Brendan Hines Interview

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The [one and only] Brendan Hines makes many things look easy- from playing the trombone to performing songs he writes on stage to effortlessly delivering lines for shows like Scandal, Lie to Me, Terminator, as well as others. His latest album is called Small Mistakes, following up Good for You Know Who. We join this Baltimore native, pescatarian, uncle to two nephews and youngest of four children in East Los Angeles where we’re neighbors.

Our activities include an afternoon of fried mushroom tacos in Silver Lake and then a bit of record shopping at Sunset Junction (Thanks Vacation Vinyl!), along the way finding out fun stuff about his history and what he’s been up to.

What’re you and your cat Kilgore listening to now-a-days?

Gillian Welch, the new album from The Milk Carton Kids, The Replacements, The Walkmen, and I’ll never stop listening to Elvis Costello.

What’s your take on making “small mistakes” in real life?

I actually don’t freak out that much about mistakes. If I do something stupid, at least I’ve learned from it. What stays with me and what I ultimately regret are the things I don’t do– the woman on the subway that I didn’t talk to, the time I was alone in an alley with Elvis Costello and was too much of a pussy to introduce myself.

In another interview, you made a comparison between great songs and crab cakes. Recommendations of where to get the best crab cakes in your home town of Baltimore?

Koco’s in Lauraville have the best. My brother’s lucky- he lives right by there.

Ever go crabbing on the rivers?

No, but I remember being on the Eastern Shore and planting these river plants to help the crabs. I just have an image of all these eleven year old kids wading around, putting plants into the water, thinking that they’re being really helpful.

Have any run-ins with John Waters?

No, sadly I was a bit too normal looking.

Did you switch from trombone to guitar because there aren’t that many known trombonists who are also sex symbols?

Actually I first picked up the violin and loved the strings, then I tried the trumpet and couldn’t make anything come out of it. After that I got hold of a trombone and made this resounding noise and knew it was for me. I was in the honors band in middle school and we played TV theme songs like The Muppets, The A-Team and Jeopardy.

How did you come to live in New York City? Where did you live there and how was your experience?

I hadn’t planned on it. My friends and I were writing plays in Baltimore, and I was just going to New York to do a play that a friend was directing, but I ended up getting a manager and stayed on a couch for my first six months.

I lived in Astoria, then moved to Spanish Harlem, then eventually Bushwick. I worked at an art school and slept one frigid winter on a futon in the former studio of the painter Philip Guston. I’d have to wait from five in the evening until about midnight when everyone was finally gone and sneak in to go to sleep and wake up and start work there.

What made you venture to Los Angeles?

My manager had dropped me and I hadn’t acted in a while I was working in the box office of a theater in Soho and out of the blue I got a call from another manager in L.A. who had seen my work in an independent film.

When I first moved to LA, I spent a lot of time at The New Beverly (movie theater) and read a lot of James Ellroy and Dashiell Hammett to try to get a historical sense of the city. Much of the time it feels like it could’ve all been built in the last ten years.

Are you working on new songs now?

Yes. I’m hoping to record another set of songs this summer and maybe put Small Mistakes out on vinyl.

How did you meet Kilgore?

I used to live by the McDonald’s where Fountain and Sunset meet and he would come up on the back porch and I’d shoo him away. I never had any opinions on cats one way or the other.

One day, he rolled over on his back like a dog and that won me over, so I took him to the vet, got him cleaned up and we’ve been roommates ever since. He’s a very doggish cat. He used to bring me presents: birds, and mice. One day he brought me a possum. I poked it to see if it was really dead. It didn’t move so I threw in a dumpster. After a few minutes I got curious about whether it had been faking it. As I was approaching the dumpster I saw it casually walking away but as soon as it saw me coming it froze and fell over on its side again.

Is your roommate named after the Kurt Vonnegut character Kilgore Trout?

Yes he is.

What are you wearing today?

Blue t-shirt is from Urban Outfitters, Rag & Bone pants, Alexander McQueen shoes -the shoes I wore for three years on Lie to Me.

Do you generally like the clothes that wardrobe departments put you in for work?

For this pilot I just did (Murder in Manhattan for ABC), it was great to get dressed as a grown up in suits- mostly from Top Man. For my other parts, they’ve usually put me in things like t-shirts and cardigans. Before working on television, I didn’t really know how to dress. Wardrobe departments have taught me what actually looks good.

Please tell us more about your self referential short film [A Show of Brendan Hines].

The idea came from a director friend of mine. We had some free time and just did that for fun. We’ll find a way to let people see it soon. It’s actually based on an actor we know- not me.

What’s your dream role?

I’d love to be in a Western. I haven’t done that yet. Last year I was in a short with James Urbaniak and Brie Larson called Bitter Orange. Hope Larson, the graphic novelist, wrote and directed it. It’s a period piece set in Los Angeles during prohibition. I had always wanted to do something from that time period.

Did I tell you that Brendan’s mom used to be a nun and his dad used to be a priest?

Let’s save that for next time…

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