Take 5 With…Braeves

Important world events are taking place on a daily basis, so let’s take a moment and acknowledge what we’re dealing with: The New York Yankees got denied in their quest for a 41st pennant and another trip to the World Series while the Los Angeles Dodgers (along with the Houston Astros) are heading to the dance.

Yes it’s a random way to start this conversation about a band, but Ryan Colt Levy (vox, guitar), Derek Tramont (bass) and Thomas Killian McPhillips VII (drums) formed indie rock outfit BRAEVES in New York City. Now ensconced in Los Angeles for about two years and with LA native Scott Goldbaum (vox/guitar) in the mix, they’ve made themselves quite comfortable in California and it just goes to show that the east coast/west coast harmony is still intact…particular where music is concerned.

The airy but grounded indie charm of songs like “Silver Streets” and “Bitter Sea” is what we like about BRAEVES and after one EP and a sprinkle of singles we’re ready for more, so with that in mind – as well as a local show at Bardot for School Night on Monday, October 23rd (RSVP here) – we put these five questions to BRAEVES:

High Voltage: The last time we saw you was at Echo Park Rising, which was lovely. Local festival, various venues, tons of local bands, local friends, good times. You’ve also played Sofar Sounds with some outstanding artists for a good cause (Amnesty International), Harborfest, Eagle Rock Music Festival…tell us a bit about those shows.

Derek: We have been so incredibly lucky to be afforded the opportunity to play with bands like The Regrettes at Harborfest, James Supercave at BrokeLA, Sego at EPR and so many other amazing artists throughout the last year. But the show that really made a visceral impact for us was the Sofar Sounds Give a Home charity event with Local Natives and Andrew Bird. There was something so magical and meaningful for us to be playing alongside people we love and admire and knowing every person in that venue was there for a far reaching and important cause.

As for the day festivals we have been apart of, I think what’s so great about California is that music is such a big part of the culture here, that there are so many cool music festivals (going on every month) that are a perfect launching point for bands like us. The people seem to be so interested in the music and so genuine about their love for it, it’s really so inspiring to feel that energy.

HV: Being a musician in Los Angeles is a life unlike any other: how would you describe it? Be as honest, ridiculous, surreal as you like…

Scott: LA is all I know, really. I’ve seen so many bands and individual artists come to Los Angeles, often thinking that half the battle is just arriving here. I’m grateful for the music scene that is LA in the same way that I’m grateful that the city’s traffic is my ONLY standard of what traffic is. It takes patience and thinking outside the box creatively to move forward and closer to where you want to be in your career and with your breadth of work.

So I think there ends up being two categories of artists, in terms of their work ethic:

Ones who work extra hard at what they do everyday with writing, rehearsing, recording, DIY distributing, playing out, and incorporating and collaborating with artists from other mediums to maximize their art’s potential.

And then those who’ve gotten to LA – which is often novelized as something that will spit you back out to your hometown if you don’t LOOK the part – who then focus way too much on what they wear, and shit like fitting in or being too fucking cool to be your real open self. Openness takes a lot of vulnerability out here which takes courage and confidence in yourself. These are the people who feel the need to substantiate their worth by name dropping instead of just dropping the work itself and directing me to it.

If you can make it in LA, I think you’ll do well in a wealth of other cities around the world. At the very least you’ll sharpen your resilience’s edge.

Ryan: Growing up as a musician on the east coast, Los Angeles was always an intoxicating notion. When half of your year is spent freezing inside, you fantasize quite a bit about getting lost in some glorious mountains for inspiration. Once we moved here there was a definitive sense of feeling like we had found our home, the creative culture here thrives on collaboration which brought a wealth of talented new friends, artists, and organizations to build a true community with.

I don’t know if we simply got lucky and came at some magical time, but this city seems like a perpetual wellspring of creativity for those who are grasping for it. Every different part of town has it’s own flavor of venues/bars/coffee shops, each a little world unto itself where not just musicians of every walk of life, but artists in general can fully express themselves finding an audience to share their experience with.

Los Angeles is a gorgeous weird place, and I couldn’t be more thankful to explore it.

