Interview: Bree And The Whatevers
Bree Klauser sings in the Brooklyn quartet that has been called the musical love child of The Doors and Amy Winehouse. This group goes by the name Bree And The Whatevers. The group gained a following by playing shows gigging through the New York scene. With a future EP in the works, I had the chance to chat with Klauser about a few topics that range from her music career origins to the very nature of art.
Ryan Kearns: What inspired the formation of Bree and The Whatevers?
Bree Klauser: It all started when an East Village hair dresser approached me singing in a gay bar about co-writing and recording some dance pop tracks. I had been singing for years and most of my roots were in jazz and musical theater, but I had never seriously considered writing my own music. That short-lived experience gave me my first taste of how satisfying it was to write, perform, and record your own music. After that project wrapped, I bounced around for a year or so with a few collaborators, writing music that was much more reflective of my jazz influences and perhaps the 1970s songwriting styles that have been absorbed through osmosis from my mother’s music tastes. As I sang these songs in restaurants and some dead end spots around town, the music got better, but the collaborators easily strayed away and so many times I found myself starting over again. Eventually, I came to my senses and fell on my good friends and most importantly, family; particularly the very talented guitarist who I had lived with for over 14 years of my life: my brother Matthew Klauser.
We have been playing together for the past year or so and during that time the project has shown the most consistent growth. Last spring, we decided we needed a “project name” because going under my name alone gave people the wrong impression of what our music was, i.e. a lot people will hear the name of a female singer as the project and think “Meh”.
As we were wrapping our brains to find the right name, our drummer at the time said “How ’bout just Bree And The …..whatevers!?” The name was deemed appropriately suitable and sticks to this day
Ryan: When you speak of your jazz influences, can you pinpoint any artist that has a particular influence on your music?
Klauser: Yes! Vocally speaking, Dinah Washington. I’m obsessed with her tone, phrasing and all the like. Overall, I draw a lot of influence from the singers of the ’30s, ’40s, and ’50s. We have been described as sounding like a mix of Amy Winehouse and The Doors. Our guitarist Matthew directly draws his influence from the heavy blue rock styling of Jimmy Page. as compositional influence I suppose I am affected by a wide variety of artist and genres,because a large part of writing music is reinventing things you’ve heard before that you liked.
Ryan: Speaking of influences, your music seems to stem from things like personal experiences to favorite anime characters. With a wide range of song subjects, where does your inspiration come from when it comes to song composition?
Klauser: I guess anything that affects me strong enough I can right a song about. I have a tendency to get zealously obsessive about things (and occasionally people). A lot of my earlier stuff was directly from events in me life. I found ways to dramatize or romanticize these instances. Lately, I tend to meditate on a topic and think in a piece meal (i.e. I’ll think of a hook or core idea of a song instantly by some visceral stimulus, but may take weeks or months for me to flesh out the rest of that song or “thought process’”). This isn’t to mean that I don’t believe that certain songs can’t just be trite and fun. I love coming up with hooks along the lines of “lalala lets fuck!”, but even in the tritest song there needs to be some truth; it can be relevant to your own personal experience or of someone you know. I also like to write narrative songs in which i’m an outsider looking in, even if the main character is me. (Spoiler! This is the perspective I take on “Isolde”)
Ryan: Your band gigs around the highly competitive New York scene, what has your experience been like doing shows in the New York scene?
Klauser: I feel like shows in NYC can sometimes be hit or miss. You can never be in it for the money because the fact of the matter is there are a million other groups that are fighting for the same fans attention. I am so lucky to live the city where live music is ingrained in to our culture. In this town, I’ve played shows for 80 people and I’ve played to a room of 8, but some times even those 8 people shows can be just as exciting depending on the crowds energy. Playing live is my bread and butter.I love that here in New York there are so many opportunities to play out.
Ryan: From my experience, bands either stick to a set list or play songs according to how they feel / how they are reading the crowd’s energy. How do you go about doing live performances in terms of sticking to a set list or not?
Klauser: Usually, I try to order a set list in a way that raises the energy up and down as deemed appropriate for the show. There are times to kick it up and there are times to draw them in. That being said, I don’t like to stick to one model of a set list. There are certain songs that have become bookends for our sets, but other wise we like to mix it up. The one time we decided to change the set on the spot was at the Make Music New York festival. It was an outdoor festival and we spontaneously started a round robin of high energy songs with band playing across the street, Toys and Tiny Instruments, culminating in a grand finale of both band playing “Alabama Song” together.
Ryan: That sounds awesome! You guys recently ran an Indiegogo in order to help fund your first recorded EP. Could you go into more detail about the detailed process of the campaign?
Klauser: Well now that we are on the other side of it, I feel much more confident talking about it. We were approached by a very talented engineer/producer to make our next EP with. My brother and I felt it was a good idea to ask for the support of our friends and fans in order to help supplement the cost of making a quality recording. We tried to keep it personable and informal, as made obvious by our livid, silly campaign video, but I got to say it’s a lot harder to ask people than it looks. It was larger endeavor than we imagined, but we were lucky to receive enough funds to at least get us into the studio, which we plan to do later this winter. We are so grateful for everyone who helped spread the word and contributed to our goal.
Ryan: In a book written by Eric Nisenson, a question about the nature of all art was addressed when talking about John Coltrane, the question being : “Is it a means for an artist to exorcise his demons, a kind of therapy or method of self-investigation? Or is it intended to be a form of communication between the artist and the audience?”. What do you think art is for you as a musician?
Klauser: I think it could be all, but the emphasis is on the audience connectivity. One may exorcise their own demon through writing and performing a song, but it is done for the sake of the audience. By writing that song you are making yourself vulnerable to an audience, giving them free reign to interpret that material which ever way they like. The hope is that through investigating or exorcising ones own experience, some people will be able to exorcise their own woes by having a relative experience or allowing us to show them a good time. I suppose for me all art should have some means of catharsis for the audience member.
Ryan: One of my favorite tracks of yours is Lemme Go Back, could tell me more about how that song came to be?
Klauser: It came out of desire to have someone …back: an ex months after everything fell apart, wanting to have things the way they were. Wanting to get off on mere memory of someone’s touch. This desire became diluted into a chant or a prayer, just as one does in a gospel/spiritual song. The result is a dirty soul/ gospel song driven by lust, fantasy and desire.
Ryan: What has been the most rewarding aspect of your career so far?
Klauser: Wow, I would say its a toss up between getting the chance to play and learn from so many talented musicians and gratitude I get from fans when they come up to us after a show or someone across the world sends a kind note when they download our music. For me, it is the energy and ecstasy of a live performance that makes all the nitty gritty BS worthwhile.
Ryan: Where are you looking to take your career in the coming future?
Klauser: It’s really funny you ask about the future because I think for us we are taking it one day at a time. We and myself definitely have big ambitions to write more music and play to more people, Hopefully, one day all over the world The short term goal is to record an epic EP this February with engineer/producer Denise Barbarita with a new line up of musicians sans my brother and I. We’ve got some exciting shows coming up for the new year including Tammany Hall on January 20th and a free show March 22nd at Spike Hill In Williamsburg. We hope to have a kick ass record release show sometime in April or May.