Music

Honest Pop: An Interview with Brady Brock

Devon Powers

Outside of the hubbub of Top 40 are the hardworking artists who create what's known as indie pop -- catchy songs with a sincere edge written by masterful storytellers. PopMatters caught up with one of them -- New York-based Brady Brock - to get feel for what inspired his music.

Brady Brock is sensitive. As we sit, cooped up in a tiny room off the Knitting Factory's lower level performance area, his mind is in a thousand places -- what his cello player is doing, how the soundcheck will be, whether the performer preceding him will be able to manage her set with a broken guitar. There's only one chair in the room, and he lets me have it. And he's concerned about my tape recorder, so he gets down low to be nearer to it, crouching on the grungy carpeting like a beggar. Seemingly, he's thinking about everything in the world but himself.

To listen to his music -- most recently offered on Warm American Sweater, released on Feel/In Music We Trust Records this past March -- such sensitivity, in this and another way, shines through. On the one hand, the songs are pondering, heavy, and emotionally rich -- tales spun of the damage wreaked by failed relationships and broken hearts. But to take the music as simple autobiography would be too easy. "The songs aren't necessarily about my own situation," he says, "they're a lot about my friends and what they're going through." Through his music, Brady Brock wants to give back -- which might help explain why, both recorded and in person, it feels as if you've known him for ages.

The 25-year-old, who moved from Pasadena, Texas to New York seven years ago, started his solo musical career virtually by accident. In college, "friends would give me little glimpses of their lives and, a lot of times, their problems revolved around relationships and how you deal with other people." Inspired to put their experiences in perspective, he would pen songs and record them. "They were almost like gifts for people," he says. "It wasn't until we were done that we were like 'oh, this is kind of a record.'" That record, I Will Live In You Where Your Heart Used to Be, was released in March of 2002 on Brock's own Feel Records, the label he started at the same time. And, to his surprise, people liked it. "It was kind of shocking because it wasn't supposed to be for public consumption," he says. But the honest emotion, believability, and warmth drew people to the record instinctually, and it garnered favorable reviews all over the music press.

The new album, Warm American Sweater is no accident; in many ways, it is leagues more deliberate. The songs are fuller and more lush, featuring appearances by Thom Monahan from Pernice Brothers, Patrick Berkery from the Bigger Lovers, and Brian McTear (Bitter, Bitter Weeks), among others. The palette of feelings is more complicated -- songs are bleak but also hopeful, melodically bright while lyrically melancholy or angry. These touches are what set Brock apart from the leagues of "guys with guitars" that are often lumped together in the category "singer/songwriter." "I just think there's so much more to acoustic based music than people allow," he says. In the spirit of Brendan Benson or Elliot Smith (Brock recently finished a few live dates with the latter), his songwriting leans more toward pop than it does folk -- but it aims to deliver pop honestly.

Despite these lavish arrangements on Warm, Brock's current tour set up consists of himself and Erin Hall, the album's cellist, playing pared down versions of the songs. Live, this befits the intimate ambiance created by his music to begin with. "Every show I've ever played it's been like I've invited a lot of people into my living room," he says, "almost like you're inviting people into your house and telling them your secrets." The night I meet him, this is certainly the case. The room he's playing is small and boxy, mismatched seats scattered haphazardly. When Brock takes the stage, it is after 11; the small crowd has thinned somewhat to no doubt catch work night snoozes. He's perched on not so much a stage as a platform; he's humbly sitting, dressed modestly, cracking jokes casually. There's hardly anything rock and roll about it, but this is as it should be. "We don't want to be stupid and play to crowds who don't want to see us and who are there to see a rock show, because we're certainly not going to rock," Brock says. "We're really concerned with people who are actually listening to music because they really like music, and they're not associating with what's cool and hip, because we could care less about that."

Brady Brock is sensitive, but he is more than this. He is trying to create something realistic and inspired, something tender and observant, something considerate and dedicated. He is trying to capture what it's like to be young and in love, what it's like to hurt and hurt others and see the ones you care about get hurt; what it's like to go through something hard but wake up the next day anyway, and be stronger for it. Brady Brock is just trying to be honest. And he's doing it for himself, and for you.

In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.

If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.

Keep reading... Show less

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

This week on our games podcast, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

This week, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

Keep reading... Show less

Which is the draw, the art or the artist? Critic Rachel Corbett examines the intertwined lives of two artists of two different generations and nationalities who worked in two starkly different media.

Artist biographies written for a popular audience necessarily involve compromise. On the one hand, we are only interested in the lives of artists because we are intrigued, engaged, and moved by their work. The confrontation with a work of art is an uncanny experience. We are drawn to, enraptured and entranced by, absorbed in the contemplation of an object. Even the performative arts (music, theater, dance) have an objective quality to them. In watching a play, we are not simply watching people do things; we are attending to the play as a thing that is more than the collection of actions performed. The play seems to have an existence beyond the human endeavor that instantiates it. It is simultaneously more and less than human: more because it's superordinate to human action and less because it's a mere object, lacking the evident subjectivity we prize in the human being.

Keep reading... Show less
3

Gabin's Maigret lets everyone else emote, sometimes hysterically, until he vents his own anger in the final revelations.

France's most celebrated home-grown detective character is Georges Simenon's Inspector Jules Maigret, an aging Paris homicide detective who, phlegmatically and unflappably, tracks down murderers to their lairs at the center of the human heart. He's invariably icon-ified as a shadowy figure smoking an eternal pipe, less fancy than Sherlock Holmes' curvy calabash but getting the job done in its laconic, unpretentious, middle-class manner.

Keep reading... Show less
5
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image