Singer Sebastian Elliott discusses the history of the band, and the making of the new album, Redemption.
By Pete Pardo
Sea of Tranquility: How did the band get together initially, leading up to the recording of the Shadows cassette?
Sebastian Elliott: In the early 90’s, I was finishing study in psychology at New York University, and felt a tremendous hesitancy towards continuing my education directly after college, with specific regards to engaging in research at the PHD level. Having abandoned music altogether after a miserable year at the New England Conservatory three years before, I decided to give music another shot and began to search for musicians through classified ads in several local music papers. I received hundreds of tapes over the course of a year, but the only ad that I responded to was Vora’s search for a singer. After meeting Vora, I knew that I had met someone special that shared the vision to lead me back into the depths. We were originally conceived as a studio project, our sessions mainly consisting of writing material, developing lyrical concepts, and committing them to tape, some of which would appear on the shadows EP.
SoT: What are the musical influences of the band?
S.E.: Animated television theme songs, goth, industrial, nursery rhymes, progressive metal, darkwave, classical, and progressive trance – generally, I’m a fan of anything with dense programming, multi-layered composition, distinct melody and/or of a darker nature. Although these sub-genres have certainly influenced the Braindance sound, I’m still of the belief that a definitive sound or image is worthless if good songwriting is not present. Our approach is ‘a good song is a good song’, whether it’s ska or trance or power metal, approaching melody in much the same way that pop songwriters do – it is simply the format that is different. Like ‘N Sync, but very, very, evil…
SoT: Fear Itself was very well received-how did that CD affect the band as far as setting a plan for the future?
S.E.: We’ve been able to finance our grandchildren’s education and look sharp whilst doing it.
SoT: Redemption took a long time to put together. Can you describe some of the events that took place that delayed its release?
S.E.: As you may already know, Braindance has always been technically an unsigned act, and thus, Progressive Darkwave Recordings functions as a record label and management in name only. Except for a number of individuals who lend their talents because they believe in the project, Braindance is self-produced – we’ve been blessed with the learning of this wonderful business as we go. I feel very fortunate to have had so many people pick up on what we’re doing, and purchased our releases, but doing it by yourself takes a strong toll, especially financially. We wrote and subsequently tracked the album over the course of 1998, and into 1999. Unfortunately, several tragedies would follow that prevented Redemption from being released as scheduled, including parting ways with long-term drummer Notorious, keyboardist/backing vocalist Robynne Naylor, bassist Andy Bunk, and more than a handful of flaky investors, production houses, and labels for the CD’s release. Then there was the explosion at the factory resulting in genetic mutation…
SoT: It's obvious you are all big movie buffs (there are lots of clips from great films like Apocalypse Now, Glengarry Glen Ross, Star Wars, Swimming With Sharks, etc..)-Are there particular films that interest you, such as sci-fi, horror, or comedy?
S.E.: We’re tremendous fans of science fiction, fantasy adventure and comic art - any actor associated with laser cannons or some variation thereof is certainly at the top of my list.
SoT: What is the underground music scene like in New York City? Do you get the opportunity to play any live gigs throughout the course of the year?
S.E.: We’ve been quite removed from the underground scene for quite some time now, after burning ourselves out year after year in support of both Shadows and Fear Itself. However, we have a new band in place for live performances in support of Redemption, consisting of new bassist David z, drummer Jofu, and keyboardist Constantin V.
SoT: Has the band had any major label interest?
S.E: We’ve had limited dealings with limited companies with limited integrity and limited dealings with limited companies with limited funds, but nothing substantial. I would be lying if I told you that I didn’t want large quantities of people to hear our music. However, no matter how many fans, DJ’s and journalists champion the project, labels have generally ignored us. What we do frightens labels and frightens persons who are responsible for financial return within those labels. In fact, independent labels as well as majors have risk to contend with. In order for a label to dump a heap of cash on you, they’ve got to be sure that your music has succeeded in other realms – their competitor must have had one of you, and have done rather well with them. Independent labels, for the most part, cater to one form of music, or one specific genre or sub-genre and generally operate no differently – as a business. Because what we do crosses a few different sub-genres, there is no ‘niche’ for us, even in the independent (‘underground’) world, which prides itself on promoting new, exciting, underground music.
SoT: Where do you get your inspiration for the lyrics?
S.E.: I believe in a good measure of ambiguity when writing lyrics. Naturally, the themes have specific meanings for me, but I try not to assign definitive conceptual values to phrases, because I think listening should be somewhat interactive. Insofar as everyone’s experiences are different, so should their interpretations be. Whereas I might see despair and desolation, someone else might see cheese sticks.
SoT: What does the future of Braindance look like?
S.E.: Chewy, inviting, and slightly pungent, not unlike a crustacean embedded soft flour tortilla.