I couldn’t find any pictures of Bren/Alias that i took, they’re probably all trapped on some broken hard drive somewhere? So, I did my own rework on photos Matty took on the Alias & Tarsier tour back in 2006. That was Bren’s last tour, and i am pretty sure he lost money on it, because he let me open up for them. I am almost 100% certain he KNEW he was going to lose money on it IF he brought us out, and asked us to join them anyway. I think, he saw how hungry we were, and he gave us that chance...at his own expense. That was just the kind of guy Bren was.
I couldn’t find any photos i took on that tour, but i did find this one video of me, Brock, and Bren trying to get the vibrating bed to work at the Thunderbird Motel in Missoula, MT...yes, the motel from “Secrets On Our Lips”. I put this crappy video up, because of Bren’s deadpan delivery of “you need to go ask for your fuckin’ money back”. Kills me every time. Bren was as funny as he was giving. I wish i had audio of him doing his “leather hats & Hennessy” voice, or his “DUDE! TURN IT DOWN!” impression of Brock. Those still make us laugh so hard, that we do impressions of his impression...over a decade later.
Bren became my friend, but before that, he was basically a hero. Beyond what he and the entire Anticon crew did to enable people like me to want to push boundaries in rap, I remember listening to his music specifically and thinking, “god, if i could only get beats like THAT!” The way he layered his drums, mixing breaks with drum machines, his understanding of melody, his contrasting live instruments with samples and synths, making beautiful music that KNOCKED! There is so much i learned from obsessing over his work, from Deep Puddle, all the way into his instrumental stuff, straight on to his last album. You can’t listen to people like Tycho, Washed Out, etc, without understanding that Bren did a lot of that, over a decade before them. Listen to the album “Muted” (from 2003), and tell me i’m wrong. I have literally listened to everything he has ever released, not just because he is the homie, but because first and foremost, I am a fan. When he put out “Unseen Sights” with Markus Acher (from The Notwist), i must have listened to that song for hours and hours on end...like I was trying to absorb it’s power, perhaps? “Well Water Black” still may be one of my favorite songs that Yoni has ever been involved with. It is such an incredible collaboration between the two of them. So when Bren sent me the beat that would later become “Dimitri Mendeleev”, it felt truly unbelievable. I was amazed that my career had brought me to this point, where i could just text Alias, ask him for a beat, and he would give me one. I was in Berlin, and woke up in the middle of the night to see the email from him on my phone. I shot out of bed, scrambled to find headphones, and stayed up till dawn, in the dirty living room of Brunnenstraße, playing the beat over and over till the song was done. A lot of songs, feel wobbly once they’re written, like one false move between the writing and recording, could send them toppling, like Bambi, trying to walk on the ice. That one, i knew was strong, the second i finished it. Writing it felt magical, like maybe i HAD absorbed some of his powers?
I was planning on hitting him up for music for my next record, because i loved the direction he went on his last solo album, “Pitch Black Prism”.
So, it goes.
Right now, a lot of people are telling these stories, thinking these thoughts, running over these memories, because Bren really was that guy. Funny as hell, supportive beyond belief, relentlessly giving, and true as they come. A giant man, full of giant love. So many of our favorite musicians have gotten so much from Bren; from beats, to laughs, to beers, to an opening slot on a real tour playing real clubs for the first time; and all of that pales in comparison to what his friends and family got from him. In the last 10 years, his focus was on them, still making music, but his life was about making a life, making a family, and being with his wife Jenn, back home in Maine. All of which, I know, presented it’s own fresh challenges, and victories, but every time i made my way up there, and got to see him, he looked happy. Always ready with a giant hug, gray now streaking his beard, kids were the conversation, and he was every bit the proud and funny father. Some musicians, when they leave the road, it feels a bit like defeat, like a cowboy hanging up the spurs, with Bren, it felt like success.
This is such a loss.
For as much as Bren meant to me, for as lucky as i feel, to have counted him as a friend, I barely saw him anymore. Lives diverge over time, I come through Maine less than i used to, we mostly spoke on social media, through jokes. So, I can’t imagine, can’t even conceive what the loss must be like for people who got to see him all the time. What pain must be felt right now, by those that got to share a life Bren. His close friends, his family, his wife, and his kids. I am really having a hard time finding the words to describe how much he brought to the world, i can’t find something big enough, or positive enough, there are no words filled with enough love to describe Bren. Maybe in time, i will find those words, but for now, all i can picture, all i can think of, is the size of the hole that is left in the universe now that he is gone.
What a great musician, what a great man, and what a loss.
Rest In Peace, Bren
NOTE: if you would like to donate to his memorial fund, to help support his wife Jenn, and their two beautiful children, you can visit this page: https://www.gofundme.com/brendonwhitney