Tuned In: The Bravery
The Bravery are a rock band hailing from New York City. Their music is a synthesis of indie rock and electronica. Below is the Tuned In interview from February 22, 2008 after their 3-song acoustic set for a small group of lucky fans at the WRFF studios in Philadelphia.
Sam Endicott: Vocals, rhythm guitar
John Conway: Keyboards, backing vocals
Mike Zakarin: Lead guitar, backing vocals
Mike Hindert: Bass, backing vocals
Anthony Burulcich: Drums, backing vocals
For someone who's never heard your music, how would you describe The Bravery's sound?
Sam- The music we play is kind of a cross between indie rock, and electronic dance music. We've got a lot of influence from the underground New York dance scene and we like, combine that with I guess you would say, indie rock or garage rock kind of thing.
John, you seem to have a preference for the analog keyboard sounds. Can you tell us about your approach to the keyboard element within the band?
John: Well, when The Bravery first started, we were really into analog synthesizers, and a lot of electronic equipment because it was a really easy way for us to get new sounds, and exciting kind of contrasting sonic textures. That's something in addition to songwriting that we like to have- interesting sounds in our music. And for our first record, we did most of it with a lot of keyboards. But on our second record, The Sun and the Moon, we actually went into a real recording studio, instead of just using our computers, and cheap synthesizers, and it pushed the envelope for us. We kind of experimented with more analog stuff, a lot of acoustic instruments and keyboards, like pump organs, and real pianos, and a bunch of other instruments too, and a lot more group vocals.
Can you tell us about the writing process within The Bravery? How does it happen for you?
Sam: Usually I'll start with something on acoustic guitar, just simple chords and melodies and the lyrics. I'll just sort of keep a notebook around. I'm always kind of writing stuff, and you find things that match the melodies, it all kind of comes together. So that's the basis of the song - you can always just play it on acoustic guitar or piano or something. Then we'll bring in all of the sonic elements, the keyboards, the guitars, the bass and all of that stuff and give it a vibe. Anthony and I will work on the drum parts, the rhythmic section - that's a big part of what we do because we incorporate a lot of dance beats. And then we try to make it so that even if there wasn't a singer, it would still be good to listen to, try to focus on all of the musical elements so it works on that level as well.
Which do you prefer, playing live shows or crafting an album in the studio?
Sam: For me, I love playing live, but my favorite thing is in the studio like writing music, creating it and recording it.
Is it the element of control?
Sam: [Laughs] Are you saying I'm a control freak? I just really like sitting alone with the computer. I come from a DJ background and so it's like we make the music like rock songs, and put it into the computer and mix it, and you edit the sounds and mess it all up, and rearrange it and everything, and then that's the finished song that you hear is like a remix of a rock song so that's my favorite part- the recording process.
Do you prefer festivals or playing your own shows?
Anthony: Festivals are great because a lot of times you're playing in front of people that are not necessarily your fans, so it opens you up to a new audience. That's always great. The only problem with festivals is that you have so many bands, and equipment blows up on the first song, and you don't get a proper sound check so it's a little more rough around the edges as opposed to...like last night we played at Terminal 5 (NYC) and club shows, our own shows are much more intimate, it's our fans and we get a sound check, and we're more in control of how it sounds. There are pros to both, but I personally love the club shows.
You have a reputation for being a very dynamic live band. What do you attribute that to?
Anthony: Well, I think when we do the records, it more about subtlety, and layers and stuff, and then when we get out live, it's more about turning up the amps and rocking, and it's more like 'let you hair down'...[band laughs] what?...why are they laughing at me? We just approach the subtleties in the studio, we just throw that out the window when we hit the stage, and just turn it up... to 11.
What was it like working with Brendan O'Brien on The Sun and the Moon?
Sam: For the second record we went into the studio with Brendan O'Brien in Atlanta where he lives, and we never worked with a producer before, I had just done it in the past. It was a really cool experience, very different for us. He is just a super talented musician, just one of those guys that 'gets' music on such an intense level. He has perfect pitch, he can play every instrument, he can remember every song that's ever been recorded that kind of thing. So having that guy around brought a lot of stuff to the table. I think it helped us expand our horizons, to try a lot of new things.
What is The Sun and the Moon Complete?
Sam: It was our second record, and you know that's kind of a weird one for band. You have to decide are you going to do exactly what you did for the first record or are you going to try new stuff, and we just decided we were going to do both. So what we did is we had these 11 songs that we wanted to do and we were just going to record them all in two completely different ways. One is going to be more experimental for us. Its like a total change of pace,, It's like we're going into the studio with Brendan, it's more organic, acoustic instruments, it's produced more 'lush', and maybe it's a little more upbeat. And the other side is darker, more synthetic, more raw, it's not produced and that one's [more the way] we're used to making music. And so, we called that The Sun and the Moon, the first one's the Sun side, and the second one's the Moon side, and now we're releasing them both together.
There appears to be a strong conscious artistic effort within The Bravery.
Sam: We've always been really involved in the concepts of the videos, and coming up with the ideas, and I've gotten more and more into that as time has gone on, so I've actually directed the last video (Believe). I worked with an animation team and we took a live performance, shot it in this unusual way, and then we brought in this animated element that made it tie in with a lot of the art that we have on the albums and the posters, and so we mad t he video sort of represent that.
John: Once thing that's cool about being in a band now is there are so many outlets for creativity and to do things that are yours instead of just the music, and we're really involved in everything we can be, with our web site, the design of it, and making it interactive for our fans, to our merchandise, making t-shirts, or our own music videos. There are just so many avenues to getting your stuff out there, and we try to get as involved with that as much as we can.
You two (Sam and John) met in college?
John: Yes, Sam and I met in college and started playing all kinds of weird music together when we were probably like 19, and Mike and Mike were college friends too. It helps a band to have sets of friends, makes us all get along pretty good.
Anthony: I went to college too, you know. [Laughs] I'm not the high school dropout [band laughs].
What do you do to keep things fresh?
John: Being in a touring band, I think it's hard for a lot of bands, but I think we're lucky that we all get along, and everybody in our crew is great, because, really, you're all on this tour bus that's pretty much like being in a submarine crew, you just have this tube full of bunks and empty beer bottles and beds, and it can get hard but I think we're pretty good at it. We're a strong touring band, that's what we do, we tour all of the time. So I think we've figured out all of the ways to just keep ourselves alive and in good spirits to do this forever.
What was the inspiration for "Believe"?
Sam: For the song Believe, I guess what I was thinking about when I wrote it was back in 2003 when we were first getting started I was writing these songs in this little apartment in Brooklyn, and I lived above a bar, and most of the time i just had nothing going on, and I would just spend all day and night in this bar just drinking. Everybody in there was just doing the same thing you know, everybody's working on a band, or they're writing a book, or doing some stuff, but nothing's ever really happening, and you just spend your whole life in there. I just felt like we were growing into the furniture, and just waiting for some sort of meaning to arrive. So I wrote that song about that period of my life.
After the tour ends, what's next for The Bravery?
Sam: Yeah, we're almost done with this tour, and then we have a little time off...[points to Anthony] he's releasing a fragrance...as we speak. [laughs]
Mike Z: It's called 'let your hair down'. [laughs]
Anthony: I'm going to release a shampoo line too....
Sam: Good times. [band laughs]
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