Brian Danos chose to trust many other people for his first solo album. Danos is the backbone of “Borrowed Ladders,” released under the performer name Vela Vada, but it features several New Orleans-based luminaries including Nicholas Payton, Brad Walker, and Maggie Koerner, opening the doors to the album and Danos following where they led.
“I took the approach that they are professional musicians, which I am not. I brought them a few pieces, but I was open to their talents and their collaboration,” Danos explains. take the doors they had opened.”
Danos may not describe himself as a “professional” musician, but “Borrowed Ladders” reflects the care and patience of a veteran. The electronic musician hired Eric Heigle, who plays with Lost Bayou Ramblers and has worked with Arcade Fire, Dumpstaphunk and 79rs Gang, to co-produce the album. And with Danos providing the programming and playing synths throughout the album, various tracks feature Payton playing trumpet, saxophonist Walker, trombonist Jon Ramm, drummer Alvin Ford Jr. and bassist Brandon Meeks.
Koerner, Tif “Teddy” Lamson and Dominic Minix provide the voice, as well as the Haitian music collective Lakou Mizik. And 79rs Gang – the duo of Big Chief Romeo Bougere of the 9th Ward Hunters and Big Chief Jermaine Bossier of the 7th Ward Creole Hunters – also sing and play drums.
The result is a downtempo yet engaging album incorporating worldbeat influences and the warm tones of horns, double bass and vocals. “Borrowed Ladders” was released on July 22 via Ropeadope Records, and the label and Vela Vada will host a virtual panel presentation on Thursday, August 4, in a VR space about New Orleans music and history.
Danos grew up in New Orleans in a family of musicians and he played saxophone and clarinet at Brother Martin High School. But he also discovered the guitar and dove into the world of effects pedals, and from there he fell in love with synths and electronic music. “I was obsessed with sounds and textures,” he says.
In 2017, Danos began working on the music that would become “Borrowed Ladders”. Mutual friends introduced him to Heigle, who then suggested other musicians who could build on Danos’ ideas. But the electronic musician didn’t just want to tell anyone what to play – he saw an opportunity to learn and hear their views.
“I say it’s a solo project, but it’s such a collaboration with all these other players,” Danos says. He is now working on putting together a band to perform these songs live.
Danos works in tech by day and plays music by night and has a background in product design. In recent years, he has increasingly worked on blockchain technology – particularly at the intersection with the music industry – and on burgeoning Web3 concepts.
While the air in conversations around blockchain and art has been sucked in by Bored Ape NFT and other digital art projects, Danos says he sees an opportunity for musicians to connect directly with listeners and cut out the middleman from the traditional music industry.
“In the past, if you bought the album, I wouldn’t have any direct connection to you,” Danos says. “But now I could search public wallets and see who owns the NFTs [of ‘Borrowed Ladders’] then drop new music directly to them.
For “Borrowed Ladders,” Danos programmatically created 25 unique covers that will be sold with the album as NFTs. Find the album and more information on linktr.ee/velavada.