(Photo: Peter Black)
The Brevet will be opening for Magic Giant at A&R Music Bar on Saturday, February 10. Doors open at 8:30. Tickets are $12 in advance, $14 at the door.
With a polished Americana sound, The Brevet seem poised to make the leap from club opener to headlining a venue like The Newport Music Hall. The two bands The Brevet most often get compared to are actually good comparisons – there is a certain Mumford & Sons folk-rock element as well as epic, cinematic moments of arena-rockers Kings of Leon.
As singer/guitarist Aric Chase Damm told me when I spoke with him on the phone earlier this week, The Brevet isn’t some new upstart band climbing their way out of a basement – the Irvine, California band started out writing songs for placement in TV and movies (their songs have appeared on all the major networks as well as MLB Network). Some of those songs became the basis for the American Novel album which was recorded and released 3 or 4 songs at a time and referred to by the band as “chapters”.
I’ve come to accept the fact that the best path for bands these days is to release singles or EPs. I don’t think the full length album is dead, but most of the bands I’ve talked to in the last year have released less than a dozen songs. Is that your mindsight when writing material? Are you thinking, “Let’s put together the best 3 or 4 songs we’ve been working on and get them out there for people to hear”? Or is it the way the industry is trending?
I think it’s a mixture of both, as everything is evolving into more of a singles game, I think it’s creates a little bit of longevity with the band as opposed to releasing 12 songs and having one of them be noticed. We did this American Novel album that was released in chapters, we evolved over time as we were writing and recording each chapter. It was a bit of a cool thing for us to see our evolution.
Another sign of change is the model used to be: record and release an album, go on the road for 6 months, take a month or two off, wash, rinse, repeat. You have an album coming out this summer, how do you decide when the right time to tour is? Or are you constantly touring because you’re releasing EPs at a pretty regular rate?
Right now, as we’re getting ready to release an album, where we’re at as a band, I think we need to be touring as much as possible. I think it’s building the momentum and a fan base as you are getting ready and revved up to release a new record. That structure you were talking about still works, but I think for us it’s all about hitting the ground running and building momentum up until the release and then continuing it on. We’re out getting seen, being heard, building more fans, and allowing people to understand our music in a live setting.
What is your set list like on this tour?
It’s a lot of the new stuff right now. It’s a mix, we play a lot of stuff people have heard of ours before. As we’re growing, we’ve been playing a lot of new stuff which has been very fun for us.
I’ve heard two of the new songs and I can see how it’s going to catch on. I don’t know if this makes sense but it’s got a current sound and a timeless sound.
Thank you very much. It’s funny seeing a shift in audiences, especially with those who haven’t heard us before. You really can get a general reaction and honest reaction of what songs they are flocking towards. So when we’re playing these new songs and not even telling anybody they are new, it’s been interesting seeing the reaction. It’s exciting for us, it may mean nothing, it may mean something.
Having listened to your previous releases, I don’t think this is the case, but have you dropped any songs from the set list because they don’t go over? It’s not like you have a bad rap-rock song from earlier in your career or anything.
Not necessarily. It’s a different audience each time. Say an audience is really into it and they are vibing on it, we might not play a slower song. We may call an audible on stage, like, “Okay, this audience is NOT going to want to hear a slow song” and sometimes we have played it because we want to play it and it goes over well and other times they want a little more involvement.
You’ve done all kinds of touring, from headlining small clubs to opening for more established bands at bigger venues to even playing some festivals, right?
We have. We’re still newer as a band. We took a little bit of a backwards approach early on which was licensing. I started writing for television and film early on, before we were really touring or a real band and we were getting placements. After that, we started developing a live sound so it was a very backwards approach but there’s really no right way of doing it anymore. It’s kind of like the wild west, there’s no one right way. It’s less structured now.
(“Let Go” was featured on The CW: 90210 Season 5 Episode 15)
Do you write for other people or is it all your own stuff you’ve been licensing?
It’s all The Brevet.
It seems like getting songs on TV and in movies might be a good way to make some money.
It’s interesting. Our songs generally translates to a cinematic aspect. I went to school for acting so I think that plays a role in why we write the way we do. Licensing is an interesting game, it’s hard to decipher between being a real band and being a band writing for TV and movies. If I was a writer and I just wanted to write songs to license, it’s a whole different mindset than writing true songs to you and have them be licenseable, do you know what I mean? It’s a fine line to play but thus far it’s been working out well for us. Right now we’re really focused with getting on the road and developing these fanbases in a much longer way.
This might be a hard question to answer because it’s already all said and done – you mentioned you have an acting background – do you think the videos you’ve made are different than the average videos other bands make because of your acting and film background?
That’s a great question. I think we still would have made videos. I don’t know if they would be done the way we’ve done them because the person who has directed every single one of our videos is one of my good friends who I used to do films with. I think the influence from acting in that world has sprung over into our videos and translated that way. I don’t know how our videos would be – a lot of them are one takes and involve dancing or some kind of emotional thing as opposed to just a performance piece video. I think they are all story themes, if you will.
As you’re writing songs, are you picturing the visual in your head?
Sometimes, it depends on the song but every now and then, yeah, absolutely.
