Drinking in L.A. | Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame
All inducted songs
"The recording’s innovative, happily unconventional sound and off-the-cuff spontaneity quickly captivated audiences in North America and Europe alike..."
Drinking in L.A.
  • Year Inducted: 2023
  • Written In: 1997
Songwriters
James Di Salvio Songwriter
Haig Vartzbedian Songwriter
Duane Larson Songwriter
Artists
Bran Van 3000
Cameron Philip
Luna Elle
Bran Van 3000’s 1997 hit single Drinking in L.A. has been described as quirky, irrepressible and intoxicating.

“Billboard Magazine” called it “deliciously creative.” Drinking in L.A. was indeed a ground-breaking recording, born of Montreal’s cultural diversity combined with dance music culture and an ultra-creative, let’s-break-all-the-rules attitude.

The SOCAN Classic recording, which celebrated its silver anniversary in 2022, was the hit single off the debut album “Glee” by alt-rock hip-hop collective Bran Van 3000. BV3’s leader, James Di Salvio, came from the world of video production and dance club DJing, and he brought perspectives and techniques from those worlds to his first attempt at songwriting and record production.

As Di Salvio told “Exclaim! Magazine”: “Glee was a culmination of all that sample culture, DJ culture.…no rules.”

With co-songwriters, Haig Vartzbedian and Duane Larson, Di Salvio created a techno-laden dream-like masterpiece featuring a hypnotic chorus (What the hell am I doing, drinking in L.A.?) sung by Haitian-Québecoise Stéphane Moraille, with the input of the dreamy pop background voices of Sara Johnston and Jayne Hill, a peek-a-boo line from BV3's co-founder EP Bergen and a sketch off the top with the introduction of what would be Di Salvio's rhyme partner Likwid in the crew for the years to follow. Set in Los Angeles, the recording opens with a spoof on a radio call-in show giving away tickets to a mythical BV3 concert at Vancouver's Pacific Coliseum. It relates the story of an unproductive day in the life of a budding scriptwriter.

The recording’s innovative, happily unconventional sound and off-the-cuff spontaneity quickly captivated audiences in North America and Europe alike, with its cross-genre mash-up of pop, rap, hip-hop, electronica, and just about every other style you care to name.

Initially very much a studio creation, produced by Vartzbedian and Di Salvio, Drinking in L.A. had never been performed live when Di Salvio submitted it to Canadian Music Week– and to his surprise, actually won. Sadly, the recording was disqualified after organizers discovered that there was no actual band to perform it at the showcase. Di Salvio quickly assembled and rehearsed a 10-member group to promote the hit.

Drinking in L.A. was released on CD in Canada in April 1997 on Quebec’s Les Disques Audiogram label. The unorthodox single reached No. 35 on RPM’s Hot 100 chart. The following year, after its wider release on Capitol Records and support from Los Angeles alt-rock station KROQ, it became a Top 40 hit in the U.K. and Top 10 in several European

countries. Later in the U.K., the song soared to No. 3 after being featured in a beer commercial.

Back home in Canada, Bran Van 3000’s “Glee” easily won the 1998 Juno award for best alternative album. Drinking in L.A. was also nominated for Juno’s single of the year (losing to Sarah McLachlan’s Building a Mystery), and BV3, who originally had been a last-minute after-thought, were nominated for best new group. And the low-budget music video of Drinking in L.A. won a MuchMusic video award for best electronic dance music video.

Di Salvio, who as a club DJ was known to spin country classics by Johnny Cash and Hank Williams, says the classic country-blues scene of “Woke up this morning, sun in my eyes” occupied his mind for years before he found a home for it in Drinking in L.A.

Did Di Salvio actually wake up on a Los Angeles lawn with a hangover? Well, it might be true, or it might be an urban myth. Whatever the case, Di Salvio told the “Globe and Mail”, “It’s really strange that the song took us around the world,” he recalled recently from, yes, L.A. “It’s just been a crazy ride.”

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Drinking in L.A. - Bran Van 3000
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