Hairbrained scheme plays fast and loose

Hairbrain, Anh Phung and Alan Makie, takes an improvisational approach to jazz, folk and rock. They perform at Bozzini's July 3.

Former Chilliwack resident Anh Phung (pictured) and Alan Mackie are Hairbrain

Sardis Secondary grad Anh Phung is back in town – with an all new band.

This acclaimed local flautist will be sharing the Bozzini’s lounge on Sunday with Alan Mackie as an eclectic duo by the name of Hairbrain.

Phung started learning the flute at age four, and quickly demonstrated virtuosic abilities. She studied the instrument through high school and university, earning many accolades as she refined a professional career as a musician. She left Chilliwack in 2006 to take the music scene by storm.

Most recently, she spent nearly seven years in Montreal-based Celtic/bluegrass four-piece ensemble The Bombadils, which Mackie was also a part of. The two left the band in late 2015 with the intention of tackling a new adventure.

“We were kind of going through our quarter-life crises,” Phung laughed. “And Haribrain was almost therapeutic for us.”

The Bombadils were certainly a well-established and organized band, complete with all the administrative necessities for success and a growing catalogue of published work. The now Bombadils duo continues to thrive in the music industry.

But Phung says it was time for her to start fresh.

“Let’s just play music and get ourselves into stupid situations,” she says of her impromptu and somewhat reckless game plan with Mackie.

Phung and Mackie, who is originally from P.E.I., both graduated from the Jazz program at McGill University. If it’s possible to be well-versed in improvisation, these two are. “We’re used to being put on the spot as musicians,” Phung said, which is precisely the scenario they put themselves in at live gigs.

Hairbrain is uninhibited in their approach to the music, and perhaps haphazard when it comes to promotion. Most wouldn’t refer to a 10-ten minute slot on open mic night as a “show,” but Hairbrain might, and has.

“We don’t really rehearse. Our shows aren’t really planned. It’s like, what do you want to do today?”

They can’t exactly tell the audience what to expect at their show because they themselves don’t know what to expect.

Hairbrain’s genre is a mingled mix of styles, which generally fall under the umbrellas of jazz and folk. While touring Sweden they learned a collection of Scandinavian folk tunes, which they improvise over and add to with their own artistic flair.

Audiences will also hear a lot of bluegrass and country, a bit of Brazilian musical flavour, some Jethro Tull-inspired rock covers, and perhaps some spoken word or poetry as well.

“It’s a bit of a variety show, but it’s cool – I think. I’m really happy doing it, it’s just hard to explain it,” Phung says.

For the purpose of applying for a grant to tour Europe, Hairbrain visited a Toronto friend’s in-home studio to record an EP in early 2016. “We went in and did four tunes, they were all one-take, and we were like ‘Great, now we have an EP,” Phung said plainly. “It was all recorded in an hour.”

They’ll have some copies for sale at the upcoming show in Chilliwack, but it likely won’t compare to the experience of listening to this duo let loose live.

Phung’s primary instrument of choice is flute, but she also dabbles in piano, mandolin and kazoo. Mackie’s staple is the upright base, but he’s also known to pull out a fiddle or electric guitar.

Joining Hairbrain on Sunday will be special guests Edwin Sheard  and Sarah Jane Scouten. Sheard is a saxophone player and classical composer who graduated from Humber College. Scouten is a country singer-songwriter from Bowen Island, who stops at the Harrison Arts Festival on her busy B.C. tour this summer.

Phung’s back in her hometown for a few weeks, until she bids farewell to tour Sweden with Mackie, as well as China and Australia later in the year.

Hairbrain performs Sunday, July 3 at Bozzini’s upstairs lounge (45739 Hocking Ave.) at 8 p.m. Doors open at 6 p.m. Tickets are $20 each available to reserve at 604-792-0744.


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