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“There’s always a balance of glossy pop art,” Chris Plante, leader singer of The Brew, tells BTR on the state of American rock music. “But also there’s really great songwriters. [Bands like] the Shins, Brandon Flowers from the Killers… We want to be in that group of people that really care about the tradition of American songwriting.”
Ten years down the road less traveled, The Brew has evolved from a quartet of dedicated rookies to a notable starting line-up, navigating the independent rock scene through patience and observation. It helps, of course, that Bruce Hornsby is a mentor. After forming in high school, the Massachusetts-based rock collective has managed to carouse with everyone from Levon Helm to Ziggy Marley to Cake to the “Walking in Memphis” legend throughout a decade of hard work, boosting their audience and picking up a few tricks of the trade from the industry’s finest. As a band, they’re organic and creative, and they approach the art of sonic amalgamation with an experimental mind. As apprentices, they listen intently to their elders.
“We only write things we feel passionately about so the subject matter comes directly from our lives,” remarks Plante. “Musically and harmonically, we’re really exploring somewhat new territory by bringing in some strange influences to make up an alternative rock sound. To be specific, we’ve been listening to a lot of Appalachian music and we noticed that, the way they use chord changes, what beat they try to hit and what root note they use, it changes the sound. It’s really dramatic.”
So, says Plante, they figured they give it a shot too, and worked such techniques into their own music. Their latest album, Triptych, is a trilogy set – released in three parts on separate street dates – and for the record, they thought of the idea before Green Day. Conceptually, the album is broken down by style, as the band embraces varying shades of rock n’ roll. The first album, Garden in the Snow, was released in November 2011, and features their singer-songwriter, New York centric side of music. The second, Light From Below, came out in January, and delves into jam band, improvisational work. And the third, Hard Enough to Break, was just put out in August and is, as Plante describes it, an “homage to the golden era of radio,” heavy on background harmonies, hooks, and Beatles-esque arrangements.
The album title stems from a form of medieval artwork, which is separated into three individual pieces, but put together, forms a larger work.
“We had three groups of material that were very distinct and we wanted to put each of them on its own separate album,” Plante explains. “Our fan base varies from people that like us because we like to improvise and have musical proficiency, and then people who dig the songwriting and don’t want to hear solos… We’re somewhat of an anomaly because we don’t fit into the jam world per se, but we don’t fit into the songwriter lounge either.”
Nevertheless, The Brew has progressively molded their niche from touring with Hornsby and others, and creatively stretching their bounds in the process. Through Hornsby, they learned the significance of musicality, diligence, and attention to detail.
“He listened to our record and said, ‘I really like it man. Let me ask you a question, how often do you play with a metronome?’ And I was like, ‘Uh, never,’” Plante recalls. “We were 17 at the time, and kind of still getting into it… He helped us see what we can do.”
Now Hornsby calls them up periodically – checks in, if you will – and the band considers him a friend. But otherwise, The Brew is on their own and the road has been pretty smooth sailing thus far. Even when they lost their longtime drummer, they quickly found a replacement in a dedicated fan who was not only talented, but had all their music memorized. The assimilation was phenomenal, and the group has maintained the good buzz going forward. As the fall begins, they’ve got shows booked through the rest of the year to promote their album, and also music videos in the works.
And as their ingenuity sparks, there will likely be a few surprise moves along the way, assuming it’s done in good taste. Though, they may play with the greatest, they’ll only mess with the greatest if it’s purposeful, like their up-tempo cover of “Going to California.”
“We only want to record a cover if we can do something completely new to it, but respect its original,” Plante says about taking on the classic Zeppelin hit. “Dave, our guitar player, had just heard it on radio, and had the idea to put more of a floor beat under it.”
The Brew performed the remake for a crowd at their House of Blues show in Boston, and it went over so well, they included it in their album track listing.
Otherwise though, their music begins from a note in the depths of their minds.
“Sometimes our songs are vague enough so people can relate to them,” Plante adds. “We pick facets of human existence to focus on with each song. The human spirit is all-encompassing so it’s a never-ending source of material.”
Listen for music from The Brew all week on BTR! You can also check out their music here: http://thebrew.us/music.html.
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