Br'er Session - August 2011

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This Session
Violitionist Sessions

Session Date: May 16, 2011
Posting Date: August 15, 2011
Artist Hometown: Philadelphia, PA / Ashville, NC
Links: Full Grown Man, Edible Onion, Facebook
Recorded by: Michael Briggs

Emily The Bear / You, Go, We’ll Stay Here
Marked (Gowns Cover)

ONE: How does the internet and social networking impact touring DIY musicians?
Benjamin Schurr: I think that, obviously, there are two sides that you can look at. It has really positive effects. When we first started, which was in 2007, a lot of the connections that we made —as far as meeting you, for example— and meeting a lot of people all over the place, have been primarily through…at the time it was MySpace, when we first started, and then we moved on to Facebook, and then there is If those places, specifically if didn’t exist, it would be so much more difficult, because we can find your thing with greater ease. So, in some respects, it’s been really good. However, we’ve noticed —and maybe this is just something that we’ve been picking up on— that a lot of the DIY culture is a lot smaller and a lot more…and the idea of an indie band VS DIY are really two different things. You get a lot of people who are familiar with bands who find things over the internet and are using PR companies and having labels do that. So, if you are on a label that’s got really good backing like that, they can promote you really well, and you can discover bands that way, but…people are discovering more indie bands and stuff like that through blogs as opposed to going out to shows as much because there’s not as much of a community, and I think that’s just more of an overarching trend amongst people in general, that they’ll spend less time going out and trying to find music independently, in a more tangible way, not in, I guess I’d say ‘the real world,’ like going to shows and all of that, and they’ll just find stuff online and not actively go out to try to seek music from a community base. A lot of people see us, and a lot of the response will be like, “Wow, I’m surprised that you guys are like, playing to like, three people,” or something, and it’s like, well, that’s how you build a fan base. But then they’ll be listening to bands that just showed up overnight or something —not overnight, you understand what I’m saying— and it’s that they got more blog press or something like that, which can be kind of…annoying to say the least.
TWO: Your songs could be described as uncomfortable, and might catch an unsuspecting listener off guard. How much of personal catharsis is involved in the songwriting process, as opposed to simple shock value?
Benjamin Schurr: It’s strange, because personally when I’m writing the music, or performing it —and I think that goes for all of us— it’s not necessarily from a shocking perspective. I have no interest in shocking anybody, I just want to present the songs, because the way that I write and the way that we arrange them, collectively…aside from everyone who is in Br’er —we all play in different projects— one of the things that kind of united us in Br’er and then, in turn, unites us in our collective, is sort of the idea of…I know it sounds a bit cliché, but allowing ourselves to just be true, and speak from, not necessarily personal experience, but the songs that we write come to us without any real pretense or anything like that. It’s like…when I have a song in my head and I start arranging it, it’s kind of unwanted at times, because it just hits me, and it’s like, I hear these arrangements, and usually, at least in the cases it’s been thus far for Br’er, it’s about things that have happened that have been less than savory, I guess you could say. I just try to objectify that situation. Like, say something horrible happens, which happens to everybody: my way of coping with it and dealing with it is to write a song about it, and to do it in the most honest way that I can, which a lot of the time is from a really jarring standpoint, because once something bad happens, it paralyzes me and freaks me out, so I want to get it out and do it in hopefully the most dignified way possible, the most accurate way possible, and it usually…since I usually write songs from an intense standpoint, it comes out that way. The way that I perform, and the way that we all perform…I think that it takes us all a bit off guard, like, when we first started this tour we would just practice and all of that, and it would be all intense and we would move around a bit, but as the tour went on, specifically me and Jordin, are like screaming at each other, and things are getting destroyed, and it’s just like the music, the physical power of the music just does that to us. I hope that it doesn’t like…it’s cathartic, at times you’ve just played that way, and you’re like, “Oh my god, I just ejaculated my feelings over everybody and I don’t know what to do! I’ve got to get out of here!” I don’t know, I guess it’s just what I would want to see. When I was affected by bands —Still currently, but more importantly, when I was younger, and what made me really want to do this— I would see these bands that would just pour their heart out. A great example is Fugazi, and my favorite band is Swans, and I saw them recently, and the way that they brought this energy and the music out of them, it’s just like, I have to do this. I play music, so I might as well…
Jordin Goff: I’m new to the band, and the first time I saw Br’er when they came through Cincinnati, where I live, it was like taking things from inside of yourself and making them tangible, and making them into an entity outside of your body, and I saw that happen and was instantly moved by it, so I bought the album. [Laughs] And everything that we put together with the label that we collectively…well, it’s Darian’s label…everything is hand-packaged, and it made me just want to take it home, because it’s like, why buy something unless it’s going to be real? I felt like that was a tangible piece of the show that I could bring home, and I was really moved by it, and it made me cry. I was just a big fan of the band, and then Ben saw me doing another band in Kentucky and he asked me to come on the road with them. It’s been pretty intense.
