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EMERSON BRENEMAN INTERVIEW

Episode 109

Burg: Low Key Trash, Season one, episode nine. Today we are here with the one, the only, the great. Tell them who you are. 

Emerson Breneman: DJ Emerson. Emerson Breneman. What's up? 

 

Burg: This is Emerson. This is the man. This is the DJ, the man, the myth, the legend. Another one because we just keep coming back with that heat, back to back. How did you get to P Town? Where are you from originally? 

Emerson Breneman: I was born in Truro. My dad has a house in Truro. I never ended up going to school here, but I was always here every summer, pretty much. I've been here every summer of my life. 

Burg: So you are like a summer kid. 

Emerson Breneman: Yeah, I guess so.

Burg: We would say you were.

Emerson Breneman: Yeah. 


Burg: Growing up, you've got the summer kids, you've got the... I mean, you know now being here. 


Emerson Breneman: Yeah. I still had some connection to the people that had met even when I was a kid. I never really lost touch with the people, like my age group over the years, but I was never here. I was always away in the winter, pretty much. I ended up traveling a lot and living in other places, living in New York and stuff. So yeah, I guess I'm still a summer kid. So after we left Truro we moved to Providence. We lived like outside of Providence and then eventually moved to like outside of Philly. I went to high school in the suburbs of Philly. 

Burg: Oh, so you've been around.

Emerson Breneman: After graduating high school I went to Southeast Asia. I went to Thailand initially and then I ended up just traveling a ton over the next 10 years. Pretty much I would come back here and work in the summer and then I would be out to either Southeast Asia and Latin America or whatever and then, yeah, spending more and more time in New York in Brooklyn and stuff. 

Burg: How can compare P Town to any of those places? You know, like you are here now. I would still be traveling still if I was you. 

Emerson Breneman: I've gotten back into the traveling thing. Compared to being here, I guess you are saying it's boring here.


Burg: You know. You've been here for awhile so you know how it gets in the winter. The winter time depression kicks in.

Emerson Breneman: Yeah. I guess that's why I still need to have that built into like my lifestyle because I still need to get away. I'm actually going away to Asia in a couple of weeks. I will be gone for like the next two months.

Burg: Oh shit. 

Emerson Breneman: So I still kind of have that as part of what I need to make living here work for me. 

Burg: Yeah. You always have something to look forward to. You are always like as far as traveling wise, it seems like.


Emerson Breneman: Yeah, just that reset of like culturally... and going to New York too, I still try to get to New York and do gigs and stuff. I was in New York last weekend for a gig. 

Burg: I love going to New York when I need like a reset. What was it like, your first couple of years here? Would you say you are here year round now?

Emerson Breneman: Yeah, I don't really know if I am here year around. You mean what was it like the first couple of like full years? 

Burg: Yeah. 

Emerson Breneman: I don't know if I can really claim that I'm here for the entire life cycle. I've been seeing more and more and I think I know what you are getting as far as the experience and seeing that expansion and I'm starting to really like it. I don't... I guess when I was younger I really like avoided the winter, thinking that it was like everybody says, you know, blah blah blah. 

Burg: It's dead. It's boring. There is nobody here, no money.


Emerson Breneman: Which I guess some of that is true, but also just like more and more of the natural beauty and just all of those aspects of why this place is so special. I'm starting to appreciate it a lot, actually. You can go all over the places that you would go in the summer just as beautiful if not more beautiful. You can park anywhere that you want and there is no traffic. There are no annoying people around you.


Burg: Tourists, damn tourists.


Emerson Breneman: And then realizing that you have to have your own thing, you have to have your projects. At the spot I have my music stuff set up. I have a little studio like you guys do here. I cook a lot so I have my kitchen set up over there. So I just have my little cooking projects doing like fermentation. I make like kimchi and stuff like that. 


Burg: Oh shit.


Emerson Breneman: Elaborate cooking projects. DJ stuff as well, here and there I pick up gigs or I'll go and do gigs and also just setting stuff up for like next year like booking weddings or whatever for next year. You have to have a little bit of discipline I think to set those boundaries for yourself or whatever, not just to complete zone out. Although you know the zoning out is part of it too. I don't really look down on that because the season is just like front loaded for us to like really be busy, so some of that is necessary. 


Burg: I definitely feel that's big facts. You DJ, obviously. 

Emerson Breneman: Yeah. 


Burg: What's your DJ name?


Emerson Breneman: Well, it's White Animal Sound, that's the brand. Kind of like the way that you guys have your brand, and it’s the same name as the group or whatever. So when I started doing deejaying, it was just the sound aspect of the White Animal brand. I always thought it was dumb to be like I'm DJ Scrikity Scratch or whatever. DJ Emerson just was like, okay well, if that's what you need to put on the flyer, but that seems to now, like that rings a bell around here. I guess you could Google DJ Emerson, Cape Cod or whatever, but...


