Bunny Brown
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Bunny Brown

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Introspective tunesmith Bunny Brown exemplifies the virtues of a free-for-all like North By Northeast. Intensely independent, originally small-town based - and not exactly a household name - Brown’s one of those talents who probably wouldn’t get to shine without the NXNE spotlight.

She’s an artist who likes to be left alone. You can tell by her disarmingly honest reflections, which are carried by crafty melodies and vocals that manage to convey both folksy charm and edgy attitude. This stuff sneaks right up on you.

“I’m fascinated by the psychological approach,” says Brown, formerly of the St. Catharines-based duo Happy As Hell. “It’s the model we use to solve our systems and examine ourselves. I found a used psychology text and was amazed that it contained homilies of the future. In the 30s they used to say, ‘Let a smile be your umbrella.’ But psychology gives us the kind of homilies we might see on packages of tea 30 years from now.”

Spoken like someone who is curious about ideas. Listen to her talk - or check out song titles like Black Hole Theory and Diseases Of Imagination (from the EP Meet Bunny Brown) - and you get the sense that she spends a lot of her time contemplating ways to make sense of the world. In music, Brown has found what she’s looking for. “I always sang. When I was six I’d go out and swing on the swings for hours and just sing. It wasn’t even anything I thought anybody did professionally. Then I started getting interested in pop songs. Then I liked Elvis Costello or anyone who was an independent thinker, who’s passionate.”

Brown says her musical obsessions center less around performance and more on making her records her way, without the constraints of a controlling label or producer. Does that make her nervous about Saturday’s NXNE appearance? “Life itself makes me nervous,” she admits. “But I do like performing. It’s everything attached to it - the energy output that goes into organizing a gig, the money outlay, or worrying about whether anybody’s going to show up - that gets to me.

“But I always think positively about playing live. It’s a way to connect with people.” - NOW


Introspective tunesmith Bunny Brown exemplifies the virtues of a free-for-all like North By Northeast. Intensely independent, originally small-town based - and not exactly a household name - Brown’s one of those talents who probably wouldn’t get to shine without the NXNE spotlight.

She’s an artist who likes to be left alone. You can tell by her disarmingly honest reflections, which are carried by crafty melodies and vocals that manage to convey both folksy charm and edgy attitude. This stuff sneaks right up on you.

“I’m fascinated by the psychological approach,” says Brown, formerly of the St. Catharines-based duo Happy As Hell. “It’s the model we use to solve our systems and examine ourselves. I found a used psychology text and was amazed that it contained homilies of the future. In the 30s they used to say, ‘Let a smile be your umbrella.’ But psychology gives us the kind of homilies we might see on packages of tea 30 years from now.”

Spoken like someone who is curious about ideas. Listen to her talk - or check out song titles like Black Hole Theory and Diseases Of Imagination (from the EP Meet Bunny Brown) - and you get the sense that she spends a lot of her time contemplating ways to make sense of the world. In music, Brown has found what she’s looking for. “I always sang. When I was six I’d go out and swing on the swings for hours and just sing. It wasn’t even anything I thought anybody did professionally. Then I started getting interested in pop songs. Then I liked Elvis Costello or anyone who was an independent thinker, who’s passionate.”

Brown says her musical obsessions center less around performance and more on making her records her way, without the constraints of a controlling label or producer. Does that make her nervous about Saturday’s NXNE appearance? “Life itself makes me nervous,” she admits. “But I do like performing. It’s everything attached to it - the energy output that goes into organizing a gig, the money outlay, or worrying about whether anybody’s going to show up - that gets to me.

“But I always think positively about playing live. It’s a way to connect with people.” - NOW


The first thing you see when you enter Bunny Brown’s MySpace page is a simple but very telling and eerily prescient quote: “Risk your life doing something beautiful.” The line is as much a clever hook for Bunny Brown as it is a statement of intent for the music she makes.

Since deserting the Ottawa glam – punk scene for a more insomnia–inducing back drop in Toronto, the St. Catharines–born song writer has been charting her own course with a sound that could best be described as disconcerting dream–pop; the sound that could accompany those dreams that, upon awakening, the dreamer runs to the mirror to make sure their reflection is still there and with no additional scarring. “I think a lot of that [the overall sound of Brown’s music] comes from listening to a lot of punk growing up,” explains the singer of her often chilly and eerie content and delivery. “I loved the fact that no topic was off limits and that you could write about anything. Although I love pop as a form, I’ve always dragged the idea along with me that whatever’s in your mind and heart, you can write about and even if you work in a pop form, it doesn’t limit what you’re going to talk about. I think the things that come out of me do so because they’re just on my mind.

“From a musical standpoint, my influences came a lot from what was around me,” Brown continues. “My brothers were older than me and played a lot of Beatles and David Bowie and things like that – and they really impressed pop structures on me. I also like Tom Waits a lot. I remember somebody giving me Swordfishtrombones shortly after it came out and it’s one of those CDs that just changes your life and the way that you look at music and its possibilities. It gets deconstructed and it opens this door of perception…
“I think an album like that proves that you can mess with these traditional ideas but it can still be brilliant in terms of being a vehicle to really service metaphors for emotions. I’ve always liked that about music; the idea that you can express things that you don’t normally have many outlets for without feeling awkward. In music, they take on a life of their own and become more something that anybody can relate to. You can take your personal stories and enter a dimension that’s more universal.”

