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(Photo courtesy of Jesse Daniel Smith)

Peer Review: Busty and the Bass

a/Arts & Entertainment/Music by

To most graduating students, April represents the final frontier between the familiar bubble of school and the first step into whatever lies beyond. For the eight remaining members of Busty and the Bass at McGill, who will graduate this spring and join vocalist/saxophonist Nick Ferrara in the real world, the challenging transition of going from a student band to professional musicians looms on the horizon—but it certainly helps their cause that they’ve spent the last semester with one foot out the door.

“We basically just spent two months touring—I think we’ve had two weekends off,” said trombonist Chris Vincent. “We played with K.C. Roberts [& the Live Revolution] from Toronto and they’re awesome. We did the States as well [over Reading Week], then Dalhousie; and then last week, we did shows in Toronto and Kingston [….] It’s given us a taste of touring before it really starts to happen.”

“Now [that] we’re back for about a month, we sort of have to focus on our Prom show,” added keyboardist Eric Haynes. “But other than that, we just have to worry about graduating.”

That’s just the type of year it’s been for Busty, a stream of effort aimed at growing the band’s audience in preparation for life outside McGill—all while earning the degrees they came for in the first place. Luckily, they’ve found ways to make it all work.

“I’ve been [a] part-time [student] for the past year, and some of those classes are music classes, which are sub-able if you coordinate with your professors, [….] something we’ve gotten way better about,” explained bassist Milo Johnson. “It’s pretty much been full-time Busty, and I feel like at this point, we’ve sort of figured out the tricks so that McGill doesn’t hate us.”

It’s really the exact opposite. Back in the Fall when the group was entered in TD’s nation-wide Rock Your Campus music competition, the McGill administration hopped on board the Busty bandwagon, helping their cause with tweets and articles of admiration—Principal Suzanne Fortier even made a cameo in the “Tryna Find Myself” music video. Throw in the band’s enormous student following and it’s clear that there’s been no shortage of Busty support at McGill; but over the past year, they’ve gone a long way towards establishing other large fan bases as well. 

“I would say that having online content, so that people can show their friends and show people [our music] before a show to get them interested is really important,” began Haynes. “But I think for us, by far still the most successful way of getting people to come out to our shows and check us out is from recommendation [….] and that’s why I think our Reading Week tour went a bit better [than last year], because we had some places where we’d played before, so people who had seen us last time brought out a group.”

The band will have the opportunity to play some bigger stages and keep reaching new fans this summer. They’re slated to play during Canadian Music Week in Toronto and at the Ottawa Jazz Festival. By that time, GLAM, the follow-up album to their 2014 EP Bustified, will also be released. If you’re wondering how they arrived at that name, don’t expect a thorough answer any time soon.

“It’s our pet elephant,” said Johnson, unwilling to elaborate. He was, however, more forthcoming about the type of music GLAM will feature.

“The approach that this album seemed to take is that we were just trying to find a space for everyone to input their own musical background,” explained Johnson. “Elements from the hip-hop world, from funk, from pop, electronic.”

Unlike Bustified, which was recorded at multiple studios and venues, their upcoming release will have the benefit of a more cohesive sound.

“[GLAM] was pretty much all recorded at the same studio, Planet Studios, up on Beaubien and Papineau,” described Vincent. “And we were so lucky to get a guy named Jesse String out from Los Angeles. This guy is a genius and he basically just engineered and recorded our whole album [….] The songs are all different, but they’re all going to have a similar sound [largely because of him].”

For a nine-person band, creating new material can be as difficult as it is rewarding, and it’s been a learning experience for Busty, who work on the various stages of songs both as a whole and in smaller groups.

“There’s lots of different steps in the process of creating a Busty track,” explained Johnson. “It’s like a storyboard, so [it includes] figuring out the arrangement, the lyrics, the sections. And then you get more and more in detail, like the horn arrangements, the transitions [….] I would say we’re getting better and better about knowing where we’re at in a track’s development.”

Many of their newest tracks will be on display this week at the aforementioned Prom show, when Busty returns to the Corona theatre for the first time since opening for the Arkells as part of winning Rock Your Campus. This time they’ll be the headliner, and as Haynes articulates, they’re quick to appreciate those who helped them get to that point.

“The McGill community are the people who really started us off and they’ve never stopped being supportive, so it’s gonna be really great to play for them one last big show as students.”

Busty and the Bass perform at the Corona Theatre (2490 Notre Dame Ouest) on Friday, April 10 at 9 p.m. Tickets are $16.

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