Roger Martinez: I think that there’s a certain fear amongst some bands of being perceived as melodramatic or too theatrical or something like that, and maybe there was a time at some point in the past where that was kind of valid, but I think that at this point in our music history, if anything, a lot of music is too safe and too cloistered, and I think that bands and musicians should not be afraid to project what they feel and what they think and they way that they view the world very honestly and openly through their work.
Jordin: I’ve seen people in the audience during this tour — A lot of people have been pretty freaked out by it, or they’ve left, or they’ve been shaken by it, but I’d rather get that than nothing, which is what it often is if we don’t do that. So, I’m happy with it the way that it is, for better or for worse – even if I end up bleeding.
Benjamin: I think it’s just like…You can do a lot of things when you’re a musician, and I think a lot of the way that, specifically now, with the culture of the musicians that we have met — and there are a lot of different kinds, but there is an overall culture of irony, which I don’t think that anyone can deny. I find that to be a pretty dangerous standpoint.
Jordin: I think that’s scarier than what we’re doing.
Benjamin: Yeah, exactly. People are living in this false sense of reality, and that situation horrifies me, because in this time period, we don’t need to be denying what the hell is going on in the world. I don’t know, I guess that the music that jars me is the music that ultimately makes me feel less alone, and more comforted, because it’s the music that makes me think, if nothing else. I’m not saying that, through Br’er, I’ve got the answers to anything. We’re just presenting situations that we experienced and we’re doing it to the best of our ability and, if it is a bit jarring, then maybe it’s something that needs to be thought about, because these are generally about situations and people who have been marginalized and hurt and abused by other people, and swept off to the side, and I think it’s our weapon against that sort of treatment.
THREE: What are the differences, if any, in how your music is received on the coasts as opposed to the center of the country?
Benjamin Schurr: Do you guys want to go coast to coast?
Shaina Kapeluck: The coasts are different.
Roger Martinez: Individual places are different, too.
Jordin Goff: It’s all circumstantial.
Benjamin: Well, we started the band in Philly, and a lot of our musical standpoints, aside from just being in Br’er, come from there. Shaina and I have been living in Asheville —I’ve been living there for a year and a half, she’s been living there for—
Shaina: Almost a year.
Benjamin: Yeah, so, if you go to the South, they’ll receive you differently. I guess, once you get below Baltimore, there is ultimately a much warmer reception to it, whereas, when you go north…Well, Baltimore, Philly and New York are very different places. Philly is a town that I’m glad that we came from, because it’s rigidly, rigidly individualistic. If you’re making something that’s derivative of anything — people don’t care about you anyway, and they definitely won’t pay you anything if you’re ripping anyone off. And that was great for us, because we got to make the music we like to make, which is Br’er, and all of our side projects. Not side projects, all of our projects, that sounds crappy of me. It’s really strange, because…Philly, I’ve had a beef with it for a while, hence why I moved away, but every time that we play there we seem to be received really well. We’ve always had an easy time compared to other bands we’ve been in. New York is kind of a cold place reception-wise, in general because there are so many people there. Baltimore, I’ve never felt like we did particularly well there, but once you head south, North Carolina has always been really good to us. Boston is really good.
Shania: Boston is really good. I was surprised. Although, a lot of people in Boston were from Memphis.
Benjamin: People talked a lot, but they ultimately really liked it. It’s also weird because this is the first tour that we’ve done Br’er in this loud line-up, which, if you consider Br’er proper, it took us eight line-up changes to get to. But there is no question that the Midwest, the middle of the country, is far more receptive.
MB: Are you surprised by that?
Benjamin: Not particularly. I think that the first time we ever toured we were, but it makes a bit more sense, because I think that there is an air of, I don’t know, entitlement on the coasts. We specifically noticed it on the West Coast, and everyone was saying that.
Shaina: There was a surprising amount of apathy. I had never spent much time on the West Coast. This is my first extensive tour with Br’er, so I just expected that when we got the coast, it would be like the other coast, but there is a real…I don’t know, I feel like people are more preoccupied at shows, and less motivated to come out to shows.
Roger: Our show in San Francisco was fantastic, though.
Benjamin: One thing that we’ve noticed is, generally, smaller towns tend to be more receptive to us. Maybe it’s just because not as many people come through, but whatever the case is, we love playing them. Generally, if we get to a place and they have an air of, “Oh, we’ve seen this before,” it automatically puts us all in the most pissed off mood. I just don’t know where anyone gets off with that attitude. I mean, I’ve never met anybody who I can say, “Oh, you’ve really seen it all.” I just think that’s a ridiculous attitude. When you’re doing that, you’re shutting out something that could potentially be really great. So, I don’t know if it’s a coastal thing, I think it’s just a regional thing, and a matter of getting on the right show at the right time.
Roger: Some of it is very, very circumstantial, because we’ve had a lot of places where we did really good on one tour and then not so good on another tour; and then we’ve had a lot of cities where we’re like, “Oh, we’ll never play a good show in this city or that city,” and then the next tour rolls around and we get in touch with the right person, and it’s great.