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BESTMAN is the synthpop project of local artist Brian Clouthier. CHIRP volunteer Amelia Hruby caught up with Brian after the release of his new EP BIG SKY.
Amelia: Tell me how you started BESTMAN.
Brian: I started about three years ago. I had been playing in bands in Chicago and met a lot of really cool people, but I felt that I still needed a creative outlet of my own.
Around that time my best friend moved to California with his fiancé who was another one of my really close friends, and I was kind of bummed about it, because we had been close for a long time. So when he asked me to be the best man in his wedding, I took a trip out there. I had only been to California one time before, and I stayed in the Valley the entire time and just thought it was miserable. It totally validated my “I’m a Chicago guy” kind of thing, and I really didn’t understand the romance of the West Coast. But when I went out there to throw his bachelor party, we went to Malibu and Venice and down the coast, hiking in the canyons, and I finally got it.
I came home really inspired to make music that would melt the blue-collar aspect of the Midwest and Chicago and the rock music I had been playing for a long time with this new Cali-electro sound that had started to draw me in.
Amelia: Can you tell me more about that sound and the inspirations for it?
Brian: When I started working on BESTMAN tracks, for the first time in a really long time I felt like I was writing music that was a culmination of stuff I had been listening to for my entire life. I’m not trying to emulate any certain style or genre. I’m not trying to fit into any niche like synthpop or New Wave or retrowave, but I also think there’s something nostalgic about it that I hope resonates with listeners in a way that doesn’t just remind them of Phil Collins or Kenny Loggins or a particular ‘80s band. I get that a lot, but I’m really trying to make a sound that is particularly “BESTMAN.”
Amelia: Would you say BESTMAN a solo project?
You know, I suppose so. Even though I have musicians that play with me, and they’re good friends of mine that I feel are very talented musicians, I really started by writing and recording everything by myself. I wanted to form a band, because I wanted to perform live, and when I’ve seen guys playing with backing tracks, it just hasn’t had the energy I wanted BESTMAN to have. I think a band adds a tactile element and energy to the show.
Amelia: How did your new EP BIG SKY come together?
Brian: The first song that I wrote for the new EP was “BIG SKY.” It was inspired by my best friend again. He came home from California, because he was going through some pretty serious family issues. And while it was amazing to spend time with him, the circumstances were pretty unfortunate.
So one night we were sitting in a bar, reflecting on the past year. We had always been fans of adventure and getting outdoors, and we started talking about doing a trip out west to Yosemite and Yellowstone. We made a vow that this idea wasn’t just going to dissolve after we left that night. So BIG SKY, for me, was the first time that I didn’t write about romantic relationships. “BIG SKY” was really about my two male best friends and how important it was for us to come through on this promise for each other.
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