Burg: No, White Animal Sound sticks out. I wasn't really sure at first if that was you. Once I started seeing you of course, I understood like, and put two and two together.


Emerson Breneman: I guess maybe I think of it as the sound system culture. It's kind of thought of. People used to always bring their own equipment to gigs, which I ended up doing a lot here just because so many of the venues that I ended up playing don't have their own equipment or whatever. I'm playing in weird venues that aren't like clubs where they have their own built-in speakers and everything. So it's like a lot of times I ended up showing up with my own sound system and White Animal Sound is like everything you are going to hear that night is White Animal Sound.


Burg: Provided by. 


Emerson Breneman: Yeah. 


Burg: Okay. That makes sense. I like that though because that lets everybody know you are not just coming with just a DJ equipment. You are coming with the whole sound. You are in charge of everything. Would you say you have like a specific sound you go for when you are deejaying or do you just like play with whatever comes out?


Emerson Breneman: I would say my initial like original thing that I was doing was more like Hip Hop and Dance Hall and Reggae and that's still a big part of what I do when I play live. But then there are other nights that I do and obviously now that I'm doing a lot more commercial stuff, like doing weddings and whatever, I have to be able to switch it up and do different things. But I would say yeah, the core thing goes back to the earliest days of what I was doing, which was Jamaican influenced music, hip hop...


Burg: That Reggae sound. 


Emerson Breneman: Yeah, and Latin music and stuff like that, which is now... It's kind of amazing. A lot of my interests have come out in the larger world now...


Burg: The more commercial world, right?


Emerson Breneman: Dance hall and Latin music and what we used to call Moombahton which was like a thing. Now that's just kind of the sound of like the radio in a way. It's really wild.


Burg: Is that almost like Afrobeats type thing?


Emerson Breneman: Well, like Afrobeats too, it's all kind of melded in a way. Moombahton was kind of like an off shoot of Reggaeton that was a little bit more electronic, clubby remix stuff. It's just everywhere.


Burg: So it pretty much made your job easier.


Emerson Breneman: For those kinds of nights, it's really wild because I have a lot more ammo as far as things that people would recognize.


Burg: So you also... You say you cook right?


Emerson Breneman: Yeah.


Burg:  Do you have your own catering thing?


Emerson Breneman: I have an Instagram account that's @SnackSystem. I think Snack System is kind of the food thing. I'm doing some private chef stuff and I'm thinking about going back, starting to offer some food to the public. I had a food truck, started the High Tide kitchen food trucking in North Truro. 


Burg: Oh, that's you?


Emerson Breneman: Yeah, well, I started it. I did that for the first summer. They were open and then I started headed off to, they are running it now. Yeah, that concept. That's a lot of the type of food, Southeast Asian, like Thai and Southeast Asian food. If you happen to be in there the first summer, that's when I was running it and I designed the menu and the whole concept. That's like my type of food. I've done a couple of little like popups and like delivery things since then. 


Burg: That's fire, man. I feel like you are building something right now. You are trying to build something bigger. You DJ, you've got the White Animal sound system and you got the catering going on. I feel like you are about to just... 

Emerson Breneman: I think it's only a matter of time before somebody starts offering a real experience for people like a locally oriented, but like world-class service that involves food and music, these whole experiences. I feel like people are doing that elsewhere but I haven't really seen it here. 

Burg: That's definitely what we need like with the live music and stuff. 

Emerson Breneman: We are sort of behind the curve here. Every place in New York you have these mixed spaces where it's like they have food and they will have DJs playing where you can eat. There is a cafe bar, whatever. I think that we are talking more about like some kind of an events idea, like an events model where we can offer something in all inclusive kind of like package for people. 

Burg: That's actually pretty dope. I'm just now putting this all together in my head. This guy is about to monopolize town or something. He is about to do something over here. I don't know what he is about to do. 


Emerson Breneman: I don't want to think about it in like really commercial terms. That's the other issue, is we have to kind of wrestle with people's expectations as far as a lot of the people that are coming here to Cape Cod, like for... I do a lot of weddings. I do like music for a lot of weddings and stuff and you get the sense that a lot of people will have certain expectations or like a certain projection of what they think their Cape Cod experience is going to be. So obviously the thing that we are talking about is a little bit more like our locals culture.


Burg: Which I think is what we need because I think that would probably bring everybody a little closer.


Emerson Breneman: Yeah. And to kind of put a finer point on like what the culture is here, for example, like the influence of like the Jamaican community here would be a really important thing to represent for outsiders because I think they would even know about that. 