While 2004’s Tomorrow The World saw Brown and collaborator Michael D’Amico diving headfirst into every direction that struck their fancy and trying on every hat available to see what fit, according to the singer a desire to simplify things has become the standard as they’ve been steadily working on the follow–up to the disc. “I guess it’s a little more mature, but I like to think of it as a little simpler,” explains Brown of the duo’s approach to following up Tomorrow The World. “The first record is actually a lot different from what we’re doing now. It was very experimental in its way. I took about 3 years to do it and I didn’t want to limit myself in any way in terms of production or anything like that so it takes a lot of turns throughout the course of the CD and ends up being a really varied listen. We took a lot of different approaches with the last album, but this time we’re really sticking to an essential format of just making it clean with a less-is-more approach. The one track, “Free Toronto” is the exception, but a lot of the rest of it is really stripped down. We’ve been going closer to letting each song hold its own this time out."

From those songs already completed for the next record, the early standout is certainly “Achilles At My Heels”. Amid crystalline guitars and sparse keys, Brown sings tentatively about the hesitation and worry that tends to surround the human experience as people attempt to move forward with their lives.

The song is beautiful and very disarming, a truly unnerving listen that is impossible to turn away from. It’s cathartic and, while Brown does concede that her music and lyrics are auto-biographical, she realizes that, after it has left her head and is put on disc, it becomes the property of the listener.

“I try to document life as I go along and songwriting has always been a way for me to do that,” says Brown as she attempts to explain her compulsion and penchant for songwriting and the themes that she explores in her music. “It’s comforting and I think that’s what I really identified with when I was growing up. As lost as I ever felt at times, I could always find artful things that I could relate to that tended to mirror my confusion and I found I didn’t feel quite so alone. That’s always kind of stuck with me.”

But, by the same token, Brown quickly points out that the trick is to not get overly involved in the process for fear of getting too self–absorbed. “I always raise an eyebrow when I think of music as a kind of therapy because there’s only so much of that that you can do before it becomes really self–indulgent so I’m always trying to look for that middle ground where you have an experience but it’s - PULSE


Discography

BUNNY BROWN IN FLAMES
11 track CD - released December 2012 - Persist Music

TOMORROW THE WORLD
12 track CD - released 2004 - Persist Music

MEET BUNNY BROWN
4 song EP CD - released 2000

Photos

Bio

Born and raised in St. Catharines, Canada, Bunny left for Ottawa to play keyboards in a band around the capital city and Montreal area before returning to Niagara, where she met Michael D'Amico and became one half of their duo, HAPPY AS HELL. Among fans were Bootsy Collins, Chrissie Hynde and Sun Ra, who chose it as a best unsigned band for MUSICIAN magazine in the USA.

Settling in Toronto, Bunny made her solo debut in 2004 with TOMORROW THE WORLD. She has collaborated with many other artists along the way, and appears in Alan Zweig's critically acclaimed feature documentary film, I, CURMUDGEON.

Her latest release is the brand new album BUNNY BROWN IN FLAMES, a collection of penetrative, passionate and playful songs featuring inspired performances by guest musicians including Jason Staczek, Seattle area based composer for Guy Maddin films KEYHOLE, MY WINNIPEG and BRAND UPON THE BRAIN!, as well as players Al Cross, Victor Bateman, Rachel Deck, Ben Bowen, and Michael D'Amico, who also co-produced the album with Bunny, along with Jason Staczek on one of the tracks, A QUIET DEMON.

"It's about life's triumphs... and trials..." she says. "The loss of loved ones, the challenge of health diagnoses, the search for meaning, the struggle for means, and the earnest effort to stay hopeful and productive amid it all... That's the incendiary stuff that makes one keenly aware of the passage of time. Lifetime. That in mind, I decided to call to call my second album Bunny Brown In Flames."

Currently playing live in southern Ontario, Bunny hosts a music series called MMMM (Merchants monthly musical matinee) on the last Sunday afternoon of each month at Merchants Cafe in Toronto. And she's looking forward to a special date in the Hamilton area this November: Bunny feels truly honoured to be invited to perform her song MISSING MAN (from BUNNY BROWN IN FLAMES, and featured on Neil Young's LIVING WITH WAR web site) for a television broadcast from the Canadian Heritage Warplane Museum on Remembrance Day.

"... Beautiful and haunting... Literate and compassionate..." TORONTO STAR

"A truly unnerving listen that is impossible to turn away from." PULSE

"Awesomely crafted songs, catchy riffs, great vocal lines, fun phrasing..." NOW

"You'll probably hook in immediately to what she's talking about if you've ever felt under siege by the inexorable forces of conformity..." TORONTO STAR

"You can tell from the first notes that Bunny really loves what she is doing." EXCLAIM

"The St. Catharines-born songwriter has been charting her own course with a sound that could best be described as disconcerting dream-pop; the sound that could accompany those dreams that, upon awakening, the dreamer runs to the mirror to make sure their reflection is still there and with no additional scarring. It's cathartic..." PULSE

"...Like a less damaged Marianne Faithfull... Like a '60s girl group, but much more sullen than Phil Spector could have squeezed out of anybody." EXCLAIM

"Disarmingly honest reflections, which are carried by crafty melodies and vocals that manage to convey both folksy charm and edgy attitude. This stuff sneaks right up on you." NOW