do you keep true to your sound and yourself?

AB: I just think I’m pretty particular. That’s all it is. I’m pretty impatient when it comes to wanting to hear a certain sound. It takes me a while to process the motifs that I want to. Maybe because I’m not terribly academic about it. I wish I was more academic. I don’t want to go too far. There’s a delicate balance of what I want to hear based on what I’m listening to.

AS: You were formally trained, right?

AB: You can say that. I have a degree, but I don’t know what the hell that means in reality. I’m forever a student. I just like to take my time with things. I’m impatient when I’m working with people because everybody’s on a different wavelength of how much they’ve learned and how much they can capacitate. Not to say anything bad about anyone that I’ve worked with. I’ve worked with some crazy freaky people. It’s just hard for me because I struggle with the everlasting artist affect of dissatisfaction.

AS: Now that you’ve released your sophomore album would you say you’ve  found your true sound, or do you think it’s ever-evolving?

AB: It’s ever-evolving. I don’t know if there is a sound to be found. There’s so much out there. I’m just poking around.

AS: I feel like every day there’s a new sub-genre that was birthed out of nowhere.

AB: I have no compass in that regard.

AS: Would you say that your music has some jazz influence?

AB: Yeah definitely. I love jazz.

AS: Do you think that jazz has ‘risen’ and become trendy again?

AB: I don’t think it ever left. It always had an undercurrent. It subtly declined. But with the advent of Kendrick Lamar, Thundercat, and a lot of the West Coast dudes, the sound has been ushered back. I’m really happy that it’s being received. Not just by young people; a lot of people are receiving that music. It’s very musical music. We still have music that is quite the same but in a different package. Those houses that all look the same but are different colors. Hopefully jazz continues to penetrate the mainstream.

AS: I agree. I’ve been listening to a lot of songs with jazz undertones and have noticed a happiness that is brought about in my mood.

AB: There’s something about gospel music, the church, and reverence toward music that jazz adopted. Gospel music is a dedication to music — a dedication to whatever religious entity you would worship. When you get that dedication, you get precision and artistry that’s so much more colorful than mainstream and surface level music. It avenges the feel-good attitude you hear in pop music. It’s good to see that there’s some consciousness.

Gospel music is a dedication to music — a dedication to whatever religious entity you would worship.

AS: How does the creation of music best serve you?

AB: It’s the greatest thing for me. It’s my favorite thing in the world. It’s my source of life.

AS: What advice would you give to someone that’s on their way into pursuing a career in music?

AB: Be nice and be honest. Be prompt with your emails.

AS: My boss will love that response.

Photography by Aubrey Smith.
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