Photo Credit: Kenneth Bauer
During one of my many breakdowns in my 20’s my mama told me, “When you do make it, you’ll appreciate it more because you’ve had that struggle. Those who don’t struggle never appreciate the good that comes because they have no idea what the bad feels like.” With that, I feel like whatever comes The Rare Occasions way, the trio will appreciate it with every fiber in their bodies because they’ve had hurdles galore. We talked about those curveballs, their June release ‘Big Whoop,’ and more.
Kendra: Brian and Luke, friends since you were teens but then in came Jeremy during college. Was this a situation where one of you met Jeremy first and then brought him around, or did you all sort of meet together because it can be weird at first trying to get childhood friends to mesh well with friends you meet later in life…
Brian: At the start of college Luke and I were jamming with a lot of different people from our schools around Boston and sort of figuring out what we wanted to create with this project. Luke had played a session with Jeremy at Berklee and invited him to come rehearse with us at Tufts. It clicked right away; Jeremy locked in with Luke and flexed his incredible musicianship on bass. He had also broken a string the night before our first get-together, so he was doing this all without his low E string which was insane. Jeremy’s a very thoughtful and friendly person and we were all good friends pretty much right out the gate. Having been in a band together for a long time now, writing songs together, camping on the side of the road between gigs, we’ve been through a lot together and we’re like brothers at this point.
Kendra: Living in LA is far from easy and very expensive. I know this firsthand and while I go back and forth between staying and going – let me know, do you feel living out west has influenced any new side of your artistry or how you approach music and/or the industry?
Brian: Luke is a composer for film and TV – that’s what he studied in school and why he came out here after college. We knew that his industry is based around LA so we always had the city in the back of our minds and eventually got the rest of the band out here at the end of 2016. You’re absolutely right – it is not easy to live here. We all have jobs outside of the band to pay the bills. I work as an acoustics engineer, Jeremy is a music educator and Luke is a composer and arranger.
The move has allowed us to keep the band going well into our adult lives and has allowed us to flourish creatively. We do it because we love to write and record music, and we’re all just super grateful to have the opportunity to make songs that people listen to and care about. I’m not sure that living here has affected our sound; we would be doing all the same things in my basement back in Boston if we were still there. But it has allowed us to expand our network and make a living through music concurrently with the band.
Kendra: Perhaps it made you more DIY? Because your 2021 release, ‘Big Whoop,’ is very much so that. Even 20 years ago, recording an album in one’s living room would be wild to hear about. Now? It’s sort of the norm, but at the same time, I feel like it gives way to some of the same distractions many experienced this past year working remotely. Did you ever fall prey to the work from home disturbances while writing and recording?
Brian: The pandemic definitely affected the writing and recording process of this album. Before COVID we were recording small batches of songs as we were writing without any particular end-goal in mind, just figuring out what our new sound was. At the time we were having a lot of fun polishing up our live set and trying to perfect the three-piece arrangements with vocal harmonies, and you can hear that in the music. Then when the pandemic hit, we didn’t meet for a long time and our focus shifted inward. After several months we had written a bunch of new material and decided to turn all of it into an album. The album has a mix of those boisterous songs written for the stage and these more intimate songs that we wrote during lockdown. I would actually say working from home allowed us to put more time and energy into our creativity.
Kendra: From being a member down to the pandemic, you’ve noted that this album was bred on the struggle bus. Would you say having those obstacles was the driving force that pushed you at times?
Brian: Absolutely. This record was defined by the question of, “How can we make our situation work?” First as a three-piece, then as a rock band living through a pandemic. I think by abandoning everything we had built up to that point and starting from scratch with these new songs, it really allowed us to open up our perspectives. We started experimenting with Luke’s string arrangements and emphasizing vocal harmonies and writing stronger melodies rather than leaning on the guitar hocketing that had defined our music before. There’s something liberating about starting with a blank slate, and I really think it pushed this album to another level.
Kendra: Playing off your song, “Origami,” if you had to compare the overall sound of ‘Big Whoop’ to an origami animal – which would it be and why?
Brian: A blue anteater. This record is fun and flamboyant and awkward and special. It doesn’t belong to any particular genre or scene; it’s just kinda doing its own thing. Like a blue anteater. When you first hear it you’ll be like wtf ok dang that’s cool you go blue anteater.
Kendra: Now I want to talk about another song, and likely every mother’s new anthem, “Call Me When You Get There.” The video made me instantly miss my family’s old, yellow rotary phone and took me back to early ‘90s MTV with the color scheme and graphics. Were there any other things from that era you wanted to put into the video that you just couldn’t get your hands on?
Brian: We originally wanted to have an airport scene. Like as if we were walking through some stock television news footage of a bustling airport, with people in the background carrying pagers or talking on those giant 80’s cell phones, antennas out. Add some mullets in for good measure. But yea we didn’t have the budget for mullets.
Kendra: Lastly, it’s getting a little easier with the vaccine rollouts, but it’s still kind of hard to have a definite answer when it comes to future plans given the current state of everything, but as far as what you can control when it comes to your career and creativity – what do you have planned in the coming months for yourself?
Brian: We’d love to get on the road of course but we are gonna wait until we can be sure it’s safe for everyone involved. I’ve already started working on a new batch of songs which all have kind of a crooning quality to them, very melody-focused. They’re basically remnants of ideas from the Big Whoop sessions, so I’ve been thinking about piecing together an EP of these more subdued songs and calling it Little Whoop. Who knows! We’re also refining our live streaming setup – we can basically run a full concert from our practice space with good sound, so we’ll definitely be doing some virtual concerts to celebrate the album release.