Interview: Bryan Ellis
Thu, 16 Jan 2014 09:59:18
Cloud of Unknowing (SoundCloud link) envelopes listeners almost immediately. Bryan Ellis architects a hazy and hypnotic amalgam of influences that's instantly unforgettable. The EP also effectively opens up the gateway into his world, and it's a wonderful and a wild one at that.
In this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino, Bryan Ellis allows everyone deep inside the Cloud of Unknowing.
What ties Cloud of Unknowing together for you? It feels like a cohesive journey.
I'm really glad that you said that because cohesiveness was perhaps missing for me over the course of most of my musical journey, and it just started clicking at one point. It was this project that did it. For me, it wasn't so much about the music. It's about my own resonance. It comes down to whether I'm in that same state of openness when I'm writing or singing. When I am, it really doesn't matter what the notes are and the music is. When you do listen, each one of the tracks is drastically different musically. I tend to really vary my approach even on every song because I'm really not following any guide besides a sense. It's just a small feeling I try to stay on top of. With this project, we pretty much did most of these songs in two or three days. I got in with a couple of my good friends, and it just came to life.
What did you capture during those few days? What made everything roll?
It's a shared openness. To me, that's what makes anything roll. There's real beauty in contrast. I do think it's tension that makes everything dance and move the way it does. When you find people gathering together that have an openness towards whatever tension might arise as well as any harmony that might take place, you find yourself in a space where you can really capitalize on those moments. It's not any one thing anybody is looking to accomplish. We're just looking to feel something validating in whatever it is. For me, again, it's that shared openness. That's what guides everything. That's what guided us when we made this music. It's a willingness to release and not hold on to anything. Then, we watched this project formulate itself. I really like to let music make itself, and I try to stay out of the way the best I can.
So you feel that inspiration spoke through?
That's what makes something feel good to me. It's letting it come through and go out the other end. It's the flow and capitalizing on the wave.
What's the story behind "Watch When You Fall"?
It sums up the meat-and-potatoes of life for me. Ambitions are so hard to justify when we don't know what exactly they're for, why we want to attain our dreams, and anything that they are. I feel like it's so easy to get caught in a far off result or some end game. Really, where I've found anything powerful or freeing in my life has been in the moments I've fallen off whatever I built myself on to or whatever I was built up into by those around me. It's when I fall down from whatever I've let myself become that I really find something. That's when I find more of an ability to grab on to what we're all trying to grab on to—some sense of knowingness and certainty in a world where there's obviously none of that. "Watch When You Fall" is about looking. It's about witnessing those moments when you're most vulnerable. Either your heart's been ripped open or it's mind, body, or soul that's aching. Those are the times when you can actually be most attentive. As opposed to looking for distractions or a way to take our mind elsewhere or escape. To me, it's about digging into whatever we want to get out of. That's what the song represents for me.
Which song from the album resonates the most at the moment?
Maybe "Trouble"…it's not necessarily a musical journey at all. It's simplified and simple in what it is, but it carries my whole approach. It carries the tuning I'm always trying to adjust to. It's that which is put in front of us. It feels like it's only a small aspect of what we are. We want to find more of what's there. That song is the ups and downs. Every time I've invested too much in this idea, if it's limiting for others, the idea just deconstructs. So, it's really making that statement. It's saying, "Trouble has no effect on me when I'm open and in this place of willingness for it".
Is it important for you to conjure imagery with the songs?
I never really considered that until more recently in my life, but my music always tends to take an atmospheric approach. I feel like I'm making a soundtrack to life in a sense when a song is coming out. My inspirations tend to not actually be musical at all. I haven't had a desire to explore music in quite a long time to be honest just because I'm always a bit more fascinated with something else. To me, music is more of a language that I prefer to go to in order to translate the things I don't know how to translate. What I'm translating are really the things that have taken place outside of music because that's where all of the magic is for me. It's in what's going on outside of just this form of expression. Absolutely, it's definitely movies, especially during times when I want to lay back. Reading would have to be the biggest factor for me. I consumed as many books as I could for many years.
What would be the cinematic equivalent of the EP?
Maybe The Matrix! It may seem a bit cliché, but the storyline and what The Matrix represents—awakening to a greater reality than what's apparent is really what The Cloud of Unknowing is. It's about looking at the veil and seeing that it is just a veil. There's a world of mystery and miracle. If we can see that it is just a cloud—this transparent thing that's standing in between us, and there's an expanded and heightened reality. Seeing what it is, you're able to go beyond it. For me, the album is about seeing things for what they are or at least what they were at the time I was expressing them.
Have you heard Bryan Ellis? Be sure to check out Bryan's website!