Big City Cough's Sean says Music is Weird Because its Traditional Meets Weird

Experimental instrumental act Big City Cough has been one created by Toronto native Sean Beresford, who has mostly been known as the guy that's been "someone else's guitar player". While this may have suited him fine enough, it has given him the opportunity to explore countless differences within genres and stages, until he was brought forth yet another opportunity of an old acoustic guitar, which would bring forth songs of curious possibilities.  Through all of this, it would lead to him spawning a session of material, that would become the debut album "Born At Night". Sean himself goes into discussion about this album, the music behind it, and where the future see's the band headed next.

1. Why the name Big City Cough?

It has a nice ring to it? Haha. It guess it kinda refers to the general state of mind / ennui of living in a big city.

2. Who or what has influenced your sound and style?

Who: Daniel Lanois, Sam Prekop, Brian Eno, Mark Hollis, Jim O'Rourke.
What: the middle of the night

3. Tell me what sort of things you write about?

Well my music is instrumental acoustic guitar music, so there is no 'subject matter' per se. I didn't really realize it while I was doing it, but I guess I was just playing and writing songs to inspire a really deep peace of mind. Some friends have told me that it inspires the same in them, so I guess it worked out!

4. Do you write your own material?

Yes I do. It's essentially a solo project; once I've written and recorded a basic track, I grab various players from the vast pool of tremendously talented musicians here in Toronto to sweeten things up.

5. How do you describe the music that you create to others who have never heard of you before?

The word "weird" gets used a lot. Haha. Or if I wanna be really verbose: "Traditional meets weird". (Or to be literal: "Instrumental acoustic finger-style guitar mixed with a generous dose of ambient soundscapes.") The general vibe is "chill & introspective".

6. "Before This There Was Everything" is the lead single to come off your album "Born At Night". Tell me a little about this track and why it was chosen as such?

“Before This There Was Everything” was the first song written and tracked for the record. It doesn’t really have a traditional structure at all - it just sort of keeps wandering down different paths. It really set the tone: the mood of the whole record was going to be meditative. Themes repeated over and over again to kind of grab you away from distractions, pull you in, get you into a zone, and take you on a bit of a weird introspective journey for awhile. I’m really into any music that does this: particularly dub reggae and any good ambient music. Even a band like Sleep does it, although it’s both meditative and punishing at the same time. But it still captures your brain in the same way and takes you away for awhile. Once I finished writing Before This There Was Everything, I knew I had a theme or a vibe I could explore for an entire record.

7. "Born At Night", has received a residency, where at and why is this happening for this particular release?

Yes I am playing every Tuesday in November at the Dakota Tavern in Toronto from 6pm-9pm. I decided to do a residency simply because when you book just one show there's always going to be a bunch of people who can't make it. So why not four? It also gave me the opportunity to sort of curate a thing where there's a different like-minded opening act each time.

8. What's the significance of the album title "Born At Night"?

I guess it's because I'm a night owl... The songs were typically conceived and often tracked in the middle of the night. Also my folks recently told me that I was born in the middle of the night. I was, and the songs were... so that inspired the title.

9. Do you have a favorite track that comes from "Born At Night"?

Hmmm... hard to choose my own favourite! I guess "Eventually I'll Dry Up And You'll Have To Throw Me Away" is a special one for me for a few reasons:

Firstly, it was the most laborious song to complete... it’s the longest song on the record, took the longest to write, the longest to edit, and instilled the most uncertainty in me of all of them. So it was very rewarding once it was finally done.

Secondly, there is a spoken word passage in this song, which I never anticipated I would delve into. There was a part in the song that seemed empty to me and I was considering what instrument to put in there to sweeten it. One of the last ideas I had was spoken word. At first I dismissed the idea, but I thought I'd give it a chance. I had only the title kicking around in a pile of scratched-out ideas, and so from that I conceived the theme of the two elderly lovers chatting and confronting their own mortality. I contacted a friend of mine who is a well-known singer-songwriter in Canada and one of my favourite lyricists period, and asked her if she felt like composing a short section based around this theme, and then reading it for the recording. She graciously declined because she was about to begin an album cycle herself so she was too busy. Confronted with my only real preferred choice being unavailable, a friend said “Why don’t you just write it yourself?” To which I responded “Cause I don’t write lyrics.” One night I had a bunch of red wine and for whatever reason was inspired to put pen to paper. I wrote & edited the whole passage in about 20 minutes. When I read it back I felt like it really moved me, so I thought ‘What the hell’. I got my parents to read it around one microphone. They are in their 70’s and got really choked up during the recording, so I thought I might be onto something with it. Upon hearing the rough mix, another friend whose parents are elderly and not so well was pretty moved by it, too… so I decided to go with it. If you’d asked me in the early stages if I’d end up having spoken word on the record I would’ve scoffed; it’s not really my thing. Maybe it is now?

And lastly once it was done I was a bit surprised at how it turned out: I asked myself: "Did I just make some sort of modern classical music song??" I try not to over-think songwriting or have any concrete expectations about the end result - I don't really know how my songs are going to turn out until I choose a path and see where it takes me. So the results often surprise me. This makes it a pretty fun & rewarding journey.

10. What are the plans between now into this next year coming up?

Immediate plans are to enjoy the rest of the Tuesday residency dates, and just try to get some more cool bills together for the new year. I'm looking forward to it!

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