Bass of Operations: Thundercat Brings Kendrick, Pharrell and Kenny Loggins to Fusion Project 'Drunk'

Bass of Operations: Thundercat Brings Kendrick, Pharrell and Kenny Loggins to Fusion Project 'Drunk'
Photo: B+
In the four years since dropping Apocalypse, bassist Thundercat has appeared on over a dozen albums by other artists, including Suicidal Tendencies, Flying Lotus, Kamasi Washington, Kirk Knight, Childish Gambino, Mac Miller, Vic Mensa, Ty Dolla $ign and Kendrick Lamar.
Turning to his own muse, Thundercat just released his third full-length, Drunk, on Brainfeeder, an album that veers from woozy jazz fusion to sultry grooves and smooth soft rock. "That's why [the album] feels like 'Wow, where did some of that stuff come from?'" the man born Stephen Bruner tells Exclaim! "I didn't try to put any boundaries on the idea of what the album's supposed to be."
One of the collaborators Thundercat is most closely associated with (along with Flying Lotus) is also an inspiration. "I feel like one of the defining moments would be meeting Kendrick Lamar," Bruner explains. "Being around him inspired me to work harder and create more. He brought me into his thought process and inside of that, it was like somebody being exposed to the sun. It blew my mind!"
Thundercat brings some guests of his own to assist on Drunk; some are predictable (Kendrick, Wiz Khalifa, Pharrell), while others a little more surprising, like AM radio heroes Kenny Loggins and Michael McDonald, who both appear on soft rock-inspired track "Show You the Way."
He's aware that high-profile guests will help shine a light on an experimental fusion project that can be a harder sell. "These artists' names just resonate with people more, because they are bigger artists, so that was something that was intentional," he explains.
With 23 tracks in just over 50 minutes, Thundercat manages to incorporate an ambitious stable of ideas and sounds into Drunk, exploring funk, electronic, jazz, rock and soul, all filtered though his signature six-string bass, the instrument with which he writes every song. And although he's crafted a whole world of sound with his solo work, Thundercat still considers himself primarily a bass player.
"It's always been the bass for me. I started out from there, but then realized the different role the bass could take on, the different influences and the different things that would come through with it, it would be based on the 'no bounds' thing that I would look at it with."
Thundercat plays Toronto on February 28 and Montreal on March 1; check out the whole tour itinerary here.