Exclusive Q&A: Bravestation

Bravestation’s release party for the 2010 EP is tonight at the El Mocambo as part of Two Way Monologues. Opening will be Retro Radio, Old World Vulture and Lovely Killbots. The Facebook invite has more details.

You can stream the 2010 EP in its entirety on Bravestation’s MySpace.

Sometimes when you hear music, you know automatically that you like it. Other times it takes a while to grow on you. Bravestation’s 2010 EP was the former for me. As soon as I started listening to them after receiving an email from the guitarist, Derek Wilson, I was hooked. I’m not sure what compelled me to be more interested in them than anyone else I get emails from (I’m getting to it, patience!), but the fact is it did and I’m glad. Plus, it just so happens that their main influences are some of my favourite artists, such as Foals. You can hear that almost immediately as well – but not in a copycat sort of way (*cough, Fleet Foxes, you are not My Morning Jacket, cough*), more like a really appreciative “this is what I’ve learned” kind of way.

It’s in Wilson’s guitars and Jeremy Rossetti’s drums, mainly, as they quickly flutter up and down (listen to “Colour Us with Youth”). The five song-long EP is an outstanding piece of work. Devin Wilson, the vocalist (and brother to Derek) has an interesting voice and is able to keep up with the quick jolts with his smooth melodies. Andrew Heppner’s synths and keyboards seem to be pretty influenced by the ‘80s, in fact I kind of felt like I was in the old Degrassi episodes for a bit (in a cool way, you know) but they evolve and flow in and out of the rest of the music. In these five songs, it’s hard not to want more from this relatively new Toronto band.

Usually new band EPs don’t sound this good, but these guys have all gone to recording school together. In fact, Bravestation started out as a school project. But as they become more dedicated to this as their collective passion, the value goes up. The 2010 EP is an impressive collection of dream-like reality under bright lights and darkness. As is swirls around you, try to stay stationary, but letting go every once in a while can always be beneficial. Bravestation provide a cool, refreshing sound for Toronto and because of it, they’re destined for great things.

Read on for Bravestation’s exclusive Q&A with RoundLetters on how they got started as a project, their live show struggles, the EP writing process and upcoming goals.

So, Bravestation, how’d you come to be a band?

Derek: We met at recording school. The three of us – Jeremy, Devin and I – moved to Toronto to pursue post-secondary education and fulfill the rock and roll dream. That’s where we met Andrew. It started off as a group project doing a recording for school and it ended up turning into a full-time band because we realized Heppner could engineer and produce and he joined us on keyboards.

Devin: Us three have been a band for probably four years now.

Derek: Different projects and trying to rip off different bands. I think we were a Strokes-esque band there for a while, pure party rock, wearing blazers, that sort of thing. It’s been a constant evolution.

Andrew: [But as Bravestation] we’ve only been a band for about a year, I’d say.

So how long was it between when you formed and you had the EP come out?

Devin: Short, we didn’t really know what we were. We knew we wanted to be a band, but it was just a project for school. We never thought of playing live, just sort of pulled some songs together to record. And then the formation of the actual band came after the songs were released.

But you had the name Bravestation on the 2009 EP.

Derek: Yeah. We knew we wanted to add a member, but I don’t think we knew how we were going to do that. We wanted to put the record out first and then find a bass player or a keyboardist, we weren’t really sure what it needed. But then Andrew filled that void.

So now you’re getting used to playing live. How’s that going?

Devin: I don’t know if we are getting used to playing live. We haven’t played a ton. I still get nervous as hell when we play shows.

Andrew: I guess that’s because you’re the front man, eh?

Devin: We make mistakes every show still but I think we’re a little more comfortable.

Andrew: I don’t feel as nervous anymore but I guess, when I play, I’m in my own world so I don’t usually see the crowd, I’m always looking down whereas Devin is looking right out there.

Derek: We’ve only played like 13 shows, so we’re still learning nuances and trying to develop our stage presence. It’s always exciting to play though.

So are you developing any stage antics so that the crowd will be won over? If you stay in your bubble for too long, that’s not going to help you.

