Busty and the Bass; the 9 piece electro-soul hip hop band from Montreal performed to a sold out crowd in Montreal at the end of January amongst many other sold out shows. I spoke with Milo Johnson (bass player) about their touring experience so far, how the writing process works, how Montreal has influenced the band's music and much more!
Tonight is sold out, has any other shows been sold out so far?
Yeah, we sold out the Danforth in Toronto which was awesome. Its nice, our fans are generally late to buying tickets so we’re slowly training them to buy before. Normally how our shows will go for us is like the ticket sales will spike 2 days before and sell out the day before or the day of, we’re slowly moving it to 6 days beforehand. Pretty happy about that.
How has the whole tour been so far?
Its been great! Its tough to say what tour we’re actually on because we did a bunch in November/December, then took a pause for the holidays and now this. It doesn’t feel like tour technically but it sort of still is. But its been amazing!
You guys were in Europe for a bit, how was that experience?
It was great! The way that I process our Europe stuff- as I was talking to people about what my favourite things were I realized that my two favourite places we’re the places where we spent to most time off. So that happened to be Amsterdam and Hamburg over the couple of times we’ve been to Europe. Its always such an experience going somewhere and just getting to feel like you’re traveling rather than just cramming yourself inside of a van. Being able to see Amsterdam and Germany and the rest of the Netherlands and France is such a treat. Especially getting it done technically for work so its been great and to see audiences come out over there in places that I never thought we’d be going to, is very rewarding.
You guys have been touring so much, do you have any stand out tour stories?
I mean I’m gonna talk about one thing that I’m stoked about; its when we were in Amsterdam. It was my birthday on the 11 of October and we had a red eye flight that night-so we get in morning of the 12, we flew into Brussels and went to Amsterdam. We had a great time in Amsterdam the last time we were there because we had 6 days between our second to last and last show so we really got in there, and yeah we did the Amsterdam thing, we were chilling on the canal having a beer at the end of the night and we were like ‘we should film a video on the canal’ and we ended up renting from a sketchy boat rental company and it all came together in the course of one conversation and between soundcheck and the show the next day. It was cool, we really made the most of the time there.
This past summer you guys opened for Anderson .Paak at the Jazz Festival, how was that?
It was amazing. I had been listening to him forever, like since the first album he put out and we, as a band are very influenced by the production style and musically where he’s taken that blend of genres and we had done a video; like the Anderson .Paak Mix maybe 3 months before we found out we were opening for his at Jazz fest. So that would very rewarding, going from being influenced by him, making that video and putting real work into that video and having that happen is super rewarding.
Did you guys meet him?
One of our guys did. You know, you don’t want to be too fanboy but our guitar player Louis, a woman he worked with in L.A is actually his backup singer, she wasn’t there on that specific show but he had that in so we let him do his thing.
Is there any album that made you want to become a musician?
It's interesting actually, I wasn’t super into music before I started playing, like it wasn’t as if I was an avid music consumer before I started playing because I started playing cello when I was 9 and then I played electric bass when I was 13. I think Ray Charles, my parents played him for me when I was like 3 and that definitely has some very serious roots in my approach and general vibe towards all things music. Once I started playing bass I just got completely emerged in the whole motown world.
You guys are 9 in the band, how does the writing process work out?
Its constantly evolving and as we become better songwriters, better producers and better arrangers, people have sort of found their niche within the whole process. The way that I look at it is like directing a movie. There’s all the different departments and it goes from the initial idea, to a song- like the song has been written but you don’t know what the arrangement is. Then we call it the storyboarding process where we take the song and flesh out the arrangement, flesh out the energy flow and you take that to a small group of the band and you start recording and layer up. Then slowly that cycles around and feeds into itself. I think everybody touches it at different parts of the process which is really cool, I think it gives our music the vibe that it has.
What was the most difficult thing making the album?
Finishing it. Its tough because we didn’t do it on a huge budget and when you have to make creative decisions based on limited resources it kind of puts a bunch of pressure like ‘oh fuck it has to be these two songs’ and just those constraints. You definitely have to prioritize creatively and that, for me is something to build out of, you want to make it so people can constantly be working on stuff and you have some limitations but you give people so much work with within those limitations and honestly that just comes with experience in the studio and we’re moving towards there.
Since your sound is different than other music that is being put out right now, how have people reacted to it?
I think we’re shooting for timeless and I think it's the vibe that allows someone to bring their parents or grand parents to the show and know that they’re gonna like it but also be able to bring their friends. That’s something that we’re very proud of, that’s something you want to build around and I think we are doing that and as we get more experience, every part of the creative writing, production, recording process that’s just going to continue.
Busty and the Bass at the Mile Ex End Festival
What does Uncommon Good mean to you? In terms of the title and the whole album itself
To me personally, it kind of came from a place of finding unintended connection through music. I think that’s the story of us as a group and what we aim to provide to our audiences. You get a bunch of people in a place they never thought they would be and who get to connect in a way that they didn’t expect. For us, as a group coming from all over Canada and the States and connecting in a way that was unexpected and took a while to actually happen, so yeah that’s what it is for me.
I want to talk about two songs on the album, so how they came about. The first one is Memories and Melodies
Evan wrote that one, I don’t know he made a demo and I think it was coming from a place listening to songs from when he was younger and being reminded of certain nostalgic things and also comparing that to a lot of the garbage that you hear on the radio nowadays. Yeah, I didn’t write that one so I couldn’t speak more on it but that’s the general theme.
What’s one that you wrote?
Um, Nick and I, the singer, we did Up Top and Things Change. Those are the main two that we did and I worked on Common Ground as well, I’m missing a few but yeah.
Alright, tell me a bit about Up Top then
Sure! So that one, we were at Nick’s and he had the groove and a bit of the melody and then we stumbled upon the concept of writing about his parents first date. For their first date, his dad has his pilots license and he took his mom flying which is just a ridiculous thing to try to pull of. We just took that as a base concept and wrote around that.
What’s your favourite song on the album?
I like Dead Poet. That one is very powerful and I think very encompassing of what we do in a sense that we hadn’t tried to do that before and I’m very happy with how that turned out.
To finish, how has Montreal influenced your music?
The interesting thing is that Montreal as a city is very reflective of the vibe we have as a band. Its people from all over with different backgrounds and different influences coming together in a place where they’re kind of all transplants, like obviously not everyone is a transplant in Montreal but I think there’s a huge part of the creative community, like everyone is here and they live here but they don’t necessarily feel like they’re from here. For us-none of us are from Montreal but Montreal is our home and I think that’s very exciting trying to find where you fit into the creative landscape, where you fit in the cultural scene and what environment you’re trying to build and who you’re trying to connect with. I think for us that’s been such an incredible process as a band and also as a big band and as a big band of non-Montrealers trying to find their home here.
That’s so crazy how none of you are from here but everything is here
Yeah, it's interesting! And figuring out how we are misfit cultural citizens. Its great and I think people here can take risks because the cost of living is so comfortable, it's not outlandish for someone working freelance to have a huge studio and for us it's not outlandish for this many guys trying to make a living as musicians. As we slowly achieve more, its opened up more doors and we’re able to start building what we had planned on but in a much lower risk environment than in most other cities and for us that’s the most important thing; just having the space and resources to create and experiment.