Interview with Chicago's the Burst and Bloom

Born, from a bond, in Chicago

By: Olivia Sisinni

January 16, 2018

"Everything we did would come from a place of simply doing what felt good and avoiding things that didn’t."

The three Chicago natives that comprise Burst and Bloom have been playing together for over 16 years through several different projects. Their self-titled 2016 EP is the culmination of their ongoing artistic growth, and was entirely self-produced. It showcases a band walking the line between alt rock and indie through a tasteful blend of intensity and punch. 

What was your initial motivation to form a band, when you initially started playing?

Adrian- At the point of starting this project I was sure that I was finished with playing in bands. After being in one band for almost 10 years and having that end, then dabbling in some other projects that just never felt the same---I really thought, like, my life as a musician was over. This band wasn’t planned. It grew organically out of the desire to play music and to have it feel like it used to; one last push in me to make something great we could be proud of. The prospects of "no regrets" is far from uncommon, but very fitting in our case. We would play whatever we wanted without discussions of genre or direction. Everything we did would come from a place of simply doing what felt good and avoiding things that didn’t. We just want to make music and memories we are proud of.

Santi- I hadn't played music in over 7 years. I was pushed back into this by family and friends and couldn't be more grateful to them for doing so. Especially my baby brother Sean Casey. 

What events, people, records, feelings inspired your debut self-titled EP?

Adrian- The EP was more of an exercise in seeing what would come out, really. Taking everything we've done so far and making music that we liked and felt good. It was a cathartic release of years of trying to be what we thought people would like, or what people thought was cool. With time, you find out that a lot of that stuff just isn't important and often leaves you feeling less fulfilled than when you started.

Is there something you look for when writing lyrics, like, say, catharsis, personal expression, topicality, or positivity?

Adrian- For me, the most successful method of writing lyrics is to simply let them just fall out. The more I try to write, the further away I get from what feels natural. There is an innate truth to the very first thing that comes out when brain and vocal chords connect. When writing, I try to capture as much of this unplanned-and-in-the-moment content as possible and then go back and try to make something cohesive out of the sometimes utter nonsense that came out initially. The song is then built around this moving puzzle of context and melody. While hugely labor intensive and sometimes mentally and emotionally draining to try and connect these fragmented ideas, there is a sort of visceral fulfillment that comes from decoding your own brain. It definitely is not a method I would quickly recommend to anyone else, but it has proved successful to me as we continue to grow as a band. 

Are there any instruments, pieces of equipment, guitar pedals or musical toys that lately made you rediscover the playful side of creating?

Adrian- A short while into this band's existence, in search of a way to write music or document ideas quickly and easily, I dove head first into the world of digitally modeled instruments. Algorithms designed to recreate real world analog staples such as amplifiers, drums, and effect pedals. For so long musicians, engineers, producers, lovers of music have fought so hard against technology destroying the “soul” of music. I however, have found the technology so liberating and the limitless possibilities to be hugely stimulating to the creative process. I am so quickly able to forego previous limitations and be actively creating; harnessing the creative energy rather than worrying about setting up equipment and only really being able to work while at rehearsal. The technology empowered me as a songwriter to trust what is my head and gave me the tools to make it tangible.

Santi- As a three piece I knew we would have to figure out how to make everything sound HUGE! without it being unnecessary. We wanted people to really feel the music and wonder how we got such interesting sounds. I started building a pedal board which was completely new to me. It became a monster in its own way. Some of the pedals on my board are: Electro-harmonix Nano Pog and the Mel 9, Darkglass Duality Dual Fuzz Engine, Strymon El Capistan dTape echo pedal, and the Earthquaker Devices Fuzz Master General. 

How much of your recording is done at home versus in the studio?

Adrian- I do a ton of demos at home in a 100% digital world and will bring these back to the band as “sketches” of a musical idea. For our band everything is decided in the room together. We may have a general map laid out, but the actual direction of where a song will or won’t go happens when we play live together. There is no substitute for feeding off the energy of each person in the bands interpretation of a piece of music. I am never not in awe at the way my bandmates take in, process, and elevate any riff or piece of music I bring them. A lot of these recordings never make it out of the writing process however as we have a lot of pride in the way the music sounds and is heard. We prefer to do recording for anything we plan to release at a traditional studio such as Bricktop, or Electrical Audio so we can really have full control of the sonic scope of the finished product.

Is there a person outside the band that's been important in perfecting your recorded and/or live sound? 

Adrian- Without a doubt it has been our working with Sean O’Keefe and Pete Grossman. We first worked with Pete on our EP, which was initially just slated to be a set of demo recordings. Pete was someone we trusted to act as a gatekeeper of sorts for what was good and bad. These sessions really helped to form our initial vision of what this band was/could be, and built the confidence that what we were doing musically was more than we hoped; there was something more there. Subsequently, embarking on what will eventually be our debut full length with Sean O’Keefe has been much more of a push to see just how far we can take things; no idea is too large. He is there every step of the process to take whatever sound or idea we have in our head and capture it into the cohesive reality of a song. With his pedigree of working with amazing bands that we grew up loving, it really pushes us to expand our limits and be the best versions of ourselves on every new song we write.

What other Chicago artists are you enjoying these days? 

Here are a few:

Boss Fight: https://bossfightchicago.bandcamp.com

Mollow: https://www.facebook.com/mollowchicago/

Coaster: https://coastertheband.bandcamp.com

Even Thieves: http://eventhieves.com

Hidden Hospitals: http://www.hiddenhospitals.com

Walrus: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/twenty-thousand-leagues/id300588871