Interview - Brakes Bare All In NYC

Last week The Tripwire was lucky enough to sit down and catch up with Bassist Marc Beatty and Guitarist Tom White from Brakes. The group was in New York City playing a few gigs at Pianos and an instore at Brooklyn's Neighborhoodies. You already have read some of the good things we've had to say about the band, made up of British Sea Power’s Eamon Hamilton, Electric Soft Parade's Tom and Alex White, and Tenderfoot's Marc Beatty. This was our chance to see them live and in action, and they lived up to all our expectations.


Tripwire: “One has to admire a band for releasing a 30 second single, in your case ‘Pick Up The Phone’. Obviously the songwriting process for Brakes is a bit different than most other bands. How exactly did the group get started?”

Marc: “Songwriting is Eamon. He was sitting alone playing them in bars on his own acoustic guitar. He does exactly what he did before, you know, he plays the same chords, sings the same stuff and just puts a band around them. For the new songs we kind of arranged them together for the album, but Eamon does all the songwriting. Whatever he just kinda plays in the room at the time. He says ‘I’m writing a new song and this is what I am doing. You guys work something out with it.’”

Tripwire: “I love the fact that Brakes doesn’t focus on one specific genre or musical style. In fact, you guys ignore pretty much every current musical trend, from punk to country to everything in between. Is there a common thread that holds things together in your music?”

Marc: “No. We try to leave it open. You know, too many bands out there get really fussy about keeping an idea about what they do and it gives them limitation, like The Bravery. Their latest single, I don’t know what it is called, but it came on the radio. I was back in England when we were driving around in the van and it came on. I knew it was The Bravery, but I couldn’t tell if it was their first single or second, but it sounded exactly like the same kind of stuff out there. So we try to do different styles and it’s healthy as musicians to try different things.”

Tom: “Also I think a lot of people form bands because they have a favorite band or whatever and their whole vibe is to emulate that look. Um, I don’t really know who the Bravery rip off, but it seems like a lot of garage bands just kind of have one influence and therefore that song is going to sound the same and they are going to all have the same approach. Whereas with us the influence in our songs is really our lives and we just really disregard a lot of other music when we are writing songs or recording or whatever. There isn’t that kind of thing of wanting to sound like anyone else in particular so it always sort of ends up in a slightly different direction in every song.”

Tripwire: “Interesting viewpoint. Are you actually listening to anything right now?”

Marc: “I really like that Dr. Dog album, a Philadelphia band.”

Tom: “Dire Straits, Brothers In Arms. No seriously, for some reason I am into that fucking record, you know? Oh, I can’t explain why. I just found a tape of it, how ‘80s. Something about it stuck a nerve with me. We all listen to a bunch of stuff you know, but for some reason mostly American bands. Just doesn’t seem to be a hell of a lot of stuff in Britain that is strong musically, original, or good in any way.”

Tripwire: “That's funny. On our side we have been seeing more of the British music that has been much more interesting to us rather than American.”

Tom: “Right. Aw, I think American music is kind of an ongoing thing. A lot of times British people feel like, at least I think, that a lot of the origins are certainly the “New York sound”. Certainly is a lot of talk about that. Also that whole garage sound seems like a very American thing.”

Tripwire: “Juggling everybody’s schedules with the various bands must be pretty tough. Do you view Brakes as a side-project, or a full-time rock band?”

Marc: “Not a side project at all. It is something entirely in itself. It’s so different to what we all do, and that makes it quite fun for us to do. Never would consider us a side project, it is just something else. It is just another thing we do.”

Tom: “Also when you make an album, it is kinda like a year or so period when you record it, sorta rehearse it or whatever and then put it out. You just spend the next however long concentrating on that. When you have a lot of projects, you can’t help but devote all of your time and energy to whatever you are doing during that length of time. It just happens automatically, you know, and with a label putting it out.”

Marc: “We probably wouldn’t be here if we considered this just a side project.”

Tripwire: “Cool. I know that plenty of fans are hoping to see a full North American tour. Any chances that folks outside of the NYC area might get a chance to see Brakes in person?”

Marc: “Yes, not on this trip, but early next year, hopefully South by Southwest.”

Tripwire: “That would be awesome. Until then they can watch your new video for ‘Ring A Ding Ding’. I recently saw this video, which shows each band member with IVs, providing blood for the concertgoers to drink. Whose idea was this?”

Marc: “A friend of ours called Becca Ellson. She works for a production company called Benchmark Productions. She is a budding Director/Producer and we kind of left it to her.

Tom: “She drinks blood too! No, just kidding.”

Marc: “We needed a video for when the single came out and we were running late. We tried to get various people involved, but we didn’t have enough time. She heard we needed a video and came up with the idea. She has a load of ideas and can pull them off the top of her head. She just came up with the whole thing and said ‘I can get a team together and we will do it here, and we’ll do it then’ and we lucked out cos a lot of people did it cos they just wanted to do it, and we did it in Brighton. Friends did our last video as well.”

Tripwire: “OK, so you took one week to record Give Blood, but which is better, stage or studio?”

Marc: “Stage.”

Tom: “They are slightly different though. Studio is a slightly longer thing. Playing gigs is just like a blast. It is just gone in a flash, and the studio is just kind of an ongoing thing.”

Marc: “I think we got better as a band the more we went on live. Earlier when you mentioned the video, when we were making the video and listening to the playbacks, there were so many mistakes. In parts of it me and Tom were playing wrong, changing chords at a different time and stuff like that. Now we don’t do that, we are pretty tight. People notice and they think it comes across better live.”

Tripwire: “You can definitely feel some songs are a lot bigger live, for example ‘All Night Disco Party’ which has more of a rockin’ feel to it. The crowd went crazy when you played it, which was cool. Now that you have a few shows under your belt, what do you think is the strangest thing that has happened to you at a concert?”

Tom: “Biting the head off a bat? No, I don’t know really.”

Marc: “I am not sure. Strangest thing, I thought it was quite funny; it wasn’t at one of our shows, but at a British Sea Power gig in Texas. They finished a song and some guy was like, ‘That fucking ruled! Can I buy you a drink?’ whilst they were on stage. It was crazy.”

Tom: “I think we just kinda don’t really
dick around too much when we are on stage and we just get through the set as quick as possible. It is quite a long set, and we need to tune up in-between songs.”

Marc: “We did a gig in London and the last time we played the reaction we got was really strange. People were like screaming out and you could actually hear people singing along from the stage. That has never happened and was really strange to me, to have a venue totally full of people really getting into it.”

Tripwire: “Do you have a favorite song you do live?”

Tom: “Um, ‘All Night Disco Party’. That song is always pumping. It is a party tune for everyone.”

Marc: “Yeah, ‘All Night Disco Party’”.

Tripwire: “Finally, if you can, describe Brakes in one word.”

Tom: “I think it is pretty honest. We don’t dress it up, and there is no bullshit. It is true, just us, the record and that is pretty much it. Which I am really proud of, it is nice to have a record out and not have any kind of dressing up about it.”

Marc: “Naked. Unclothed. Disrobed. That is what we set out to do and we kept it like that. Just play in America, have a record out. Not much else.”

So there you have it, Brakes in a nutshell. Be sure and check out their CD, Give Blood, if you have not already. Also, word on the street is that there will be a new album sometime next year. We can hardly wait! For more information on Brakes, head on over here.

Interview - Brakes Bare All In NYC