Multi-Instrumentalist Quinn Bachand Swings Berklee, Career

Mike Keefe-Feldman
February 19, 2015
Quinn Bachand
Quinn Bachand

Much about the musicianship of Quinn Bachand comes back to the word “multiple;” he plays multiple instruments in multiple bands and in multiple genres. He has recorded multiple albums and has received multiple Canadian Folk Music Award nominations. Now, he embarks upon multiple touring stints while taking a full load of courses with a Slaight Scholarship at Berklee. Amazingly, he’s only 18 years old.

So Much Music, So Little Time

Bachand grew up in Victoria on British Columbia’s Vancouver Island, the son of musicians who introduced him to the violin when he was 4 and the guitar at age 10; Bachand’s father is a luthier who custom made his son the guitar that he now plays regularly, in addition to banjo and bouzouki. Bachand, who also sings, has toured relentlessly, both with a Celtic-influenced folk duo alongside his older sister, Qristina Bachand, and with the gypsy jazz ensemble Brishen, in which Bachand adeptly channels the energy and dynamic playing of his Western swing-influenced guitar heroes and gypsy jazz pioneers, especially Django Reinhardt.

Quinn and Qristina have just released a new album, Little Hinges, on which the pair takes a step in an experimental direction while still remaining steeped in the tradition of folk music.

“What we wanted to do was take traditional folk songs and shine our own more modern light on it,” Bachand says.

Doing so included employing some unorthodox production techniques; for instance, Quinn recorded some guitar at night in a forest near his home, picking up sounds of the woods such as owls calling in response to the sound of his acoustic guitar.

Quinn and Qristina tour and work well together, despite the occasional sibling squabble about who gets the nice bed at the hotel, but this week, Bachand is bringing gypsy jazz to the masses with Brishen at the Folk Alliance International Conference in Kansas City, Missouri.

To understand just how in-demand Bachand’s sound is, note that PG Music, the company behind the popular Band in a Box software (which allows musicians to play along with accompaniment via recordings of actual musicians as opposed to MIDI) has enlisted his playing for the software’s Celtic and gypsy jazz offerings. With all of these commitments, it’s little wonder that Bachand says he hasn’t had much time to explore Boston beyond the Berklee campus area yet.

School Days

Despite such a successful start to his young career, Bachand knew he had a few gaps to fill, and he saw Berklee as the perfect place to address them. For one thing, while he was accustomed to reading music for violin, he says he had never read music for guitar until he enrolled at Berklee.

“Using your intuition to make music is one of the most important things,” Bachand says, “but if you want to communicate your ideas to other people, you have to be able to do this, so one of the reasons I came here is for Berklee to whip me into shape in that sense.”

In addition, Bachand, who has already taught at several master classes, clinics, and workshops, hopes Berklee will help him gain a better appreciation for how to teach music. Displaying a wisdom beyond his years, Bachand has surveyed some touring musicians who have no other career option, and while he enjoys touring now, he imagines that someday later in life, it may be less appealing than sharing knowledge with students in the classroom.

Most importantly, Bachand appreciates the rigor of Berklee and the level of self-discipline it has forced him to adopt.

“I’m learning to be more self-directed,” Bachand says. “Last semester, I missed about a month of school because I was touring. When I came back, I had so much work to do, so I really had to learn how to manage my time. I barely went to high school, and I didn’t do that much because they gave me an easy time, but here, they’re not doing that, and that’s a good thing, because I’m learning from that.”

Carrying the Torch

Beyond having fun with music and building his career as an artist, Bachand is also driven by a desire to advance the styles of music that he loves, and to protect them from the threat of extinction. He brings a contemporary touch to traditional folk music, but never at the cost of watering it down. Similarly, his Django-esque guitar work comes off with a deep level of respect for the musical innovators that have so inspired his own work.

“Gypsy jazz is kind of a dying art,” Bachand says. “These days, a lot of kids are playing video games instead of learning how to play guitar with that special technique. I really like that stuff and I want to help keep it alive.”

In multiple ways, that’s exactly what Quinn Bachand is doing now.