Burg: Yeah. Yeah. No, it's real. You are absolutely right about that. Almost like the Jamaicans have some of the best parties. 


Emerson Breneman: Oh yeah. 


Burg: Out here. 


Emerson Breneman: For sure.


Burg: They always have like the best music and dancing and stuff. 

Emerson Breneman: I'm inspired because you see the way that they bring in these certain standards, like their flyers and everything. They take it seriously the way that a lot of people around here just... Oh yeah, around here, people are just like, “Oh yeah, we are doing a thing.” There is not often a lot of promotion budgets for things, and also the way that their community shows up.


Burg: Oh yeah. That's for sure. That's...


Emerson Breneman: You need that element. You need that element too. And that's something that we need to kind of instill in other groups out here. 


Burg: Like, if the community went as hard as the Jamaicans do for each other around here for each other… When they have a party everybody goes 


Emerson Breneman: They show up and they pay like...


Burg: 20 bucks.


Emerson Breneman: 20 bucks sometimes, yeah or more.


Burg: I can't even be mad. 


Emerson Breneman: People out here don't even show up if it's free.


Burg: No, that's a fact. You better show up people. This guy is working hard over here. I noticed recently that it has been a big push in locally farmed and sustaining. How do you feel about that right now? 


Emerson Breneman: Yeah, the local thing out here has definitely popped off like in the past 10 years. Chef friends of mine, all the better chefs around here are really focused on that, on the sourcing of the ingredients and kind of putting that at the forefront of whatever they are doing. It's a shame that we kind of lost on the outer Cape. I feel like at some point the agricultural thing got kind of lost. My friend was cooking on Martha's Vineyard at a restaurant like five years ago or something. I went out there and I was really blown away by how many farms and stuff. I found out some history about why that would be as compared to here, where at some point I feel like maybe when the train came in or whatever, they just started just being like, no, we are just bringing everything from outside and we are going to utilize the land for other things. There were like those stalwarts, you know, Drew at Hillside Farms.


Burg: Yeah, shout out to Hillside Farms.


Emerson Breneman: Doing this, raising chickens and all that.


Burg: Turkeys, pigs. 


Emerson Breneman: Yeah, Pigs now even. I had a Michael Ceraldi, the chef, he is making prosciutto from Drew’s pig. It's just unreal. 


Burg: Yeah. That's really like the old days out here. It's getting there. 

Emerson Breneman: Well, yeah, we have like these people who are kind of making the commitment to stay here and to continue to keep building it which is cool. That's something that I was thinking about when I was thinking about I was going to come over here, like what we were going to talk about is that the fact that this place is a little bit behind, it's a little bit remote and it can be kind of culturally a little bit slack, you have to look at that as like an opportunity in a lot of ways. I feel like these people are, but it takes a commitment to stick with it and to like see it through. If you want to see advancement, you’ve got to like do it yourself in a way. 

Burg: No, I think you are right. I think that's important. I feel like people get discouraged so they sort of like say, oh well. It's easy to get discouraged out here when people aren't listening to or aren't buying your stuff or whatever it is, but then it will be like, all of a sudden you are back up. 


Emerson Breneman: Like what you guys do, eventually, the uniqueness of your perspective and your dedication will pay off because people will recognize that this is truly unique. It's like somebody's unique perspective that's coming from a unique place geographically that nobody else is... Nobody else is having the experience that we are of trying to make shit happen out here. When I was a kid I wanted things to change here immediately. I was like, it is whack. I want all the things that I can get on the outside here or whatever. But traveling now and seeing different cities and the way that they change, they change in this really predictable rate that's really fueled by like a lot of investment or whatever. You can just see the way that... If you go to the Midwest or whatever, you see the way that these smaller cities just change and it's just really predictable. You know what's going to happen there. They are going to have the same type of restaurants, the same type of bars and whatever. They are going to start looking the same or whatever. Over time I guess I've come to realize that like I don't necessarily think that like unbridled change like that is like what we need. Maybe there is something to say for the way that this place is like resistant to change or that the change here is unpredictable. It's unpredictable. You never know what's going to be popular and take hold here or what is going to flop. 

Burg: There is like a good amount of constants, but where would be some of your favorite places to perform or venues? 


Emerson Breneman: My weekly is usually in the summer or like at the Beachcomber. I do Sunday nights over there. That's always like a good vibe. People have some preconceptions about what the Beachcomber would be or people think that it's this total bro’ed out thing. But my Sunday nights, I haven't really had that experience. I don't know if that's just because of the way that we are doing it and the music that I'm playing. But it has actually been pretty interestingly diverse as far as like we are getting a lot of ladies, a lot of just different groups. So I've enjoyed doing that. I've been doing also... I guess Sunday is like my big day lately in the summer because I've been doing Truro vineyards on Sunday afternoon. I'm a little bit older and there are a lot of people that I grew up with that I used to see out or used to see me DJ out that now have kids that are coming to like the afternoon party at Truro vineyards and still want to go out and have fun. But it's kind of like a safe space for like people who have their kids running around, dogs running around, so that has been really fun lately. 


