A blank page is a beautiful thing. Limitless and clean, the first word is a seed. The same concept applies to music — an album, a song, a beat, an idea. The beginning holds directionless power.
The Raven, a Hydra-like collaboration of many rotating minds and voices, sustains the raw energy past its roots. Fresh heads, new ideas. It’s a concept that combines producer/engineer Brandon DeLyzer’s music and lyrics with the talented voices of his social network.
DeLyzer came up with the idea for The Raven while honing his electronic skills as the keyboardist and programmer in Celebrity Traffic, a three-piece funk-based electro-rock group that’s performed Rifflandia, Shambhala, and opened for acts like Junior Boys, LA Riots, K-OS, USS, Bonobo, The Knocks, and Felix Cartal.
“I would sit down at night and write a lot of material that just didn’t fit with Celebrity Traffic’s vibe. It was whatever I was in the mood for and often inspired by Jack (Daniels) or Mary (Jane). I was test-tubing these different strands of soundscapes for years but had no outlet for them. I ended up throwing most of my beats and ideas in a hard-drive vault, filing typewritten lyrics in drawers and notebooks. I felt restricted and that I wasn’t fully expressing my range, like there was some sort of musical dam inside my head that was about to burst.”
If your head’s going to explode, do it in front of a canvas. DeLyzer met up with his first vocalist Lys Hermanski (Light) and began to write freely. “I loved working with the guys in Celebrity Traffic. The whole mashing of minds is powerful. But I wanted something I had control over, that was mine, something that wouldn’t restrict me. But I wanted what I loved about Celebrity Traffic too, a community vibe. I wanted to work with people who would inspire me and elevate my ideas to something to beyond what I had in my head.”
The idea of multiple rotating vocalists didn’t come right away. At first, Lys (or Light) was the only muse for writing alternate material. Hired
to manage Monster Records, a studio owned by Kristian Harper (live engineer for Tool, NIN, Reel Big Fish, Jessica Simpson), DeLyzer worked with an eclectic quiver of recording artists and other producers including Joby Baker, a master of unorthodox studio technics.
“Working at Monster Records opened my eyes. Just by being in the same room as Kristian and Joby, I learned so much. Kristian was a tone nazi and a gear slut. I abandoned my dependancy on the digital world and learned how to navigate old analog gear. One thing I didn’t like about a lot of electronic music was that it didn’t have the same intimacy as something with real instrumentation. So I started to use 60’s amps, Wurlitzers, grand pianos, and rare vintage outboard gear to make my sounds blend together like they would if I was recording a rock band. I wanted it to sound natural.”
It was after a visit to Toronto’s CMW in March 2012, where DeLyzer hit it off with talented singer/songwriter Adaline of Light Organ Records, that he began to think about making The Raven a guest vocalist project.
“Shawna (Adaline) really liked the track “Weekend Wolves” that I’d done with Lys, and we talked about working on something together and eventually did. It was really inspirational to have someone who was so talented and fairly successful in the Canadian industry to be interested in the music.”
Single sparks start spectral fires. Upon returning from CMW, DeLyzer began hunting down Victoria’s best songbirds. Working also as a live engineer at a local bar, it wasn’t hard to meet plenty of talented singers.
“I began to write music differently. When I clicked with someone, we’d become friends, talk music and ideas. I began to write songs that catered
to the singer’s voice and style without worrying about if next song I would write would be too different than the last person I worked with. Either that or I could write a track knowing that I’d find someone soon who would fit it.”
For the most part, the vocalists DeLyzer was working with had never sang over electronic music before. It was a chance for them to try something different and chart a new creative land in themselves.
“I want The Raven project to be as much about the people I work with as it is about me. No matter how known or unknown the singer is, I make each new vocalist come up with their own moniker, an alter-ego. That alter-ego becomes the focus of the song, which is why that moniker always comes before The Raven in the artist name — Light and The Raven, Petit-Loup and The Raven, Harp Beat and The Raven, etc. I didn’t want any of ‘The Raven, featuring’ bullshit. The less the project is about me, the more freedom I have to do what I want. It’s a project that can’t run out of momentum. It can’t die.”
When one head is removed, two grow in place.