Listening to Halifax-born and Vancouver-based Jon Bryant‘s dreamlike voice, you’d find it hard to believe his unique back story. The release of the alternative singer-songwriter’s new album, Cult Classic, on May 17 via Nettwerk, perfectly sets the tone for his reflection on his experiences.
Newly arriving in Vancouver, Bryant sought connection. At the urging of a close friend who also belonged to the group, he joined NXIVM.
“I had my reservations, but I didn’t want to shy away from something that engendered so much excitement. I was fascinated because my friend was fascinated and the people were lovely,” he says.
“As I went deeper, this weird dynamic started happening among my new friends. I was once told that falling into a belief system is like dying in your sleep — you don’t notice when it happens.”
The group is known as a cult-like organization, gaining notoriety in recent years for its sex trafficking and sexual exploitation of women.
Bryant says, “After learning details about some very troubling events within the group, I began to distance myself, and after hearing more awful stories of people’s experiences with the organization, I finally cut ties. Following my departure, my fascination with cults began to percolate, and this curiosity definitely influenced my writing.”
Reclaiming his independence, Bryant penned tunes everywhere from Nova Scotia and Vancouver to Seattle, Los Angeles, and Australia. He then retreated to the studio (Afterlife Studios in Vancouver) with producer John Raham and set about recording Cult Classic in 2017.
He says, “In the early days of writing the music for this album, I saw myself (and the world around me) through the lens of a cult. It was only until I was involved with one, did I actually realize that they’re interwoven through so much of culture. To be in a cult is to be human.”
Drawing inspiration from artists such as Bruce Hornsby, The Doobie Brothers, and Steely Dan, Bryant welcomed analogue warm synths into the sonic architecture, exploring styles he has always wanted. As a result, the sound evokes a sweeping and soaring cinematic scope.
Given Bryant’s heartfelt honesty, Cult Classic paints a multitude of feelings, from the emotions of breaking free from the pack in “Paradise”, to the thematic comparison of how a relationship can feel like a cult in “Cultivated”, to the hypnotic urgency to return to the ones we love in “At Home”.
When asked about his new album, Bryant says, “When you hear this, I hope you walk away feeling hopeful in knowing that, despite how fucked up this world is, you are absolutely beautiful and complete. It sounds cliché to say but the album is proof.”