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54•40 bassist hums a different tune with java gadget

by Mary Frances Hill - The Westender

Who: Brad Merritt

Inventor and marketer of the 'French Press coffee cozy', a thermal insulator that wraps around Bodum coffeemakers, sold in Vancouver kitchenware stores and on line, at; also, bassist for Vancouver-based rock band 54•40 since 1981. Forty years old. "I'm the oldest guy in the band, and proud of it."

Roots: Raised in Tsawwassen, where he worked in his father's aluminum recycling plant, and settled there with wife and two children. Met Neil Osborn in high school, and formed the quartet 54•40. The band works out of its own Vancouver studio, Divine Industries. Includes coffeemaking, Bodum and coffee-cozy tips, and Martha Stewart hints on his website,

Down with the dishrag-covered Bodum: Merritt's French Press "cozy" is made of 65/35 per cent poly-cotton blend, similar to a Ralph Lauren polo windbreaker. "On the inside is this material called Solari, the same kind of stuff as Thinsulate. I've got two layers of that. And then I've got that sewn into there (with double stitching)."

You know me from such bands as...: "I exploit my name shamelessly. It lets the people who buy it know who they're dealing with. I'm willing to put my good name on the line here for what that's worth. What I get is to be able to leverage (my name} into press coverage, and I'm not above that either."

Road tar: "The worst coffee I've had is from the southeastern portion of the United States. The first time we toured on a tour bus we went for 11 weeks in the fall of 1989, and we were outside Atlanta, Georgia at the Waffle House, an awful chain there. You go in there and get coffee and it's sad. Then you get this petroleum by product creamer thing, and it's absolutely awful."

Hot coffee and a filine cherry pie: "The single best coffee I had was at a hotel in Copenhagen. We were there doing 28 shows with Midnight Oil, and {the hotel) served the coffee in Bodums - but with no cozy, I'll have you know."

Oh yeah, then there's music: 54•40 released Since When in 1998, and a live album, Heavy Mellow last Labour Day. Their new CD, Casual Viewin' is due in June. "The new record's different. We did it in-house, and used the studio as a creative tool through the whole process. We ended up doing some jamming, and fine-tuning it into more sophisticated songs, trimming them down, and doing some tinkering, with some electronic post-production aspects ."

This ain't Spinal Tap: "People think if you're a musician in a rock band don't have get-up-and-go, that you get up in afternoon and scratch your beard or whatever. But I've always found business fun, exciting and rewarding. Within the band I ways enjoyed the business aspect, reading our financial statements, and what our costs are. Art and commerce can meet. It didn't hurt Andy Warhol ."

Following his own tempo: "I've got lots of room in my life for both these enterprises (coffee cozy and 54•40 )it's not that big a deal. Although sometimes I do find myself playing bass and thinking about my cozy, and quite often l'm making coffee and humming one of our songs, it works both ways. Plus, now with this I feel compelled to drink more coffee which makes me more productive .... The band is extremely supportive (about the coffee cozy), although there's a little bit of giggling here and there."

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