FACETIME- Thrummin' : Brenner makes ambiance without keys

Perhaps playing drums for the Falsies, a comical rock quartet– none of whose members actually know how to play their instruments– doesn't take up too much of Lance Brenner's time. He seems to take it lightly, usually showing up for performances decked out in a chicken suit. 

But as the mastermind behind the Naked Puritans– in both its harder-edged and string-heavy acoustic versions– he really shouldn't have enough time left over to pull off another project like his newest: Thrum.

With the help of drummer John Allietta and bassist Kristine Ruotolo, the 36-year-old Brenner plays his guitar as unconventionally as he can manage, splattering the signal with effects processing in an attempt to turn it into a sound that's equal parts instrument and paintbrush.

"I'm much more free to add really strange things into the mix," he says. "I'm using an optical theremin, for example, and I tend to use this kazoo that's hooked up to a microphone and sing into my pedals."

And while there are lots of guitar players who love their electronics– Jonny Greenwood, Tom Morello, even The Edge– Brenner is unique in his mission. Thrum is ambient, spacey music on the edge of electronic and soundscape, but made without overdubs or keyboards. Brenner says that the perfect listening environment would be "really nice headphones, someplace quiet, with with shadows and colored lights." It's no surprise to learn that he finds particular inspiration in the work of Brian Eno.

The demos Thrum have been circulating for a while were good enough to land them a monthly residency at Rapture and an opening slot for Smog at Gravity Lounge.  

"We started out wanting to play more like a bar band," says Brenner. "Shows were more just to color the atmosphere, to provide incidental music." But as their monthly performances continued, they found themselves with an audience in spite of themselves.

"It turned out to be more of an actual concert, which was very, very strange for us," he says. "There were a lot of people there, and they were paying attention to us. It became the center, the focal point for the evening."  

Now Thrum is gearing up for a full-length album that Brenner hopes to complete by the end of January. He also says that the Thrum philosophy infuses the audio production work he's doing with Kate Starr, Love Tentacle Drip Society, and Trees On Fire.

"I hate it when it's all about the effect rather than the actual melody," he grumbles.

Thrum welcomes the occasional guest performer, but interestingly, violinist Debbie Hunter is finding the opposite: "I probably wouldn't approach it melodically– more like washes, watercolor washes rather than lines," she says.

Then again, maybe that's how Brenner will get his colorful listening environment.

Lance Brenner