June 25, 2019

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Symphonic dream

Bros. Landreth fulfils a fantasy by teaming up with WSO

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 18/6/2018 (372 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A lot of us have bucket lists — a collection of things that we would see and learn and accomplish if we had the time, money and ability to do so. Often these dreams never get realized, but remain vague wishes for our future selves.

One of the items on the bucket list of local roots-rock four-piece the Bros. Landreth is to play a show with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra. They initially felt they, too, were reaching for an unattainable goal, but next week, they will be able to scratch it off their list.

On Wednesday, the entire WSO will join the Bros. Landreth at the Centennial Concert Hall to play nine of their songs — from their debut album Let It Lie, as well as Joey Landreth’s solo album, Whiskey, and some new songs that will be on the band’s in-progress sophomore release — all reimagined through a symphonic lens.

It’s clear this project means a lot to the band who, at a small preview event last month, were visibly emotional hearing their songs backed by a three-piece string section for the first time.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 18/6/2018 (372 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A lot of us have bucket lists — a collection of things that we would see and learn and accomplish if we had the time, money and ability to do so. Often these dreams never get realized, but remain vague wishes for our future selves.

One of the items on the bucket list of local roots-rock four-piece the Bros. Landreth is to play a show with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra. They initially felt they, too, were reaching for an unattainable goal, but next week, they will be able to scratch it off their list.

On Wednesday, the entire WSO will join the Bros. Landreth at the Centennial Concert Hall to play nine of their songs — from their debut album Let It Lie, as well as Joey Landreth’s solo album, Whiskey, and some new songs that will be on the band’s in-progress sophomore release — all reimagined through a symphonic lens.

It’s clear this project means a lot to the band who, at a small preview event last month, were visibly emotional hearing their songs backed by a three-piece string section for the first time.

"I kind of feel there’s a stigma between rock people and classical people and it’s kind of funny because there’s a certain level of reverence that exists from both sides to the other," says Joey Landreth. "I can hardly read music. If I’m reading music I have to go very slowly, so things like that make you self-conscious, but then they’re like, ‘Oh, you just get up there and improvise, we can’t do that.’ But it is definitely intimidating playing with musicians who are unbelievably professional, unbelievable educated and unbelievably good. My excitement to hear it come to life outweighed everything else."

"Maybe less intimidated, more really, really excited, but those can sometimes blur together," says Dave Landreth, Joey’s brother and bandmate.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>David (left) and Joey Landreth take the stage with the WSO Wednesday night, mixing classical and rock musical styles.</p></p>

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

David (left) and Joey Landreth take the stage with the WSO Wednesday night, mixing classical and rock musical styles.

To create the orchestral versions of their songs, the Landreths enlisted the expertise of local arranger and composer Chris Byman, who has only worked on one similar project in the past but was enthusiastic about taking another crack at arranging non-classical songs for symphony.

You’d be hard pressed to find someone who knows the Bros. Landreth catalogue better or more intimately than Byman — translating songs that live in the folk and rock world into something that makes sense for an orchestra comes with a hefty time commitment.

Byman’s part in this project started around five months ago, when he was given the setlist and began listening to the tracks. He listened, and listened and then listened some more. Thankfully, the Bros. had provided lead sheets — sheet music that specifies chords, harmonies and the other major structural elements of each song. Had they not, Byman would have to do that all by ear, which adds even more time onto an already lengthy process.

"Luckily in this case I had all the chords and everything, so right away I could start thinking about what kind of soundscape I’d like to have accompany them in that specific situation. Like, if it called for soft strings, or woodwinds, or loud brass to back up a raunchy guitar solo or something like that," Byman explains.

Byman says he budgeted around eight hours to do each track but went well beyond that tweaking and changing his original arrangements to better accommodate little flourishes that can be heard on the album versions of the songs, and also taking into account the lyrics and how they contribute to the song’s overall tone.

"I’ve found, especially with this project, their poetry is just so beautiful and I took a lot of inspiration and tried to pay a bit of attention to that. So when they would say things in the lyrics, I would maybe try to word-paint a little bit with the orchestration, and it just gave me another level to think on," he says.

 

PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Chris Byman arranged Bros. Landreth songs for the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra.</p></p>

PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Chris Byman arranged Bros. Landreth songs for the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra.

"It’s all about the colour too, when you’re scoring. Nothing was the first one I did and I think there’s some line where he says, ‘Stars slide down to the cosmic floor,’ so I need something that’s kind of lofty and — I hate the word, but... twinkly. So there’s harp going back and forth and vibraphone — Joey loves vibraphone," he continues, pointing out the passage in a thick book of charts containing all of the Bros. Landreth arrangements.

Both Byman and the Landreth brothers say collaboration was a big factor in the overall success of the project. From Byman’s perspective, it was nice to work with musicians who wanted to be involved in the process and offered constructive feedback but also were willing to give him the freedom to be creative. And for the Bros. Landreth, having Byman at the helm — someone ready to invest the time into making their songs sound as amazing as possible, and someone whose work and talent they respect — was key.

"Chris is actually creating new music, so it’s a big job. I think we knew that it was going to be a big job, but I don’t think we knew necessarily how big. All the details and all the moving pieces... And we said to Chris initially, we don’t want to give you too much information up front other than we’re not afraid to get adventurous. If you hear something and you want to chase the muse somewhere, we want to go there," says Joey.

"It was a really fantastic experience. And to see our music through someone else’s eyes — or ears, I suppose — and realizing that probably aside from the guys in the band, nobody else has spent that kinda time with our music... most people listen to music on a macro level, either it hits you or it doesn’t and you move on, but he would listen to all of the instruments, transcribe all of the melodies that catch his ear, make sure he understands all of the harmonies, all the rhythmic changes, and things like that," adds Dave.

"The collaborative process that happened with this project was unreal and so important, that is the most important thing about the arts scene here. How everyone works together, it’s the best thing about this city. Everyone knows everyone, everyone has worked with everyone, and if you haven’t yet, you’re going to. It’s just so special what we have, and them being so relaxed and easygoing, it was such a wonderful thing," says Byman, mentioning this project is an entirely Manitoban production, between the band, the orchestra and himself as the arranger.

"I’m counting on them just doing their own thing and doing what they do best (on stage). They’ve played these songs hundreds of times, they know them inside and out, their fans know them inside and out, I’m just counting on them to do what they do — they’re just going to have a bigger backup band."

erin.lebar@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @NireRabel

Erin Lebar

Erin Lebar
Multimedia producer

Erin Lebar is a multimedia producer who spends most of her time writing music- and culture-related stories for the Arts & Life section. She also co-hosts the Winnipeg Free Press's weekly pop-culture podcast, Bury the Lede.

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History

Updated on Monday, June 18, 2018 at 9:03 AM CDT: Adds photos

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