Brannigan

The Texas-based band Brannigan may sound like a celebrity couple... But these boys (Jay Baker, Mac Carl, Nick Baker) are a lot deeper than many of the Hollywood celebrities folks can't seem to get enough of. They're not into music for the fame, the money, anything like that (those things are nice bonuses however). When we asked Mac about when it became clear that music was going to be a large part of his life, he said, "I think it was about the time I graduated college. I had a great job, and all I cared about was the band. Other times it's when you make sacrifices personally. The band is like a job, passion, marriage, and escape all at once, so it can really consume us all."
Brannigan, formerly The Vehicle Reason, has a new EP out, titled "The Lucky Sound", and you gotta take a few minutes to get into it. Again, we go to Mac for all the details: "We love pop music.  Pop isn't a bad word to us like it is to some bands. On later tracks on the album, our indie side is well represented. It still lives in our singles, but we still keep that tight pop arrangement mind-set in this record. I think it is less selfish from an artist's perspective, and more in tune with the needs of today's listener." Brannigan is going to keep writing and keep working, so expect more after you download "The Lucky Sound". There's a lot more to get into, so keep reading for all the answers to the XXQ's.

XXQs: Brannigan

PensEyeView.com (PEV): How would you describe your sound and what do you feel makes you stand out over the others in your genre?  

MC: I think interesting use of harmonies has always been a focus of our band.  I love when people see their first live show and are shocked that they are represented live like they are on our records.  

JB: In addition to our use of harmonies, I think we have a sound that is familiar to listeners without sounding exactly like someone they've heard in recent years.  I really think we have sound that is all our own...especially when you see us live.  Everyone is doing so many harmonies in the studio these days and you go see the show and realize it was all the lead singer adding layer after layer that the band can't recreate.

PEV: Hailing from Texas, what kind of music where the members of the band into growing up? Do you remember your first concert?  

MC: Growing up in Texas probably had some influence on our listening habits. Mostly, the three of us listened to what our parents did, which is fairly eclectic. Pink Floyd, The Doors, The Beatles, and Zeppelin are a commonality between all of us.  Classic country such as people like Johnny Cash, George Jones, and Merle Haggard was always present too.  

Aside from that, pretty much everything from the 50's rock and roll through 80's pop was regular listening input.  I think the 80's pop is what made us all really appreciate great production.  And like any other rock band, we have our later favorites like Jimmy Eat World, Thrice, and of course, Radiohead.  Brit-pop and shoegazing has had a big influence on us, but I think that really made us stick out sonically in Texas from the beginning.

PEV: Tell us your take on the music scene in your hometown and what was it like trying to break into it?  

MC: You know, there's a lot of really talented musicians from our area.  But most of the popular music in the area is Texas Blues or country.  When it comes to the rock scene in our area, most of it is really heavy southern metal.  And that's just not our thing.  So when we began touring regionally it was kind of a shock to people.  It's funny, I think a lot of people were waiting for something that was a little more melody driven and song-oriented instead of seeing how loud they could play and how they could shred on their instruments.  

PEV: What can fans expect from a live Brannigan show?  

MC: First of all, we try to represent our songs sonically like they are on the record. As a trio, it can be difficult.  You'll see a lot of double-duty, like keys and bass or guitar being played at the same time by the same person.  But we also believe a rock show should be fun and rowdy, so hopefully they would be a little beer-soaked, sweaty, and hoarse by the end of it.

PEV: What is the first thing that comes to mind when you step on stage?  

MC: Fuck yes.  This is what it's about. JB-Me being the more anal of the bunch, I want everything in its right place.  I usually focus on the technical stuff until we are halfway through the first song.

PEV: Formerly The Vehicle Reason, you say you have “a new name, new songs, new management...a whole new perspective”. What made for the change?  

MC: You know, I've always had a bit of an issue with that line.  We have a more focused perspective toward songwriting in general.  I'd say we are the same band with a new name that represents who we are more accurately.

PEV: What was the underlining inspiration for your music? Where do get your best ideas for songs?  

MC: You know, that's a great question.  It can come from watching the news, personal issues, or even inspiration from a friend and their life.  But we also write melodies first on a regular basis.  One thing that really seems to work for us is to take a great melody and work from there.  A melody or progression has its own mood or emotion, and I believe that can be a good lyrical jumping-off point sometimes.

JB: The underlying inspiration for anything I do is what is happening around me. Whether it’s personal, local of national.  As Mac stated before, music just flows out of us.  Ideas for songs come from all around and can start really in any way. Sometimes I work on something at home and have it almost fleshed out and show it to the guys to complete and other times we just jam at rehearsal and songs develop themselves.  Our best ideas come when we are all tag teaming an idea.

PEV: Thinking back to when you first started out do you ever look back at your career and think about your earlier days and how you’ve arrived where you are today?

MC: All the time.  When Jay and I began playing together, it was nothing more than a creative outlet for us.  After we wrote a few things we were proud of, we felt we should take it further.  What I don't like remembering is how badly artist are treated when they begin.  It's hard sometimes to see young bands struggle with that.

PEV: What’s one thing we’d be surprised to hear about the members of Brannigan?

