It’s half an hour after opening time and in time-honoured tradition, the queue stretches “round the block”. Not bad for a band whose live UK record so far stretches to a brief tour of tiny venues and some cancelled support dates with Clinic. The Bravery are late because they have arrived from Holland for this, the opening date of their first full headline tour.
It’s the way of the world with bands nowadays; they’ve hardly sneezed before the UK takes them to its collective heart and makes them instant stars: The Killers, the Scissor Sisters, you name them. But Michael Zakarin of the Bravery isn’t keen on being mentioned in the same breath as such contemporaries: “We always separate ourselves from other bands like that”, he splutters, with just a hint of protesting too much. “Good songs are good songs. Sure, there are synthesisers and guitars and drums, but in the end, it’s just about the songs, not about any other artists that are around.”
The interview hasn’t started very well, and now it’s about to get worse. An innocent question is met by an explosion. “Do you like The Cure?” “No!” barks Michael, shooting me a look of pure venom between the mascara. “It’s okay,” intervenes keyboardist John Conway, “he said ‘Do you like The Cure?’, not ‘Are you like the Cure?'” But Michael is already into his stride: “If you are asking whether they had an influence on our music, I’d say absolutely not. There’s this funny thing where people sort of guess at obvious musical influences, but more of it is really what all of us grew up listening to.” John joins in: “People bring up a lot of English new wave bands, and we probably share a similar mindset, in that in the eighties bands were discovering a lot of new sounds, new technologies and taking advantage of that. But nothing we do is outwardly nostalgic or retro. We try to look to the future.”
But looking to the past just for a moment, it really has been an amazingly fast rise to fame, at least in the UK. John fills in the background: “The band’s only been playing live shows for a little over a year. Initially, it was just a recording project with me and Sam (Endicott, vocals). We started writing and working on some new songs, but when we saw there was something there, we set about putting together an actual band. We put ads in the paper to try and meet people, but in the end, Michael and Mike H, the bass player, were college friends and the drummer was recommended to us. So we started recording at home and actually, the recordings we did are what has ended up as our first album. We just recorded the whole thing in Sam’s apartment on an old iMac. We felt more comfortable that way than going into a studio.”
John, seemingly a crucial part of the creative process, gives an insight into how it all works: “Sam is the main songwriter. He writes all the lyrics and most of the tunes. Literally, the two of us just record everything on synthesisers and old acoustic guitars and then the other guys come in and add their elements.”
To what do they attribute their sudden popularity, and doesn’t this put them under a lot of pressure? Michael is enthused: “There’s no pressure about it, it’s just really exciting! It’s downloading which has helped us achieve our success in the UK, because people like Zane Lowe (Radio 1 DJ) simply downloaded the rough MP3s from our website and played them on the radio.”
At this point, two things happen. First, I suggest taking some photos. Instantly, the two of them leap up and start rearranging their hair in the dressing room mirror. At that moment. The door opens and in strides singer Sam. Realising that photos are on the agenda, he not only takes several minutes sorting out his hair but also insists on changing into his full military style stage outfit. I restrain myself from asking him any questions about musical style, because he, too, is baffled that people say they sound electronic when all the bands they like (Nirvana, Jane’s Addiction) are anything but. But such attention to detail is typical of a band which does everything. They make the videos and the records and do the artwork. Put simply, they know exactly what they are doing.
When the Bravey later blast onto the stage with a carefully rehearsed but hugely impressive sense of high drama, you just know that this is a band which will achieve and maintain long-term success. Singer Sam is a high-kicker in the mike-twiddling-stick-insect tradition, while Jesse Malin lookalike Michael splatters solos over John Conway’s synth layers and makes them ROCK. The groovy lead track from their first EP “Unconditional” makes a great opener, while new single “Honest Mistake” appears two thirds of the way through a set which contains a slew of fabulous songs and an awful amout of beer squirting from bassist and Adam Ant clone Mike H. It works, and it’s fabulously exciting.
In the words of Sam Endicott: “That’s what this band is about: Standing tall and not being afraid”.
From Amplifier magazine