Postmodern Jukebox founder Scott Bradlee on inspiration, motivation and everything in between
Postmodern Jukebox (PMJ), the online music collective founded by American Scott Bradlee, are bringing their lively jazz, ragtime and swing arrangements of modern pop music to Australia in September. We spoke to Bradlee about the rise of PMJ, advice for aspiring artists, and what audiences can expect from their third tour to Australia.
Bradlee arranges and plays piano for each of the PMJ covers that have millions of views online. Arranging is his passion and it is remarkable how well he recalls the golden days of 20th century jazz music in his arrangements of contemporary tracks like Seven Nation Army, Creep, and All About That Bass.
He says he has rarely found a track that has not worked for PMJ. Managing the challenge of putting together the best and most creative arrangements Bradlee says “you have to be open to throwing things away as an artist and not get so invested in one idea that you’re forcing it.”
It has been a prolific rise to fame for Bradlee and PMJ. Despite the PMJ community of musicians expanding from one man doing bedroom keyboard medleys to around 50 instrumentalists, vocalists, dancers, casting and tour mangers, Bradlee still says arranging is his thing; his passion.
Passion for jazz, swing and everything in between is what drives Bradlee to create the beautiful work that he does.
“You can enjoy pop music but still believe there is a place for the older stuff. My study of music helped me uncover whole new sounds that weren’t played on the radio and I would never really hear much jazz, it gave me the inspiration to try and keep these relevant.”
Inspiration and passion leads to motivation – that’s the message Bradlee shares for aspiring artists. If you don’t actually like whatever it is you are learning then Bradlee says ask around and explore in new places.
“If you don’t have the inspiration you’re not going to be able to find the motivation.”
PMJ have had so many talented artists feature in their video (“a big part of PMJ is I try to identify the next big talent”) but Bradlee has kept pretty quiet about who will be coming to Australia in September.
“We don’t reveal the set list, our shows are based on surprise,” he says.
But he has hinted that some of the PMJ ensemble will be new faces for Australian audiences.
A particularly famous aspect of PMJ’s videos has been the tambourine man who just kind of shows up in some videos and at some shows playing excessively passionate and somewhat unnecessary tambourine. Bradlee says the adorable tambourine man probably won’t be making it to Australia but he definitely encourages Australian fans who believe they have the requisite aptitude for tambourine to wear the uniform (which is a vest and tie) and get up on stage.
PMJ’s shows are all about bringing a fun and passionate energy where the audience has the freedom to get involved. The Australian tour will be at seated venues like the Astor Theatre in Perth, however PMJ have also played past gigs at bars with room for some jumping, jiving and wailing.
Bradlee says the show will be well worth going to regardless of the venue.
“We love the energy we get from people, but we like to strike a balance. We have a two-hour show so some people are not physically able to dance that long so we want to make the show accessible to everybody. We encourage people to get out of their seats and dance, ultimately our shows are a party. It’s not just a show you need to sit and watch and we love people to feel free to express themselves.”
Post Modern Jukebox tour Australia in September.
Astor Theatre 20 Sept (WA)
Palais Theatre 22 Sept (VIC)
Tivoli 23 Sept (QLD)
Thebarton Theatre 24 Sept (SA)
Anita’s Theatre 26 Sept (NSW)