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In this week’s Music in Review issue of the print edition of Washington City Paper, I revisited a handful of the many exploits of Bluebrain, the duo that Arts Desk has repeatedly heralded as D.C.’s most interesting band. But for good measure. “The Year in Bluebrain” recaps Ryan and Hays Holladay‘s outings from the four-track “Cakeblood” download in January, to their boombox walk at the Cherry Blossom festival in April, and their data manipulation project that turned photos of a Corcoran Gallery exhibit into “sonic DNA” for a performance there in October.
These shows, digital releases and other ventures have led City Paper and others to write about Bluebrain repeatedly in 2010. But the band had plenty more output that didn’t make it into the year-end piece. During his interview for this week’s article, Ryan Holladay said that even with Bluebrain’s notoriety for experimental performances and one-off projects, records still matter even if a typical—if you’ll forgive use of the word here—performance consists of freshly composed music rather than tracks off their album Soft Power.
“It’s been great to have these different creative outlets to experiment with but it’s still important to us to have a recorded body of work,” Ryan said. And they are hoping to finish a new EP by mid-winter.
Debuting sooner is Bluebrain’s score for an ESPN documentary about Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow. The Holladays have contributed music to short films in the past, but mainly to lend an assist to a filmmaker friend. Set to air Jan. 6, Tim Tebow: Everything in Between is much larger and will expose Bluebrain’s range of ethereal soundscapes and skittish beats to a large television audience interested in a football player known as much for his Christian evangelism as he is for his athletic abilities. But the Holladays were undaunted by the task. Hays has been slaving away at the soundtrack, his brother reports, a composition one might not associate with a sports documentary.
And last month it was announced that Bluebrain will open the first show of The Dismemberment Plan‘s reunion mini-tour in January. As budding musicians in the D.C. area D-Plan loomed large for the Holladays. Ryan called the Jan. 21 show—Bluebrain’s first at The Black Cat—a “huge honor.” (Also in the lineup for that show is Tereu Tereu, the band led by City Paper contributor Ryan Little.) Interestingly enough, when the Holladays played The Black Cat as The Epochs in February 2008 they shared a bill with Dismemberment Plan singer Travis Morrison.
When I first interviewed Bluebrain a few months ago we talked at length about Ryan and Hays’ decision to quit Brooklyn—their base as The Epochs—and come home to D.C. But the move has paid off. “Being in Washington has been a liberating experience,” Ryan said when I recalled the conversation. The feeling comes from being able to pursue projects that genuinely excite the brothers. There’s the next EP, the Tebow documentary, and their new recording space in Arlington, to say nothing of whatever headscratching performances may be on the horizon. “I feel more excited about this next year than I have in a long time playing music,” Ryan Holladay said.