When I met Brandy, it wasn’t quite love at first sight. She was a good friend of a band I had just joined back in the spring of 2006, The Orchid Highway, and the first time I met her was at a double birthday celebration for Rory and Adrian at Havana’s on Commercial Drive. People were spread over a few tables, and I don’t recall much of what we said to one another – I know we interacted, but no very strong impression was made, probably because I was so brand-new in this band, still trying to get to know the guys. I didn’t think much about their friends come out to celebrate (all of whom I was meeting for the first time), wasn’t focused on flirting or putting forth my most charming self for any beautiful women in their orbit.
Fast forward a couple months to the first show I played with the Orchids, a British Invasion themed night at the Lamplighter where we shared the stage with The Manvils, Dan Mangan, Star Collector and various other bands from the local Vancouver scene of the 00’s. It was a great night all around, and a really good first show for the new 5-piece (only I was new to the band, but it was a big relaunch for them, having been idle since the departure of their guitarist John Woods). We only played four songs but the energy was palpable, and we weren’t the only ones who felt it. By the time we tore into our closing number, Zeppelin’s “Good Times, Bad Times”, we owned that room. I had suggested this song because I love getting my Jimmy Page on, wailing away on my ‘72 Les Paul ripping out all the solos and riffs Pagey made so famous. Good times indeed!
The rest of the event is a bit of a blur, the post-show glow was a little extra that night. But soon I ended up next to Brandy watching another act, at some point we got a lot closer, at another point we were somehow kissing. We had met before, but this was our first connection one on one, and suddenly we hit it off big-time. How awesome is a night that you slay in your first show with an established and well-regarded band then get picked up after it! Well, it got more awesome. Rory came up to us at one point to inform me of the band’s special “Girlfriend Clause.” Not every show, but when it seemed warranted, one member could be allowed to skip out on the loading of gear and wrap-up work in order to pursue the much more pleasant post-show activity of going home with their main squeeze (even if said squeeze was new that night – nice clause!) It must be added that this was no small deal – the Orchid Highway was well-known for bringing an enormous surfeit of gear to these small local venues. I was playing through a stack of two 4×12 cabinets, Jamie had various other amps & cabs, Rory’s bass rig was the enormous Ampeg 6×12 (dubbed “The Fridge”), and Derek had 3 or 4 keyboards most nights, plus amps, plus I don’t know what else. After most shows, we wouldn’t be finished loading back in to our rehearsal space till nigh on 5am. Getting let off of this massive chore was a huge deal, and I was ridiculously happy that I’d be home a lot earlier, and with Brandy in tow.
So with us, it was really love at second sight. That night was magical, as were many more nights and days in the next month or two. We were still keeping it casual, but the momentum was all going that one way. Perhaps I was a little hesitant to commit, a recent long-term relationship left me wanting to give being “single” more of a chance, feeling like I should be free a while and play the field as they say. But that was obviously self-delusional as we got closer and closer. I wasn’t seeing anyone else anyway, just sort of wishing to keep options open or something. We ended up at a work barbecue on Canada Day, July 1st 2006, and as I introduced Brandy to various co-workers we kept hearing things like “Oh, what a cute couple!” and “How long have you guys been together?” Our answers were getting more awkward, we were being forced to think about what we’d clearly each pushed back in our minds for some reason. It was a long day, not just at that party but later downtown at another Lamplighter show where we kept going, with people continuing to be compelled to tell us one way or another how much of a couple we were. At the end of all that, after 14+ hours together out in mixed company, back at my place we looked at each other and went, “I guess we’re a couple now, huh?” And that’s how we became us, kind of backed into it really.
