Members: Eric Hagstrom, Kevin Martin, Tony Martin
Interviewee: Kevin Martin
Occupation: Vocalist, guitarist (Kevin Martin), vocalist, bassist (Tony Martin), drummer (Eric Hagstrom)
Current release: Brainstory's Ripe EP is out June 25th on Big Crown.
Recommendations: The album Kryptonite by Lord Byron, Pink Siifu, and Liv.e is an essential listen. It was produced by Ben Hixon and released on Dolfin Records. The art of Steven Thomas Higgins (@steventhomashiggins, @timotaylynch) and Timotay Lynch are both amazing artists to check out.
If you enjoyed this interview with Brainstory, visit their official website for more information. They are also on Facebook, Instagram and bandcamp.
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
I’ve been writing since I was about 10 but didn’t get comfortable sharing until I was like 18.
I think the synopsis within the band of what got us tuned into music was our fathers’ love for music. Eric’s father has a massive music collection and Tony and I were exposed to music through our dad, Big Tony, singing in Church. I guess the thing that drew us into music was the feelings it gave/gives us when we listen to it.
For most artists, originality is preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you: How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice?
Emulation was definitely key to get the ball rolling in the beginning and throughout the creative process. Some of our approach starts with some emulation and evolves as we add different ingredients that blur that line of emulation to the point of something that sounds fresh but familiar.
How do you feel your sense of identity influences your creativity?
Identity is your perspective; it’s always at work no matter what, but it’s something not to be overthought but embraced in order for music to flow out of you.
What were your main creative challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
In the beginning it’s all trial and error, building your bag of techniques, lots of listening, emulation etc. Being patient with yourself and the process is key but a big challenge.
Music is a long game if you’re looking to do it as a profession. The challenge is to always see music through, never judge yourself or ideas too hard, take space from ideas if they aren’t working so you can process what you are trying to do.
Have there been technologies or instruments which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?
Well for the most part, we’ve done some recording on our own via portastudio type 8 track machines but it wasn’t until we linked with Producer Leon Michels that we really learned a lot about how to record ourselves.
We were introduced to Leon by Eduardo Arenas of Chicano Batman who has also shown us how to operate in a studio throughout the years. But when we recorded our debut album Buck in New York with Leon we were super inspired by his analog approach. Thus, our drummer Eric invested in a Tascam 388 tape machine. The 388 changed everything for us. We quickly began recording ourselves and learning how produce on our own, which is resulted in our latest EP Ripe.
Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives through, for example, file sharing, jamming or just talking about ideas?
Every song or composition seems to have its own life. Sometimes a track will be realized by one person, other times it can be worked out together in the studio or in a private space. It can come from any process really.
Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please. Do you have a fixed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
We meet usually at night, three times a week. One of those days is dedicated to songwriting, another can be dedicated to making beats, and every Wednesday we have a twitch stream that we like to jam out or make tracks while engaging with our fans.
What we do personally before our sessions depends on our own individual lives. Usually we are working regular jobs, doing other sessions with other people, or practicing our instruments/writing.
Can you talk about a breakthrough work, event or performance in your career? Why does it feel special to you? When, why and how did you start working on it, what were some of the motivations and ideas behind it?
Our record release for our full length album Buck comes to mind.
We had worked so hard and learned so much from the experience of recording with Leon Michels, it was amazing to see the support of our fans in a sold out event. It definitely validated our passions for what we do in Brainstory. It was pretty amazing to see that people support something so close and personal to us.
Years of sacrifice and hard work led up to that moment and also awesome to share that with the people.
There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?
Weed can definitely be a tool to get us in a relaxed, creative head space. Sometimes jamming or improvising can get the mind to that place. Going on walks or listening to music to get inspired works too. As long as one is relaxed and open, the sounds can come through.
Music and sounds can heal, but they can also hurt. Do you personally have experiences with either or both of these? Where do you personally see the biggest need and potential for music as a tool for healing?
Music has been a tool for expression, connection, and healing since humans lived in caves. As a human race we will always need music to serve this purpose. When we play live we definitely try to make our performance serve all of these needs, not only for the audience but for us personally as well.
There is a fine line between cultural exchange and appropriation. What are your thoughts on the limits of copying, using cultural signs and symbols and the cultural/social/gender specificity of art?
Acknowledgement of your influences is key. Be humble about where and who influences the music you make. You can’t take ownership of a style or form if you aren’t from a culture that influences you.
Our sense of hearing shares intriguing connections to other senses. From your experience, what are some of the most inspiring overlaps between different senses - and what do they tell us about the way our senses work?
Music is a bodily experience whether we consciously know it or not. We not only hear the vibrations of music - we feel them in our bodies as well. Every experience we have is felt by all of our senses simultaneously.
Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?
We use music to express how we feel. As artists this is the only approach and guideline we have.
What can music express about life and death which words alone may not?
There are things and feelings about the experience of human life that words can never fully express. Music however has the power to express those things that are inexplicable.