Interview: Daniel Bromfield

Written by Rob Schenk

I’m standing in my friend Jack’s basement (former KWVA DJ Red Rocket.) There’s chalk provided by the house to draw on the basement walls, which are covered in profanity, doodles, and messages. Friends and friends of friends are smoking, drinking, and having a good time. 

Punisher takes the stage, really just the back corner of the basement. Two guys, a piano, a mic, an amp, and a drum kit. They start playing. Eric Endsley introduces a funky drum line: kick, cowbell, lots of cymbals. The keys come in, muddy, bright, and cheerful. Daniel Bromfield starts to sing about three little pigs. 15 minutes later his shirt is off, sweat streaming down his face. The basement is now a pit, people careening off the walls, beer splashing everywhere. Friends hit friends and foes alike. Everyone is dancing, screaming, and laughing. Later that night we threw our empty bottles at the basement walls, shattering the glass and delighting in the willful destruction of it all. It was beautiful. 

Punisher is one of the most creative and engaging live acts to ever grace the house show scene in Eugene, but it’s only a third of the musical prism that is Daniel Bromfield. Recording under the monikers Gand, Bromf, Montana Beef-Bronx, and others, the musician has released more than 45 albums to date on Bandcamp. When asked about this, Bromfield stated “honestly only about one-fifth of those albums are listenable.” 

I had the chance to chat with Daniel about his three main musical projects, Punisher, Gand and Bromf, his creative process, and why he’s more comfortable on stage than in the audience. 

First off, let’s get one thing straight: Punisher is NOT dead. “The idea is still alive for sure,” Bromfield said. “I would love to make another album if the location and opportunity arise.” Daniel had already released two albums under the ‘Punisher’ moniker when he met Endsley in his first year in college. “ Eric is one of my favorite people,” he told me. “I met him at one of those intro assemblies during freshman orientation. He’s the best musical partner I’ve ever had.” 

Freshman year, according to Bromfield, was the best year of his life. “It showed me I had the potential to grow,” he explained. “ I’m a shy guy, I’m pretty nervous most of the time. But then I met all these people and two years later I’m playing in Punisher. It transformed me.” 

One of the key aspects to Punisher was their live sets. “I really like the idea of the show as a statement, the performance standing independent from the recorded material. And as a performer, you really have to perform. You can’t be proud. Most people go to these shows, especially DIY shows, to have a good time. People don’t go to hear the songs. Half the time they can’t even understand who’s singing what at a house show. But a show becomes great when there’s a back and forth between the performer and the audience. Shows can be transformative experiences, but very few people can provide that experience.”

Eric and Daniel first played together in May 2014 at a house known as the Opera House in Eugene.“I’d never really played a show before, I thought they were for rockstars,” Daniel said. But when they played, Eric and Daniel were bonded. “It started off with my songs and Eric’s drumming. Eric’s really into metal, stoner metal, that kind of music, and because of that he’s a power drummer, he uses a full kit, so there’s a lot of sound. Eventually, we locked into each others’ playing styles and we created this 

dialogue between drums and keyboard with the kit as the main textural element.”

Eventually, Daniel and Eric stopped making setlists, so every show could be its own experience, a statement. They were frequently given the first set of the night, the 30-minute opening slot that’s less than ideal for most bands. For Bromfield, it didn’t matter. “My favorite James Brown album is Live at the Apollo, 1963,” he said. “It’s only 30 minutes, but there’s more stuff on there than most records twice that length. That album transformed the way I viewed opening sets.” 

Bromfield started playing music through a traditional method: piano lessons when he was 10 years old. “I was kind of a disruptive kid. When I heard a blues scale on the piano, I realized I wanted to play something like that but different. I wanted to play rock piano.” Although he performed in jazz band through high school, he stopped studying formally at 18. “I enjoy figuring it out on my own,” he said. “I would love to learn notation, to teach myself more. But I have a hard time with self-motivation,” Bromfield laughs. 

Despite his self-professed lack of motivation, there is much to explore in his eclectic collection of albums. Bromf is the second side of the artist, pop-meets-anti-pop. “The name came from a rap battle, surprisingly,” he chuckles. “The prefix ‘bromf’ in Latin actually means smelly. I was releasing music under my own name but I wanted to separate that from my professional career. Bromf is the side that comes out when I’m ready to party. It represents my musician persona, but truly it’s just the other side of my personality.” Mugwump, released in 2017, is one of the more recent albums under the moniker. It is glorious: a synthy, scuzzy mixture of Funkadelic and Prince if they gargled absinthe while recording in their garage. “Prince is my biggest inspiration,” he told me. “But I will never try and do what Prince does. Everything is different,” Daniel said.

Let’s chill for a second; I’ll put on Gand, the third aspect of Bromfield’s music. This is the ambient side, spaced-out minimalist dub techno and house ala Gas and Brian Eno. It sounds like walking through fog on a cloudy day, which is exactly what it’s made for. “I got into ambient after I started listening to The Melvins, Sun…weird metal in general. I made an awful movie when I was young and I found an ambient artist called Loscil while I was looking for music for the soundtrack, which was the first actual ambient music I listened to. I started going on long walks and listening to ambient, and I wanted to make something for myself to listen to while walking,” Daniel explained. “Most of the Gand records are named after places, so when I go to those places I have stuff to listen to. Ambient enhances the world, makes things different and more mysterious. I don’t really have any vision when I create as Gand, it’s more of a process.” 

Although the music creation itself might not have a vision, Bromfield does have ideas about the future of Gand: “The Gand stuff is really gradual, it takes years, but I want to make an album inspired by all of California, from the South to the North, like a portrait of the state. I made ‘Land’s End’ about the Richmond neighborhood in San Francisco, so it would be something in that vein,” he told me. The Dragon in Gotham is the exception to this rule; it sounds like the Blade Runner soundtrack if Batman was the main character and the replicants we’re controlled by the Joker. Complete with restaurant noise, spooky vocals and piano that sounds like it was recorded in a crumbling movie theater, this is by far my favorite of the Gand’s records.

Bromfield’s latest release is “Vacation”, released under the Bromf moniker. “Vacation”, which Daniel describes as “super personal, intense and depressing, but also fun, like Future or early Beatles,” is a DIY pop triumph: creative riffs, deeply earnest songwriting, and uncomplicated melodies. Recorded when he moved back to Portland in August 2019, Bromfield made it to get things off his chest. “ I was having difficulty entering into journalism in the city, I didn’t have a job, I was on unemployment,” Bromfield said. “It’s about my fears, my unwillingness to improve myself. It’s about irrational things.” 

As we wait to see what comes next with COVID-19 and our governmental system, Bromfield’s attitude is something to think about: “It’s a good time to air your grievances in art, to share sorrow. I hope people find that in my music. I want people to think about the songs and realize they’re kinda mean. Maybe next time I’ll be more direct.”