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September 20, 2010 | by  | in Music | [ssba]

Sets: An interview

Sets is Brandon Sayring. Brandon Sayring is Sets. He is one of the most innovative musicians operating in the country at the moment, easily. Many of you may have seen the Whanganui resident’s performances during Orientation, or opening for heavyweights like Die! Die! Die! earlier in the year. Working with a wide array of equipment, much of it straying from standard instrumentation, there is a focus on making something more than a song: space, texture, general sonics play as important a part for him as song structure does for other performers.

One distinctive feature of Sets in 2010 is his goal to play a different setlist for each show he plays over the year—all completely new material. It’s a daunting task, especially considering there have been points where he has had to play three shows in a week. But it is a task from which he won’t back down.

“While I do enjoy playing the same set over and over and acknowledging the subtle differences with each repetition, my approach has been nothing but [repetition] until I came to terms with it very early in the year,” he says.

“I noticed it is a new decade and came to the understanding that I need to re-evaluate my ideas and motives in contrast with what I had been doing so far. It was a totally selfish decision, but I feel selfishness is totally applicable to self-directed activities. Though in saying that, a lot of my material recently has been designed so that the audience can potentially become more involved with it.

“I have attempted to do so through consciously subtracting some elements of the composition and equipment so that instead of giving people what they want, they have to fill in the blanks. If people see it as annoying talentless rubbish, this view is also valid and I think it kinda works in my favour since it redirects people who I wouldn’t want to really share my ideas with anyway.”

This subtraction of elements from the live show is what has brought Sayring to his current performance setup: employing what you could call irregular household electronics (telephones, speakers) to serve his wishes. Sayring, however, sees it slightly differently.

“I have not tried to forcefully impose what could be considered as unconventional components. I have always used Sets as a way to output my thoughts and ideas. Sometimes I don’t think about developing a set based on a list of songs but more on composing a component or an instrument and having the duration revolve around it. I will sometimes use the specific function that it produces to enhance an idea or an environment which I feel may need it. It has all been a seemingly natural progression articulated by my general interests.”

This journey has been one that has been described as both compelling and frustrating by reviewers of his 2010 shows, but it must be argued that every show he does is an engaging, unique piece of work—one-offs—as nothing will be recorded or redone.

“I have no real desire at this stage to document what I have been doing at shows this year. I have loved having every composition live only for its duration and really enjoy the fact that those who are unable to come to a show never get to experience what happened. They can only imagine.”

Another of his projects is a Boadrum-esque setup, wherein “as many drummers as I can get to all play a kit each and play the same thing. The focus isn’t so much on making songs but more on physical power and how different spaces (and I guess audiences) react to that amount of sonic force.”

However, performance projects aren’t the entirety of Sayring’s output. For the uninitiated, the Whanganui music scene lost one of its most vital components this year in Al Cameron, who ran venue space Eye of Night and, in Sayring’s words, “influenced and sculpted this town in ways no one else could have.”

In his absence, Sayring has begun work on another project. “I admired Al’s philosophies a lot, and so with the help of the community I will be generating an outlet for the creativity of this town to continue. In a way this venue will be a homage to Al’s impact here and because of this, I have decided to name this project The Arc Theatre—‘Arc’ being his initials.”
And for the foreseeable future, it is this project that seems to be his priority.

“As I suggested, I am influenced by whatever my current situation is, so it will all depend on where I end up. At the moment I am pretty passionate about The Arc Theatre and am spending a lot of time on that.

“The only parameter I really want to put on myself is to not be a dick.”


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