In a sun-sprawled courtyard of an industrial building turned practice space in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, cold-wave trio BRAHMS coolly compose themselves on a bench and rod-iron chair. All don exceptionally stylish yet distinguishing shades. Two members puff upon American Spirit cigarettes ignited by the contents of a Stereogum matchbox.
It’s the last Sunday evening of May. Consequently, the 29°C/84°F temperature turns bassist Eric Lyle Lodwick topless. Not only that, but the cigarette-less member of this band is percussionist Cale Parks of Aloha, Owen, Joan of Arc, Cex, White Williams, and solo work fame. Sitting across from these boys is as intimidating as acting alongside Meryl Streep, to say the least.
But BRAHMS knows real intimidation. And how to conquer it. In January—three months after forming the band—the boys played to 3,000 people before Passion Pit’s sold out New York show at Terminal 5. They had two weeks’ notice to write 30 minutes of music for their set, but Parks, 30, says they definitely felt ready for the show.
“Going on stage, I was very nervous. There was this gasp that everyone took—or at least I felt—after we finished the first note of the first song that just ended like ‘do do do do dehhhhhhhhhhh,’ and it just sort of stopped,” says Parks (samplers/drum machine/vocals/acoustic drums/keyboards).
“[The crowd] could have clapped or whatever, but then they just screamed, which is better. But for them it was like, ‘What is this band going to be? What is going to happen?’ And it was insane.”
Insane, more like, is this very strong connection to Massachusetts buzz-band Passion Pit. Last year, the band was seeking submissions for someone to open for them on tour. Parks, promoting his solo work at the time, not only got the gig but also got friends in return.
Passion Pit had Parks play vibraphone on three tracks of their debut album, Manners. As further testament to this friendship, drummer Nate Donmoyer wore a Cale Parks t-shirt when Passion Pit played on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon last summer.
For two weeks in June, BRAHMS opened for Passion Pit’s mostly sold-out North American tour with Toronto champs Tokyo Police Club.
“[Passion Pit] are just really sweet guys and they’re all really loving it. Really like the music we make and there’s no fakeness with them at all,” says Parks. “They’re totally genuine, awesome guys.”
Parks also learned vocal warm-ups from watching Passion Pit’s lead singer, Michael Angelakos, get ready before shows. Nonetheless, Parks refused to demonstrate the Angelakos technique.
“No. No. No. No. I’m already warmed up. I can speak fine for this interview,” he says.
However, his stress level during the first tour with Passion Pit was not fine. Parks was very nervous each night because his set requires many instruments and contraptions he must manipulate by himself; leaving him preoccupied from entertaining the crowd.
“It was like Bunsen burners and things that had to go the right way, and if they didn’t, the whole experiment would fall apart,” he says.
So when New York’s CMJ festival rolled around last fall, Parks knew he needed a back-up band to feel more engaged with the crowd. He may have been the one needing a band, but it is Baltimore native Lodwick, 22, who is responsible for bringing everyone together.
After spending a year feeling unfulfilled in Providence at university, Lodwick left school to join his brother in New York City. A fan of Parks’ other bands, he contacted Parks through a mutual friend for drumming lessons. When Parks began forming his back-up band, he knew he could turn to Lodwick for bass guitar, bass synthesizer, and a little percussion.
But Parks also needed another member, and Lodwick knew he could turn to his friend from high school, Drew Robinson, 22, who had moved to New York one week prior.
“In the band, I do some guitar. I’m doing more synth now. Sing a bit. And fill out the rest of the picture, I guess,” says Robinson.
Parks immediately turns to him and says, “No. You bring a lot to the table. Besides just filling out a picture. Both of you.”
So Parks had his CMJ backing band, but he also got BRAHMS as well.
“The first time we practiced, we were making noise in between songs which sounded cooler to me than we were trying to learn: my solo songs,” says Parks, “So I knew we had something special and that we should start making other songs together and it needed to be its own world. That’s how it happened. I just knew immediately.”
The instant synergy between the three was undeniable, and the afterthought of adding a fourth member was quickly quashed because of it. BRAHMS was born into the New York winter, and their songs reflect the very cold and hunger to succeed that NYC bequeaths upon them. They may not be originally from New York, but all members were drawn to the city like Mark Ronson to a horn section; yearning for something more their hometowns could not satiate.
“A lot of times, the places you’re living or the places where you grew up just feel a little too small for you, and [New York] is a good place to expand,” says Robinson.
But it’s the New York summer that will really make them hustle. They’re recording their full-length album that could be out by spring 2011; that is, if they find a label or distributor by fall/winter.
“It’s not like we have record labels taking us out for dinner every night and all of that stuff. We’re making it all for ourselves,” says Parks.
“We’re not like, ‘oh here’s this guy who wants to fly you to Sweden to do this chocolate chip commercial and pay you millions of dollars for Swedish cocoa.’ But I would be into that. But it’s not like we have a million great opportunities. We’re making things happen for ourselves and we’re making it on a quick basis.”
Adds Lodwick, “For me it’s like my whole life has been leading up to this. That’s why I’m really happy now. Everything is because of this. Like I didn’t know why I was doing it, but I had a feeling it was for something.”
“Yeah, I felt that way when I met [my wife] Kendra. But it’s weird. Everything in life is for certain things,” replies Parks.
Robinson turns to Parks. “Well, someday you’ll feel that way about us,” he says.
Parks replies, “I feel that way about y’all. That was the first time I felt that. And then I had this steak one day, and I was like, ‘everything in my life has led to this meal,’” he quickly jokes before getting serious.
“But that was different. Y’all are different.”
BRAHMS will be playing New York’s Mercury Lounge on August 19. This fall, they will release a 7’’ single. Subscribe to their mailing list here and receive four of their mp3s for free.
Posted by : Melissa Kim