Leathan Milne (left)

Leathan Milne (left)

Taking a chance on music in the digital age

If you love music you can make and record it almost anywhere in this digital electronic era.

If you love music you can make and record it almost anywhere in this digital electronic era.

Brandon Hoffman is doing just that in pursuing a career in music and recording music that got its start in Williams Lake and is now rocking in Vancouver.

Brandon, on hand-made bass, drummer Adrian St. Louis, and lead guitarist and singer-songwriter Leathan Milne entertained the crowd with  singer-songwriter Colin Easthope on guitar, vocals and harmonica in an alternate country/blues performance during Arts on the Fly in Horsefly July 13-14.

Colin, a solo artist, also tours with Leathan.

Brandon, Leathan, and Adrian are also all members of the Vancouver band Miami Device, a 10- to 12-member Afro-beat band with a horn section and lots of percussion, congas, and shekere (shaker gourds).

“We also play with a few members of Five Alarm Funk,” Hoffman says.

Five Alarm Funk is the dynamic, high powered, 10-member world beat band from Vancouver that closed out Arts on the Fly.

Brandon says Miami Device plays more traditional Afro-beat music with a Nigerian influence. Miami Device has been playing for four years, the last two years with the same members. They play gigs around Vancouver and the province. This spring they performed at the Vancouver Jazz Festival in early June and in Osoyoos for Canada Day.

“We are collaborators. We all intermingle but also do our own things,” Brandon says.

While home these days is Vancouver, Brandon takes every chance he gets to make music in the great outdoors and did just that with his friends at Arts on the Fly.

“Given the option, I don’t know why anybody would choose to make music in some sterile newfangled downtown recording studio,” Brandon wrote recently on his website blog. “Following Colin Easthope and Leathan Milne’s west-coast tour, we hauled the mobile Gnomegrown recording rig up to a family cabin at Timothy Lake, B.C. In four days, six songs were tracked mostly live-off-the-floor with the wood stove crackling away in the corner.

“Dag nammit, I already miss it. Expect a digital release of the tunes in time for festival season.”

Brandon is drawn back to the Cariboo because his roots are here.

He comes from a well-known teaching and musical family in Williams Lake. His mother Sharon sings with Quintet Plus and with a trio called Willow and is very involved with the Studio Theatre Society both on stage and behind the scenes.

His dad Murray is a long-time member of the Cariboo Gold Dance Band playing trumpet and flugelhorn.

His older sister Morgan is the scientist of the family, he says, and follows in their parents footsteps as a teacher.

His grandfather Ken Hoffman in Langley recently helped Brandon to build the electric upright bass he played at Arts on the Fly. Brandon says it was supposed to be a collaborative project but he credits his grandfather for most of the work building the four-string instrument out of maple wood and mounting it on a cymbal stand.

He says his grandfather built houseboats and furniture before retiring and of late has had a fascination with making musical instruments which include a harp he also made for a cousin.

“He plucks the banjo a little but lately he’s had a fascination with making musical instruments,” Brandon says.

Brandon took piano lessons through school and played bass and guitar with the high-school band. After graduating from Columneetza secondary in 2003, Brandon attended the Stylus College of Music and Sound Technology, then earned a degree in communications from Simon Fraser University.

He says the communications degree has actually become pretty handy in his business of recording, promoting and selling music in this digital age.

Brandon has had his Gnomegrown music recording studio for about five years but didn’t start recording and playing music full-time until three years ago.

He records in his home-based studio, other studios and on location.

“Most of my equipment is quite mobile so we can set up almost anywhere to record,” Brandon says.

He says getting the right sound can be a challenge in cabins and other locations so they move furniture around, set up acoustic panels and lay out quilts everywhere until the sound is just right.

“It can be quite a challenge,” Brandon says.

Hoffman says Miami Device is in the process of releasing an album titled Monopoly in the old-fashioned vinyl record form.

“There is a rising demand there for vinyl and a lot of it is the shear indulgence of being able to hear ourselves on vinyl,” Brandon says.

The album is mostly instrumental with a few vocals in different tracks. His favourite track is called Indian Arm.

As a solo artist Brandon is also involved in developing his own sample-based electronic music, recording solo and in jam sessions, then chopping and rearranging the music.

He publishes his own music under the name Blocktreat, a forestry silviculture reference.

“I have planted many a tree in my day,” Brandon says.

He says a new Blocktreat album is on the way from an experimental label in Vancouver called Jellyfish Recordings.

Brandon’s communications degree has also come in handy when it comes to the job of promoting and selling music in a digital age when no one wants to pay for it.

He says artists usually sell songs on the Internet for $1 a song but the fun part for him is coming up with interesting promotional ideas.

In one promotion he tried a “pay-what-you-want” campaign, which ended up generating the same amount of money as paying $1 a song but the music ended up reaching a wider audience which helps to build a fan base.

In another promotion he sold packets of wild-flower seeds with codes on them to download the songs.

Brandon says he buys music on the Internet but also buys CDs, especially experimental music that is hard to find on line.

He says it’s great to have the moral support of his family in pursuing a musical career and venues to play in such as Arts on the Fly.

“The Arts on the Fly organizers are an amazing bunch of folks to work with and their support for B.C.’s musical community is fantastic,” Brandon says.

For more information visit www.gnomegrownmusic.com or www.colineasthope.com.


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