I don’t remember if I had tried to write a song for Brandy before that moment we declared our commitment. Probably. As a songwriter, and a born hopeless romantic, I have penned many love songs. Every relationship, every infatuation or unrequited crush had inspired some attempt at a song, some better than others. There are only so many ways to say ‘I Love You’ in a song, and after all those years, it sometimes felt like I had exhausted the possibilities. Times I tried to write a song for a current flame and couldn’t get anything original to come out, well, it might start to feel like a sign that maybe this wasn’t meant to be. Silly, I know, but hard to shake. I do recall a couple of attempts to write Brandy the song she deserved, describing all my feelings, what she meant to me (especially during those delicious early days of discovery), but at least two such attempts fell completely flat. Nothing good coming out. I knew I was in love, that we were perfect for each other and I wanted to spend my remaining days with her, but it wasn’t inspiring the music in me, or the right words that don’t sound clichéd or forced. That’s OK, I thought, it really isn’t a good measure of how you feel about someone, whether you can write a good song about them or not! Ha ha, don’t worry about it silly boy.
Naturally, such a situation could not last. I wrote one song about us that landed and felt pretty damn good. I focused on that and worked it, polishing, editing, improving until I knew I had a good song – the spell was broken! Or put another way, the flood gates were open. More music started coming, songs about our love, the weird way it came about, the long period of friendly denials, the outside spotting of obvious romance even as we were resisting. From seriously wondering if I had written all the love songs I’d ever be able to come up with, I entered a period of creativity that resulted in several of the best songs I ever wrote, all on the glorious subject of love, all inspired by my lovely loving love, Brandy Bernard.
That first year produced a few songs, and over the following years I wrote several more. A couple of them found their way into the catalog of bands I was in (The Orchid Highway claimed “Sunshine”, The Top Drawers “Sweetheart”). As I started getting more serious about a solo career to finally tackle and release some of my growing backlog of songs, I realized I could do a whole album of songs about Brandy, about our story. A more obvious unifying theme would be hard to imagine, and all the material was there already. But I had other songs to get to first, and different themes and concepts that took precedence. My parents passing away was the big impetus to get my new solo act off the ground, so the first album – Songs of Serenity – is dominated by feelings of home, family, loss, nostalgia and a sepia-toned tribute to the past. Then its counterpart, recorded so quickly after the first in the same rush of energy (at the same studio, with all the same people) just begged to be called Follow UP – which gave me a strong theme for the new collection of songs, all about positive energy and the UPsides of life. Each number touches on a slightly different aspect of positivity (Art, Discovery, Spirituality, Seizing the Day, etc). Naturally, Love had to be one of those, so I brought in that first song I’d written for Brandy as the closing track of this album, titling it “All That.”
After the whirlwind of recording and releasing two full-length LPs in just over a year, I stepped back and thought about what we should do next. At this point it was clearly time to throw all my energy into the treasured concept album of Unabashed Love Songs (I actually called it that for a minute!), all the beautiful creation Brandy had inspired, and finally give these songs their proper due. Now I crystallized the plan that had already been developing without my conscious attention: a Four-Album Cycle where each entry would align with a different season, element, color, cardinal direction, time of day, and on and on (and on). The first two records were already so Fall (sepia-toned Western) and Spring (green, lush Easter) that they aligned perfectly. My love album would obviously be Summer (the season we fell in love), blue and top-of-the-sky sunshine. Which meant the fourth album I had already been conceiving as a tribute to my departed parents would fit perfectly into a theme of completion and frankly, death: Winter, silvery-black, nighttime. More on that later, but it will make a fitting conclusion to the cycle, and bring the whole journey back to where it started, the initial inspiration provided by my parents and their passing. Though the first two entries in this quartet are somewhat looser, more general collections, the final “Love” and “Death” albums (the two most powerful human subjects, am I wrong?) will be tight thematic collections, and full of the most personal songs I’ve ever written or recorded.
So, the new album from Scott Perry & the EastVangelicals, due for release July 1st, 2020 (the 14th anniversary for Brandy and me), will be a beautiful blue sun-drenched collection called Suite: Dreams. As I have done for the first two albums, a story will follow for each of the songs on the album, leading up to the release date. Tune in tomorrow for song #1, which has already been released as the first single, All & Everything.