An Interview with Travis Bretzer; or, How to Do the Solo Male Justice

Photo By Rick Lee and Eric Dodd

Photo By Rick Lee and Eric Dodd

There’s an interesting dialogue for the lone, mysterious, esoteric and (usually) profoundly male artist in the modern musical vernacular. Whether it’s Kurt Vile’s tortured lo-fi or Thom Yorke’s fragile egotism, there’s something inescapably attractive to listening audiences about a faceless youth delivering wisdom.

Canadian-born Travis Bretzer offers listeners a bit of a twist on that. Bretzer is in some ways a breezy antidote to those that might be too concerned with cultivating a mystique. He creates, dare this reviewer to say, pop-filtered, breezy songs that are as tightly penned as they are innately truthful and personal to their writer.

Recent release “Hurts So Bad”–which was co-opted with U.K. label Cool Delta (former collaborators with The Arctic Monkeys, The Strokes and Mumford and Sons)–was an early introduction to just such an artist. Though the lyrics might swing toward irritatingly but plainly candid (“Please don’t ignore me / Yeah it hurts so bad / Hurts so bad, muses Travis sardonically”) the song is undeniably a perfect lesson in sub-three-minute polish, and is innately charming for all its meandering swagger. That, and there is something just so damned catchy about the slightly untuned guitar arpeggios that back the track.

Bretzer’s debut release with Mexican Summer, a five-track EP named Making Love, is slated for release on July 23 this year. The lead single “Trying to Learn” promises a lot, on first listen, combining the lazy delivery, skilled lyricism, and interesting guitar play of Stephen Malkmus’ solo records with the dreamier aspects of Beck’s Sea Change-era output.

In advance of big plans following this summer, which are rumored to include a slew of live dates and news of an upcoming album, THE BOMBER JACKET caught ten minutes with Travis to ask him a few questions about life in Edmonton, Marc Bolan, and hamburgers…

TBJ: Hi Travis, could you describe your music to us in three words?

Travis Bretzer: Creepy Janitor iPod

Who are your biggest musical heroes?

In no specific order: Everly Brothers, Chet Baker, Stevie Wonder, Roger Miller, Marc Bolan, Ween and Weird Al Yankovic.

How has your sound moved on from your “Saucy Tasters” release? Do you still aim for that dreamy, low-fi sound?

Not too much, really just depends on what kind of gear I have when I’m recording and what I’m listening to. For the new record I bought this busted old 12 string from a guy who lived in this spooky dilapidated house. I like to think he trapped some sort of a stoner ghoul spirit inside of it and that’s why the record sounds so hazy and weird.

How has life in Edmonton, and even Canada, shaped the music you make? Do you plan to do a concept album about grizzly bears?

I feel fortunate to live here. I’ve got it good. A car, a lady, a house, and a job. I’m just a normal guy lucky enough to afford recording gear. Edmonton inspires me all the time but then again I’ve been inspired by hamburgers and “The Matrix.”

What’s the first record you ever bought?

This compilation album put out by Much Music (Canadian MTV) called Big Shiny Tunes. I remember it had a Marilyn Manson song on it that used to make me feel like a total badass whenever I’d listen to it.

What are the best things about Canada?

Here in Edmonton the cost of living is pretty reasonable, the healthcare coverage is great, and I live 15 minutes away from the one of the greatest malls in North America.

If you could go back in time and be present at any gig, anywhere, which would it be?

Probably this one:

To see Stevie in his prime in 3D would be a dream come true.

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