Hailing from Utica, New York, Brixton Typewriter is the do-it-yourself indie musical project by Sean Sisti, who plays all the instruments himself. He recently released his “Cold & Tired EP” in March. Check out the relaxing “Red” here:
Sean’s Brixton Typewriter is a musical outlet where he plays all the instruments himself, a task that is well within the realm of his talents. Sean got into music at a young age, taking piano lessons around age 6, playing cello at age 8, and getting his first guitar at age 10, which he said was the start of his musical journey.
“Music is in my blood–both my parents are musicians,” Sean said. “Numerous other family members and relatives are musicians so it makes sense that I picked up music at a young age.”
Sean wants to one day play in a proper band, a dream that perhaps formed after he saw his dad playing in his band. As early as the 5th grade, right after getting his first guitar, Sean and some of his friends tried starting up a band. Things didn’t quite take off but ever since then, Sean has wanted to perform music in some capacity, even as a hobby. Throughout the years, he has performed in the school orchestra and did a year of Jazz band in high school.
The beginning of Brixton Typewriter began when Sean got his keytar, which was packaged with a copy of Ableton Live 8 Lite.
“I took some time to learn the software, and just started recording,” Sean said. “By the time I had a few demos, I figured I should come up with a name to call the project. The name comes from the first two things I saw at my desk, a copy of ‘Live at Brixton Academy’ by Simon Parkes and a rusted old Remington typewriter. I liked the ambiguity of it–it left me a lot of leg-room. It didn’t suggest a solo artist, a band, a duo, etc. Looking back, I should’ve named it something different but I commit to my mistakes.”
Part of recording new music required getting a hold of new instruments, something that may have turned into an addiction. Sean tries to get a hold of as many instruments as he can whether they’re new or weird, and from anywhere he can, including from out of dumpsters. He has acquired a mandolin, a keytar, an accordion, a reed organ, and the list goes on.
“As for prowess, I never really spent a lot of time with one single instrument, I liked floating from one to the other, but that could also be the reason why I’m mediocre at everything,” Sean said. “Honestly, I’d rather be mediocre at many things than be pigeon-holed into one corner of music.”
Being able to record everything turned out to be easier than he imagined, and soon after Sean started created songs that he self-described as sounding like bits and pieces of other things coming out of a broken AM radio or a cassette player from across the room.
Sean’s approach to recording is to start off in a blank state and find either a sound, sight or feeling that serves as a foundation for building the song. This allows for every song to go in a unique path as experimentation and exploration are used as tools to help develop the final product. This approach can be heard on the first Brixton Typewriter’s debut EP titled “Sunday Night in an Attic” released in February 2016. The EP is a collection of experimental and indie rock tracks that range in an array of musical styles, from the opener’s “Closer to You” whimsical nature to the Western-inspired “Gunslinger’s Funeral.” The EP truly is a glimpse into Sean’s mind as he discovers his own muse.
“There have been very few times where I go in knowing exactly what to record,” Sean said. “If you do go in to record something specifically, nine times out of ten, you’ll come out with something different.”
Once the sight, sound, or feeling, or a combination of the three has been decided upon, Sean likes to draw inspiration from his favorite artists and then try emulating different genres. One song titled “Go In, Mr. Waits” has Sean emulating Tom Waits, a personal hero of his.
“As for the sight part, sometimes I’ll close my eyes and picture something and try to recreate that scene through music,” Sean said. “‘Route 13’ from ‘Cold & Tired’ is a good example of that. I closed my eyes and pictured a dark and winding road carved through a thick forest of pines. I wanted something cold and mysterious to represent that.”
Sean continued, “Feelings are probably the ones I utilize the most. ‘I Don’t Want to Go’ from ‘Human Resources’ is about the feeling of the end of a long journey, and not being ready to say goodbye. It’s a song of bittersweet farewells. It’s a really nice song and I don’t think my first recording of it does it justice.”
Brixton Typewriter’s second release was the album “Human Resources” in May 2016. Whereas the debut EP was an experimentation in recording and writing, the follow-up was built upon that foundation and focused on featuring songs that were fun to listen to with atmosphere to along with it. Sean said he dragged his friends and family to help in some areas, such as playing solos on sax, trumpet, and guitar.
“I loved doing it and I actually have been collaborating with more people recently so I look forward to the future in that respect,” Sean said. “Hopefully someday I can get a proper live-band going on.”
Brixton Typewriter’s third and most recent release “Cold & Tired” is an EP where Sean challenged himself to playing guitar better. He wanted to jump back into recording right after finishing his first album and did so by recording around 50 demos and excerpts over the course of a year. Once the themes of the songs started to form, a story began to emerge.
“’Cold & Tired’ is, at its literal, the story of someone dissatisfied with the world in its current state (‘Red’), hung up on the past (‘Class of 1998’), and who decides to liberate themselves from the corruption of the world and their own history to achieve some level of comfort or inner peace (‘Runaway’),” Sean said. “The mystery and hardships of the world outside their hometown become apparent and they try to escape once again, this time by trying to fall asleep (‘Route 13,’ ‘Insomniac’). Through a dream sequence filled with air-raid sirens and bombs (‘Grey Escadrille’), the protagonist realizes that their hometown is a safe haven, a place of nostalgia, love and memories and they start to make their way back home (‘Dreamer’). One of the hardest parts of writing instrumentals is saying everything you need to say by saying nothing at all.”
When creating the EP, Sean furthered his recording experimentation by trying new things, such as using a VST that had a soundcard for DOS games to get unique sounds out of and using an old clip from a Ronald Regan speech. Clearly, it’s an essential journey for anyone interested in something that’s unique, new, and perhaps even a little bit quirky.
Whether it’s collecting new instruments, trying new sounds, or gathering friends to record parts, Sean enjoys every part of surrounding his musical project. He said he enjoys recording new music because he gets to see his vision realized but also for other reasons.
“I also like the little parts, nailing a difficult riff, or writing a fun bassline, accidentally playing a wrong chord that sounds good or finding the right melody that makes everything perfect,” Sean said. “But, ultimately, it’s the reception I get from people who listen. That’s why I do what I do. My end goal is to make people feel something, feel nostalgia, pain, happiness, sorrow, and so on. I’ve had someone call one of my songs (I think it was the Epilogue from ‘Human Resources’) ‘hauntingly beautiful’ and that, to me, was an amazing feeling.”
Going on age 21, Sean is looking to take Brixton Typewriter to the next level. His plans include getting a group together to have the ability of capturing moments with bandmates that could not otherwise happen when recording and writing everything solo.
“Recording is nice because you have some element of control over the whole thing, but it only really comes together at the end,” Sean said. “When you play with a group, the results are instantaneous. This, I think, makes it a lot more soulful and exciting. Recording is very much a personal and emotional effort for me, and I think it’d be interesting to get a group together and just have fun, see where that goes.”
To stay up to date with Brixton Typewriter, follow the band on Bandcamp.