Whether he’s bungee jumping or exploring the Australian outback, Des Moines’s Brad Reiman exudes a restless sense of cultural adventurism. And he brings this feeling of shifting momentum to every note and sound that vibrates out from his guitar and piano and basically any other instrument that he can get his hands on.
Drawing from his time backpacking through Europe after college, Reiman uses these transitory experiences to invest the songs on his debut EP, Walking in the Unknown, with a rhythmic impermanence and quiet joyfulness that recalls the subtle and not-so-subtle pop/rock work of ‘60s artists like Donovan and The Beach Boys. And like these musicians, he employs the sounds of his influences as a spring board for his own melodic interpretations. He filters these inspirations through the effortless strokes of his guitar which casually leads into a winding landscape of struck piano keys and gorgeous melodies.
By keeping his songs rooted firmly in the present but driven forward by the memories of the past, he transcends the singer-songwriter tropes that often stumble other artists and creates his own set of musical guidelines—and then subsequently proceeds to change and alter them according to his songs’ individual needs. Shimmering guitars ring out and piano notes are struck against a relatively sparse rhythmic foundation. His songs examine the routine experiences of our lives in ways that offer remarkable insight in how we adapt and conform to our surroundings and the resulting emotional entanglements.
Ghettoblaster recently caught up with Reiman to discuss the EP, which he self-releases March 10. This is what he said.
When did you begin writing the material for Walking in the Unknown?
I started writing material for the EP a little over two years ago. There were probably around 20 songs written and I picked the best ones. Most of what we ended up using though, I wrote closer to when we started recording. I think “On A Rainy Day In June” was really the only song I used that was written that far back.
What was the most difficult song to take from the initial writing stage through recording and mixing? Why was it so troublesome?
The writing stage went fairly quickly for all the songs. It was generally trying to figure out the right arrangement that would slow things down for certain songs. “Whatever Happened To Tomorrow” was one of those. It’s kind of a moody song especially lyrically, but yet it’s written in a major key so we really could take the overall feel of it in several different directions in terms of Strings and Brass. We ended up trying it several different ways before we settled on the end version.
Which of the songs on the EP is most different from your original concept for the song?
“Another Day” changed quite a bit during the recording process. We even released an earlier version of that song, which would end up being changed quite a bit. The initial Ukulele part I had written for it was changed up some for the final version, as well as adding other elements like piano and electric guitar.
How do your travels, or more generally speaking your “cultural adventurism,” affect your songwriting?
Well, I feel like most of my material and experiences for songs come from that time on the road traveling. I love to wander off the beaten path and just get lost in a new place. By getting exposed to many different cultures, I’ve definitely had my perspective changed on things, which carries over into my songwriting.
Do you have a full-length (or perhaps another EP) in the works?
Yeah, I’ve started writing quite a bit of new music lately and I’m pretty excited about the songs so far. Whether that will become another EP or a full length I’m not sure yet. I’m still pretty early on in the writing process, but we’ll see how things go and make that decision later.
(Visit him here: http://bradreiman.com/.)