Brandon Hoffman, aka Blocktreat, got his name fronting a satirical treeplanting hip-hop group that rapped about lunch-stealing bears and pesky double planters.
“I brought an MPC drum sampler to camp, so we’d make these beats in the mess tent and then take them into the truck, which had the driest recording space available,” Hoffman says.
From that joke truck-cab EP, Hoffman moved on to experiment with laying chopped-up bluegrass traditionals over electronic soundscapes and minimal beats. With the help of a Vancouver indie electronic label, he put out two albums as Blocktreat that got some radio play, but soon Hoffman wanted to leave the bedroom-producer thing and re-interpret the songs for live performance.
Working with drummers Brent Morton and Graham Serl, he made a set spliced with mandolin, live drums, beats and effects.
Unprintable in family-friendly newspapers, the last album under that set up — Exciting New Ventures in F***ing Up — finally had the sound he’d been trying to dial in.
Song lyrics soon floated in, and after a year in studio, Blocktreat is now touring as a free-growing four-piece band about to tour Haida Gwaii and the northwest — actually pretty close to home, since Hoffman was raised and is now returned to Williams Lake.
“Maybe this is a sign that Canada’s electronic scene is coming into its own, if the smaller communities are finally coming on board,” he said, talking about Tribe Called Red and Moontricks, who also meld beats with more traditional on-the-land sounds.
“Everyone always says Canada has no culture of its own, or our only culture is we’re not American. But it’s cool to see these backwoods aesthetics coming out of smaller towns.”
Haida Gwaii can hear the result next weekend at two shows sponsored by the Haida Gwaii Arts Council.
With Jessica Rampling on bass and Daniel Ruiz on drums and electronic percussion, Blocktreat will play the Skidegate Small Hall on Thursday, Feb. 8 and the Port Clements Community Hall on Friday, Feb. 9.
Opening both nights will be Malcolm Jack, who Hoffman first heard playing at Arts Wells and describes as the East Vancover-raised love child of Talking Heads and Fela Kuti.
“It never stops, but these songs emerge out of the woodwork as finely-crafted little indie folk songs and then it drifts back into this ambient cloud.”