Artist Spotlight

Brandon Tinkler: What To Know

Article by Syd Innovaria, Photos by Derek Vorndran

BT 2

I had the fortunate opportunity to get some insight on the singer-songwriter Brandon Tinkler recently. He’s got a self-proclaimed 60s psych pop feel which I do not disagree with. He had his album release party for “Open Up Your Eyes” at The White Rabbit Cabaret around the time of this interview. We were unable to make the show, but I wanted to still conduct an interview and promote his upcoming show at the Back Alley Ballyhoo. This is a multi-day event being hosted by Square Cat Vinyl in Indianapolis. Check out the interview below, he was a pretty informative cat!

SI: So, how long have you been doing music, Brandon?
BT: I started playing guitar and writing songs when I was fifteen.  My Aunt Pat sent me an Aerosmith cd for Christmas because she didn’t want to buy me a parental advisory rap cd I had asked for on my list haha.  So she sent that instead and I had never really listened to rock n roll before and I fell in love with it.  I traced all of their influences forwards and backwards and learned as much about guitar and song-writing as possible.  Around the same time I got my first job in a restaurant and one of the bartenders saw that I played guitar and convinced me to get a set together and he booked me some pub gigs.  I started performing more and more and have been ever since.  I joined my first band around 22 years old, called If-By-Whiskey, and learned a lot from that.  Everyone in the band was a bit older than me, more experienced and made me a lot better.  We played shows for a year or two, recorded an album and never got to release it because the studio and engineer had a falling out and we lost the ability to finish the mixing.  The band not having enough money to sue to get it, lost momentum and fizzled out after that.  I then started another band called The Trainwrecks and same thing, happened!  We played shows, recorded a full album, never finished mixing because the engineer flaked and the studio wouldn’t work with me to finish it.  Bad luck.  So, that’s when I decided to record a solo record called “Nowhere to Run.”  I released that July of 2014.
SI: Can you tell us a bit about your biggest inspirations for this current project, “Open Up Your Eyes”?
BT: After “Nowhere to Run,” a lot of my closest music friends and collaborators started to give me advice about the direction of my music.  “Nowhere to Run” was a singer-songwriter album in my mind.  Some acoustic stuff, some electric, different styles and sounds, pretty eclectic.  So, my closest friends kept saying around that time, “why don’t you do that 60’s rock n roll sound that you love and always listen to next?”  Fellow song-writer, Gus Moon, my guitar player Seth Greathouse, and good friend and concert promoter Ryan Hughey, all kind of gave me that advice at different times, so I thought: “I’ll try it.”  Around that time also, I became friends with a lot of people born outside of the U.S. from around the world, and kind of went through a little personal renaissance.  I was reading new things, listening to new music, learning about a lot of different cultures, and reconnected to my spirituality in a new way.  I worked really hard on finding beauty in things I hadn’t or couldn’t before and worked at being as content as possible with life on a daily basis.  When I was a teenager I learned a lot about Buddhism and meditation, and I feel like I was really able to achieve or apply that level of consciousness during the making of this album.  I started writing “Open Up Your Eyes” with a few goals.  I wanted to write more upbeat songs that would translate well live, I wanted to write lyrics that were personal to me and I wouldn’t get tired of singing, and last, to use specific instruments and sounds that made me love the mid 60’s records.  So I wrote the songs, made home demos of all the sounds I wanted, gave them to the players and we went to Postal Recording and made the record with my good buds Tyler Watkins and Alex Kercheval in about a week.  It was a great recording process and we were very efficient most days in the studio.  I feel like I achieved the goals I set out to and I’m very happy with the album.
SI: Who are some of your biggest musical influences overall?
BT: I have such a huge range of influences because I love music and music history so much.  There really isn’t any type of music that I can’t find something I can learn from.  On this record, the influences that stand out the most are definitely the British Invasion era bands and the early rock n roll of the 1950s and 1960s.  That is the music I love and listen to the most.  Stuff like Elvis, Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, Roy Orbison and on and on from the first blast of rock n roll music.  Then of course, The Beatles, The Kinks, The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Beach Boys, Bob Dylan, The Byrds, Neil Young all that great mid 60’s stuff.  Harry Nilsson was a particular influence I think you can hear on this record.  You’re always going to hear The Beatles influence in me, because singing along with Beatle records was basically how I learned to sing.  Another big influence though was the underground rock n roll music that came out of California in the mid 90’s to early 2000’s. The Brian Jonestown Massacre, The Tyde, Beachwood Sparks, Neal Casal, and others like them.  I love the records those guys put out and the other projects they are involved in today.  I was also listening to a lot of international music during this time from: traditional Burmese music, to Cambodian rock n roll from the 60s and today, African records with chants and drums and bells, Spanish romantic music, Francoise Hardy records, Sergio Mendes and the Brasil ’66.  My international record collection is starting to grow larger and larger!
SI: Tell us how the recording process went for this album. Where was it recorded, how long did it take?
