Bidding Adieu to Bryant Vazquez

Bryant Vazquez – this is your life! Photo by Monica Saaty

We love Arizona but we don’t hold to some crazy fervent love like a state-sized version of nationalism. We can accept that our desert home might not be the place for everyone forever. That being said, it is with hope that we at YabYum are sending Bryant Vazquez out into the world. And, yes, we do feel like we are sending him out into the world in case you wondered if the sense of entitlement was accidental. It’s not.

Bryant first came onto our radar a few years ago when he submitted a lo-fi home-recording to one of our song contests. We then invited him down to Phoenix a few months later to perform in one of our showcases and got our first chance to get to know the brooding man behind the music, although, he was still a bit of a youngster at the time.

Since then, we’ve had quite a few updates on the artist probably because he is freakishly prolific as a songwriter. Like Ryan Adams/ Rivers Cuomo productive (see award here). The kid just breathes out songs, it would seem. I asked him just how many songs he penned last month when he was in town to record his next solo album. Well, not his next solo album (which comes out in October), but his next-next solo album due out early next year. Nine was the answer, but he said it was a particularly productive time for him as he prepared for his final recording projects in Arizona.

Aren’t they adorable?

He’s produced an incredible amount of songs during the past few years. So many songs, in fact, he’s developed multiple vehicles for his songwriting skills including Vagabond Gods with his brother Chris and Murdoch with members of Them Savages. In his free time, he also played bass for Sedona band and longtime YabYum favorite, decker..

Bryant is the consummate musician. He lives and breathes music, constantly looking for new avenues for songwriting and performing. It’s as if he simply decided that music was his calling and everything else became secondary. He’s also a Dylan fan of borderline unhealthy proportion; something we have in common. 

Bryant moved to Flagstaff for college six years ago from Yuma with his brother Chris and now the pair are gearing up for their next big migration: New York.

The really great thing is, if you’ve been following along over the years, Bryant’s growth and development as a musician reveals the potential contained therein. He’s not afraid to experiment with sound or instrumentation. He adapts and he learns and he’s always creating. Just take a gander at the man’s Bandcamp page here. Starting with 2009’s From the Grave on through to “Dirty Sheets, Blue Walls”, a demo track he shared earlier in September, it’s easy to get a sense of his commitment to his craft.

Photo by Eugene Franklin

The first leg of the journey east is a 55 hour train ride that will end in Philadelphia where the pair plan on spending a few months while they scope out the Big Apple. They’re only taking what they can carry on the train which means one guitar a piece. For Bryant, that means his ’65 Gibson acoustic.

Older brother Chris perhaps said it best when he claimed, “New York is a good place to experience new things.” That is a statement I can definitely get behind. Artists should be ever striving to increase their knowledge base, experiential and otherwise. As the Brothers Vazquez told me their plans for making it out and exploring the East Coast region, they talked about opportunities to take their work in new directions, to expand, and to maybe find some piano bars.

For most people, the idea of setting out to a new city is more than a little daunting. But the Vazquez brothers have a rather simple theory about the whole matter. Being broke in one city is a lot like being broke in another one. Living in Flagstaff with the rest of their family back in Yuma, struggling to juggle day jobs around gigs and tours, the brothers did not often get the chance to see the rest of their brood. “Might as well be New York,” was the shared sentiment. And New York it shall be.
Before he goes, however, Vazquez plans to say goodbye in proper Bryant fashion: with an onslaught of releases from his many projects. I caught up with him at Triskele Resounding, a studio in Tempe owned by Christopher Welch featuring a grand piano that had to be dismantled and rebuilt to get through the door. 
Could he look more dramatic?

The recordings I got to hear him working on at Triskele Resounding won’t be coming out until early next year so I have an extra long time to anticipate the project. Bryant referred to the collection as a “winter ale.” For some folk, music seems better suited to certain seasons. I am one of those people. For example, Anthony & the Johnsons (an example Bryant’s new piano work brought to mind) I prefer in the coldest months while other artists hold my attention in the dreaded summertime. Many its just seasonal affective disorder or maybe there’s some truth in the theory.

Alex Begay was recording the project: a man who I might have offended by my asking if that is his real last name, but if the tracks I heard are any indication of what’s to come, it’s a name worth knowing. A few other key Valley players will be making appearances on the Triskele tracks like David Moroney on chello, Wayne Jones on upright bass, and Shane Kennedy on drums. This is the first time Bryant has gone for a studio experience over the home four-track. 

The solo due out this October, however, still holds to the lo-fi tradition and even features Melody of Love, Palms fame on a couple of the tracks. Also coming soon is Death to Murdoch, the final album from the group that will be dismantled after Bryant’s departure. The brothers Vazquez will also be releasing a single through their band’s moniker Vagabond Gods that they recorded with a friend from Stir It Up Records out of Phoenix. 
As we talked, I asked whether or not he spends a lot of time revisiting the albums he puts out and, after skirting the answer for a moment, he had this to say about the new Murdoch album: “It’ll be a good album so I’ll probably listen to it a bunch.” That’s the kind of chutzpah it takes to pack up for New York with nothing but a suitcase and a guitar and an arsenal of songs in your head. 
All grown up. See ya fellas!

We’re not sad to see him go, though we’ll miss the sometimes lugubrious bastard. We’re excited to follow his encounters with the wider world through the music the internet will keep available for his Arizona fanbase. We’ll just have to wait until he tours to catch him live, I suppose. Until then, we’ll keep an eye out for new recordings as they begin to emerge. 
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*We removed a band link above at the request of said band.