Beyond Garage Pop: A Conversation With Braves’ Frontman Alex
After a long night of shouting, sweating, and playing his single launch in Australia, Alex, the singer-songwriter and creator of Australian garage pop/lo-fi band Braves (along with Simon, Kieran, and Liam), talked to IndiePulse Music about his band’s journey: from hometown Perth influences and flunking out of university to finding their “sunny sound” and not half-assing their merch.
G: Tell us a brief history of your band.
A: Most of us met in school but didn’t start the band until later. Since we formed in 2012 (I think?) we’ve played some rad shows with rad bands and also had a bunch of internet written about us too.
G: What type of band are you?
A: Our sound is upbeat and loud. A lot of people are calling us Punk these days, but I think that term is too broad and comes with more negative connotations these days than positive ones. I think we’re Garage Pop, but people will call us whatever sounds right to their ears I guess.
G: Who are your musical and non-musical influences?
G: How do you promote your band and shows?
A: Beg my brother to bring his friends.
G: How did your hometown in Australia shape your music style or influences?
A: I would say the fact that it’s consistently blistering hot would have something to do with the upbeat and sunny sound we have. Perth specifically is about 95% suburbs, and that definitely influenced the sound of our earlier recordings.
G: Who writes the songs, and what are they typically about?
A: It’s mostly me (Alex), but the others often help out. Our previous EP had a lot of collaboration in the writing process. I generally create the skeleton of the song, the lyrics, the chords, and the structure, and then we all flesh it out together. Our songs previously were about love, falling out of love, the beach and how it’s awesome / awful, but the subject matter now is trending more towards being a fuck up.
G: Describe the shows you play, visually and musically.
A: We just played our single launch last night (I’m writing this hungover) and it was a whole bunch of shouting, a whole bunch of sweating, crowd members jumping around on stage and singing along to songs even though they clearly had no idea what the lyrics were. We aim for it to be fun, I can’t imagine anything worse than a gig you can stand at the back of the room and sip on a beer to.
G: What do you think about downloading music online?
A: I think downloading music online is awesome. It’s been a huge part of how I was able to shape my influences and sound and there’s a much larger breadth of music you can reach online than just listening to the radio. I think a band just starting out (I’d still consider us as starting out) are kidding themselves trying to charge people for their music. We have all our music for free download. Come to our shows instead, buy some merch, make it up to us some other way, but the music’s free. First they need to hear you, then they grow to love you, then they want to pay you.
But I’m far less into this whole streaming music service thing. Don’t get me wrong, I use Apple Music, but only to stream things I don’t own like Barbara Streisand / A Christmas Album (I’m joking, of course I own that.). I’ll never let it replace my actual music library, the thought of giving someone else control of what music I can and can’t listen to at any given time sounds bullshit to me.
G: What’s your outlook on the record industry today? How does the industry shape your approach to making music?
A: I think specifically in the Australian industry things can be pretty tough if you’re not following the “flavour of the month” sound. Right now it’s like a goddamn Tame Impala cover band competition out there on the airwaves, that and Courtney Barnett. Don’t get me wrong, both Tame Impala and Courtney Barnett are awesome artists, but the bands that are trying to literally recreate their sound without fully understanding what makes it work seem really parasitic. Australia is a very modern country when it comes to almost everything except the music scene, it’s tough trying to breakthrough in an industry that seems about 4 years behind the rest of the world when all your influences are coming from the rest of the world. It is getting better here though, slowly, we just got The Spice Girls, have you heard of them?
G: Tell us about your newest song, Dropout. What inspired you to write it? Any teen angst or personal dropout stories that go along with it?
A: Dropout was inspired by a time in my life a few years ago where I tried and failed to do the whole university thing several times. I wasn’t in the right mindset to do it, and I hated the way the courses were taught and structured, so instead I just wasted my life away doing nothing. It’s basically about the relief you feel when you give up. It’s a toxic feeling because while it feels good in the moment, it’s actually terrible for you in the long run. Much like any other vice I guess.
G: Tell us about the making of your recent EP “Seapunk.” Who was the target audience? What was your intention? What was the creative process like?
A: “Seapunk” was about making the music fun to play live. Our earlier recordings were all written as they were recorded in a bedroom and with our first singer. At the time I knew it wasn’t ideal but one day I woke up and realized Braves was going in a direction that was just totally wrong for me and “Seapunk” was about correcting that.
I hate listening to my own songs, but I look back on “Seapunk” with its mix of sounds and think we did pretty well there. I wanted to show on that EP that we’re always going to have a wide spectrum of sounds, it’s always annoying when a band you love changes their sound, but if they don’t have a “sound” to begin with it’s less of a problem.
The title track is easily the most loved song in our live set, although our new single Get It Right seems to be challenging it based on audience response.
G: What are your biggest obstacles as a band?
A: One day the sun is going to explode, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.
G: What’s new in the recording of your music?
A: Better recording quality all around, we did these new singles in an actual studio with people who know how to record music instead of in my room with people who don’t know how to record music (us).
G: Tell us about your next shows and why we should be there.
A: We actually just ended a big run of shows culminating in our single launch, so we may take a bit of a break to record some more music. One of the biggest issues with Western Australia is that we’re so isolated and it means that playing other cities is prohibitively costly, you can only play so many times in a year in a small city like this before people get sick of you. Better to leave them wanting more than getting bored.
G: What advice would you give to fellow bands?
A: Don’t half-ass your merch or your album covers.
Be sure to “like” Braves on Facebook and listen to their tracks on Bandcamp!
– Gabby Catalano
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