We all know the sad story — local band makes a name for themselves, get signed to a major label, get dropped by a label, and fade into the ether.
This is not Brick+Mortar’s story however.
Yes, the Toms River-born, Asbury Park-bred duo of Brandon Asraf and John Tacon did work there way up from opening act to the kings of the city that Bruce built. They did get signed to a major, and yes, they were (foolishly) dropped from that label.
The band’s response to a situation?
“We should be dead and we don’t give a fuck.”
And honestly, Brick+Mortar has zero fucks to give. Since the “drop” they’ve scored major airplay on SiriusXM with the song “Train,” and their music ended up in trailers for the CBS drama Elementary, and the major 2015 summer release Hitman: Agent 47.
Now, in the summer of 2016 they’re preparing to drop their first full-length record, and are doing their first gig in Asbury Park, at House of Independents, this Saturday. We spoke with B+M’s Brandon Asraf about all of this.
You’re working on a new album which will be released in September. Will these album be a mix of new songs, and some of the “classic” Brick + Mortar tracks we’ve seen on previous EPs like Bangs?
As of right now, we actually don’t have a title, but this is going to be our first record with all new tracks on it. We’ve been sort of sloshed around the industry, in between deals in the past, and that’s really the story behind re-releases. Putting out your first record is super exciting and scary at the same time, but it’s a great feeling.
You went through PledgeMusic to produce the record — was this a nerve-shredding process — depending on your fans to get behind the record in order for it to get made?
I guess for most bands it would be, but we’ve had a lot of experience of having our fans help us pull through whatever type of shit we were in. It’s no secret that our fans have come to our rescue many, many times. So it seemed natural to do this ourselves instead of getting involved with a label. Pledge Music allowed us to capitalize on that. Through purchasing a pre-order, you gain access to all sorts of fun experiences and unique merch items available in the store. We owe alot to Pat Noon at EightSixteen Studios in Bayville, NJ. We made our first EP with him and with this record, he allowed us to start immediately. He’s a hardworking, patient engineer/producer with a great ear.
Also, why decide to do a full length record now? You guys have produced a number of EPs, why go the full album route this time around?
The first EP’s (7 Years in the Mystic Room and Heatstroke Maxi) were experiments of sorts. I didn’t even know if I could sing or if what we said related to people. After we felt confident enough to feel like a band, we wanted to do full albums. The big stipulation of our deal with PhotoFinish Records was that we had to test the waters with an EP, then we could put out a real full length, but it was a “Complete-My-Album” kind of thing. They put out our Bangs EP and we started getting traction with our song “Locked in a Cage” then BOOM… the label’s parent company, Island Def Jam, splits due to a decision made by Universal Records. We got dropped along with anyone else deemed not marketable enough. Long story short, it takes us nine months to get back the songs that we planned to release on our full length. Hence, us releasing our third EP Dropped (very literal title). We raised money via a private investor and promoted the EP as best as we could. Once again, got some radio love with the song “Train,” but here’s the truth. Our goal as a band is to write the best songs we can that matter to people and to us.
In regards to lyrical subject matter — what are some of the themes you’ll be touching upon on the new album?
Addiction, drug culture in America, the world’s current corporatocracy, big pharma’s impact on society and mental illness, love, self-loathing, betrayal, the power of media, social programming, and that constant search for worth and meaning in the lives and world we live in.
Musically, will we see a different side of B+M on this album?
A lot more diving into unknown territory. Vocally, we really pushed ourselves and musically, we decided to be polarizing at times. We believe people care about good songs, not genres or styles. We aim to keep expanding and changing as artists in a way; really trying to be genreless without trying too hard. We will always be the band that goes too far trying to learn from our experiences, but we think that shows progress. You have to suck at something before you can excel at said thing.
The band was signed to a major label for about year, but were dropped. Did this impact you guys as a band? Did you guys think it was the end of things at the time? Has the experience impacted you lyrically? Or does this not matter at all in the grand scheme of things?
I think it made us more self sustaining and far more cynical. In a way it made us proud to be the band we are. Kind of like a movie that opens with the main character getting utterly shot to pieces and barely surviving. We should be dead and we don’t give a fuck. We speak for ourselves and about things we think need more conversation.
Since being let go, you’ve scored mainstream success with songs like “Train” being attached to the CBS series Elementary, and you amazing cover of Jimi Hendrix’s “Voodoo Chile” being attached to the trailer of Hitman: Agent 47. Can you talk about the experience of hearing your music being used in mainstream pop culture?
It’s definitely a trip to experience and yet we feel so far removed from mainstream. When I am at my brother’s shop on the Asbury Park boardwalk, selling t-shirts and henna tattoos, I definitely feel very far removed from that. We only know our experiences being in this band. Some are encouraging and some depressing. We definitely self reflect a lot and question our existence. This was, after all, an experiment and we didn’t know that people would like our voices and songs.
The band has produced some extremely memorable, and visually stunned music videos. Do you have anymore in the works, and when can we see them?
We are planning something big for this album. I could tell in some detail, but we’re still trying to tie the strings of our grandiose idea together. We want to make something the ties together all the videos, the album, and have it seep into our live show. That said, we have to make it happen! We’ll totally show you when it’s done.
You’re performing at House of Independents in Asbury Park this weekend. How important has the Asbury scene been to you guys? Also, what can people who haven’t seen the band perform in a while expect from this weekend’s show?
Asbury really is the only place in Jersey national bands come to between NY and Philly. It’s all because of what music has done for this town. Tons of bands and good people. Without Jen Hampton from Asbury Lanes, we wouldn’t be here. She encouraged us when we first started and let me tell you, when we first started, we didn’t really know what a chorus or a hook actually was, but she saw something in us, kept booking us, and continued giving us a shot. This is the first time playing with Richie [Brown] doing live visuals and the new stage show elements we have been touring with. Our show is more of its own world. An audio-visual spectacle that’s fun, but serious, and bizarre, yet meaningful.