Alibi V.26 No.28 • July 13-19, 2017 

Music Interview


Hample’s work manipulates sound and emotion

Jen Meller
Bryce Hample is a bit of an enigma. His numerous artistic explorations—ranging from the cyber-industrial psychedelic explorations of former band The Fertile Crescent to his abstract work in visual art and sculpture—paint a complex picture of an artist with remarkable vision and insight into the world surrounding him.

His most recent project, REIGHNBEAU, specializes in the meticulous layering of sounds, piloting an exploration into the emotive and evocative qualities of disparate textures. Weekly Alibi was lucky enough to sit and talk with Hample before attending his most recent performance at Sister (407 Central NW). The combination of those two deeply opposite experiences highlighted the intricacy of human identity and expression.

The easygoing, gentle man with whom I shared 30 minutes in the shade outside a local coffee joint barely resembled the intense, unbridled virtuoso that manifested on stage that same night, his contemplation replaced by a dynamic and zealous energy that rippled through the air. Even his strikingly flowing hair, once composed so tranquilly into a man-bun, became an untamed, flailing mane as he delved deeper into the passion of the performance, the perfect visual analogy to his transformation in my eyes.

As soon as the last note rang out, however, Hample raised his head with a gleaming, sheepish smile and whatever bit of musical magic possessed him vanished, leaving only the humble and pensive artist whose words decorate this page.

Weekly Alibi: So you released a new EP called Hide about two weeks ago. What can you tell me about this EP and how it fits into the rest of your catalog?

Bryce Hample: The interesting thing about this EP for me is that it was kind of a return to some sounds that I’ve explored in the past, but in new ways … kind of like the more witchy, witch-house sounds, but then also some of the shoegaze and slow-core stuff that I’ve explored on other releases.

How would you characterize your approach to this release and your intention going into it?

Well, this one kind of came about naturally without any pretense of genre. Sometimes when you’re performing every night in a row and not able to write music for a long time, once you get done with all the performances you’re really itching to write. So some of it I wrote after a long tour I did a year or two ago, and I had a lot of inspiration from people I played with on the road. It felt good in that it was returning to some old sounds in new ways. I think I kind of have an existential crisis every now and then about what my sound is or should be, what genre it should be and all that. But my approach with this project has been to just let myself go in whichever direction I want and hope the people who are following can hang with it.

Having listened to a lot of your music, both as REIGHNBEAU and with your older projects, it’s obvious that your identity and sound radiate out of the music’s use of space. All of your work, through different genres, sounds cohesive in its thoughtfulness and contemplation. Are you conscious of bringing that quality to your music, or is it really a natural progression and reflection of yourself?

I would say it started very consciously, because in comparison to playing in full rock bands, REIGHNBEAU was a really stripped-down arrangement and aesthetic. So minimalism or restraint has always been a part of it, both consciously and subconsciously. I think I’ve always been really sensitive to music or bands that have extraneous parts, just, like, excessive guitar noodling where there’s too much stuff going on and it’s not heightening a piece, so I think my response to being annoyed by that was to approach my music in a way where every note counts (hopefully).

That sensitivity to having too much going on really stands out in your performances and visual art. How important is that visual and experiential aspect to your music?

In tandem, the combination of visual and auditory can be extremely powerful. That’s why every movie you see has cheesy music to pull at your heart strings, to play on that sensory combination. What I’m doing now is trying to play into that by experimenting and building my own instruments, but also building my own lights and light rigs to be as visually dramatic as possible. It’s very stark, strobes and complete darkness at times with a lot of contrast between light and dark.

You’ve been involved in the Albuquerque music scene for most of your life, and in recent years have become something of a figurehead for it. How have you experienced that scene and community growing and evolving?

I feel I can’t really take any credit for the Albuquerque music scene, it’s all the community and the people putting their love into it, and that’s a beautiful thing. Maybe eight years ago, I was thinking about moving away [to Portland] because they had a bustling music scene and all sorts of stuff going on. And then I decided not to because I realized that it felt like a cop-out or something like that, and I wanted to stay here and try to grow here and try to strengthen what was going on here rather than just jumping ship and trying to join an established scene. There was already a strong base here, but I just wanted to be a part of that.

Outside of the people and the community here, how do you think your life in Albuquerque has helped to form and inform you, both personally and musically?

Well … I love New Mexico and its landscapes and its flavors and weather, really most things about it. It’s interesting traveling playing music because people will say that they can hear a sort of desert aesthetic in the music, which is harder for me to pick out. I suppose it has to influence the music also. Maybe some of the spaciousness comes from that, because I really value the wide open space we have here, it’s very different from a lot of places where you can’t ever see the horizon and it’s a lot more closed-in. Traveling across the country, every time I get back to New Mexico it’s like I’m back in the most beautiful spot, my favorite spot.

It’s obvious in your music (and especially your live performances) just how much nature is reflected and captured in your music. How influential has nature been in your own life?

Greatly! I make music out there in the woods sometimes and maybe dream of living out in the countryside. I would also say that a lot of my music has an organic quality to it where I’m using acoustic or sounds with natural origins but then manipulating them electronically. I’d say nature is a big influence, one of my things that makes me really happy.

That really stands out to me, and it evokes these beautiful reflections on both the serenity and the uncertainty of nature. Do you see yourself as having a particular purpose in your music, either as a message you want to put out into the world or an emotion you want to evoke in your audience?

I would say the most I can hope for is that I can make someone feel something. Music has an amazing capacity to trigger emotion and contain emotion, it’s like one of those things that has been studied and kind of understood, but it has emotive qualities and a way of triggering memory that not much else can … I think I like that answer, even if it’s a pretty simple or general thing.

I like that answer, too. That doesn’t make it any worse; simplicity is beautiful. Music and nature are both sort of magical things in their simplicity, they evoke these intense emotions from outta nowhere.