Trichotomy; the name of the band suggests a kind of unity, that is comprised by three individual parts. In a way, this is what pianist Sean Foran has achieved, through this trio with bassist Sam Vincent and drummer John Parker. Their teaming is one of these rare musical ventures, in which three distinct voices unite, as if sharing the same mind. Champions of the modern jazz piano trio tradition, they blend different influences in a seamless outcome. Before they enter the studio to record their new album, they started a crowdfunding campaign, which is a great excuse, if one is needed, for Sean Foran, the band’s pianist and sort-of-leader, to discuss this process and the way it affects the way the trio works.
AustralianJazz.Net: Why did you decide to fund your album through Pozible?
Sean Foran: I think that crowdfunding has become an important part of the landscape for artists looking at funding projects. We funded part of the costs of our previous album, ‘Fact Finding Mission‘, in 2012 with it and it was a fun and successful process, so we wanted to do it again. The advantages are certainly that you curate a close connection with audiences, and allow them to directly contribute to the process, which I love. More importantly, though, I think it forces you as an artist to dig a bit deeper with what you can offer fans and that’s fantastic. It’s a way of giving people who follow your music something special and also really valuing their contribution to the work. It’s certainly challenging: to let people know about the campaign, you’ve got to really plug it and cut through the noise and I think you’ve got to get a bit creative, a bit personal; all of that can be hard, but we do love it. I think for groups like us, that operate in more niche genres, it’s a great thing. It helps raise funds and awareness of the next project, and helps us connect with fans all around the world.
AJN: As an artist, how often do you have to worry about financial issues? How does this affect your artistic priorities?
SF: Unfortunately, the financial burden is always there… So many of the great ideas and projects you have can’t be achieved without funding. I suppose we work on a combination of dream and realism: we dream up fantastic projects, think about how likely they are – both logistically and financially – and then work damn hard to bring that to fruition. I think that often your artistic vision can be achieved, even if you think it’s not going to happen, due to finances; it’s about more than just the money: your networks, organisation, vision, planning, creativity, all this stuff is critical to making a project successful and seeing through your artistic vision. The main thing with the financial stuff, I think is to be smart with the money you have, make it work for you and also don’t try to do it alone! We’ve been so fortunate to have the support of fans, labels, other artists, funding agencies, promoters, festivals; all of that makes it happen.
AJN: Can you describe the dynamics between the members of “Trichotomy“?
SF: As with many groups, there’s a strong sense of camaraderie; we’re good mates! The group formed in 1999, while studying at the QLD Con and while we’ve changed bass players over the years, Sam Vincent, the current bassist has been playing with the trio for four years now. It’s certainly a true group sound and group dynamic, rather than the sound of one composer. All of us are writing for the trio, which we quite enjoy, as it creates a variety of material to work with, while still having a cohesive sound. The compositional styles of each musician tend to balance each other out, and we’re also quite cognisant of the overall sound we’re trying to achieve. The creative process has changed over the years, but I think we still operate on a group development process where we shape compositions as a group in the rehearsal room and the gig. It’s probably fair to say I’m the driving force – that is I’m working a lot of the administration, but musically, it’s a collective.
AJN: In what way will your new album be different from ‘Fact Finding Mission’? What ideas are you continuing to explore?
SF: It’s been a few years since ‘Fact Finding Mission’;we recorded it in 2012, so it certainly feels like there’s a been a lot of music made since then! This new album will focus on the trio; ‘Fact Finding Mission’ had a few guests (DVA and James Muller), which was a heap of fun, and after it we embarked on a series of collaborative projects, so now it really feels like it’s time for some trio music! This time the music will be different, we’re exploring electronic manipulations of the acoustic sound with all instruments, so it’s probably more textural and varied in the sounds we’ll be producing.
AJN: How do you explain the perennial appeal of the classic jazz piano trio format?
SF: It is such a great format for varied interaction between the instruments… I love how the roles can shift so quickly and that you can create such a wide palette of sound and mood. I feel like I get to play so many different parts of the music, and that listeners can really intimately engage with the music (and musicians). It’s completely captivating for me. I suppose as we’re all quite aware, there has been SO much incredible trio music, so the challenge is adding something to this already rich repertoire of music; hopefully we’re doing that!
AJN: How easy is it for you to shift through each of the various projects you work on?
SF: Mostly it’s okay. I try to keep things distinct; for example, the music in Berardi/Foran/Karlen, a trio of vocals, piano and saxophone, is just so different to Trichotomy that it requires a different mode of thinking, as is the music in my UK band (with an album coming out later this year). I suppose the hardest thing is keeping them all your projects progressing. Often there’s multiple things on the go – you’re writing one thing, rehearsing something else, booking a tour and planning the next project – sometimes that balance is hard! I try to prioritise, and not overthink things! Work on your art every day.
AJN: What are your main influences? In what way would you like to influence others?
SF: For me, its usually a balance between musical influences and then other artistic influences or life influences. When I sit down to write, it’s usually for either an emotional reason – a song for a person, time, place – or it’s for a musical consideration: “I wonder what this would sound like”? I enjoy this balance, and I love finding new music and art to be inspired by. I don’t know if I’ve thought a lot about influencing others… I’d like them to enjoy the music, take something away from the experience, be moved; feel the same things we feel when we play it. If it inspires people to seek out more of this music, or inspires younger artists, well thats quite humbling.
AJN: What is your idea of ‘Australian Jazz’? Is there a specific sound, or style that is unique to Australia, a distinctive trait of the scene?
SF: Apparently there is! I’ve found when touring overseas that audiences (and industry people) have noted the ‘Australian sound’. I think it’s something that shows a certain style blurring that perhaps we tend to do; I think often we’re drawing on European and American influences, plus our own rich history of music making, and this creates something quite special and unique. The Australian sound is one of unashamed vivacity!
AJN:If you could pick any artist, no limitations whatsoever, to join the trio, who would that be?
SF: Come on! Surely, a rather impossible task! Living? Dead? Argh! In thinking of amazing musicians that would complement what we do, here’s a few that come to mind – in no particular order: Chris Thile, Marilyn Mazur, Wayne Shorter, Bill Frisell, Brian Eno, Dhafer Youssef, Dave Douglas, Anouar Brahem…
AJN: Which song best describes your current state of mind?
SF: Joy, by the group Shakti. Vibrant and full of life!