HV: And there’s that east coast/west coast harmony in action, but also some very pointed observations: this city’s not for everyone, but everyone’s welcome. So what’s going on in the world of Braeves? I see that you’ve been spending some time in the studio….

Derek: We have! The better part of the year it feels like. We have been working with an incredibly talented producer named Grayson Sanders. He is the singer/songwriter of a band called Snowmine and now does a ton of TV/film/trailer work out here in LA. This is first time we’ve collaborated with someone else throughout the entire creative process and it feels like it’s paying off in droves. We can’t thank him enough for inspiring us everyday and continuing to point us in the right direction.

We initially set out to record a six-track EP entitled The Colors You Keep, but little by little we realized less is more right now and decided to go with three songs that we can really sink our teeth into and take our time with them until they’re just right. Sometimes the hardest part of this process is the waiting and deliberating, going back and forth on ideas, arguing, taking a step back to take a step forward – but then magically everyone get’s on the same page. And I feel like that’s exactly where we are right now. We’re almost done and have never been so excited to put these songs out into the musical universe.

HV: That’s excellent to hear and since new music is under construction, hopefully that means playing shows to share them with people, like at It’s A School Night at Bardot. Why is this particular show important to you?

Scott: When the band brought me on as a fourth member things changed. Even more remarkably – when Grayson Sanders (our producer) got a hold of these songs in the recording studio we started elevating our songwriting arrangements and execution of each song live. To keep up with these changes we’ve been playing a number of shows “getting the act together” and this night at Bardot will be a manifestation of those efforts. Ryan and I split the set singing lead vocals (4×4), three-part harmonies throughout, we’ve REALLY carefully deliberated over our use of backing tracks, and our time spent dialing our live tones and our guitar, bass, keyboard and drum parts are tighter and more deliberate then ever before. We’re fucking rehearsing to a wall like it’s our audience to really prepare ourselves to be able to get out of our heads and into our hands and hearts by the time we perform at Bardot – hoping to leave it all on the stage for an audience of new and familiar faces.

I’ve seen amazing shows at this venue on School Nights. Not the least of which was St. Patricks Day 2014 – Hozier’s 23rd birthday and first time performing in LA. Less than a year later he was performing on the Grammys with Annie Lennox. This event provides a huge service to the live music scene in LA.

Derek: It feels like this show is the culmination of our musical tenure out here in Los Angeles thus far. We started out in early 2016 playing Hotel Cafe, Silverlake Lounge and the Satellite which was a great introduction to the Los Angeles music scene. Before we knew it, we got opportunities to play at the Bootleg Theater, the Hi-Hat and play with the Local Natives! It all happened so fast. Now to see us on the same bill as Bonnie McKee and two great touring bands from out of the country, is just surreal. I’ve been to four School Nights since I’ve been here and each time, I was blown away by the artistry and overall vibe of the night. My most memorable experience was definitely the first School Night I went to to see Boy & Bear, and this young singer/songwriter from New York opened the show by the name of Kevin Garrett. I was absolutely thrown, I’m not sure I’ve ever felt something that shook to me the core quite like that performance. By the end of the year Garrett had written the opening track for Béyonce’s new record. Needless to say, I honestly can’t wait for this.

HV: I was at that Bardot Hozier show, too! Wouldn’t have missed that for anything and nothing but props to Chris Douridas of KCRW for the fantastic artists that he books for School Night, indeed. Final thing: It’s always interesting to know what music the musicians are listening to. If I were to open your Spotify or iTunes, what would I find as the most recent artists/songs listened to? No worries, I won’t judge…too much.

Derek: Grizzly Bear, Salt Cathedral and A Tribe Called Quest.

Scott: Moses Sumney, syd B, Patton Oswalt.

Ryan: I’ve always been the odd man out on this one; when not working on music I tend to prefer listening to things that have no vocal or narrative lyrical concepts. For me, it’s film scores and soundtracks or long-form recordings of oceans/rainforests/ ape loops in high-def. I love being able to get lost in sound instead of having to focus on a moment at all times. Ok, I’ll throw in some bands too: Stranger Things Soundtrack, Jana Winderen, Robert Turman.