Jon Bryant Interview
In 2015, Jon Bryant joined a cult. His short-lived time in and subsequent separation from NVXIM. When looked into there are countless articles on NXIVM being a pyramid scheme, a cult and a sex cult. His time with this group would inspire the concept behind the carefully crafted album which dropped in 2019 - Cult Classic. After reclaiming his independence, Bryant used this experience along with his many others in life to write music all over the world. He stated, “In the early days of writing music for Cult Classic, I saw myself (and the world around me) through the lens of a cult. It was only until I was involved with one, did I actually realize that they’re interwoven through so much of culture. To be in a cult is to be human."
With Cult Classic being nothing short of, ear pleasure due to the Bryants 1970’s - Yacht Rock influenced vocals and melodies and his own personal charismatic nature and flairs, he is back with his latest release - Headphones. A song with an aesthetic that is warm and comforting through analogue synths and beautiful guitar tones with Bryant’s voice acting as a catalyst for pure bliss.
Hey Jon, thank you for taking the time to have a chat today! How are you and how is Canada treating you?
Hey hey! I feel like I’m living the dream here in Canada. Although, the cold is slowly starting to seep into my bones. And it rains a lot. I’m starting to dream up my escape to the Southeast Asian heat once I’m finished tour this November.
Now I don’t want to dwell on this for too long as I am sure you have been answering questions about it for years now, but I do just want to give our readers some insight into this. Can you tell us a bit about your time with NXIVM. Not so much how you got into it but what it was like when you were in it and how it influenced not only your music but you?
My time with NXIVM was intense, albeit brief. The organization seemed familiar to me in the way that religion and pyramid schemes are somewhat familiar to me. There was a very strong emphasis on respect for the leader that worried me. There were chants, handshakes and rituals that also came across as very cult-like. The group had a very strange affection for their leader, a human being named Keith. I had never witnessed that kind of reverence before. During the first week I felt like I was being brainwashed into a new worldview, but at the time it didn’t bother me. I was enjoying my time there and people were very lovely so I wasn’t too worried. I liked the educational/conversational component of the group.
It was very saddening to find out about all the abuse and manipulation. My concerns heightened after doing a bit of online research into the allegations of fraud and sexual abuse. It was so fucked up. These concerns only continued to fester in my mind over the weeks that I was attending. I finally walked away from the group after about 2-3 months of involvement.
After the news broke about the group I became very inspired. I drew a lot from the experience. It made me a more self aware person. I trust myself more. I love myself and people more too. It’s so fucked up how everything went down. I just feel fortunate to have left the group before things got too hairy for me.
There is the saying: There are no bad experiences, only ones to grow from. Do you agree or disagree?
I agree (I think). However, bad is a confusing word and without context it’s hard to be determined. I believe that we all make decisions (whether informed or uninformed) based on self-preservation. But I can only speak from my experiences. I know that the “bad” that has been done to me has actually brought about a lot of self awareness, appreciation and love for humanity and our planet. I’d like to think I can find joy in any situation.
Cult Classic established it and Headphones only grows on your really accessible sound which has such a perfect combination of personal introspection and accessible themes/sounds. Do you feel like there was a moment / time when you thought ‘I have come into ‘my sound’?
Funny enough, I don’t feel like I’ll ever come into a specific sound that is my own. Unless perhaps its something that I become widely known for. At this point I don’t feel pigeon-holed into any genre. I’m having way too much fun exploring the sonic landscape.
I know that I’m more confident in the music I’m making now than ever before. I’m willingly evolving my sound(sometimes painfully) and so my personal tastes are changing as well. I do always make an effort to keep elements of my former/current sound when I’m making new music. I don’t want my old and current fans to feel alienated.
For me your music has such a reminiscent homage to the sounds of the Byrds, travelling wilburys and even feelings of Steve Miller Band. The sounds of the late 70’s yacht rock movement. It is a time of warm music that finds grooves through the smoothest of vocal melodies and sexiest synth sounds. Were these sounds an influence for you growing up or have they come together through other avenues?
I’ve always loved the Steve Miller band and the Byrds. My mom and dad both influenced my music education early on. That included everything the Beatles, fleetwood mac, Roy Orbison, the Eagles, James Taylor, the moody blues and Tom Jones to traditional Hymns, southern gospel and Elvis.
You recently came to Australia and spent a few days running around Fortitude Valley for Big Sound. How was that?
I had a great time in Australia! The trip was far too short and I can’t wait to come back in the new year.
If you weren’t doing music. What else would you love to pursue?
If I wasn’t doing music, I would probably pursue design, filmmaking/photography or carpentry.
I have recently spent a lot of time thinking about the idea of original thought in art. Is anything original anymore or is it all just a re-interpretaiton of the past. I would love to get your thoughts on this idea?
Good question. I think about this quite a lot too. There are only 12 notes in the scale and unlimited number of emotions that we understand and experience. Everything we as artists do is based upon the past. So I supposed anything new we create immediately becomes old the minute we’ve completed (or abandoned) our work.
I think the constant challenge for artists is finding unique ways to combine and express current ideas and themes in culture. All sound has the potential to trigger a human emotion and every generation looks for meaning in a way that makes sense of their experiences. It’s our job as artists to bring out emotions that our audience didn’t know they had in them.
If you had to pick one outfit to wear for the rest of your life. What would that be?
A silk leopard print tracksuit with some vintage Jordan’s on my feet and a Luminor Panerai on my wrist.