Bryan Copeland formed Bryan and the Aardvarks in order to explore an inventive new sound that derived from his jazz training as well as his upbringing in pop and country music. The music he writes for the quartet combines a hushed intimacy with memorable, singable melodies and a narrative directness that nevertheless leaves space for expressive improvisation. In pianist Fabian Almazan, vibraphonist Chris Dingman, and drummer Joe Nero, he has assembled a distinctive ensemble able to flesh out his unique compositions.
“These guys are all very sensitive musicians,” Copeland says. “Their main focus is making music sound beautiful. There’s no ego involved. These guys are all amazing technical masters, but they put all that stuff aside to develop this group sound.”
Raised in the North Texas panhandle and later in the more urban centers of Dallas and Austin, Copeland grew up surrounded by country music – which he rejected as a child but later came to appreciate. Instead, his tastes turned more to pop, rock, and singer-songwriter music, especially the likes of The Kinks, David Bowie, Elliott Smith, and Nick Drake. The latter two, who combine an incisive expressiveness with an air of mystery, seem especially relevant influences on Bryan and the Aardvarks.
Copeland hit on the sound of Bryan and the Aardvarks organically, while coping with the death of a close friend from Texas. He sat down at the piano one day and the shimmering melody of “Sunshine Through the Clouds” flowed out of him. “I was having a hard time dealing with the feelings I was having,” Copeland recalls, “and I wasn’t really thinking about what I was playing. Something deep in my subconscious just came out, and that’s still the approach I take with this band. I just close my eyes and let my subconscious write the music.”