|Brick + Mortar’s favorite piece of gear: Roland SPD-SX
|” It’s a midi controller, sampler, 1 track recorder, and can trigger visuals if you like that kind of stuff. It’s the holy grail of gear for Brick + Mortar… “
New Jersey rockers Brick + Mortar are a refreshingly new sounding indie band bent on visual elements and electronic samples, which combined with their abrasive vocals, makes them stand out from the rest. We asked the duo, made up of Brandon Asraf and John Tacon, some questions about their sound, which is certainly not a dull one. Here’s what we learned!
How much of your recording is done at home versus in the studio?
We are very much creatures of circumstance. Sometimes we redo a song ten times before even hitting the real studio. Other times we go in the studio with just a beat and vocals to see what happens. I don’t like routine in my personal life and that tends to leak into how I write. I let the song kind of tell me when it’s ready to be recorded. I also listen to the opinions of people around me. It would be foolish to think I always know what I am doing because life has shown me time and time again that I rarely do! We always want to do something different musically and what keeps it all in check is our personal taste. I am also fucking weird. I frequently work on songs while watching movies. Sometimes it’s me with headphones on, all my gear spread around my living room, going in between working on a new song and watching “The Gate II” or whatever else is on IFC with my dog Banjo next to me (he is too cool to listen to my band… he likes The Black Angels – so do I). But that’s just one part of writing a song as Brick + Mortar, the next is flushing the song out with my best friend and bandmate Tacon. Arguing is okay in our band because we believe that if one of us isn’t happy with a song, the song is not done. That leads to passionate arguments and some realizations and major changes to our songs altogether.
What are the pieces of equipment that you find particularly inspiring when recording at home?
Roland SPD-SX. It’s a midi controller, sampler, 1 track recorder, and can trigger visuals if you like that kind of stuff. It’s the holy grail of gear for Brick + Mortar, it makes us able to do what we do how we do it. (p.s. I don’t believe in the holy grail, but I do believe in aliens though…). MicroKorg (pictured) is a great piece of gear too, if you download all those sweet custom patches. I also may or may not visit the Pirate Bay site and from time to time do things to further my music making capabilities… . I also use cell phone apps to get sounds and then filter those through my M13 effects pedal. I recommend ChordBot. It lets you use sounds or export midi! For 4 bucks… 4 fucking dollars!
If you use a studio, what do you record there and what do you record by yourself and why?
This is always changing but usually lead vocals, real drums, and live guitars and bass are recorded in the studio. We flesh out the song together before it enters the studio, and we try to get those impossible sounds done in pre-production. We like to do this because we always like to reinvent ourselves musically without going too far off from what we are.
What one piece of hardware/software would you most like to add to your recording setup (cost not an issue)? Why?
Most of all we would like an actual mini studio at our disposal, but that costs money and we are broke! Aside from that, a monome. It’s an open source controller and that technology is extremely beneficial to our band.
Do you expect your next record to be self-produced, or would you like to work with a producer? If it’s the latter, who would you most like to produce your band, and why?
We like working with producers. We love learning something new from each one we work with. We are young padawans as far as writing record goes, but we are learning fast and absorbing all these different producers’ styles. In fact, we have never written a song we didn’t release… Well, yet! We are gearing up to release our first true record. As far as dream producers, Rick Rubin, Danger Mouse or Beck.
I only have a Line 6 M13 (pictured). It does the job and is worth the money, but if I can ever afford to go boutique, I will.
Do you have a particular recording style that you aim for? What techniques do you employ to recreate it?
We don’t really have a particular style per se, We like to treat every song on a case by case basis.
Who determines the direction and style of your recordings?
Sometimes I do, and other times Tacon does. I have a tendency to change my mind 1000 times. We both love big drums though, I am just darker as a songwriter.
Is there a person outside the band that’s been important in perfecting your recorded or live sound?
Many in fact. Pat Noon (engineer who recorded and helped produce our first EP) has helped us a lot. We actually figured out how to really perform live from him giving us tips on EQ and what not. And Dan “MutherFucking” Feeny, this man is our best friend, tour manager, band referee, and photographer. Fuck that, he is our one stop multimedia service. He edited the music video for “ Bangs” as well as every other promo video we have ever done. We also ask him for feedback on our live set because we are always looking to sound better.
What other artists would you say have had the biggest influence in your approach to recording? Why?
This is a trick question right? Everything, just everything man. From WuTang to The Doors, from JUSTICE to Nirvana, and all the hip hop, indie, and electronic music in between. We want to try everything we grew up listening to mixed together in various incarnations and happy accidents.
Would you say that your live show informs your recording process or that your recording process informs your live show? Both? Neither?
Both. Sometimes an accident on stage results in a change in the studio and vice versa.
With bands doing more of everything themselves these days (recording, performing, self-promoting, etc.) and the evermore multimedia nature of the world, how much effort do you put into the visual component of your band fashion, styling, photography, graphic/web design, etc.? Do you do these things yourself or is there someone that the band works with?
Fashion: we dress how we dress, but I wouldn’t be opposed to doing some mind blowing weirdo shit in the future. I was at thrift shops before you heard about it on the radio, so I kinda wear whatever I find for 3 bucks.
All visual elements in our band have meaning and are important, we work closely with our in-house artist Richie Brown and well as own in house video/multimedia man, Dan Feeny. We try to put as much effort into this aspect as we do our music. I respect film, maybe even more than music, so visuals are important to us. We have big plans for the future of this aspect of Brick + Mortar (we just need the dollars).
Hearing your initial idea grow into a great song out of nothing amazes me every fucking time. Knowing I was just a kid who played bass and figured out how to sing and write songs about a world I believe in. That’s the reward. The most challenging aspect is being objective and knowing whether a song needs to be redone or not by throwing out the song you are used to to create something truly great out of its ashes.