Bran Van 3000 are something of a legend in Montreal. Founded by DJ James Di Salvio and E.P. Bergen in 1994, BV3 (as they are known to fans) have survived the kind of career that music documentaries are made of – all while continuing to refine their quirky and lush brand of genre-hopping, electro-acoustic groove with rock-solid releases through the years. If you don’t know Bran Van, it’s time to get acquainted: they’ll will be getting funky at Osheaga in Montreal this Friday at 5:30 PM!
As far as Canadian bands go, Bran Van got off to an auspicious beginning. An excursion into radio vibes with 1997’s hit single “Drinkin’ in LA” (which charted once in Canada and twice in the UK) landed Bran Van brief tenure in pop stardom, including a global tour and a Capitol Records release for their 1997 debut Glee. Riding high on their success, BV3 was subsequently signed to the Beastie Boys‘ label Grand Royal for their sophomore effort, 2001’s Discosis.
Unfortunately, a sudden collapse of the Grand Royal label coincided with Discosis‘ release, tanking the album’s publicity. In the wake of disaster, the track “Astounded”, featuring vocals from soul legend Curtis Mayfield, managed to become Bran Van’s highest-charting hit, but the band re-appraised their direction nonetheless. Leaving behind labels and management of any sort, BV3 became notoriously reclusive, refusing interviews and live shows, seeming to exist only in rumour as they assembled their subsequent album, 2007’s Rosé.
Continuing critical acclaim for Discosis and Rosé didn’t change this reclusive image, and BV3 remained a well-kept Canadian secret – until an appearance at the 2008 Montreal Jazz Festival turned the spotlights back upon them. The urban myth of Bran Van was busted when over 200,000 fans converged at the show, packing the streets to see the group play their first live set in almost 10 years.
You could say it was something of a turnaround for BV3’s approach. Back in the groove of live shows and recording, BV3 released The Garden in 2010 – and it might be their best work yet. As far back as Glee, Bran Van was fusing electronic beats with rich acoustic sounds and they only push it further here, for The Garden simmers with experimentation and creative meldings of genres. Everything from singalong twee-indie to downtempo, electro-funk, hip-hop and reggae makes an appearance, courtesy of an army of skillfully-arranged guest vocalists. It’s all unpredictable but it never sounds strained – for this, The Garden has earned unanimous and deserved critical praise.
Yeah, we know what you’ll be doing at Osheaga this Friday. See you there!