Social media has done so much for the world since the start of the new millennium. It’s helped keep us connected to friends from years ago, and well, it’s also been the cause of many of our anxieties. Both of which were topics of conversation as we talked to one-half of The Brilliance; John Arndt. He and his best bud since elementary school, David Gungor, have physical distance between them but it has yet to stop them from bringing their beautiful, orchestrally driven indie pop to the forefront.
With stunning thematics carried through with every release, they put in so much work – it’s rather exhausting to think about but the greats, they don’t have a problem with it. We talked to John about working all these years together, modern anxieties that influenced their sophomore album ‘Suite No. 2: World Keeps Spinning: An Antidote to Modern Anxiety’ and more!
Kendra: 20, even 10 years ago, being part of a group would have proven to be difficult with even a city between its members. Other than technological advances, what do you feel has attributed to the two of you being able to make it work with so much distance between you?
John Arndt: Our lifelong friendship has been the basis for a really natural collaboration. There’s a lot of trust here built over time. We are in touch nearly every day, and The Brilliance has been a beautiful vehicle for us to express ourselves and, in turn, perform all over the world as a result. If you could have told the two of us as fourth graders what we’d be up to today, it would have sounded too good to be true!
Kendra: Your first album was based around the DACA Dreamers, but your sophomore release, ‘Suite No. 2: World Keeps Spinning: An Antidote to Modern Anxiety’, handles a broader concept. What made you initially lean towards concept albums in the first place and does having a base make it easier to write?
John Arndt: In 2016, we were looking for a new way forward as a band. We knew we wanted to make art that inspires empathy; to help foster a more peaceful, beautiful world through the creation of our music. When our friend Mark Reddy, who was working with World Relief, approached us about writing music for the DACA Dreamers, it helped us create a mold for our music moving forward. The Dreamers gave us ‘Suite No. 1’ and a new lease in life as a band.
This year, we received a commission from Biola University to write a new suite of music for their orchestra and chorale, and I knew we had a starting piece, the title track of the new album, “World Keeps Spinning”. The song was already written and featured two major classical works in the arrangement: Stravinsky’s “Firebird” and Bach’s “Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor.”
The song always had the feel of a “finale,” so we went about building the rest of the work…much of which was already written…it just needed to be organized and unified. We are really proud of the end result!
Kendra: When you have an album that centers around something like anxiety, it can go anywhere because we’re all dealing with our own personal anxieties day in and day out. Did you find yourself writing more than you needed? Will there be a ‘Suite No. 2: World Keeps Spinning: An Antidote to Modern Anxiety’ – Part Deux?
John Arndt: We have written much, much more than we needed. This year, we are planning to create our most hopeful, inspiring work to date. Anxiety isn’t going anywhere. In the face of all the fear and division, the world will experience in 2020, we want to offer reasons to love, reasons to hope, reasons to celebrate. We will have some exciting shows featuring larger ensembles than ever in 2020 and will be sharing new material every chance we get!
Kendra: On this record, you touch on something very interesting, the idea that while we’re living in a world that seems like the biggest mess ever, every generation has thought that and asked themselves, is this the end? We’ve seen humanity survive some pretty awful things throughout history, but do you believe we’ve reached the end with global warming, a lack of gun control, and reality star leaders?
John Arndt: We are nowhere near perfection, and there will always be new challenges to face. Life itself is a challenge. Our hope is that we are nowhere near the end. The problems we face today, like global warming and gun control, are unique to our time, and we bear the responsibility to find solutions for the sake of future generations. It’s also important to see our modern issues with the eyes of hope and optimism; not just dread and regret. The future is bright and the fact that we exist at all is a miracle.
Kendra: Social media, while a great tool to connect us…it’s become a source of anxiety for so many for various reasons. Why did you personally want to shine a light on it when it came to ‘Suite No. 2?’
John Arndt: We have so many songs written about social media, we are still considering compiling an album called the ‘Social Media Suite.’ In the last decade, it has become one of the most significant forces in our lives and in history itself. There is much to laud and much to critique there. Humanity has only just begun to come to terms with social media, and we’ve only just begun to write about it.
Kendra: With the new album out in January, what else is on your plates for 2020?
John Arndt: I will be moving to Paris to write this year, and David will be residing in NYC with his wife Kate and four children. We have shows slated throughout the US, Europe, and Australia this year and we are happy to see all our friends around the world! Much more beautiful music to come!
‘Suite No. 2: World Keeps ‘Spinning: An Antidote to Modern Anxiety’ is out January 10, 2020.