With over 1 million monthly streams on Spotify alone, RAC alum Brady Kendall adds to his ever-evolving body of work with a haunting new Alaskan Tapes record For Us Alone.
Rapid Fire with Alaskan Tapes’ Brady Kendall
|Your role in Alaskan Tapes||Musician|
|One piece of gear you can’t live without||Native Instruments Kontakt|
|Favourite “I’m in a session” meal||A big plate of french fries|
|Top three “desert island” albums||The Contortionist: Language, System of a Down: Hypnotize, Stars of the Lid: And Their Refinement of the Decline|
|If you weren’t a musician, you’d be…||An accountant, probably; or maybe a musician’s manager or something.|
|Describe the sound of Alaskan Tapes in three words||Slow, Soft, Melancholic|
Inspiration is a complicated thing. The paths that lead to artistic expression are invariably rife with obstruction, creative cul-de-sacs and unexpected turns. Brady Kendall, the sonic architect behind ambient project Alaskan Tapes, knows this well and pulls inspiration from a range of sources that might come as a surprise to fans of his work. While the lush atmospherics that define an Alaskan Tapes record can be believably sourced to Kendall’s love of literature and fine art, his love of heavy metal drumming, on the other hand, is less obvious given ambient music’s droning, drum-free hallmarks. Like so much great art before it, however, the newest Alaskan Tapes record, For Us Alone, stems from those elusive moments where music “just happens”. We caught up with the prolific RAC alum on the eve of the album’s release for a quick discussion about inspiration, his musical journey, and the process of distilling complex musical ideas into soundscapes captivating and beautiful.
Hailing from the sleepy town of Whitby, Ontario, Brady Kendall’s journey in sound was born out of boredom and sheer necessity. “There wasn’t much to do there other than skateboard and hang out with people,” he tells us, “which is why I got into music. It was something I could do myself and on my own terms. I started drumming and gravitated towards drummers like Jimmy ‘The Rev’ Sullivan from Avenged Sevenfold– drummers who also wrote and composed a lot of their music”.
The magnetic pull towards the compositional elements of music moved Kendall to quick action. “Near the end of high school, I realized that I’d rather be writing and producing music more than anything else”, he says. “I’d stay home on weekends just to get tracks done. It was around then that I thought music would be the best ‘career path’ to take.”
The Alaskan Tapes moniker has its origins in one of Brady’s earlier projects, O S L O, where he repurposed the title of his then-forthcoming Alaskan Tapes EP as his new nom de plume. As Alaskan Tapes, he makes music that is layered, emotionally evocative, and intimate. It’s been featured in the short films of Eliot Rausch, such as Childhood Trauma and Mag Stein, and Rogerio Silva’s ABADDON.
Despite the emotional undertones and complexity in his work, Brady’s attraction to ambient music’s more ethereal and abstract sound stemmed from the genre’s “simplicity.” “It’s not as draining as other music”, he explains. “You’re almost expected to improvise and see what comes your way, which is nice for a multitude of reasons. When I first started writing ambient music,” he continues, “I was inspired by a producer named Owen ‘Owsey’ Ferguson. He wrote these super lush and ambient-inspired downtempo tracks. I aspired to be like him, essentially”.
Regardless of where ambient music falls on the complexity spectrum, Kendall’s ability to distill complex musical ideas into the sweeping abstractions that define his work is not debatable. “I listen to a lot of heavier bands, such as The Dillinger Escape Plan, The Contortionist, and Hail the Sun”, he explains. “Anyone familiar with those bands knows that their music is not exactly simple. Listening to over-complicated music often gives me ideas that I can simplify. I find it to be a nice way to write music”.
In terms of process, Kendall is unhurried, which might surprise listeners accustomed to the steady flow of albums and EPs Alaskan Tapes have released yearly since 2015. “Before I get into the songwriting, I spend a long time thinking about what I want to make before I get going. It allows for an easier place to start in a genre as abstract as ambient”, he says. “If that fails, I’ll start by making a patch and improvising on that, which works wonders– it’s probably how I make most of my music—that, and improvising with the gear itself. Making tapes loops and figuring out a pedal chain is just as important to the process for me”. Unsurprisingly, Kendall feels most at home in the studio: “I don’t perform often”, he continues. “My passion is writing and recording. The studio is where I want to be. Figuring out the best signal chain or mic placement is very satisfying to me. I love it”.
For his more recent work, Brady has been turning to literature, art, and poetry for inspiration. The title of his new record, For Us Alone, borrows from a novel by Chang-rae Lee. “It came from a novel called On Such A Full Sea“, he explains. There was a really great line: ‘The sky sings its chorus of light for us alone’, and it just resonated with me”. Conceptually speaking, For Us Alone is the first time Brady didn’t have a clear-cut inspiration for the album. “It’s more of a collection of the tracks I’ve been writing”, he says. “Normally, I have concepts and notes written out, but this time it just sort of came about naturally”.
With over 1 million monthly streams and counting on Spotify alone, Brady is looking to keep up the pace in 2021. “Sustaining where I’m currently at is a big goal of mine”, he tells us. “I’d love to have this be the long term. I’m hoping to get a few more singles and EPs out. 2020 was a slow year for me, so I’m hoping 2021 will make up for it. There’s no better feeling than finishing a song that you’re proud of and desperately wanting to put it out into the world”.
Illustration by Malaika Astorga