HillyTown’s Bryan Bruchman talks about Portland bands, Maine music, and BTR Hear & There: Maine

I have known Bryan Bruchman for a number of years, both as a friend and as I guy I admire for being smart, arty, musically inclined and an all around good dude. Among many, many other things, he is the force behind the Portland music blog HillyTown.com, he has played in a number of bands, and now that he is living in Brooklyn, he is producing a short series of videos featuring bands from Maine.
I talked with him about the project a couple of weeks ago, and since then a number of the episodes / entries / videos have come out. You can check that out here, and read our conversation below.

Can you talk a little about the project?

The full title is BTR Hear & There: Maine, presented by HillyTown.com & BTRtv. Since shortly after moving back to Brooklyn from Portland, I’ve been working with BreakThru Radio, in the video department. There, we produce a number of shows, one of which is called BTR Hear & There, and features musicians performing in interesting locations. These are usually shot around NYC, but this particular miniseries is 4 episodes featuring Maine-based artists, performing in Maine (specifically Portland and Biddeford), filmed while I was in town for a week back in December to play shows with my band, Mount Sharp, and to work at the Picnic Holiday Sale. The first video saw Portland indie folk trio if and it playing their song “Undone” at Bunker Brewing Company in East Bayside.

What are you hoping to accomplish by producing BTR Hear & There?

With any HillyTown project, there’s always the ultimate goal of sharing the excellent Maine music that I’ve found with a wider audience, and these videos definitely follow that. Bands like if and it are well known to local music fans in Maine, but not as much outside the state’s borders, so this is on little effort to help push them further. This first video has actually been very successful in terms of views, so thousands of potential new fans have now seen and heard the band, who might not have (at least not yet) otherwise. I hope that the rest of the videos follow the same trend.

How did you settle upon the artists you worked with? 

I approached selection of the bands the same way I go about booking live events like Picnic Music + Arts Festival, CMJ and Northside Festival showcases, or the annual Hot August Night, On A Boat: There’s always a mix of long-time favorites, brand new acts, bands with a lot of local buzz, and wildcards who I don’t know much about but have a good feeling on. My first time seeing a band I’ve been hearing about is often on a show that I’ve booked. if and it have been a central band in my Maine music experience and are friends of mine; Rural Ghosts are a fascinating newer band who I’ve worked with before and been seriously impressed by, Foam Castles are a great band whose songs I just can’t ever get over, and Lisa/Liza was (at the point when we made the video) someone new to me,  who I’d never heard live or met before.

What was the impetus for taking this project on?

I actually got the idea early last year, when I tried my hand at producing a BTR Hear & There video on my own, and shot one with A Severe Joy under a bridge in Portland. The response to that was great, so I decided that I’d try to do more the next time I was in Maine. I like to keep busy, so when I knew I was going to be in Portland for a week in December, I booked as many video shoots as I could manage.

What can we expect from the upcoming videos?

Each video in this series has a very different tone. Next week we’ll be debuting a video with Rural Ghosts performing at The Oak + The Ax in Biddeford. It’s a beautiful, cozy venue, and I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to use that space for a day for the shoot. The band also has a special connection to it, so they really felt at home performing as an acoustic trio in there. Following that will be Lisa/Liza, playing a song solo in her backyard in the West End of Portland. It was a chilly, foggy day, and actually a difficult shoot for a number of reasons, but I love how it came out. The final video is Foam Castles – specifically songwriter/frontman Tyler Jackson, playing solo in the band’s practice space in downtown Portland. These are all just snippets of the great music scene in Portland, and I definitely plan to keep exploring it and working with these bands and others in the future. Fans of boats and live music should probably go ahead and put Sunday, August 25th in their calendar right now.
The connection between BTRtv and Maine bands has been growing – not just since my involvement there, though with that now, it’s happening more and more.
Note: Here are links to a bunch of videos for those who’ve missed some.