BT: I recorded “Open Up Your Eyes” at Postal Recording in Indianapolis. Tyler Watkins and Alex Kercheval engineered it, and Tyler mastered it.  The recording process was great.  Having recorded my first album with Tyler, I was a lot more prepared this time around, and we were able to record 13 songs in a week. I think we mixed and mastered it a month or so later in 3 days.  It was a really good vibe in the studio, with old friends performing on the songs, it felt like a family get together.  My mom made us freshly baked pies for our tea the first day, we had coolers full of beer, stuff to make cocktails, and it felt cozy and fun the whole process.  One thing about Alex and Tyler is they are great lovers of international cuisine, so the lunch breaks are always a fun adventure when recording at Postal.  We ate some of the best local Thai, Ethiopian, Chinese, and Mexican and even made it to Workingman’s Friend one afternoon, which is always a favorite of mine. Maybe the coolest part of the process was my little brother, Patrick, learned a ton of guitar parts for the album and totally nailed it!  He is great at guitar, but had never actually performed with a band or ever recorded music in a studio before.  He had never done music professionally before.  So it was really cool to be able to have him their as a part of the whole experience and he did such a great job.  My brother, Matthew, did all of the artwork for the record, and I couldn’t be more pleased with how that turned out!  He is an incredible artist and if you bought a cd just to check out what he did, it would be worth it.  Hopefully I can put out a vinyl version in the future.  It was really cool to have both of my brothers be a part of the artistic process and I will always cherish those memories.  Alex deserves a lot of credit for helping shape the sound of the album with me.  He is so talented, and can play anything, so he added a lot of different textures I was trying for on the songs.  The mellotron and organ alone added so much, and he did much, much more than that.  If you buy the cd, look at the list of things he played in the liner notes!  Tyler is the steady ship captain at the helm though, that I trust enough to let go and just focus on performances.  I’ve never worked with an engineer before or after Tyler that does as good of a job as he does.  He cares enough about making something quality that I can trust him when he says a guitar, or bass, or vocal take was good enough or not, so I don’t have to spend the time re-listening to it to make sure its right.  Having a guy like that saves you a lot of money and time, and I wouldn’t have been able to record as quickly or efficiently without him. So, thanks Tyler, I love you man!
SI: What do you think was your favorite part about writing this album?
BT: My favorite part of writing this album was finding ways to write songs that I wouldn’t get tired of singing or performing. There are little pieces of me, my friends and family, and the places I love and traveled to during the writing of this album, in each song.  It’s a record of small intimate details about my life and love of rock n roll music.  Every song has little things for me to smile about, or to conjure a memory, or feel certain emotions, or to remind myself to strive to be a better person.  I think the little details in each tune are what makes these songs extra special to me.  I’ll try to give a few examples. “I’ll Be Up All Night” was written about being there for a best friend in need almost 5 years earlier, but I brought it back to life, reworked it, and the meaning became new again because a girl, that I cared about a lot, lost her cousin in a flood and her fathers house was destroyed and she couldn’t sleep well for a while after that.  So that song was my way of saying, “I’m here for you,” I suppose.  Now every time I sing that song, I have those two people that I loved with me in a sense; which means a lot because the best friend passed away unfortunately and I don’t see the girl anymore. She was one of the best people I’ve ever met and she inspired me to do my best work.  Several of the songs on the album have her in them.  “Hey! Come On” was written as almost a love letter in a spurt one night.  I thought to myself at the time, “hey, come on, lets have some fun” are about the corniest lyrics ever, but I knew I couldn’t change them because that song was exactly what I wanted to say to that girl at the time.  It’s not hard to sing something if it rings true, and every time I sing it, it transports me back to that feeling, which I cherish.  My brother, Patrick, also played such a beautiful guitar solos on “I’ll Be Up All Night” and “Hey! Come On” that it makes me think of him when we perform them.  “Open Up Your Eyes” started off as an exercise on how I could possibly use that great back and forth power chord thing The Kinks used on a lot of their early stuff.  It didn’t turn into a song that sounds like The Kinks, which is a good thing, but I’ll always know that little piece of rock history is in a part of that riff.  Not to mention the lyrics in that one are about the public opening up their eyes to letting corporations control their radios and what they listen to, which I like. Stick it to the man!  “Sunflower” was written about the sunflowers in my parents garden when they got to the end of the season and started to slump over, they looked rather lazy to me and I wrote that for them. So, it reminds me of home.  “Tea Cup (I Love You)”  was a love song to the most consistent part of everyday for me, my morning tea.  It was refreshing to write something silly for a change and it reminded me of something Nilsson would do, so I love it for that.  I could go on for days about the meanings and influences of each song, and there are hundreds, so I’d better spare you and stop now! Haha.

SI: Where can we catch some of your upcoming shows? 
BT: Upcoming shows: I’m performing a rooftop concert with one of my best friends, Gus Moon, at Bridges in Greencastle, IN on 8/18/186pm.  We do an acoustic duo and harmonize on each others songs.  We’re also doing our duo show at The Fair On The Square in Danville, IN from 10am-12pm on 9/8.  Should be pretty cool.  I’m also performing with my band at a psychedelic music festival in Indianapolis on 9/7 and 9/8.  It’s called Back Ally Ballyhoo.  They haven’t released set times yet for that.

EDIT: This article was posted after the 8/18 show.

9/7     Brandon Tinkler                             Back Alley Ballyhoo               Indianapolis, IN       7pm
9/8     Brandon Tinkler and Gus Moon    Fair On The Square               Danville, IN             10am

You can check out his record and more on his website, www.brandontinkler.com, and stay tuned for an upcoming exclusive album review!

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