Bassist for acclaimed Toronto jazz-based act knows what it takes to make a playlist for the sizzling months of the year.
S’all good, man.
Life in the world of Canadian electro-jazz oddballs BADBADNOTGOOD continues to fall in the win column — or at very least the-opportunity-to-win column.
The Toronto act, known for their acclaimed freeform, far-out, headhop atmospherics and their work with some of rap’s biggest names (Kendrick Lamar, Odd Future, Danny Brown) — not to mention a Snoop Dogg reworking of their tune Lavender and the controversial video that the Dogg dropped for it — are celebrating another accolade.
They were honoured two weeks ago with a 2017 Polaris Music Prize shortlist spot for their latest release IV, to go along with their 2015 placing on the list of 10 for their collaboration with Ghostface Killah titled Sour Soul.
“It’s pretty crazy,” admits bassist Chester Hansen. “To be nominated for the Polaris Prize a couple years ago and this year for our own album, it’s incredible.”
The quartet — which also features Matthew A. Tavares, Alexander Sowinski and Leland Whitty — was also recently bestowed with another honour, which was the opportunity to contribute an album to the UK album series Late Night Tales. The catalogue features popular acts curating and remixing some of their favourite tunes for moody, wee-hour listening. Other bands and artists who’ve offered up some of the previous 45 instalments include Franz Ferdinand, Belle and Sebastian, Fatboy Slim, Air, The Flaming Lips, Bonobo, Arctic Monkeys and MGMT — so, yeah, they’re in pretty good company.
Their entry, which is released July 28, features some of their friends, faves and biggest influences including tracks by a diverse crew including Stereolab, the Beach Boys, Boards of Canada, Grady Tate and an exclusive spoken-word cut by Lydia Lunch.
Fans of the series before they were contacted to do it, they threw themselves headlong into it.
“We were really, really thrilled about it, and we spent awhile digging through our collective stuff that we listen to,” Hansen says.
“We probably submitted at least 50 or 60 songs, but because of rights, and whatever they thought would be the best fit, they narrowed it down to those …
“And, yeah, it was a really cool experience and I’m glad we got to promote some of that music because some of it I feel is pretty under the radar,” he says, pointing specifically to NYC composer and pianist Steve Kuhn’s The Meaning of Love, which he thinks “informed a lot of how we wrote and played our music after we heard it. We definitely wrote some songs that were heavily influenced by that.
“I think every song has had some form of influence on us or is something that we like.”
Now, though, the band — minus keyboardist Tavares, who is focussing on solo stuff and recharging his batteries, but still very much a part of BADBADNOTGOOD; replaced for touring purposes these days by pal James Hill — need to focus on the sunshine.
They’re on the lineup for a number of summer festivals, including the Calgary Folk Music Festival, where they’ll perform a Saturday show (albeit on the Twilight Stage) and an afternoon workshop.
As to whether or not they tailor their sets for the heat-fuelled audience in front of them, Hansen says it doesn’t differ that much, but perhaps subconsciously, and possibly in the manner in which they feed off of that crowd.
“Depending on the atmosphere we end up playing the songs differently, like we could jam on certain parts for two or three minutes, whereas on the record they might be just a short little thing,” he says. “Lately we’ve just been trying to be free with it and go where the music takes us.”
But that doesn’t mean Hansen isn’t a fan of the strictly summer songbook, as he has a number of ideas of what it takes to make music-lovers move and have fun in the sun.
“I have trouble saying specific songs, but in a general sense Brazilian music is amazing for summer, I love listening to the Beach Boys … just whatever puts you in a good mood or helps you survive the event you’re at or your backyard or wherever you’re enjoying the sun,” he says.
So, although it was something of a chore to whittle it down to a tidy number and name names, we asked Hansen to offer us an abbreviated list of his winningest summer jams before BADBADNOTGOOD head to town to help festivalgoers make the most of this July heatwave.
Marcos Valle — Estrelar (1982)
“Brazilian music in general is just so happy and seems perfect for summer, obviously because of the weather and culture there — everyone’s on the beach all the time, it really just feels happy. But Marcos Valle has this song Estrelar, which is just this super-fun, boogie kind of jam. It’s really awesome.”
Ned Doheny — What Cha’ Gonna Do For Me (1981)
“He’s a singer-songwriter from L.A. that put out a bunch of music in the ’70s and recently has been touring again and his stuff has been reissued over the last couple of years. He did a lot of work with the guys from Average White Band … and wrote some stuff for Chaka Khan and other people, and his music is really, really fun.
“He wrote this song called Whatcha Gonna Do For Me, which is amazing. Chaka Khan actually covered it and made it famous, but his version is really, really cool as well.”
Evelyn “Champagne” King — Love Come Down (1982)
“This is the first song I actually should have said. I heard this song in the car yesterday … It’s a pretty popular song, I think, but I heard it and I recognized it and I had to google it because I didn’t know the title or who the artist was. And it’s also just a really fun jam.”
BADBADNOTGOOD perform Saturday, July 29 at the Calgary Folk Music Festival on Prince’s Island Park. For tickets and more information please click here.
Mike Bell has been covering the Calgary music scene for the past 25 years with publications such as VOX, Fast Forward, the Calgary Sun and, most recently, the Calgary Herald. He is currently the music writer and content editor for theYYSCENE.ca. Follow him on Twitter/@mrbell_23 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.