Vancouver-area band Brass Camel throws a prog-rock party on its new “Brass” album, which began streaming Friday (Sept. 9), just hours before a big release/video shoot show at The Wise Hall on Adanac Street.
The nine-song album echoes with the sounds of Yes, Rush and Queen, math-rock wackiness, funk-fortified riffs and some songs that really stretch the vocal cords of singer/guitarist Daniel James, a stage name for Danny Sveinson, Surrey’s “rock ‘n’ roll kid” from the mid-2000s.
These days he’s riding Brass Camel with bassist Curtis Arsenault, drummer Wyatt Gilson and guest musicians on a fun trip to a place full of complex arrangements and laser-focused musicianship.
The “Brass” album is a huge step forward for the band, launched in late 2017 with the Surrey-raised Sveinson fronting an original rock band for the first time, more than a decade after creating a buzz as a gifted, shaggy-haired boy who played guitar like a seasoned pro.
“It’s nice to feel a little more on track with a project like this,” said Sveinson, a Johnston Heights Secondary grad who now lives in East Vancouver.
“I think we’ve found our niche a little bit, and with the stage show it took a lot of blood, sweat and tears getting those marquee signs done. With those, even if people don’t like the music, which is not middle-of-the-road, they’re not going to forget the band name.”
It’s clear Brass Camel worked hard to create “Brass,” recorded in the early days of 2022 at Vancouver’s Afterlife Studios, the former Mushroom Studios space where Heart, Led Zeppelin, Diana Ross and others had made music.
“There’s such a great ambience in that room, and it has the most sort of Abbey Road vibe of all the studios in town,” Sveinson raved. “I’d recorded some bed tracks there for a solo album I did in 2017, so it was my second time in there.”
From there, the band refined the songs at its own studio, all while dealing with the loss of a family member and making time for day jobs.
Sveinson lost a sibling to suicide early this year.
“It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to go through, feeling that loss and being there for my parents (Darwin and Jean),” the musician revealed. “It was just a very sobering experience.
“I think I channelled a lot of that grief into spending every waking hour I could in the studio,” he added, “and there were times there when I would work all day at my day job, selling motorcycles, and doing 50-hour weeks at the studio – getting out of the studio at two in the morning and then right back to the shop. We spent a lot of time and hard work to get this album done, in a short time frame by 21st-century standards.”
The songs on “Brass” came together in different ways — some years in the making, others late in the game. The track “King for a Day,” for example, boasts one of the album’s trickiest, most intricate arrangements, but was written in about an hour, Sveinson reports.
“That came together quicker than anything else on the album, and it was written absolutely last-minute, along with ‘Last Flight of the Vulcan.’ The oldest song on the album would have been written around 2019.”
Moving forward, Sveinson says Brass Camel is aiming to augment its core trio with a second guitarist and a keyboard player.
“We are looking to be a five-piece of committed players,” he said. “Going forward we know that’s the way it’s gotta be, especially with the touring ambitions we have. We are looking for people who can put their efforts back into the band and make it grow.”
He elaborated on the subject of finding the right players for Brass Camel, and how challenging that’s been.
“It’s always tough to find committed players for a project, and we’ve found some people willing to commit but haven’t been the right fit for us,” Sveinson continued. “I think we do have a tall order finding the right players for this band, because as you say we do have some pretty complex arrangements and a fairly competent level of musicianship in the band, yet none of us are trained. We are sort of fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants players, so you need to be able to roll with us but at the same time, you can’t put a sheet of music in front of us either. So finding someone who’s a natural, who’s into progressive rock, digs the complex arrangements, the fusion, but at the same time has a bit of danger there, a bit of fearlessness and can jam, that’s tough to find. But we’re not going to rush into a decision at this point.”
On social media, look for the band on facebook.com/brassycamel.