Busty and the Bass’ Alistair Blu discusses origins, inspirations, and the artistic process

We spoke with the rapper and keyboardist about the band's debut LP Uncommon Good

Alistair Blu (pictured centre, seated) injects rap, synths, and more into the band's sound (Photo courtesy of Greg McCahon)

By: Alex Bloom

Busty and the Bass is a Montréal-based band composed of nine members: Scott Bevins (trumpet), Mike McCann (trumpet), Chris Vincent (trombone), Nick Ferraro (alto saxophone and vocals), Louis Stein (guitar), Milo Johnson (bass), Julian Trivers (drums), Eric Haynes (piano, keyboard), and Alistair Blu (keyboards, synths, vocals, and rap). The Peak spoke with Victoria, BC-born Alistair Blu about songwriting, their musical inspirations and how the band got started.

        The members of Busty and the Bass met and started the band while studying music at McGill University, getting their name at “some drunken music frosh orientation,” according to Blu.

“We decided after graduating that we wanted to take it seriously, so then we did . . . That’s where we are now, two years out.”

     Their sound has also gone through several evolutions since they began. “When we started, we were basically playing covers, but instrumentally, because Nick wasn’t really singing at the time, and I wasn’t really singing or rapping at the time, either. That came later,” Blu said. “So we basically played top 40 covers, but in like a funk, brass band way, and some classic stuff like Stevie Wonder and Earth, Wind & Fire. It evolved more in the past couple years with our own songwriting, [and by] just developing our own individual sounds.”

     Blu explained that “obviously it’s a lot different now; if you listen to our album, it doesn’t sound anything like that. I think we’ve come a long way since playing ‘Toxic’ by Britney Spears.”

     Since playing covers, Busty and the Bass has developed their own style. As Blu said, “I mean, it’s kind of funny because each song might be described as having its own genre, some songs are very R&B or soul. Other songs are like hip hop, and other songs are funkier. I think our general sound is like soul music. I personally think that.” While they are clear in their influences, overall it is hard to define them as one single genre.

     Their creative process varies for each track on the album. “Each song [sounds] different, and the process for each song is very different as well,” Blu said. “I mean . . . there [are] nine people in the band so a song can start with somebody just in their bedroom on a keyboard, or on their laptop or something like that, and then they can bring it to the band and then it will develop a bit more. Like “Dance with Someone!!!”, which was three or four of us jamming in a basement, coming up with that bass line, then going home and putting lyrics over it, then the horns coming up with their crazy melodies on top of that. So it’s again a wide variety of different processes.”

     The band worked with producer Neal Pogue on Uncommon Good: “The thing with our album is, even though the processes might vary as the song comes about, once the songwriting was finished, we did bring it to the studio and complete it there . . . I think [that] was really good for us and helps the cohesiveness of our album. I think Neal Pogue brought that out of us a lot. It’s cool to be able to finish the process in a studio.”

     Pogue has also worked with Earth, Wind & Fire and Outkast, who Blu listed as some of the band’s top musical inspirations. He also expanded on his own musical inspirations, “. . . Personally, it’s going to vary a lot from the band, but for me Outkast is big, Nate Dogg is really big for me. [So is] west coast hip hop, Roy Ayers, [and] Thelonious Monk. That’s kind of the foundation of how I learned music, through jazz basically, then I went on from there.”

     When asked to pick between André 3000 and Big Boi of Outkast as musical inspiration, Blu responded, “That’s tough. What I like about André is that he incorporates singing a lot, which is something I do as well, so I would probably pick André just because of that. But that doesn’t take away from Big Boi’s flow at all.” The band is as diverse in its inspirations as it is numerous in members, and as Blu said, these inspirations come out “on a track-by-track basis.”

     Being from the west coast of BC has an influence on Blu’s personal music, “The west coast sound, I mean, it’s not like a BC sound, but growing up I think us wanna-be west coasters took a lot from Southern California, or I did at least. Like Nate Dogg and Dr. Dre and all those guys. Just G-funk in general, that’s my biggest go-to in terms of inspiration.”

     Blu provided advice for any student that wants to pursue a serious career in music, “I would say don’t pigeonhole yourself into what you’re comfortable with. Take risks . . . you’re always going to [have] to step outside the box. For us, we all were jazz musicians and then we started coming out of the shell and singing, and I did the same as a rapper, and now as a singer as well. I think it helped a lot not having to strictly play jazz music.”

Busty and the Bass has clearly taken their own advice; they are a band that is hard to pigeonhole.

     When asked where he sees the band in five years, Blu responded, “I don’t know if we’ll be in Montréal or not, but I hope that we will be continuously touring and it would be great to tour in Asia because we haven’t done that yet. Also, the southern hemisphere would be great, and I hope that we will be continuously making albums.”

     Released by Indica Records, you can listen to Uncommon Good on iTunes, Spotify, and SoundCloud. Busty and the Bass has also released several music videos on their YouTube channel.