New Jersey based bassist Brett Bamberger cut his teeth playing in the band The Postman Syndrome, a group which existed from 1996-2005 and released one album, the influential Terraforming in 2002. The Postman Syndrome eventually morphed into not one but two different bands, Day Without Dawn and East of The Wall with Brett holding down the bottom end in each outfit.
Day Without Dawn existed for just two years but in that time period they managed to release both an EP plus a full length album entitled Understanding Consequences which was completed in 2008 after the bands demise. Bamberger put together East Of the Wall around the same time as an instrumental side project and to date that band has also released an EP, plus a killer album called Farmer's Almanac which shifts back and forth between moments of beautifully crushing brutality and quieter introspective passages.
I recently checked in with Brett to discuss all of these projects plus yet another new band that he's put together that he'll be venturing into the studio with shortly called Biclops. With all of these various bands on the go (The Postman Syndrome is gearing up once again) I'm not sure when this dude even has time to sleep, but he was more than happy to take time out of his day to give me the low down on each band, not to mention he revealed that 2009 could be a career changing year for him and his band mates. Read on for Sea of Tranquility Staff Writer Ryan Spark's complete interview with Brett to find out more.
Sot: East of The Wall which was born out of a band called The Postman Syndrome consists of including yourself three ex-members of that band. So what would you say are the obvious or main differences that set East of The Wall apart from Postman?
Brett: Well Postman was five piece with three guitar players and I was getting the urge to do a little something different. At our shows I was always running into this one kid Jeff (Speidell) and I always thought he was a major fucking weirdo because his whole demeanor was just outrageous. He always told me that he played, and he worked at a guitar shop that I used to go to all the time, so I wanted to find out what this dude was all about. I told him I was looking into starting something new and I asked him if he wanted to get together and he was like "Yeah totally". I guess he really liked Postman at the time. I told him I had a drummer Mike Somers lined up and he said "Oh that's your old drummer" because Mike wasn't playing with us at the time, we had already switched to Seth Rheam. So Mike was willing and available and not playing any music. He had pretty much quit the band to get married and pursue his career but as of right now he's on a totally different game plan which is good because he plays a lot with us. We started playing as a three piece and began writing stuff just to get something different because I wanted to go all instrumental. It progressed very well; we had good writing and good chemistry. We've been having a lot of fun and the shows are fuckin' awesome. After we put out the first EP Matt Lupo, who also in that span of the development of East Of The Wall, had quit the Postman Syndrome to do his own thing. We changed the name of Postman Syndrome to Day Without Dawn and we were progressing with that band. At one point Matt said "I want to join your band" and he gave us our EP but he put it in Pro Tools and recorded his own parts over it. Matt is the most talented person that I've ever worked with in my life so I knew he would bring something good to the table. Once we heard his parts, it was a lot richer and sounded a lot cooler, so we told him to get on board. Then we started writing for Farmer's Almanac and the whole writing process was a lot more organic and spontaneous than the Postman Syndrome or Day Without Dawn, which is more… I don't want to say tedious, but tedious in a good way because it was really rewarding, whereas the material with East of The Wall just kind of flowed out.
Sot: Explain the birthing process of how these songs came about. Were they born out of spontaneous jams or was the material written in advance?
Brett: A lot of the songs were ideas brought in from home. Once we brought in an idea we'd start running with it and shit just started happening as we were writing it. Nothing was based off a jam in our space, it was always an idea brought in and then everyone's collaborative effort would just churn out a song one at a time.
Sot: These four outfits including your newest project Biclops really blurs the lines between all of these bands because you're all working collectively so the same musicians are the unifying thread running through all of these projects.
Brett: Yeah the dichotomy and sort of weird lineage that's associated with it pretty much came down to one simple thing and that's who wants to tour and who doesn't. East of The Wall was formed as a side project, with the idea of not touring too far from home and once Matt joined the band that just solidified that. I was at the time the only common ground between the two different projects. Day Without Dawn and Biclops were based around the sole principle that we want to do this full time and support it out on the road. Whereas East of The Wall will put out records and we'll do our thing and play shows when we can but it wont be like we'll be hitting the road for a couple of months. Matt has a mortgage and he's probably going to be starting a family pretty soon you know what I mean? So that was the dividing line between the two.
Sot: Farmer's Almanac is a killer album that careens back and forth between crushingly heavy, intricate sections to distinctly quieter, more melodic passages. There are a lot of light and shade elements or tension and release. Was that the intention going in to aim for that balance or is that just the way the material developed?
