L4L: Your band Mannequin has quite a big sound, how do you maintain the intensity when you strip back for solo gigs?
When I write any song, I'll try to do it in a way where it allows me to be able to play it either as an acoustic, full band an even a progressive instrumental piece. The other guys in Mannequin come and add their flavour and sprinkle some magic giving it another dimension. I love layering sounds on top of each other, and as long as I have a pretty and broad foundation for it, the configurations can be seemingly endless. The meaning and mood of the songs are usually buried deep inside the music, and the different variations, I feel, gives you a different perspective. I've listened to massive amounts of Soundgarden and Thrice over the years and have tried to understand the different techniques both Chris Cornell and Dustin Kensrue use when they perform their solo gigs as it totally engages me and almost gives it life in a way.
L4L: So when you write a song do you often hear or are conscious of where other instruments and sounds might fit?
That usually comes later. But if I get a sound in my head that I think may separate it from the others, giving it it's own fingerprint, I'll tend to go through the index of available tools to extract the idea without losing or restricting the flow of the juice. But yeah, usually subconscious at first.
L4L: Do you find it easy to write a song?
No. Not in the slightest. Well, not in my experiences anyway. A lot of mental "tetris" has been played and I'm sure there is a fair few people who have witnessed me zoning out in the middle of a conversation because I've been stuck working on something, and suddenly having an idea. There are so many riffs and combinations to go together the way I think is most beneficial to the message. As I can't read music and have taught myself to play and sing, I feel as though I can do things differently that isn't quite seen as normal. There's nothing in my mind telling me, "Hey, that's not how you do it." or, "It's not meant to sound like that." And when everything starts to come together, well that's where I find I lose a lot of ideas too, picking out the biggest and brightest as everything falls away.
L4L: Do you have a method for cataloguing these ideas?
I'll sometimes audio record newer ideas with anything available and play them over and over, until I'm satisfied that it will be a good enough blank template to build on. I can become so submerged in the music I'm writing, that I'll become numb to moods and changes and kind of lose direction to where I'm trying to go. This is normally where I begin to show people close to me, trying to get an honest reaction, by pretending that what they're hearing is from other artist or band.
L4L: How much of songwriting is story telling and how much is truth telling?
I like to use both in every song. Depending on how far fetched the story may seem, there's usually truth lurking, but hidden in metaphors. As an example "Drink the Water From the Sun", is filled with analogies that tend to not make sense at first, but have a true flowing meaning to me. A lot of people have let me know what they think may be the correct interpretation, and it's different every time, but they are able to relate and find a truth of their own. Then on the other hand you have "Mr. Spectre" which is a more direct form of storytelling using the lyrics threaded on the the music to give a depth into two stories that are happening simultaneously.
L4L: So you don't mind if people interpret something and take their own meaning?
No I don't mind if people find their own meaning in my songs. If you can relate to something I have written, that's great. I try to generalise as much as possible as there are some pieces that wouldn't relate to most people if written differently. So the goal is to find similarities in things everyone faces and have different people come together over a good tune basically.
L4L: What does the next 12 months hold musically for Brandon Troutman?
I think I'm due to get my stuff together and release a recording of some sort as a solo artist for friends and family who would tell you they've all waited long enough. I've been working on a totally different path with music as well, which is obscure compared to rest and will be handled incognito, so keep your eyes peeled. Then there's our band Mannequin of course. We're currently working on getting an EP underway within the next few months and maybe a full album next year which is exciting. Also, I'm hopeful to start another project with Jacinta Coggins who is an amazing local drummer I've been wanting to work with for a while now. There's not much planned for gigs in the next 12 months, but I've been informed about a potentially new pub circuit showcasing Indigenous artists through the city of Sydney. But the immediate plans are to just poke along and try not to force anything.