Oakland Duo Brijean Vibe Out With Moody Debut Album ‘Feelings’

Photo Credit: Jack Bool

Brijean Murphy’s life was already under great emotional renovation when she began recording a new album. Working toward greater self-love and self-nurturing, she turned the smaller, foundational building blocks of that practice into songs – alongside collaborator Doug Stuart – for her eponymous creative endeavor Brijean. The Oakland-based duo’s latest album, Feelings, released February 26 via Ghostly International, melted from her fingertips, marking a newfound trust in herself as both an active songwriter for the project, and the one behind the microphone.

Murphy says she found a kind of unruly freedom in owning the spotlight. “Once I started to sing on my own project, it felt really good – like home. It’s my own thoughts and expression, and I didn’t have to title that to meet somebody else’s voice or ideas,” she tells Audiofemme. “In the past, I would sing with friends at late-night parties and mess around. But I never had formal vocal training and never really sang out with people until very recently when I was a hired percussionist for tours.”

In previous creative pursuits, most notably as an in-demand percussionist who’s worked with bands like U.S. Girls and Toro Y Moi, Murphy feels her way around soul-tingling soundscapes that give her agency over her own voice and songwriting talents. “I’m definitely growing a lot,” she says. Where the duo’s 2019 EP, Walkie Talkie, was more intimate, Feelings sees them “involve more people” in the process. “With this album, we had more of our community involved. It felt really nice and important to me,” she adds. “I’m so community-centered. Those sounds stretched our compositions in a nice way.” 

Much of the album centers on uncovering equilibrium in life, or, as Murphy puts it on Brijean’s Bandcamp, “romancing the psyche.” As it relates to songwriting, much of her work lives between two worlds: love songs and stream of consciousness. “For love songs, I think about how I can be writing it to myself instead of it being an outward love for another person,” she says. As such, she nosedives into the rejuvenating waters of “how to feel good and how to nurture my own self”  ─ most prominent in songs like “Ocean.”

“This is one of the more significant songs for me ─ as a songwriter, vocalist, and musician. I felt like I stretched in this song. The vocal arrangements were something new for me,” she says. On “Ocean,” she plays all the drums and percussion, and even had a chance to try out some “really beautiful temple blocks.” These elements, including some new bells and a triangle, elevate Murphy’s probing lyrics. “It felt more like a story than some of the other songs,” she continues, “and it feels like an arrival for me, personally.”

“In this gentle space, we lay/Calming when I hear you say,” she sings, almost inviting the listener to enjoy her musical trance. “I want to be inside your ocean/I want to see what there could be.”

“Softened Thoughts” arrives as a shape-shifting musical gem, almost otherworldly in the way Murphy calls back to a childhood memory to nail the song in place. “I kept having this daydream about one of my honorary aunts, one of my dad’s best friends, who helped raise me. I thought about a story when me, her, and my dad went to Hawaii when I was two, maybe two and a half. They took me to this volcano. My dad said he held me over the volcano and that I freaked out, and my aunt Jill chilled me out. Then, the rest of the days we just went to the beach and soaked in the sun. To this day, my dad is always like ‘I can’t believe you don’t remember that.’ I’m like ‘I was… two.’ When they tell this story, they just crack up.”

Feelings is pieced together with two interludes, “Pepe,” a nod to drummer Pepe Jacobo, and “Chester,” a sharply-attentive cat that lived at the Big Sur home where the album was recorded. “Oftentimes, Doug and I like to listen to the songs we started and then continue the thought,” Murphy says. “We usually make an interlude per song if it doesn’t flow directly into another song. I adore and respect Pepe so much. It felt like it fit with the album, thematically.”

Joined by musicians Chaz Bear, Tony Peppers, and Hamir Atwal, Brijean capture the human experience in the throes of remarkable transformation, incorporating elements of jazz, tropicalia, and soul. These eleven songs rise and fall in an enveloping, therapeutic way, conceived, as they were, by a group of people exploring a vibe and developing it into song. In a time when real human connections are few and far between, Feelings translates “some of the magic” of live performance and “the feeling of playing with people you love ─ as opposed to me playing all the instruments in one room,” Murphy says. Though the album was initially driven by Murphy’s steps toward musical autonomy, Feelings ultimately invites listeners right into Brijean’s groovy realm.

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#NEWMUSICMONDAY: Jinn Grin “The Answer”

Jinn Grin

As your Monday descents into evening, spines uncurl from desk chairs, and you’re allowed to go where you want to be, allow Jinn Grin to ease the transition with the title track of his forthcoming EP, “The Answer.”

Jinn Grin is the solo project of Doug Stuart. Like a Hindu god or some sort of arachnid, Stuart has many (metaphorical) arms, which he make use of musically. If his name sounds familiar, it’s likely from his work playing bass for The California Honeydrops, Bells Atlas, or recent work as keyboardist for Astronauts, etc. Yet even many-armed gods and spiders need some me time, which is why Stuart took some to focus on his own vision – and in doing so gifted us with “The Answer.” Meditative yet energizing, it’s a celestial track perfect to take the office edge off and begin the passage home.

The Answer” comes out June 14. Listen to our New Music Monday pick below.

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VIDEO OF THE WEEK: Astronauts, etc. “I Know”

Astronauts, etc

I was studying television production until I got my heart broken and needed an outlet for the pain. I started writing and thus a career was born. From transformative emotional pain to the physical, Anthony Ferraro would have become a classical musician (he trained for nearly two decades) had it not been for his childhood-diagnosed arthritis flaring up while studying music at the University of California, Berkeley. With his hands out of sorts, he could “no longer…play etudes or concertos with the vigor they demanded,” so he dropped out of school. He did not, however, drop out of music. Ferraro began playing music of another variety under the name Astronauts, etc., (apparently he’s a space cadet). He didn’t lose his respect for musical refinement, however. His pop is recorded with a live band of trained jazz players (Scott Brown on bass, Derek Barber on guitar, Aaron Gold on drums, and Doug Stuart on keys and vocals).

In watching the video for “I Know” we must assume that under the skin of Ferraro’s head lies not a skull, but a disco ball, to which we are invited into. It’s pop, but refined pop. Smooth pop, intelligent and perfectly performed pop. It has a soul, and could very easily be classified as indie rock, but for the story of the classical musician who lost his hands and discovered a parallel universe I’ll call it – pop!

Astronauts, etc.’s debut album, Mind Out Wandering, comes out September 18th on Hit City U.S.A.

Watch the video for “I Know” below, directed by Vinyl Williams.