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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Bravery interview

My interview with The Bravery recently ran in NSW and Victoria. Here is the extended version which appeared in Melbourne's Inpress:






















AS THE BRAVERY RETURN TO AUSTRALIA, KEYBOARDIST JOHN CONWAY RECALLS HAPPY MEMORIES OF STRANGERS LENDING HIM SURFBOARDS. ROB TOWNSEND FINDS OUT MORE

The Bravery’s John Conway is excited. “I love it,” he enthuses. “The people are great, the weather is great; it’s just like a giant California.” As the New York electro/indie rockers tour Australia for the second time, the keyboardist reveals that this will actually be his third visit. A keen surfer, he ventured this way before his band arrived for their debut tour in 2005. It was then that he fell in love with the fine people of this country. “I wanted to go surfing and was just able to borrow surfboards everywhere I went. I was in a sandwich shop and I asked if there was somewhere I could maybe rent a board and they said: ‘Oh, take mine mate. I’ve got one out the back. Go out and have fun and just bring it back here in a couple of hours.’ That was amazing.”

While catching some more waves will certainly be on the agenda, the real reason the band is heading this way is to tour in support of its second album, The Sun and The Moon. A group’s sophomore long-player is often a tricky one to create, especially following a debut recording as successful as The Bravery’s was, but Conway says tackling the notorious Difficult Second Album didn’t actually pose too many problems. “They say you have your whole life to make your first record and you have to make the second one when you’re touring. I think there is some truth to that, and it’s hard because bands don’t know whether to do the same thing or to get really experimental. In the end we settled on doing both, but we took our time with it and made the record that we really wanted to make, so we didn’t feel too much pressure.”
















The album was recorded in a novel way, with two different versions of the same songs available in a double-disk package - The Sun side and The Moon side. “We did The Sun side first, and that was more experimental for us, even though it is probably closer to how most bands make records,” Conway explains. “We went into a real recording studio and worked with a producer for the first time and had access to instruments that we’d never used. We did a lot more acoustic, organic stuff with a lot of vocals and harmonies. We had string players and other musicians. It was really different for us.” The quintet, who recorded their first album in Conway’s apartment, worked with producer Brendan O’Brien this time round. O’Brien has an impressive resume which includes working with Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam, Rage Against the Machine and Neil Young. “We had a shortlist of producers that we thought would be fun to work with and when we met him, it was just an obvious choice. We were really glad that he wanted to do it. First off, he’s just an amazing musician. I think it helps that he can play every instrument, so he can communicate really well as a musician and get great performances out of us.”

The other disk in the reissued album, The Moon side, was put together by the band in a much more DIY way - using laptops and synthesisers. “It was really lo-fi and basically done for free. It’s kind of grittier and darker and I guess a little more electronic and dancier.” This version of the album was created much closer to how their debut record was made, and Conway explains how the band came about their sound in the first place. “I think when we started we were influenced by the electroclash movement and by DJs who would play electronic music and mix it up with rock.” I ask what the thinking behind releasing alternate recordings of the same album was. “We were just kinda into the juxtaposition. That was the concept of the album; you know, the sun and the moon. It’s cool to put both those sides out.”

Having been forever on tour since the release of the first long-player, the band is excited to finally have some new tunes to showcase, especially because the formatting of The Sun and The Moon means they have two versions of all of their latest tracks at their disposal. “It’s like doubling your repertoire so it’s much easier to break it up and keep it interesting for us and for our fans as well.” But what about the songs from The Sun side of the album? Surely playing some of them involves bringing extra musicians and more instruments on tour? “No, we just arrange them a different way. In the studio it’s easy to go for all these nuances, subtleties and soft atmospheres but when we play live we just want it to rock. We just turn everything up and make it all a little more brutal.”

As well as being on display at their upcoming show at The Corner Hotel, The Bravery’s brand of synth-fused indie is perfectly suited to an appearance at the We Love Sounds festival. “Festivals are really cool because you get to play in front of a lot of people that maybe don’t know who you are. It can be an interesting challenge to pick up new fans.” But as well as being an opportunity to get their music to a different audience, the New Yorkers have always been known to party pretty hard, and will be taking the opportunity to spend the day sinking a few beverages. “It’s nice to have a good time, have some drinks and make some friends. We’ve probably slowed down from our early days though. I think we got a bad reputation for that at the beginning, but it’s hard to keep that up when you tour ten or eleven months of the year like we do.” He pauses for a second, before mischievously adding: “But, yeah, you get chances to go off at the deep end and you still take them. We definitely plan on living it up down there.”

During a previous festival appearance at Glastonbury, such indulgences resulted in bassist Mike Hindert performing stark naked. This is not something that you can expect to be subjected to at We Love Sounds. “I don’t know if he’s gotten naked since then,” Conway laughs. “Nearly naked, but not naked.”

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Schmavery...

Rhys said...

Bravery balls.

ben said...

Is there Sydney show all ages?

bobbysix said...

I think it might be all ages. But I also think it might be sold out. I might be wrong about either or both of those facts though...