Tab Meets: Brave Illusion

JULIE HUTCHINSON meets Brave Illusion, a four-piece blues band from Cambridge.

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Brave Illusion are a four-piece band from St. Johns, Downing and Clare. They are primarily influenced by blues but also draw inspiration from folk music, noting Bob Dylan and Tracy Chapman as major influences. They are not limited, however, to single genres alone and are constantly experimenting with new sounds, including soul and rock. Their music is generally focused on interpretation rather than composition; their covers include songs by the Steeldrivers, Leadbelly, Neil Young, Carole King, Stevie Wonder and even Ray Charles.

Four-piece Brave Illusion at May Ball auditions

Brave Illusion emphasize their casual style, prioritizing the experience of harmonious music-making over disciplined practice: the warm, soulful harmonies combine with improvisational rhythms, amounting to laid-back – but powerful – performances. The spontaneity of their music, expressed in the fact that they often decide on stage to perform a song they have barely rehearsed before, informs their dedication to music for its own sake: to being transported to that otherworldly place of synchronisation and relishing a connection that loses its meaning outside of the moment.

Each member has a strong musical personality: lead singer and guitarist Femi Oriogun-Williams (who is also an accomplished pianist) is the main composer of the band’s independent pieces, the latest track being  ‘Michael Finn’. Maya Palit’s musical background as an acoustic guitarist and blues singer is key to the band’s distinctively retro sound.

Lea Cantor not only plays drums, cajón and occasionally bass, but also spent time composing and recording indie-electronic music during her gap year in China. Vir Bulchandani is highly trained in violin, piano, sitar and guitar. Each personality has contributed to the eclectic mix that is Brave Illusion.

Lead guitarist and singer Femi reads English at Clare College

Each of the band members’ character as well as the variety of musical influences they collectively embrace are reflected in their sound: choosing to draw from styles rather than epochs, the band’s versatility ranges from acoustic to electric. While their acoustic music is obviously softer — with cajón, violin and acoustic guitar replacing the drumkit and plugged-in guitars —  their bluesy electric sound is dynamic and vibrant.

Throughout their Cambridge years, Maya, Femi and Vir would jam at open mic nights, often in venues such as King’s Bar, the Maypole and even the great outdoors, where Brave Illusion continues to play. The band was formed when Maya met Lea at a Downing College formal, whose versatile drumming skills added a new rhythmic dimension to the trio’s harmonies and helped solidify their sound during casual jamming sessions.

Drummer Lea Cantor is a Downing College Classicist.

The very name of the band also reflects the the closeness of its members. ‘Vir’ in Sanskrit translates into ‘brave’ whereas ‘Maya’ in Sanskrit means ‘illusion’; and since they were the two founding members of the band, the band was born as ‘Brave Illusion’.

When asked about their success given the sheer number of May Balls and June Events they have lined up, drummer Lea Cantor states: “We didn’t really plan anything. First term was all about having fun and taking time off from work, getting to know each other, sharing music and working on covers of songs we all related to in some way. By second term we were auditioning for May Balls and performing in bars around Cambridge; everything just sort of happened – we did, the music did. It’s been an amazing experience!”

Brave Illusion will be playing at Jesus and St. John’s May Balls, as well as Trinity Hall, Newnham and Pembroke June Events.

Keep up with their latest gigs and follow them on their Facebook page as they announce future plans!