Vintage goes viral in Scott Bradlee Postmodern Jukebox videos

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      Scott Bradlee is almost single-handedly responsible for hauling ragtime and vintage jazz into the YouTube era, but he’s not letting that go to his head.

      “No matter how good a video does,” he tells the Straight from Los Angeles, “there’s always going to be a cat video that gets more views.”

      Still, the pianist and arranger behind Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox can be proud of his achievements, even if he isn’t sure why some of his pop-song adaptations and homemade videos have launched careers, while others have merely rippled the surface of the online ocean.

      “I’ve certainly been wrong before with things that I thought would go viral, and some things went viral that I didn’t think were noteworthy in that sense,” he says. “But I think virality happens when you connect to a conversation. You make something that people want to talk about.”

      Ariana Savalas and Scott Bradlee's Postmodern Jukebox cover Shaggy's "It Wasn't Me", Tom Jones-style.

      This, he continues, is what happened in 2013, when the then-unknown band’s doo-wop cover of Miley Cyrus’s “We Can’t Stop” briefly claimed supremacy over every cute-animal video in the known universe, receiving over four million views in a single day.

      “That played into a couple of different things,” Bradlee explains. “First of all, she had just given a very scandalous performance of that song. Everybody was talking about it, so it was in the news cycle, and then the other factor is we took it and turned it into a doo-wop song, the most sanitized genre of music you can imagine. We also filmed the whole thing in the living room of my small New York City apartment, and it was clear that it was very much a guerrilla effort. So we took a current-events news story and added a bit of a do-it-yourself, underdog quality that made everybody want to share it—and it was done well. It was a catchy song done in a catchy way.”

      Barely two months later, “We Can’t Stop” was followed by a take on Lorde’s “Royals” that just as quickly made Puddles the Clown a household name. Some observers dubbed Postmodern Jukebox “the Saturday Night Live of jazz”—a fair comparison, given that its one-camera video shoots are driven by seamless ensemble work as much as idol-making star turns. Bradlee doesn’t even publicize who’s on tour with the band; if his singers are good, digital word of mouth will do his work for him.

      Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox performs "We Can't Stop".

      “It’s always different, and it’s always changing,” he says. “We have an active roster of about 40 to 50 musicians that tour with us. It’s kind of like a universe rather than a band.

      “In fact,” he continues, “it’s kind of hard to nail down exactly what it is, other than that it’s its own genre of entertainment. Our thing is just putting together a really balanced cast of incredible talent and creating a set that casual fans, die-hard fans, and people that are completely new to the concept can all enjoy and have fun and get up and dance to.”

      Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox plays a TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival show at the Orpheum on Friday (June 30).