Talking to Brad Weber about Pick a Piper, it’s evident the project is about considerably more than mixing music—though this is what mixing looks like at its finest.
Regularly touring with Caribou—Daniel Victor Snaith’s Juno-winning and Polaris Prize-snagging creation—one might say this is Weber sampling the sound-scape of his life.
While Pick a Piper is technically three people—including high school friends and long-time collaborators Angus Fraser and Dan Roberts—Weber is the one at the ship’s helm, taking a few sounds from one musician and adding a few samples from another friend.
“It all goes through my process because it gives it, kind of, a consistency,” he explained, noting all three play the drums together when playing live and Fraser and Roberts primarily handle the vocals.
Assembling an album that’s heavily dance-influenced, using creative beats and an abundance of synthesizer, the work incorporates solid instrumentation with elements of glockenspiel, flute, and guitar, not to mention guest vocals from members of Ruby Suns, Enon and Brainiac, Born Ruffians and Braids.
The result is an album music writers describe as “poised between the organic and synthetic” and he doesn’t mind admitting he’s out to make as many of the synthesized samples look and sound as though produced on a more traditional instrument, and equally the other way around.
“I try and stay away from genres. It’s important for me to make music that excites me and that I’m excited to hear how people react to it,” he said.
When the show hits the road, this means assembling track after track of samples in order for the stage presentation to resemble a record it took the group five years to generate. The self-titled debut includes strings of contributors and collaborators, Weber’s met and asked for input.
At times, he would give different artists the same basic snippet of music to work on and then wait to see what returned. The offerings were often similar, though could be wildly different, and took time to clip and craft into his own tune sound.
Some samples he created himself.
From working at airport gates while waiting for flights—largely on tour with Caribou—to actually sitting on the plane making music, he found some of the most unlikely places to work. Once his headphones went on, people would leave him to work in quirky silence.
As for the result, is it the dance music with acoustic layers of drums he once envisioned? No.
But then, like Snaith, Weber does not stem from the kind of personal musical traditions that leave one in an easily defined territory.
While Snaith earned a doctoral degree in math in the years before his Juno, Weber said he was more of the attention-deficit type, even shunning music because he didn’t want to practice the piano.
Drums opened the door to the world he now can’t spend enough time in and it’s clear from this album what makes him tick is a beat.
“I think every time I sit down to record a new batch of music, I’m just figuring out what the next album might feel like,” he said.
“I haven’t really finished anything in a while, I’m just enjoying the process.”
Pick a Piper plays Habitat June 28.