The past two years were incredibly productive and prolific years for the critically applauded and rewound bassist, vocalist and JOVM mainstay Stephen “Thundercat” Bruner as he made guest appearances on two critically and commercially successful albums — Kendrick Lamar‘s Grammy Award-winning album, To Pimp A Butterfly and Brainfeeder Records labelmate, Kamasi Washington’s The Epic, as well as one of 2015’s best albums, The Beyond/Where the Giants Roam, which further cemented his reputation as a dexterous and playful bassist and songwriter, with material that sonically channeled Stevie Wonder’s incredible 70s output, as it possessed a retro-futuristic sound as wobbling and propulsive bass lines were paired with arpeggio synths and Bruner’s sultry and plaintive falsetto.
Now, as you may remember last year, I wrote about “Bus In These Streets,” the first bit of music from the renowned bassist and vocalist in over a year, and the single was a comedic and playful ode to our reliance and dependence on technology in which Thundercat’s dexterous and sinuous bass lines with Louis Cole (keys, drums and programming) contributing shimmering and twinkling keys and propulsive drum programming and frequent collaborator Flying Lotus contributing more programming and editing in a song that evokes a dreamy, distracted self-absorption as the song’s narrator spends their time staring at their smartphone, not noticing the world pass him by — or the inherent danger he might be walking into as he stupidly stares into his phone.
Bruner’s third, full-length effort Drunk is slated for a February 24, 2017 release through Brainfeeder and the album will be an epic 23 track journey into the bizarre, hilarious and sometimes dark mind of the singer/songwriter and bassist — and the effort finds him collaborating with an All-Star list of collaborators including frequent collaborators and friends Kamasi Washington (a Brainfeeder labelmate), Kendrick Lamar, Wiz Khalifa and Pharrell Williams, along with Michael McDonald and Kenny Loggins. While the album will feature fan favorites “Bus In These Streets” and “Them Changes,” one of my favorite tracks off The Beyond/Where The Giants Roam, Drunk‘s first single “Show You The Way” is a sleek and soulful jazzy track in which shimmering arpeggio cascades of synths, stuttering drums, Bruner’s imitable bass lines are paired in an incredible collaboration that features Bruner’s sultry falsetto with the imitable vocals of Kenny Loggins and Micheal McDonald. Sonically speaking the song is an uncanny synthesis of Michael McDonald’s “I Keep Forgettin’ (Every Time You’re Near)” and Bruner’s signature funky, retro-futuristic jazz fusion.
So how did such a high-powered collaboration come about? Thundercat has publicly mentioned his love of Loggins and his work during interviews to promote both The Beyond and the tour for the album — and it lead to his keyboardist Dennis Hamm introducing Bruner to Loggins. According to both Bruner and Hamm, Loggins then suggested bringing in Michael McDonald on the track. And as Bruner adds in press notes “I think one of the most beautiful moments of it was realizing how amazing Michael McDonald was. He would go through so many ideas and have so much to offer.” As for the song, Bruner says “That song to me is about going down the rabbit hole, taking you to another place . . . On the edge of dark, there’s the brightest light. It means a lot to me in the sense of . . .the experience that I’ve had growing up with friends and people that I’ve been around where it’s inventing them into where I come from emotionally. Sometimes it’s a pretty intense thing. The point is how weird things can get. ”