His varying interests, music tastes, references (a bassline in one song being played over the speakers in the studio reminds Bruner of an In Living Color sketch), and the sheer amount of stuff strewn around the room might lead one to believe that Thundercat is flighty and chaotic. But he’s the opposite.
He grew up surrounded by musicians: His father and brother are both acclaimed jazz artists, and Bruner was in the punk band Suicidal Tendencies before going on tour with Snoop Dogg’s band, collaborating with Erykah Badu, and working closely with Kendrick Lamar on To Pimp a Butterfly.
It looks like a small bomb filled with collectors items has gone off. “These come everywhere with me,” Bruner says, his bleach-tipped dreads quivering slightly in front of his face, like long bangs. “Flying Lotus told me one time, ‘You sit somewhere for five minutes and suddenly there’s stuff everywhere.
He just has a lot of stuff. ) It used to bother not only Flying Lotus, but also his Suicidal Tendencies bandmate Pleasents, with whom he shared a room. “He was always so pissed because I would have the TV on and the radio on at the same time,” Bruner says. “You see how everything just gets splayed out here?
His time in the band is one he describes as “informal training” and as one of the most joyous moments in his life. “I would get made fun of a lot because I was always the guy wearing stuff like this,” Bruner added, pointing to his earmuffs. “A couple times, I’ve been hit with beer bottles at shows. I didn’t care.
Bruner counts Pastorius as an influence, and said the 1978 song Punk Jazz in particular summed up the entirety of Thundercat’s musical existence—playing with Washington, a family friend and “cousin” of his, making jazz early on, then spending years with one of the most influential punk bands of the ‘80s and ‘90s—finding a line between those sounds and making it fit.
He isn’t content to let his musical stylings fade into the background—a support act, as bass players tend to be typecast. “It made me want to change everything from the roll of the instrument to what people would always be used to hearing,” he says. “Any time you think of a bass player, there’s always this weird dirt-nothing portrayed. ‘You’re not supposed to play anything, lay down the groove. ’ It’s the laziest shit to me, sometimes.
When she was younger, Bruner would play all kinds of music for her, the keyboardist George Duke among artists he’d blast in the home. “I’d be like ‘Sanaa, this is it, this is the thing. ’ She’d be like, ‘This sucks,’" he says.
But after it was revealed just how much of an influence Thundercat had on Lamar’s groundbreaking album, (the records he and Lamar listened to for hours in the studio ended up building the blueprint for TPAB’s sound) and with the release of his album, Drunk, in 2017, fans of more mainstream music started to take note.
Tons of it: a Pikachu backpack filled with other, smaller Pikachu statuettes, plus fuzzy Pikachus clipped onto the straps of the knapsack; a Louis Vuitton leather makeup case stuffed with heavy gold chains; a Gucci barrette; pins from the anime Evangelion (Bruner himself has an interest in illustration, and has been drawing since he started playing music).
He compares his relationship with his two brothers to “Malcolm in the Middle. ” They’d fight with each other over the TV, the remote, they’d hold contests to see who could finish their meals the fastest. “But in the background, there would be, like, Tony Williams and Billy Cobham,” Bruner says.
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