Brett: I think what you're getting as a final result is a really just us playing. I know we have a certain writing style and you can hear that in the material. A lot of Farmer's Almanac was written with Jeff Spidell and then after he quit the band Kevin Conaway stepped in and put his own spin on things. When we were creating this the idea was to make it heavy and moody and melodic at times. It's weird because when Kevin came in the material got a lot heavier. We've got a split coming up with Rosetta and that stuff is a little heavier. Even the stuff we've written since is heavier, so we're just going to write what everyone's styles combined will produce. There's no real intention we just want to make the music that comes naturally for us.
Sot: When you're writing how do you decide what material will be for what project?
Brett: It's weird because Kevin and I both play- Kevin jumped on board for East of The Wall and then with Biclops, the guy Dan Brownridge who replaced Jim Stang in Day Without Dawn, if you can still follow me, Dan told us he was going to have a baby and we said that didn't really follow the plan with what this band was all about, so we had to make a switch. I asked Kev right away if he wanted to step up to tour and do this and he was totally into it. The fact that he and I are in both bands - I do a lot of riffing at home but it just depends on which band needs to get stuff done you know what I mean? Kevin has his own way of writing and his own style and the last song on Farmer's Almanac "I Am Crying Nonstop Hysterically" pretty much came from him just sitting on the couch for forty minutes with these ten riffs. We took them into the studio and this is when the dude really blew us away because the first song we wrote collectively with him in the lineup was "Winter Breath" That was the first song written with the 'final' lineup of East of The Wall. I think we did one or two more tacks and then he came in with "I Am Crying Nonstop Hysterically" with these riffs that were miles long. He had a dynamic lined up but we pretty much took that and wrote our own lines over his stuff and the results came out as that track. I think that track stands as a starting point of where we've eventually ended up today with all the new material that you haven't heard.
Sot: That track was like a springboard for the band.
Brett: Yeah pretty much. I'll give it that. It's a lot more different and with the new stuff we're not all that moody anymore. Matt was saying that he wanted to get a little moodier and the reason why he joined the band in the first place was because he liked the EP so much [laughing]. Even yesterday I was riffing in my room and working on something a little softer that maybe we can use, just to bring back a bit of that older sound I guess. So maybe we're going to make a conscious effort to do that on these next couple of songs that we're working on towards our next record.
Sot: It's hard to pick a favorite track on this disc. It all flows together with a remarkable amount of cohesiveness and because of that it's an album that you can really play from beginning to end.
Brett: Yeah that's we were aiming for and we knew that we could get it, just because of the way we had mapped out our sets, it just flowed really well. So when it came time to cut the track order and put it all together to make it more cohesive, we just sat down and thought about what made the most sense to us.
Sot: One track which stands out is "Unwanted Guest I" which features among other things a trumpet solo. It gives things a different flavor. Who played that?
Brett: That's Matt for you. He sang and played guitar in Postman and now he plays guitar in East of The Wall. Pretty much anytime you hear any trumpet shit it's Matt. We'll track the stuff and he'll just go in and we'll say "Yeah go have fun" and he'll come out with some great trumpet stuff. He's got great compositional sense and the way his brain works in that regard is very impressive.
Sot: Colin Marsten (Dysrhythmia, Behold… The Arctopus) recorded Farmer's Almanac at his studio. What was the experience like working with Colin and had you worked with him prior?
Brett: No this was the first time. After we made the record all the guys in the band were saying how good the fucking bass sounded, then they realized why I had picked Colin, because he's a bass player [laughing]. So I had set that up purely for selfish reasons. I love the stuff the stuff that Colin writes as well as his production work. I had heard from the guys in Roseta that he was doing studio work so I said "Fuck that's the guy I want to do my record." He blows me away, he's super talented. The guy is a virtuoso and working with him was a total breeze because he let us get the live sound and really just let us be ourselves. He didn't produce us hard at all. There were times where I was like "Dude I don't know about that take" and he was like "No it's fine" [laughing] It's the opposite working with Chris (Alfiano) from Biclops because when I'm working with him he produces me real hard. He's very particular and he likes things a certain way. It's just very different and a lot freer working with Colin. I'm not saying I like one or the other better, they're just different.
Sot: The Postman Syndrome ran for almost ten years and spawned not only East Of the Wall but another short lived project Day Without Dawn. Now as you mentioned you are also involved in Biclops which I see has live dates lined up and also plans to record it's first album. To make things even more confusing I understand you're also planning on reconvening with Postman, members minus Jim Stang to record some new material is that right?
