Bryan and the Aardvarks Look to the Stars for Inspiration on
Sounds From the Deep Field,
Due Out April 28 via Biophilia Records
Bassist/Composer Bryan Copeland Finds His Place in the Universe
From the Hubble Space Telescope, Sci-Fi Films, David Bowie and
Carl Sagan’s Cosmos
In his classic series The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, sci-fi satirist Douglas Adams writes about an unique instrument of torture known as the Total Perspective Vortex: a small shed on a desolate planet that gave those unlucky enough to enter a glimpse of the entirety of the vast universe and, with the use of a tiny “You Are Here” placard, the victim’s infinitesimal place in it, reducing them to madness.
On a much smaller scale and with far less soul-crushing results, bassist/composer Bryan Copeland underwent a series of similar experiences in the lead-up to his new album, Sounds From the Deep Field. Finding inspiration rather than insanity in taking a wide view of the infinity surrounding us, Copeland composed ten vivid new compositions for his long-running, whimsically-named band Bryan and the Aardvarks, each reflecting a sense of awe as well as heady dose of cosmic mystery.
The first of those profound revelations came when Copeland and his wife, during a camping trip through California, encountered the giant sequoias of Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, breathtaking groves of old-growth trees that measure up to 20 feet in diameter and tower to over 300 feet tall and can live for thousands of years. “You feel like such a tiny, miniscule thing next to these gargantuan trees,” Copeland says. “I had an existential awakening thinking about our life span compared to those trees, which is just the blink of an eye in perspective.”
That sensation was only magnified when, soon after that trip, Copeland read about the Hubble Deep Field – an image of a small section of the Ursa Major constellation, seemingly empty, taken by the famed space telescope. The stunning picture it revealed showed more than 3,000 galaxies in even this relatively unpopulated section of the universe. “I had the same exact kind of feeling as with the trees,” Copeland recalls, “but on an infinitely larger level.”
More than half of Sounds From the Deep Field, due out April 28 via Biophilia Records, was written in a sudden burst of inspiration that followed. The long-awaited second release by the imaginatively lyrical, eccentrically inventive Bryan and the Aardvarks expands the original quartet – Copeland, vibraphonist Chris Dingman, pianist Fabian Almazan, and drummer Joe Nero – into an even more evocative ensemble with the addition of Chilean vocalist Camila Meza, guitarist Jesse Lewis, and saxophonist Dayna Stephens employing the interstellar sounds of the EWI (Electric Wind Instrument).
The result is an album that is in equal parts an epic-scale modern jazz adventure, stargazing sonic dreamscape, and soundtrack for a non-existent science fiction film. A self-professed “film junkie,” Copeland drew inspiration from the film scores of composers like Jerry Goldsmith (Alien) and Vangelis (Blade Runner), which swirl together with his forward-looking jazz instincts and captivating influences from sophisticated rock songwriters like David Bowie, Nick Drake, and Elliott Smith. Those were among Copeland’s earliest influences while he was growing up, mingling with literary icons like Kurt Vonnegut and Philip K. Dick and Carl Sagan’s original Cosmos.
Those disparate models collide in intriguing and unconventional ways throughout Sounds From the Deep Field, suggesting rich lyrics in the metaphorical concepts behind even the album’s instrumental pieces, which make subtle and elegant use of Meza’s wordless vocals.
Copeland originally hails from the North Texas panhandle, later spending formative years in the more urban centers of Dallas and Austin. It wasn’t until he was 20 years old, while attending San Antonio College, that Copeland was first exposed to jazz. While there, he studied with world-renowned classical bassist Satoshi Okamoto of the New York Philharmonic. He continues to explore a wide range of music, touring regularly with Toby Goodshank of the anti-folk group The Moldy Peaches or up-and-coming pop singer Ashley Arrison while performing with jazz notables including David Binney, Roy Hargrove, Ernie Watts and Tim Warfield. He has led the Aardvarks in one form or another for more than ten years, releasing their debut, Heroes of Make Believe, in 2011.
Thursday, April 6th, Cornelia Street Cafe, TBA
*Thursday, April 27th, The Jazz Gallery, TBA*
*Album Release Show*