MC: Sometimes people have a perception that we are cocky, or unapproachable. The truth is, we love meeting and talking with people.  It's one aspect of the music business that never gets old.  

PEV: Was there a certain point in your life when you knew that music was going to be a goal for you?  

MC: I think it was about the time I graduated college.  I had a great job, and all I cared about was the band.  Other times it's when you make sacrifices personally. The band is like a job, passion, marriage, and escape all at once, so it can really consume us all.  That calls for some tough decisions.

JB: There hasn't been a defining moment for me.  I just seem to keep doing more music and getting more involved the older I get.  It started with our family DJ business and then to bands and now I'm a sound engineer as well.  I love the production process and cannot wait until I get to explore that area more.  It's everything that Mac stated above and more.  It just seems to be something I can't get out of my life...and that's a good thing.

PEV: Tell us about your new EP aptly titled “The Lucky Sound". What can fans expect from this?

MC: I think our fans can expect a band that continues to be ourselves, but with a more focused approach.  We love pop music.  Pop isn't a bad word to us like it is to some bands.  On later tracks on the album, our indie side is well represented.  It still lives in our singles, but we still keep that tight pop arrangement mind-set in this record.  I think it is less selfish from an artist's perspective, and more in tune with the needs of today's listener.

PEV: How is life on the road for you in the music world? Best and worst parts?

MC: The best part is being on stage and meeting great people.  The worst part is trying to order food for five guys at a drive-through.  Travel is always fun and exciting, but you can get really tired of eating trash food.

PEV: Is there one area you wish you could travel around and play that you have not yet?

MC: For me it's the U.K.  I just can't wait to get over there.  It seems like it will be like meeting distant family members.  They have so many things in common with Americans, but interesting musical and cultural differences that I look forward to studying.

PEV: How have all your friends and family reacted to your career? What’s it like when you get to play at your hometown?

MC: It's great, but really hectic.  Our Texas friends and fans are crazy.  They party and rock so hard at shows.  It's incredible.  And they are always excited to know what is going on with us as a band.  Our families have been awesome.  We could have never done any of this without the support they have always given to us.  I'm sure at times they wished we had become Vets and Dentists, but that has passed.  They are always really proud of our accomplishments, as any parent probably would be.

PEV: What can we find each of you doing in your spare time, aside from playing/writing music?

MC: I love dogs.  Specifically Labradors.  My family and I try to foster and place them in good homes.  It's really fun and rewarding.  Things are a little hectic with 4 or 5 of those guys around, but we like it crazy.  All of us enjoy spending time at the lake, skiing and camping too.  We don't get outdoors as much as we would like because of our chosen professions and outside interests, but we jump at the chance when we can.  Jay really likes to engineer and run sound in his spare time too.  I guess music is always present in some way in our spare time.  He also is a huge History channel buff.  In fact all of us really enjoy learning and studying different things that we find interesting.  I guess that might be one of the surprising things for people to find out about us.  We're knowledge whores.  Jay and I are notorious for researching anything that we might purchase in the future, from handguns to guitars.

PEV: Name one present and past artist or group that would be your dream collaboration? Why?

MC: I think I'll go with a present artist, since people would expect me to say The Beatles or something like that.  How about Dustin Kensrue of Thrice.  I just have a wicked man-crush on that dude.  He's an incredible singer, lyricist, and seemingly nice guy.  I would choose him because I wouldn't have any idea how the project would sound.  I mean, Thrice is one of those bands that can do anything.  Whether it's electronic based like the Water EP, face-melting like Fire or some of the earlier punk influenced stuff, or more folky and soulful like his solo stuff, the guy just never misses.  A great talent indeed.  Dustin, if you read this, I'm not as weird as I probably sound right now.  Please don't get a restraining order.  That being said, let's be bros.  

JB: I think my dream collaboration would be David Gilmour.  The guy epitomizes guitar playing for me and also has an extremely versatile voice.  To be in the studio with David Gilmour and soak up that guy's years of knowledge would be an end all for me.

PEV:  Is there an up and coming band or artist you think we should all be looking out for now?

MC: You know, I can't really say.  I'm in one of those periods where I'm listening to some older stuff that I've had for a while and have really learned to appreciate, like "Sea Change" by Beck, and Saves the Day's "Sound the Alarm."  I should probably pay more attention to what's coming up.

JB: The last band I fell hard for was Band of Horses.  I don't listen to a lot of new music, but what those guys have done on their last 3 albums is the best around in my opinion.  I don't think we're the band to come to for up and comers.

PEV: If you weren’t playing music now what do you think each of you would be your career?

MC: I think Jay would probably be involved in production somehow.  Maybe an engineer or producer at some level.  Nick can only rock, so he'd be screwed.  I'd probably work in the medical field again.  

PEV: So, what is next for Brannigan?

MC: You know, that's a great question.  We have a great team now.  We've always done everything ourselves, and it's just overwhelming.  And at the level we aspire to be, we need professionals to help us reach as many people as we can with the music.  I guess touring and writing are always our goals.  Doing as much of that as possible always seems like the right idea for us.  But it really depends on how the new album is received.  It's such a crazy business, you never really know what the next day holds for you.  

 

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