Why Option4 Paused His Music Career for Music | Westword

Why Option4 Paused His Music Career for Music

He wants to revitalize the Denver dance music scene.
Brennen Bryarly, aka Option4
Brennen Bryarly, aka Option4 Courtesy of Option4

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Brennen Bryarly is a force in Colorado's electronic music scene. As a promoter for Live Nation, TheHundred Presents and CO Clubs, he books a large portion of the house and techno acts that come through Denver. He’s also a house music producer in his own right, with his own Option4 act signed to such labels as Ninja Tune and Nervous. And then there's his own label, HotBoi Records, which boasts a roster of artists including Walker & Royce and Will Clarke.

Over the past few years, making music took a back seat to his duties as a promoter. But now, after a three-year release drought, he has a three-track collaboration with Justin Jay, I'm in Love, coming out on June 2, and it relies almost solely on a compositional process that he once shunned: sampling.

Bryarly put his own music aside because of a greater call for promoters after the pandemic left a scorched music industry in its wake. “The thought process for me was, don't worry about making music: Focus on trying to be the best promoter you possibly can be and throw good parties for all these artists who were out of a job for a year and a half,” he says. “I kind of felt like there was more responsibility; the world needed me to be a promoter and didn't need me to be Option4, because I throw so many events that I could pay my bills by throwing parties.”

That allowed Bryarly to focus on novel ways to help. “I wanted to make sure when the scene came back that it was sustainable, so I asked myself, how do I improve it, how do I make the experiences better for different types of people? How do I spread things out to where there's a little bit of something for everybody in the city? And that was my focus,” he says. “So getting in the studio after being on the phone with agents for ten hours a day or, you know, organizing 700 shows a year, the last thing I wanted to do was be creative musically, because I just felt like if I'm going to pour all my creativity into something, it needs to be on the promotion side.”

After more than a year of nurturing the scene, though, there's new growth sprouting — bringing back a certain sense of normalcy that has allowed Bryarly to direct his creative energy into music. “I essentially wanted to go back to the drawing board. Forever, I was all drum machine and synthesizer. I was very adamantly opposed to any samples, mainly because there was a big wave that happened seven years ago where companies would just create sample packs and all the songs were a sample pack, which is why I felt like you listened to music and so much of it's very homogenous, since they were all using the same sample packs,” he recalls. “Now, all the music I'm writing is sample-based. It's like fifty records in one. It's snippets of everything that you could possibly imagine; it's a process that I never, ever did before because I was adamantly opposed to samples.”

His change in attitude came about when, after dusting off his studio with Jay, Bryarly realized that the only way to make the classic house-sounding record they wanted to create was to harness the techniques that had been used to make those records in the first place: aggressive sampling. “I loved Harrison Crump back in the day and wanted to figure out a way of sounding like that, and the only way you're gonna do that is by digging through old records and putting them all together in a way that sounds fresh, even though it’s all from the ’60s and ’70s," he says. "The art is going through eight hours of samples to find these little snippets in eighty, or fifty, or a hundred different songs and then putting the pieces together and the puzzles together. It harks back to the thought process of, 'If Dilla was alive today or if DJ Shadow’s making dance music, what would it sound like?'”

This new (old) approach to house music has reinvigorated his creativity, Bryarly says, as well as relieved a certain amount of stress that comes from having to make a formulaic club hit: “All the music that’s coming out this year is more of an expression in that lane than it is ‘How do I make something that’s gonna work in the club?,’ per se. Having fun and whether the records stick or they don’t stick, it’s not going to affect me at all in one way or another. It’s just having that freedom to work in it in a different creative aspect.

“I don't know if I'm going to continue doing that," he adds. "It's very hard to sign records where you use samples, but I'm not really concerned about that so much. Right now I'm concerned about having fun with the process, and so that's where I'm at with the music right now.”

I'm in Love, with Justin Jay, releases on June 2.
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