Bram Inscore, the musician who ascended from the grassroots L.A. scene to become a songwriter-producer who worked with some of pop music’s biggest acts, has died at age 41.
A statement Friday from his wife, family and friends read, in part:
“It is with a heavy heart that we announce the passing of our beloved Bram Inscore, who ended his life after a hard-fought battle with depression. Bram was a ‘musician’s musician’ … Selfless as a human and generous as a collaborator, he ingeniously served the music but never his own ego. Deep compassion and dry wit were embedded into everything he did, though he never sought praise or approval. He was truly a unique spirit and though his soul has left his body, it will live forever in his music.”
Inscore moved to Los Angeles as a teenager, paid his dues as a touring musician and session player and, eventually, collaborated as a writer and/or producer with superstars and indie artists alike. His credits include work by Troye Sivan (“Youth,” among others), BTS (“Louder Than Bombs”) and Andy Grammer (“Don’t Give Up on Me”), as well as artists such as Rina Sawayama, Big Freedia, Claud, Allie X, Moses Sumney, Mayer Hawthorne, NIKI, Duncan Laurence, SuperM, RMR, Sophie Meiers, Cola Boyy, John Carroll Kirby, Ben Platt, The Veronicas, Chloe x Halle, Greyson Chance, Morgan Saint and many more.
As a sideman, he played with the likes of Beck, Thurston Moore, Charlotte Gainsburg and Twin Shadow, and he scored the film “Sierra Burgess Is A Loser.” Under the moniker B.R.A.M., he released a solo album in 2009. With singer-songwriter Alex Lilly, Inscore was also one-half of the duo Touché.
“Bram was a man of many layers,” Lilly said. “He was dry but warm. He was calm and steady but could collapse into laughter. You’d be as likely to hear him building a track that sounded so good but was completely diametrically opposed to a piece he’d be practicing on his grand piano later like ‘Clair de Lune,’ which he played beautifully. He wrote wry but heartfelt lyrics. You knew that if you worked on something with him, it would be amazing. He had a taste for the absurd. And he knew how to win an argument. I told him his feet looked ridiculous, and to prove their superior function, he said nothing but used his toes to strike a match.
“There will never be another Bram.”
Fellow musician and longtime friend John Carroll Kirby also revered Inscore, calling him “the most talented, the most selfless dude, the deepest sense of humor and the most loyal friend of 23 years. … His genius lives on.”
Singer-songwriter Coco Morier (Electrocute) worked with Inscore in several capacities. “I remember one rehearsal with the backing band for Charlotte Gainsbourg where Bram was playing a complicated synth part on one hand and then a syncopated percussion part with his other hand on his little percussion tree (filled with a cowbell and other instruments),” Morier said. “We all just stared at him, our jaws to the floor, like he was an alien from outer space. It didn’t make any sense how he could do that. I loved his little grin, he was always so humble, but you could tell sometimes he was feeling himself. What a badass.”
Indeed, it was Inscore’s skills that put him in a position to attain success later. In a 2020 podcast interview, Inscore recalled how as a youngster he learned bass lines by playing along to classic rock records with a “single-minded obsession.” (He also played bass in a traveling circus.) Asked to advise young musicians on a career path, Inscore advocated for “developing multiple skills and [finding] people who complement them,” adding that playing in a live band is the best training ground.
“Bram really put in the work,” Morier said. “Years ago when I was dating his roommate, I’d be over at the house and hear Bram in his bedroom clicking at the keyboard keys with his headphones on for hours. He was already one of the best bass players I’d ever heard, but in a couple of months he was an incredible keyboardist. I think sometimes people take for granted the tremendous effort it takes to be that good.”
Bobby (formerly Barbara) Gruska, once one-half of the sibling duo the Belle Brigade and now an in-demand touring musician, recalled Inscore’s humor and “magic touch,” as well.
“I had endless laughs with Bram, shared endless beds, floors, buses, planes, stages and bathrooms with him on tour,” said Gruska, recalling that at one juncture they were playing together in nine bands at the same time. (Inscore was recording with the Belle Brigade when he got the phone call to audition for Beck’s live band.) “I even wrestled Bram in a kiddie pool filled with Jello. I’m pretty sure I won, but just because he was laughing so hard. Bram was really skinny but if you ever saw his arms, hands and legs up close, they looked like Michelangelo’s David.
“He could also fix anything himself, whether it was gear or a house. He converted his garage into a studio by himself. He would circuit-bend old Casios. One time he accidentally knocked over an out-of-commission vintage Oberheim synth, and after it fell over, it started working. Bram had the magic touch, and in my opinion, musically, he could do no wrong.”
Morier offered another anecdote as evidence. “One time I was in Sweden working on a song called ‘Explosions’ that ended up being on my first solo EP, ‘Strangers May Kiss,’” she recalled. “I knew it needed an awesome bass line and of course immediately turned to Bram. I sent the track over in my evening, it was his morning in L.A. The next morning I woke up to the most incredible bass line I’ve ever heard in my inbox! If you listen, you’ll realize that the bass line is the whole magic of the song. And that’s the power of Bram’s genius.”
Said Gruska: “I can trace most of my friends and most of my career back to my musical relationship with Bram. We became adults together. We became professional musicians together. He was one of very few people so close to the center of my heart. We saw each other, loved each other and enjoyed each other for 20 years. I will miss him forever.”
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Bram Inscore was the last person I elbow-bumped at the last show I attended (Ethan Gruska’s album-release party at the Echo) before COVID-19 shut down the world. I wish it’d been a hug. If you or someone you know is struggling or in crisis, help is available. Call or text 988 or chat 988lifeline.org.