Despite what the name might imply, The Late B. P. Helium is very much alive. He’s alive because he is, in fact, one Bryan Poole. If you follow the Elephant 6 group of bands, or the Athens music community, you might have seen his name tossed around on the credits of albums by Elf Power, Of Montreal or The Olivia Tremor Control. But for the past six years, Bryan has recorded and toured with his close friends under the name The Late B. P. Helium.
The name itself isn’t that hard to understand; the “B. P.” portion of his pseudonym comes from his initials and “Helium” is a reference to his first band, an XTC tribute band called the Helium Kidz and the fact that members of his community used to refer to him as Bryan Helium because of such. It was as this “Bryan Helium” that he was credited for his work on Elf Power records. But why kill off this character? Why “the late?”
“I was that for a while with Elf Power, then when I put out my first single I decided that I didn’t want to be “Bryan Helium” any more, so I killed him off and became the Late B. P. Helium,” Poole explained. “So that’s the light side of it. The darker side of that is that I had this life changing kind of event happen to me around 1997 where my mind just kind of changed in a weird way. I lost some sense of self that I had once had before–that childlike sense of wonderment that we all start out with.”
In an attempt to regain that part of his life, Bryan has written numerous songs that address his “loss of self.” Two of the most notable are “They Broke the Speed of Light,” which tackles the death of his childlike side, and “Weeping Soul” off the Kumquat Mae EP. “[‘Weeping Soul’] is about me trying to get past these problems that I’ve had in my past,” Bryan said. “You can’t dwell on things that have happened to you; at that point you have to work towards the future and live for the now… It’s a cathartic experience, writing songs.”
But lest you think The Late B. P. Helium is a depressing band, let me explain what they’re all about. Listening to Amok, TLBPH’s 2004 release, is like hearing Kevin Barnes from Of Montreal and Robert Schneider from The Apples in Stereo team up to try and outdo T. Rex at his own game. It’s 60’s / 70’s rock, but with a lighthearted approach. In the middle of “Candy For Everyone,” Poole recruited a team of his friends to lay down a kazoo solo over the song’s rocking bass line. But while that section might draw smiles from his fans, it’s far from laughable. Actually, it’s downright admirable.
The kind of perspective that Bryan is able to offer on being a musician is almost as incredible as his music. As an early member of Elf Power, a vital piece of Of Montreal during two different incarnations of the band, a session and touring musician for various groups, and the frontman of The Late B. P. Helium, he’s gone through about every type of relationship with music imaginable. Throughout his time in the Athens musical community, he’s developed an interesting idea to making music.
“I’ve always said that you should be in three different bands,” said Bryan. “One band that’s a democracy where you all write equal songs, one band where you’re the dictator and you’re telling everyone what to do, and one where you’re the support guy and you’re tying to help somebody else’s vision out.”
And while he’s played all those roles at one point or another during his life, Bryan is enjoying finally getting to spend time at the helm of his project. The Late B. P. Helium is currently on tour across the U.S. and Canada, and will most likely soon begin work on the follow-up to Amok (due out “early 2007 at the earliest,” says Poole). Pretty active for a dead guy, wouldn’t you say?
The Late B. P. Helium will be playing at The Dame in Lexington, KY on June 26th.