Burg: That's pretty Cape Cody though. 


Emerson Breneman: It's super Cape Cody, but a bit of a misconception about that, about like what Cape Cod is.


Burg: Although it's a beautiful place with some great people, what are some things do you feel that Cape could improve on? 


Emerson Breneman: When I was younger I was so much more critical of this place and felt... I think we've all felt a little trapped here at points to think like, oh fuck, like... There are tons of improvements obviously, but the thing that sticks out for me more is like the misconceptions that people have about here and like why you wouldn't want to live here. Some of those have to do with the diversity question about Cape Cod and people assume that... A lot of people in New York, when I tell them that I'm from Cape Cod or that I DJ out here, they think every one of my gigs are full of Chads. Cape Cod is just surprisingly weird and diverse compared to a lot of... It's a small town. Obviously, there is a small town mentality, but it doesn't have... It's not as closed off as a lot of small towns that you might go to like in the States or whatever. There is still tons of work that needs to be done as far as diversity, but I always want to confront that stereotype or at least to think about that as far as like, that's not one of the reasons why I think that it's a mistake to stay here because it's like... because if we give in to that stereotypes that it's all like rich white people, then we are giving up something that our families have like staked out for...


Burg: Years, decades


Emerson Breneman: for generations. 


Burg: For generations, yeah.


Emerson Breneman: But improvement, like the food thing is behind the curve. There is a lot of food. The other thing too is that all of these things, like any criticism that you are going to have about Cape Cod or living here, we have to look on those also as opportunities, so if we are going to criticize, we need to think about how we can build as well as far as like, if I have an issue with food. I don't have an issue with food in my house because like I'm making the type of food that I wish was available on the street here everywhere that I went. I want to see it commercially available and maybe will be part of like a movement to advance things. Like same way, I'm sure like the way that you guys are making music; you guys are making the music that you want to hear and the music that you want to see available. 

Burg: Yes, we are.


Emerson Breneman: And so we've got to keep on that because you can't just sit around and go like, oh, nobody is doing it or like nobody gets it. That's kind of like, it's not enough. 


Burg: What would you tell someone who has never been here before about the Cape? What would you tell them? What would you say to them? 


Emerson Breneman: Don't come here.


Burg: Oh my God. Three words- don't come here.


Emerson Breneman: Stay away.


Burg: Don't touch my money. 


Emerson Breneman: We got this on lock, we don't need you people.


Burg: Because I've lived here pretty much my whole life, so what I could feel is… I've grown used to the views and everything you are talking about. By this point I taken for granted anyways. So I always live vicariously through other people. I'm just kind of wondering like, you know, you coming here. 


Emerson Breneman: Yeah. People kind of presume that we are more culturally tied to like Boston and being a part of Massachusetts and New England whereas I feel like culturally, historically at least, Provincetown has always been more linked to New York or to a bigger cultural world through the art scene or whatever. 


Burg: I think you are right. 


Emerson Breneman: It's not necessarily this small town mentality that a lot of places have. Maybe if you go to like Chatham or whatever, there are some enclaves of like of people who have like different mentality, but I feel like out here has always been kind of like… Provincetown has always been like Bohemian, it does have this legacy that we should preserve. The encroachment of people with money that really want to kind of bend it in their own way, I think maybe that's a misconception that they can do that. 

Burg: They do that, but...


Emerson Breneman: Like just because you have the money you have the right to chart the course of where things are going to go culturally, because obviously, they don't have our best interests in mind and they don't necessarily have just the best taste for the way that things should be going. 


Burg: You are right. That's crazy. Is there anything else you want to tell the people? Tell them how to find you, how to get you. 


Emerson Breneman: Yeah, White Animal Sound, DJ Emerson. Come out to the things this summer, like I said, Sunday nights, Sunday afternoons at the Truro vineyards, and I'm sure there will be some other stuff. I'm not sure about what's going to happen with nightlife out here. Provincetown, in the summer, it's always different. And again, the change is unpredictable.


Burg: But you are going to be part of that change.

 

Emerson Breneman: Yeah, hopefully, yeah.


Burg: You already sort of are. You are in the silver lining.


Emerson Breneman: We are in the zone. We'll see. But yeah, I love what you guys are doing out here as well. 


Burg: Low Key Trash. This is DJ Emerson, AKA White Animal Sound. Thank you for showing up tonight, man. Appreciate it.


Emerson Breneman: Of course. I only had to walk like five blocks to get over here.