Wednesday, September 4, 2013

LouFest Preview: An Interview with Brick + Mortar

Big -- yeah, we go for big."

That's John Tacon, half of the rock duo Brick + Mortar, describing the band's sound. His bandmate and singer, Brandon Asraf, adds, "That's really the only kind of music we know how to make together. We do this stuff in our own bubble."

Brick + Mortar's new record, Bangs, sounds huge -- think of Hot Hot Heat's wonderful angles and edges, filtered through a musical diet of hip-hop drumming and hardcore. Amazingly, it's also hooky and accessible, coloring the songs with layered background vocals and instrumentation. Credit Asraf's jazz theory education and Tacon's hardcore roots, plus their mutual admiration for hip-hop.

As I talk to Brick + Mortar, I'm reminded of an anecdote about U2 -- they played what they played because they didn't know how to play anything else. Of course, Brick + Mortar sounds nothing like U2, but the idea that they their sound is a direct result of the two band members working in each other's range is met with agreement. Asraf adds "We didn't listen to a ton of bands before we started playing instrumentals together at, like, 14. And once we did, we listened to a lot of the same stuff while driving to and from shows. It wasn't until a few years ago (2008) that we started Brick + Mortar. We wanted to see if we could write songs -- songs with lyrics, you know?"

I ask if the New Jersey-based band has any experience playing in St. Louis, and Asraf says they have -- they opened for Jimmy Eat World a few nights ago at The Pageant. "That was great, because it was our second time playing with them. One of our first big shows was with those guys in New Jersey, and we got a bad review -- it praised John, but hated me. It was nice to be able to play with J.E.W. again and, you know, show them how far we've come."

As our discussion drifts to Lollapalooza, LouFest and beyond, Asraf offers his reasons for enjoying the festival atmosphere. "It's an environment where everyone has elected to come hear music. That's awesome -- everyone is ready to embrace this universe they've stepped into." He says that a band has to work hard to win over a crowd in a venue -- it's a familiar environment, so the band has to win over the crowd. "Here, it's a different mindset. The crowd is really excited, and so are we."

 Jason Stoff
Photo: Bryan Sutter

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