Do you ever get inspired by something you’re watching, like, “Man, this would be a great song to throw into Westworld”?
You know it’s funny, I’ve haven’t told anyone this, but one of our songs on the new album is called “Sweetwater” and it was inspired by Westworld, which is the town they are in, so funny you should bring that up.
The overarching themes of that show got me creatively thinking. Everyone is trying to pay whatever amount of money to escape from being themselves. I think that’s an interesting theme and I think there’s a lot of themes like that within our own culture right now with everything so heavily into Instagram and these social media platforms as opposed to just being in the moment and living as you. It’s always an inflated version of yourself, right?
Westworld definitely inspired me to a write a few of the songs on our new album, there’s a lot of themes of being true to yourself and identity and whatnot. I think maybe that’s why it’s translating live because it’s coming from a more honest place than we’ve written before.
Since you sort of brought it up, how do you feel about artists telling concertgoers they can’t take photos or videos during the show?
In a lot of our shows, we make people take out their phones and film us for a certain song. But that being said, I understand it. It’s like, everyone is behind their phones and looking down all the time. It’s interesting to get people shaken out of that a bit, especially as generations get younger and younger. I have a 16-year-old little brother and that’s an entirely different game than where I grew up in. Certain bands are really good at making those moments memorable where it’s better to experience than capturing on video.
Back in the day, people got mad if you were filming and bootlegging but now everybody wants you either filming or not filming at all. I think it’s how you use it and how you want it to be used within your performance. If we can use their videos to spread the word about The Brevet, which is a necessarily evil at this time, then I think it’s great and people can film whatever they want to film as long as they are not being in their phone the entire show. We want them to come into the show with the mindset of trying to enjoy themselves and finding a way to escape or be inspired by the music.
You do have some live experience under your belt. Tell me about the best backstage area you’ve ever experienced.
I would say the best one we ever had was when we toured with Sister Hazel, we were opening for them, they were an earlier 1990s band. We played in Vegas at Brooklyn Bowl and they gave us full prime rib dinners. That was pretty great. On this tour, Salt Lake City, we played at The State Room, their green rooms are pretty awesome, individual rooms – you’re driving around so much and just going from city to city, it’s nice to have a space to just calm down for a second.
When hitting the road with a band that you don’t know, or don’t know that well, how long does it take to develop a rapport?
I think it’s case by case. Honestly, I don’t even know if it’s building a rapport – of course you need to build a rapport if you’re going to be on the road for a while – but I think it’s all time constraints, where you’re traveling and how you’re traveling and how quickly you need to get to the next place. Being the opener, it’s difficult for us to even eat dinner before the show because we’re getting there, soundchecking, and then we have about half an hour before we have to jump on the stage. When we have days off, we try to spend it with the other band and try to have a friendship being built there. That’s what touring is all about.
Each night you’re playing in front of some people who know your songs and some people who are hearing you for the first time. If I ask who – outside family members and close friends – is your biggest, most loyal fan, does a name instantly pop into your head?
We have a few and it stems from the Rock Boat community. We played a festival called the Rock Boat really early on in our career and it’s a lot of that community that will come out every time we play and it’s incredible. It’s like they are family now.
When I was a kid, I always spent time reading “Thank You” lists, looking to see if I recognized any names. I don’t know if your new album is going to have a “Thank You” list but, if it does, is there somebody that you have thanked or would thank that might be pleasantly surprised to see their name on your album?
That’s a great question. I honestly don’t know, I’ll have to think about that one. I don’t know how to give a good answer. We haven’t even gotten to the “Thank Yous” of this next record yet but once we do, I’m going to have to reflect on that.
You’re putting out the album on vinyl?
Yeah, we are.
I went through that phase where it was incredible to have something like an iPod where I could hold hundreds of albums in the palm of my hand and even now, with Spotify, basically hold every song ever recorded in my hand, but I also have gone back to vinyl because when you can hold something tangible in your hand and you have to pay attention and listen to an entire side of album, it feels good.
That’s the reason why people are buying them again. CDs are great, but as far as the physical feel, we are spending more time with vinyl and making them look and feel great and have all the things that you’d want to walk away with, not just the songs, it’s a whole package. And we spend more time on it, the artwork and stuff.
My dad is an artist so I was always interested in artwork of albums as I got more and more involved with music. There was a lot of illustration back in the day – it was so cool that you’d hire someone to illustrate what the sound is on a picture. It’s an interesting them that I think may be a little bit lost. Hopefully we can do a good job of representing our music through our vinyl.
Has your dad done any artwork for The Brevet?
He has. We haven’t released it yet but we covered 25 vinyls in custom canvas and we had him do individual paintings on each one. We always want to try to do something like that.
I think I’m going to close all my interviews this year with this question. If your brain was a DVR and you had the chance to record 2 hours from 2017- either from your personal life or from something you did with The Brevet – that you could play back whenever you wanted so you’d never forget, what would your brain DVR?
Personal, it would be me being engaged and the buildup. I got married two weeks ago so I would say it would be my engagement and reliving that moment with my family and fiance and now wife. If I could DVR the writing sessions for a few of these songs and remember them, that would be pretty cool. You write so quickly that you forget those moments or those memories and I think it’s a good thing to grasp on to.