Brown Shoe are dropping their fourth LP The Gift Horse today and you should go pick it up. Brown Shoe is a quintet of handsome dudes who craft some wickedly catchy and melodic rock that I’m sure you’ll love. The band loves to tour (having played over 100 dates in an eight month span) and they also aren’t too pussy to dig ditches for a living if they have to.
You can read what they have to say about themselves and The Gift Horse below, as well as grab their newest single “Diving Bell”.
(Sirens: us, BS: Brown Shoe).
Sirens: Tell us about Brown Shoe and what you guys are about.
BS: I guess the short version is we want to make people feel something they’ve never felt before when they listen to our music. We want there to be a feeling of uncanny understanding between us and the listener, but also discomfort.
Sirens: For those who might not have heard you before, what bands or sounds would you compare yourself to?
BS: It’s changed over the years but who we’ve been compared to most recently are bands like Rogue Wave, Band of Horses, Mumford and Sons, Fleet Foxes and My Morning Jacket. Given the right song, I can’t argue that we don’t fit somewhere in there.
Sirens: I feel like you guys are one of the most uniquely “membered” bands that I’ve came across. Your band consists of four brothers and one close friend…how does that even happen in one family? Has your family always been centered around music or did you all gravitate toward it in your own time?
BS: No, we didn’t really grow up with parents who cultivated a musical environment. As is the case in most huge families I’m sure, you have to fight, beg and steal ‘til your parents take your fleeting whims seriously and buy you a damn guitar! Our parents never gave us a lot of direction on what we should do. They just had a general expectation of greatness. And that we should never be ashamed, or too big of a pussy to dig a ditch.
Sirens: It’s football time across the country, the greatest time of the year. With four brothers and a close family friend making up “the band”, I assume at some point there were some sports played together in the backyard or on the field. Does Brown Shoe have an official team or are there some renegades amongst the group?
BS: In reference to football, we all seem to agree than an Oakland Raiders home game might be the most exciting game to watch simply because you never know what’s going to happen. Somebody might get stabbed – you never know. I wouldn’t necessarily say that we have a particular team we call a favorite, but we certainly have teams we don’t like.
Sirens: Out of the large crop of bands debuting in the last few years, whom do you gravitate toward and listen to regularly?
BS: As you may or may not expect, we all have creepily similar taste in music, with the occasional alcohol-induced shouting match over how idiotic one of us is for not getting how brilliant or dim some new band is. But as of late it’s been easy to love Lykke Li, The National, Mumford and Sons, Bon Iver, and Metric. Then there are the artists we’ve listened to for a handful of years longer: Sigur Ros, Feist, Broken Social Scene. We don’t like fakers and I’m never left with the feeling that any of those artists are nothing less than genuine.
Sirens: Brown Shoe has toured all across the US – over 100 dates in an eight month span at one point. Which is the most appealing to you – creating new music in the studio, or traveling and meeting your fans and getting to play that music…or do you do the one to lead to the other?
BS: For us they are both so exhilarating and challenging. The idea of one feeds the idea of the other. There is something so permanent about recording albums: it puts you in such a specific headspace, and playing shows almost seems the antithesis of that. Every moment is a constantly-moving, never-fully-understood-or-remembered dot on a line.
Sirens: Away from home, where do you absolutely love going to play a show?
BS: It has to be New Orleans. Every time we’re in the south it feels so unfamiliar and the people seem so fascinatingly kind, but still discerning. And New Orleans is unfamiliar amongst unfamiliarity.
Sirens: When Ryan (vocalist) fell suddenly ill halfway through the recording of The Gift Horse, his immediate reaction was for the band to continue on with the recording of the album. The sickness passed, but it intrigues me that your reaction to falling ill was “If this is the last story I’m going to tell, it has to get done.” What was this like for the band and were you able to contribute after the initial scare before returning full time to the band?
BS: I (Ryan) feel like making records is all I sometimes can really contribute or how I can best communicate, and I believe that it is the same for the rest of the band. I wasn’t going to take that away from them if I wasn’t going to make it through. But most importantly, I implicitly trust them to make right by the music. If that wasn’t the case I’d tell them to f off and don’t touch the shit even if I don’t make it. But to answer the latter part of the question, I went back to the studio the day after I was released and played the guitar and sang the vocals to “Sick Man”. Which was probably much too soon to leave the hospital since I was quickly readmitted for a while. Eventually all was well and we continued work on the album for a more months while I was recovering.
From the band’s perspective, this may have been the worst roller coaster ride the band has ever been on. We thought we had it all figured out up to that point, and then suddenly, we can’t see past our darkest thoughts. It was around Ryan’s fourth week in the hospital that he felt he could gather enough strength to hop in a wheelchair and take a lil’ stroll to the van to catch up on some of our tunes. Considering the amount of morphine they had pumping through him, it was damn impressive how his ear and suggestions were sharp as ever.
Sirens: The album opener, “C.F.”, is a straight up anthem that just builds and builds, with the instrumentation being such an immense driving force within the track that the growing feedback makes me think this is what the Wright Brothers would have had playing as they took off at Kitty Hawk. How important was it for you to start The Gift Horse off with such a bang?
BS: “C.F.” started with a simple idea that just kept growing and growing into something uncontrollable. I guess the Wright Brothers might be the perfect comparison. Whenever we take on a song that leans heavy on our ambitious spirit like “C.F.” does, we know that failure is more likely than success. We’re not going to feel satisfaction until we’ve created something new. If we were gonna fail, we were gonna do it right at the start. “C.F.” would definitely be our anthem for a take off, no matter how short the flight or how glorious the crash.
Sirens: I’ve really been pulled to “Criminal Baker” from the initial listen, where I picked up the line “I wish I was a roll of the dice, so that everything was a surprise”. It’s got a few of these lines tucked away within it – what is the story behind this track?
BS: It’s a retrospective of a relationship through the eyes of someone (myself/Ryan) who wishes to know how things truly were between two people. With all the moments that you recollect, they always have the hazy truth of perspective and a it be a unique excitement to actually embody a matter of fact.
Sirens: You guys are considered an indie rock/folk band by most. When I listen to some of these track on The Gift Horse, such as “Colt Rider” and “Late Nights” (the first two singles) as well as some of the deeper cuts, I can’t help but hear you on the radio. I am absolutely amazed that Brown Shoe isn’t dominating airwaves. The tracks on The Gift Horse are anthemic and catchy – do you intentionally lean towards making your music so damn melodic or is this just a byproduct of such a cohesive unit?
BS: I think we just respond to things that sound bigger than ourselves, sounds that can be shared amongst many but experienced uniquely alone. If we could even come close to making those sounds and telling those kinds of stories, we’d be a smiling pack of wolves. But to put it simply, we think a song can be catchy and truthful at the same time.
Sirens: In the unbelievably catchy “All Your Ghosts” there’s the line: “Easy to love if you haven’t met me before.” Has a truer line ever been written by an American male? I think my wife would agree with you.
BS: Well, all us males seem to be much more persuasive and exotic in a box kept far, far away from those we love. At least that’s what these damn bitches keep tellin’ me. And I mean “bitches” in a sweet way.
Sirens: With the release of The Gift Horse, what’s in the cards next for Brown Shoe? Will you be touring in support of the release?
BS: Tour ‘til the tires go bald. It’s where we feel most at home. We’ve also kicked around the idea of being professional gamblers – probably the craps table and betting on men’s tennis. There’s no money in rock n’ roll.
I’d like to thank the guys of Brown Shoe for taking the time to answer all of our questions, and leave you with your latest single “Diving Bell”. Purchase The Gift Horse via the Amazon link below.