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Oriel

16 Jun

“Organic” really doesn’t even begin to describe Brandon Wiarda and his musical project, Oriel. The 26-year-old farmer & musician has a new record, Repetition for a Motion on the boutique Rest + Noise label, which has put out a couple of CakeIn15 favorites from Zoo Animal and Northern Howl, and the Oriel disc shows the same kind of handcrafted care as those other records- the hand screenprinted album covers definitely help! From creating his own loops, disassembling the banjos and guitars of folks and jangling them back together with humming keys and growing into lush orchestrations, Repetition for a Motion is a loping, pulsing, bubbling collection of songs from the folk template that exude an all-enveloping joy, much like Wiarda himself does in conversation. CakeIn15 spoke with Wiarda from the watermelon patch his own Sleepy Root Farm to talk about the wild country life, translating solo work to the stage and the affirmations of creativity. You can catch Oriel at the Stone Arch Festival of the Arts (for which Staciaann books the music) on Sunday at 2:15 on the City Pages Stage.

CakeIn15: When did you start playing music?

Brandon Wiarda: Originally I started doing piano when I was really young but I was never very diligent with theory and continuing lessons and I wound up actually quitting taking piano after my mom found out I was skipping lessons and I wasn’t practicing enough. [Laughs] But I’ve always had interesting in playing music, tinkering around with it and much more just tones, to experiment with the sound than get behind the theories of it. I started to just have a fascination with it and just pick up different instruments and look into different sounds and stuff and I guess I was probably about 15 when I got into effects pedals and started exploring the soundscapes and they just kind of kept going from there.

CW: How did you get into farming?

BW: When I was growing up, my parents split up when I was really young and my dad moved out to a farm in South Dakota, a large, 700 acre corn and soybeans kind of operation and so I spent my summers out in the country and I would spend my school year in LaCrosse, Wisconsin with my mom and I always loved that living in the city during school and living in the country during summers and the country dynamic. As soon as I started living in the cities and going to school full-time in the Twin Cities I just missed being out in the country and being outside all day long and after a while, it was just like, “Well, maybe I’ll try and do some farming again and try to get into it.” I was vegan for a while and started discovering produce and vegetables and started doing my own gardening and I got really turned on by it and it was this great spiritual discovery. Just growing your own food and eating it and becoming more familiar with that direct umbilical cord that vegetables are between you and the earth and how much you depend on other life-forms and how much you literally depend on the consumption of other life, that consuming life for life is an amazing thing for me. So I started doing some internships on some organic farms and I loved it and was working on a couple CSA produce farms and I kept doing it for a few summers and I can’t imagine living any other way.

C15: People who do grow their own food is that people seem to be very self-sufficient with a notion of being able to do this and sustain themselves. Is that the same way you feel about the way you make music, by yourself and then layering on your own self-sufficiency?

BW: Totally, yeah. It’s very much the idea that I love having control of all parts of the process. When you’re not working with other people in a studio and you have your space, you have so much more freedom to experiment and try things and think outside the box. So that definitely feeds into it. I’m the kind of person where I’m hands-on with learning, I can’t really pick up stuff if I’m just hearing people talk about it, so I picked up music the same way. It helped me a lot more in how to play music in general, just trying to record stuff and it made me learn about recording too. It made me learn how to write songs, how to structure songs that I couldn’t if I just picked up a guitar.

Oriel – Procession by Rest + Noise

C15: You can do that solo work when you’re recording, but then how do you translate that to the live stage or a performance setting?

BW: Oh, it’s very difficult! [Laughs] The first album that I did, [Showers Bring May] I just kind of gave out to friends and that was maybe six or seven years ago. That was strictly me sitting down at the computer and writing stuff and basing all the songs off of that. A lot of songs off Repetition for a Motion were written on guitar and expanded on through the recording and the layering process and that was kind of purposeful because I wanted to be able to play more live shows. The old material I had a lot of difficulty playing live because it was hard to replicate all those sounds and all the loops and all the changes with people on stage. So I was mindful of that and I was just a lot more interested in folk music when I was writing Repetition for a Motion, over the course of several years, just writing songs when I wasn’t living anywhere in particular and I only had my guitar with me. It was matter of picking out the ones I liked the most and had the strongest ability to be expanded on when recorded. So this material has been a lot easier than the older material, but it is still difficult, a lot of the songs have bass parts on them and multiple percussion and guitar parts, so I end up just playing a lot of the basic rhythm guitar stuff that’s going on and use loop pedals and when people play percussion with me, have them expand out into keyboards and other sound things they can do so they’re not playing drums strictly. A lot of it is about filling up that space and recreating the feel and the energy of it than trying to recreate the literal things that are going on in the recorded version.

C15: Folk music gets mentioned in your press materials, what is it about folk that makes songs that are 60, 100 years old still able to give out something new?

BW: I think what’s so brilliant about folk music is that no one owns it and anyone can take it and do anything you want with it and it’s all just about people passing on songs to eachother one by one. It’s all public, it belongs to the people. The guy who runs Rest + Noise, Ryan Potts, is a really close friend of mine and has had a huge impact on the kind of music I play and the kind of music I listen to and we have had a lot of conversations about folk music, so when he was writing up that press release part of it, he knew a lot of the philosophy of the music behind it. There’s not so much on the album where it’s coming out and is sounds like a folk song, I mean, “In The Pines” is a traditional folk song and that’s the only one that is really straightforward and taken from folk, but the rest of it is just the philosophy of folk and that was very much a guiding light, not worrying about it being a professional endeavor, but mostly about the feeling of music and the conviviality of music and that desire for it to be open and for people.

C15: In your ideal world, how are artists treated? What could we be doing better for the arts?

BW: I am very turned off by the whole professionalism of art, I mean, I think it’s a necessity to a certain degree, that if you want people to make high-quality art that there has to be people who are ding it professionally, but I feel that so many people shy away from creation and the experience of making things based on the exaltable moments in life because they are afraid that they are not good enough about it or that there is no creative system to support them, and I don’t know where I’m going with this.

C15: That people shouldn’t be afraid of their impulse to create or feel insufficient about it?

BW: I feel like the more active you are and go out and listen to local bands and check out local art or the more you create and give that feedback to people and give that reciprocity of, “I made this because I saw something you did and it inspired me,” the better. It think it’s very life affirming for people to see art that comes out and touches them or that they’ve been afraid to acknowledge or they didn’t know how to acknowledge. When those two-way roads start going through people, I think its amazing, and the best way to do that is to just go out and see shows and talk to people and start doing it outside of designated venues and doing it on the streets, and out of your home and singing in the car! [Laughs] It’s a way of life, where celebration and art and creativity doesn’t have to be done by a professional element, it can be done by everybody everywhere.

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