Derek: We were saying last night we’re like a showcase band, we play a short 7 song set and that’s pretty much it.

It also happens when you don’t have too much music.

Andrew: Yeah and I think as well we’re under the impression that you go to a show and you don’t really know the band, after a certain amount of songs they all start sounding the exact same because you don’t really have anything to pick up on so sometimes it’s good to have a short and sweet set, when every song sort of hits, it’s not a slow going.

Devin: I think if we had 11 great songs though, we’d probably play them.

Derek: But we don’t! You’re there to display and not try to overstay your welcome.

Devin: Maybe we’re just lazy.

Andrew: To an extent, I think all of us are perfectionists so it’s like sometimes there’s ideas or songs that could be played, but it’s like we’d rather not go halfway when we’re doing it. So sometimes, it’s like let’s stick to the songs that we’ve been working on and have everything worked out. All of our old record, we’re not that into playing. That’s why we’re playing songs from the new record and a couple old ones we’ve had revamped a bit.

Derek: And none of us can decide which old songs we like so basically we could only decide on two.

From what I gather, you got some pretty good press on the 2009 EP, everyone was saying it was a more pop kind of thing. And now this one doesn’t feel super pop, but it’s got it’s own thing.

Devin: I was under that the impression that we weren’t poppy. I thought the idea was to make something that wasn’t poppy but..

Derek: Experimental.

Devin: Yeah, pop is such a hard thing to describe. But there’s not as much distortion. I think the last one is sort of straight forward rock and roll. And this one is a little more synths and quirkiness.

Derek: We wrote most of this record in the studio, trying ideas and throwing them together. That’s what happens when you don’t have time and money and space. You have to commit to ideas a bit sooner than you’d like to.

What kind of ideas were committed?

Devin: We felt like we were pushing ourselves. We liked the way the way it sounded but it didn’t really sound like what it sounded like before. It’s a big thing creating something new, it’s still Bravestation.

Derek: The last one was distorted power chords and it was a little more straight-forward.

Devin: It’s not an experimental record, but for us, it is.

So what about lyrically?

Devin: I don’t think we ever want to know exactly what we’re saying, we’ve always kept our lyrics pretty mysterious and ambiguous.

Derek: They’re pretty abstract. We put a lot of time into our lyrics, usually it’s a collaborative effort.

Andrew: It usually comes last, too.

Derek: We take time to get the words out.

Andrew: Devin has a weird, uncanny way of when we’re working on songs, to me and the rest of the band, I think that he has lyrics but he’s singing something for months and months, and then when it comes down to the time, I’m like ‘what are you saying there?’ And he’s like ‘oh actually nothing.’

So Devin, you’re the primary songwriter?

Andrew: I think Derek and Devin are.

Devin: Structure-wise, maybe me and Derek. But it’s a lot more collaborative now.

Andrew: Actually the way a lot of songs came about is separately. For three of the songs, it started off with little ideas and then we would bring it to our computers and think about it, so most of the songs came about like that. A bunch of songs got scrapped, they were fine but they didn’t cut it, you know? They weren’t adding anything, they were just a bunch of fillers.

Derek: I think even more so, the future will be collaboration because on the first record, Andrew was engineering and playing key parts that we wrote and this record he’s writing all of his parts and the next record, Rossetti does’t even want to play drums anymore, so he’ll probably be playing keyboards or something.

Devin: Especially right now, me and Derek were on the same page for a while, and Heppner’s always done really different music than us and Rossetti sort of was into different stuff too. I think even now more than ever, we’re all into different vibes.

Andrew: There are certain links between everything, but then there’s sort of a core and offshoots.

So are you thinking of what’s coming next yet?

Andrew: I think more than anything, at least with myself, this is a good representation of what it is that we will or want to make. I think that the goal for the summer is to play a lot of shows and play as many as possible.

Derek: You can’t develop a following if you’re always putting out new releases.

So touring more.

Andrew: One of the other goals is trying to play with other bands that are going to raise us up. It sounds selfish… you play with a lot of bands and they’re great but at a certain point, we want to be opening for somebody.

Derek: Just to be able to get more of a name, really. I think that’s logically the next step.

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