I had a chat with Pennan Brae recently about his recent soundtrack work for ‘The Astronot’, why it’s got that title and the story behind it…
For those who may not know who you are, introduce yourselves quickly.
My name is Pennan Brae & I’m a singer-songwriter in Vancouver, Canada.
Describe your sound in as few words as possible.
My music is 1970s tinged rock & roll.
Who are your three biggest influences as a band?
Chuck Berry, The Rolling Stones & The Beatles.
What’s the meaning behind your band name?
I take my name after a small fishing village in Northern Scotland where my grandfather is from named Pennan.
Did you try anything differently this time around than with previous efforts?
Yes, on this release, ‘The Astronot’, I recorded a number of new instruments I hadn’t done before. I recorded with cello, violin, mandolin, banjo & pedal steel guitar. I also added back-up vocals which is something I hadn’t done previously.
What was it like to work with Kaj Falch-Nielsen?
It was great; he has such a good musical ear & sense about him. Producer Kirk Kelsey mixed the tracks in Los Angeles and he gave the songs a real cinematic feel with a broad spectrum of sound. This lent nicely in support of our film, also called ‘The Astronot’, for which the album serves as a soundtrack. The mixed tracks were then sent to Abbey Road Studios in London for mastering where we had the opportunity to work with Grammy Award-winning engineer Sean Magee; he polished the songs up nicely & had them ready to go.
Do you have any personal favourite songs on the release?
I like how ‘Walk With Me’ & ‘Crashland’ turned out in particular. Drummer Steve Ferrone who played with the late, great Tom Petty in The Heartbreakers & bassist Garry Gary Beers of INXS played on these tracks which kicked them up a gear in the energy department. It was a great experience working with musicians of such calibre. I learned a lot.
Explain the meaning behind the album title.
‘The Astronot’ is a play-on-words on ‘The Astronaut’. This album serves as a soundtrack for the film of the same name. It’s about a boy growing up who wants to become an astronaut but is unable to; hence the misspelling of the word.
Describe the concept of the film.
The story takes place between 1941-69 in Central Oregon about a boy who longs to become an astronaut. The film follows his life into adulthood in the 1960s where his fascination with space is stoked by the advent of the space race. He has several hurdles in his life to overcome for his dream to come true though.
Was it fun to shoot or did it prove to be quite a challenge?
It was both fun & a challenge. The film took 30 days of shooting to complete with a small crew as we had a limited budget. It was satisfying though & I’d love to do it again.
Do you have any dates lined up at present?
I don’t at the moment; I’m working on organizing something for this Summer though.
What are your favourite songs to perform live?
I enjoy performing ‘Walk With Me’ & ‘Signs’. ‘Signs’ has a harmonica riff which I really enjoy playing.
What are the best and worst shows you’ve played to date?
The best show I played was my first experience in high school in a theatre for 1,000 people as the sensation was so new & wonderful. The worst was when I forgot my power supply cable for my amp at a college & had to delay things for an hour; not fun!
If you could open for anyone, who would it be?
In my fantasy world, it would be The Rolling Stones as they are my heroes & mean so much to me.
Any comical stories from your time as a band you can share with us?
I’m sorry to disappoint, but none in particular!
What’s the plan for the rest of 2018?
I plan to do some live performances, record some more music & hopefully pursue another film.
Any closing comments?
Thanks very much for the opportunity to share my story. If interested, a link to our film trailer for ‘The Astronot’ is below. Thanks very much!