Bryan Sammis, the lead singer and guitarist of La Bouquet, has already carved a deep path in the music industry. The former drummer of The Neighbourhood and the man behind the solo act Olivver The Kid, Bryan joined forces with lifetime friend Jake Lopez to form the band La Bouquet. He battles heartbreak and depression by capturing his demons in the lyrics. With La Bouquet's debut album on the horizon, Bryan opened up about those inner demons, the inspiration behind 'Loveless,' and his journey towards finding himself.
“I’m not happy a lot,” says Bryan, “and when I am happy, I don’t write a song about it.” Bryan Sammis, the lead singer and guitarist of the band La Bouquet, lives alone in LA. He endures stretches of solitude. Too much free time swings open the gate to negative thoughts. Busyness brings him peace. “When I sit at home days at a time, I can get inside my own head.”
Cherishing bliss, Bryan doesn’t spend happiness in the studio. “I go outside and suck the lifeblood out of happy moments,” he says. “I save the sadness for my music.” He battles depression guerilla warfare style. Instead of attacking negative thoughts head on, he forces dark feelings into submission with sneak attacks through songwriting. “I pop up behind my demons and snag them,” he says. “I’m going to put you in this song motherfucker.”
Before Bryan wrote his first song, he sat behind the drumset. “I hated drums the first four years I played,” he says. He took lessons with a teacher he didn’t like. Then, at 14, he found a rhythm. “Early on, I was bummed playing the drums and thought I sucked,” he says, “but I had the patience to stick with it.” In 2011, he dropped out of Loyola University New Orleans with three weeks left to drum for the band The Neighbourhood. He toured the world with his best friends but longed to sing melodies.
Bryan approached his bandmates about taking on greater responsibility building melodies and crafting lyrics, but they could not reach an agreement. He parted ways with the Neighbourhood in early 2014 to kickstart his solo project, Olivver The Kid. “Olivver has always been a part of me and always will,” says Bryan. Having releasing demos on the side, he jumped headfirst into Olivver after leaving The Neighbourhood.
The break from the band left Bryan depressed and suicidal. Needing distraction, he poured pensive thoughts onto paper. He then reached out to one of his best friends, Jake Lopez, to play music with him. Jake and Bryan met as teenagers. In the same band back in high school, Bryan jammed on drums with Jake on guitar. Bryan then brought Jake on as a session musician and live guitarist for Olivver The Kid. They started writing together on the second Olivver EP, The Boy Who Cried Wolf. “Jake is a brother to me,” says Bryan. “I’d rather make music with him than work alone.” Before The Boy Who Cried Wolf dropped in 2015, Jake and Bryan felt burnt out and wanted to reinvigorate their fire for music. Driving up to San Francisco, they wrote an entire EP that never saw the light of day. They later re-recorded two songs off of the unreleased EP for the debut La Bouquet album. “That EP was more alternative, and we got back to making music for the sake of the art form,” says Bryan. “Now, those tracks live on my phone.”
In San Fran, Bryan and Jake embraced the ‘first thought, best thought’ mentality. “Writing songs shouldn’t feel like pulling teeth, an arduous process,” says Bryan. “When you work an idea to death, that’s how you kill it.” They polished off multiple tracks in a day. In those hours, La Bouquet bloomed to life. “The idea for La Bouquet came together with the EP that never came out,” says Bryan, “making dope music with my best bud.”
Still playing as Olivver, Jake and Bryan hit the festival circuit, toured the US, and took the stage in Russia. After a few years, Bryan contemplated laying Olivver to rest. In his letter to the fans dated October 2016, he writes:
As much as I love writing, I also love collaborating with others. I think there is a balance to be found in life with spending time alone & being social, something I struggle to find the right mix of. There is so much baggage in my life with this project, with this alter ego. So much of my happiness & sadness has been directly derived off of Olivver. I will always love this project. I’ll never say I won’t put out another ØV [Olivver] record. But, for now, it is time to move on.
Woke Up Still Half Drunk
After Olivver, Bryan wanted Jake to shoulder a greater part of the musical process. “I knew Jake wasn’t as into Olivver the Kid,” he says. “I had my name on the project, and I finished and produced every record.” Bryan and Jake began the project they could both own, La Bouquet.
The first official release of La Bouquet, ‘Loveless,’ draws upon a breakup. Bryan took his girlfriend to a family reunion in Bushwick, NY. She would meet his folks for the first time. “I was a bit older than her and thinking about proposing,” he says. “She sensed that and felt things were moving too fast.” She broke up with him and flew back to LA mid-reunion.
“I went on a three-day bender,” he says. He drove to his friend’s house in Connecticut. “I did shrooms, drank wine, got tattooed and smoked cigs on my buddy’s roof.” On this flight from reality, he tucked his phone away for 72 hours. Bryan thought back to his happiest stretch when he shut off his cell phone for over a semester in college. “I tucked my laptop under my bed and didn’t touch my phone for six months.”
Soon after the bender, Bryan embarked on a healthier routine. He woke up early, worked out, and spoke to strangers. Meeting fresh faces, he forced himself into unfamiliar territory. “If there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s damage control...physical and emotional.” After two weeks out east, he flew back to LA.
Back in the studio, Bryan opened up about the breakup to Jake and his producer, Dan Braunstein. Dan linked with Bryan back in the days of Olivver. He produced the Freak EP and helped write The Boy Who Cried Wolf from scratch. Dan was now helping complete the first La Bouquet album, Heavy Sunshine [same title as the EP].
The album already lay complete before Bryan’s bender, but his heartbreak sparked another four minutes. ‘Loveless,’ a last second add to Heavy Sunshine, rose from the ashes of the relationship. The song took on a punk feel. “The best way to do that is down strokes,” says Bryan. “I picked up the bass and started playing the riff with only down strokes.” Jake began playing guitar in open tuning, where the open strings form a chord. “That’s what gives Jake such a unique sound,” says Bryan. “He finds his own random tunings that work.” Dan then played a simple lead into the first verse. Bryan had written a poem post-breakup and adapted the lyrics to the bass line.
In the studio, no power struggle exists between the three. Ideas mesh without a singular dominance. Feelings flow freely. “To keep a healthy psyche, I need catharsis,” says Bryan. Each song represents a capsule of emotion he can revisit. “I can’t take sadness from a breakup, leave it in a song, and never be sad again,” he says, “but I can at least put that feeling somewhere.” Releasing bad days into melodies loosens the grip of his demons. “Each song is like a Rick and Morty portal gun,” he says. “I listen to a track and get transported to where I was in that moment.” When Bryan is not making music for La Bouquet, he writes songs for commercials and other artists. In the studio five days per week, he produces for others under an alias. He uses a different name because the commercialized pop music does not reflect his art. “Making music for other people, that’s my day job,” says Bryan. “When I finally sit down to write for myself, I think about what I want to say." Back in a poetry class at Loyola University New Orleans, he learned to write abstractly. Bryan carried that style into his solo project Olivver the Kid. He embraced analogies and metaphors. “I was still writing with armor over my heart as Olivver.” In La Bouquet, he dresses down the lyrics and lets loose brutal emotion. “The most powerful art to me is grossly honest,” he says. “Gross to the point where it’s too close up.”
Trekking the spectrum of emotion, Bryan has weathered a cutthroat industry. He looks towards legacy as he enters the next stage with La Bouquet. “You don’t truly die until the last person in the world speaks your name,” he says. “I’m going to fucking die one day.” The thought of death flattens fear and magnifies meaning. In the first line of the song ‘1990,’ yet to be released, Bryan voices the will to stay alive through his lyrics. “I want to be a legend,” he sings.