Brett: All that is true.
Sot: Things have kind of come full circle.
Brett: Yeah that's true. The magic words that people seem to joke about are the Postman Syndrome. People have held on to that record I don't know why. It's a good record but a lot of people say "Oh that's the best record, blah, blah, blah". I'm like "We were fuckin' kids when we wrote it" and what we were then is so different than what we are now. However, we're still sitting on a full album in demo form that never got released, so we're going to put that out later this year and get together as a five piece and write some new stuff and see what type of response we get from it. All of us, the two bands rehearse in the same room and we're all good friends so it won't be a problem getting together. When we do that we'll put East of The Wall and Biclops on the backburner a little bit so we schedule some time together just to write and record this new material and see what comes out of it. I'm pretty excited about it, the only one missing is Jim Stang but he's pretty much just dropped off the face of the earth, sold all his gear and doesn't play anymore.
Sot: As you mentioned the second Postman album was written but wasn't recorded so does it feel like there's a bit of unfinished business there?
Brett: It's all recorded in demo form and we've got so much material that we're throwing shit out I think, but don't hold me to that. There's unfinished business with it yeah. Chris and Matt are finishing up the business that was left unfinished I guess. Chris got wicked with Pro Tools so I've got no doubt in my mind that he's going to jazz it up and make it sound acceptable. Are you familiar with the Day Without Dawn record Understanding Consequences?
Brett: Those were all fucking demos straight up. He jazzed those up and it turned out pretty good.
Sot: Where did the name Biclops come from?
Brett: Oh man! [laughing] Biclops as it came to be almost didn't exist because we lost Jim when he wasn't interested in touring anymore, so we parted ways. We eventually found a new guy long so long afterwards that we had almost given up playing together. I think it just came down to us being wasted in our kitchen, because we all live together. It's just us being ourselves, being assholes. It was between Biclops and Full Cardio Deck and I think one more. It was the product of alcohol.
Sot: As a bass player who do you draw your inspiration from?
Brett: It's really hard to say to be honest with you because I don't know how to play anybody's songs except for my own. I've never really had any interest in trying to sit down and figure out other peoples stuff, and I've always wanted to do my own thing. I work a lot and I do a lot of other stuff on the side. When I get behind the wheel of my instrument I just want to be me. I don't have a lot of time to look up other stuff. I'm just more into chord theory and the sounds that I can make. I like tons of bands but it's really too hard to pinpoint. I probably listen to music about two hours a day on my drive to work and on my way home, then on the way to the studio and on the way home from the studio. I only listen to music in the car because at home I'm either sleeping or behind my instrument. The party's over, we're working and pretty much just doing what we want to do with music.
Sot: Did you take lessons or are you self taught?
Brett: I took lessons a really long time ago, maybe when I was like thirteen or something and I'm twenty seven now. I probably took about seven months of lessons all together. I stepped up the lessons when I was twenty one when Terraforming came out just because I wanted to advance on my instrument. I had pretty much quit drinking and I broke up with my girlfriend and I just sat in my room and played bass for hours and hours and hours every day for about a year and half. Pretty much all I did was play bass and go skateboarding and I got all I could out of that.
Sot: So tell me how 2009 is shaping up for you and the various different projects.
Brett: We'll all probably quit our instruments and sniff cocaine [laughing]. I see a bright future in cocaine and we'll probably be prostituting ourselves out as well so that we can make a little extra cash so we can sniff it up our noses [laughing]. We've got a lot going on, both bands are writing super heavy and both bands have studio time and releases lined up. We've been doing weekly updates on the Biclops page and people seem to be biting on that. We're going to be putting up material from both bands just to keep everybody up on what's coming out of our collective. We're booking a lot of shows and once this record- if anybody record label wise takes on this record, then we'll be getting as much as we can out of that and touring as hard as we can off of it. If nobody picks it up we're still going to be touring a lot and we'll see what comes out of it. The idea is to put it out and have some distribution behind us so we can have a bit of an easier time getting on bigger and better tours. We've all just come to the conclusion that shit doesn't happen unless you make it happen. We've all eaten enough shit and we're all willing to eat shit and put as much time and money that we have to in order to make it happen. As anybody who's a musician knows there's a lot of time and money that goes into making the dream come true.
(Click here to read our review of Farmer's Almanac)