An interview with BRMC is like their new album, a fine balance of light and dark. We were lucky enough to interview with Robert Levon Been (Voice and bass) and Leah Shapiro(Drummer) last Thursday before their concert @Caprices Festival in Crans-Montana. During our 20 something minutes chat we spoke about life, festivals in ski resorts (looking at the Alps from the window), politics, and obviously music, with their new album released today. Rob and Leah were from traveling, still very approachable and nice as they answered our questions. We had fun, there was a lot of laughing next to more introspective moments. All this in our first exclusive band interview here at The Liberation by Indie Nation. Click here to read our concert review!!
- Robert Levon Been: wow, after with the second album we did our best to have a real live sound, not as really produced as the first one. Then we had all those songs that went into Howl and we wanted to show this other side of the band but our label insisted that we release a rock record after that so we went back to rock’n’roll with Baby 81. Then all hell break loose and we ended up parting ways with our drummer, (Nick Jago) we got Leah in the band and we are now a big band, and the rest is history and it’s actually the present (laughs)
The Liberation: Is it your first time @Caprices?
- RLB: uuuh (looks at Leah looking for help)
- Leah: Yes (smiles)
The Liberation: Do you keep counting the concerts? How many did you do since the beginning?
- RLB: 1020? something like that?
- Leah: let’s say one thousand and change
- RLB: yes, it was in London, we played our albums in chronological order, I liked that a lot, we had never done that before, playing the records in order has a lot different feeling, lots of memories and nostalgia of just the great ride its been up to now. Most of our sets we just blur everything together and that was taken apart. Unique.
- Leah: we can re-do it for the 2000th concert (laughs)
- LRB: for the 2000th will play everything backwards (both laugh)
The Liberation: what would you say about the new album? (Apart from the fact that for the first time the cover it’s not black and white)?
- RLB: Actually, a couple of people said it, “there’s color on it!”, I didn’t think about that until later, the cover was actually green and red originally and then Leah said you can’t do that! It would have been too much from far from BRMC style!
The Liberation: What about the music? It looks like this album is very balanced between R’n’R songs (Teenage Disease) and ballads (Lullaby):
- RLB: yes, that was the hardest thing doing the record, balancing light and the dark, the kind of more intense side of the album, a lot of songs were coming in that vein it felt very natural to write from that place, we were just turning everything up and letting everything out and at the same time we all needed to go to the other end of the spectrum and get out more introspective things or whatever you wanna call it, there was something kind of medicinal about the other tone of the album. We needed to go to that place as well, it was all a matter of balancing all that in one record. It was a good challenge, it felt like the most honest way to represent the two past years of writing.
The Liberation: On our blog we play a game every week where we publish the Indie Rock Weekly Survival Kit, every day has a different theme and we start with Fuckin Monday. What song would you pick to show the middle finger to the working week that starts?
- Leah: for a shitty monday morning when you are grumpy and you are still hangover and you need to go to work?
- RLB: “God is Dead” by Nine Inch Nails
- Leah: I was going for something from NiN as well!
- RLB: It’s hard to go anymore further than that (both laugh)
- RLB: It was really sweet, we didn’t know what we were going into, at the beginning it was going to be just an interview on our experience recording the first 2 albums it became recording and jamming a new song with him, which was exciting and terrifying at the same time cause everything was recorded on camera, we were making it all up on the spot, I don’t mind that as long as there’s not a 10 members video crew waiting for you to do something genius. It was really good, it’s an honor to be part of this history, he really captured the moment, like he carried the torch until now (laughs), a lot of good spirit in that film, it was nice to be part of it. And really fun
The Liberation: Was it the first time you were meeting him?
- RLB: We had met him briefly previously in a similar place as this one, it was at a Festival on Mount Fujii in Japan with a big festival areas, we met him in a place sort of like this at the resort area.
- Leah: it must have been a long time ago!
- RLB: yeah, like this but without the snow! (Laugh)
- RLB: I loved playing @Fuji Festival on Mount Fuji in Japan, is beautiful, great shows. Then the Austin Psych Festival coming up in Austin, Texas, a lot of bands are playing this year, we were trying to play it for years and we were always some place in Europe and we always wanted to do it this time we aren’t and we are able to make it. Loads of good bands. You can have a great vacation resort and the place is beautiful but if the music is not good the festival is not good. Thankfully there were lots of great bands playing here @Caprices Festival.
The Liberation: what are the bands that mostly influenced BRMC’s music and sound?
- Leah: Nirvana was one of the first band I got into, go home at lunch break, have a beer and listen to them as 14 years old (both laugh)
- RLB: we started really influenced by the kind of weird mix of listening to The Verve and The Stone Roses in High School and at the same time Nirvana and Pixies, Nine Inch Nails that was kind of were we started and our band is kind of hybrid of all these things plus Hendrix, those were the main influences
The Liberation: I guess there were not many teenagers listening to the Stone Roses in California at the time!
- RLB: (Laughing) no, it was a small little club a very very small little club
- Leah: I think I’m the worst fuckin person to ask to, as we have worked on the record for so long I haven’t listened to anything in a long time, and it’s pretty bad. Usually on tour I normally listen to music when i go to bed but I haven’t done this yet. Now after the concert I just want silence, can’t process anymore music. You probably know way more than me!
- RLB: I’m not as good either, Timber Timbre from Montreal, incredible band. Bass Drum of Death good new rock band, Big Pink, Transfer they are in tour with us now. The new Black Rider album is really good they are finishing it right now but we got to hear some of it just because we are friends and it’s a great album
The Liberation: What would you have done if you didn’t create or join BRMC?
- RLB: (looks out of the window and then smiles) I would run a ski resort somewhere exotic, getting big ideas from this window (laughs again). I don’t know there wasn’t really a plan b and still there isn’t one. We are in a rock’n’roll band and we live for the day and that’s really it. We give so much of our time and our love goes into what you create hopefully and then if you do it right there not really much left over.
- Leah: There’s really not, I didn’t have much life outside of the band.
- RLB: We have good people around us supporting what we do, I don’t know if the would support the plan B but they support plan a pretty good. (both laugh out loud)
- RLB: Making music, making art is political and no matter what you say, sometimes if you do it wrong you are making it for the wrong side. I remember coming out swinging really way harder in the beginning when we first started, lots of big ideas then I realized that i needed to prove to myself who I was before I start telling anybody else what they should do or what they should be. I’m still trying to figure out how to tell myself that first and they I’ll get back picking on other!
The Liberation: very often in your live sets you play 1 or 2 covers from older artists as Bob Dylan or the Pogues, why?
- RLB: I always throw in a Dylan cover or a Lennon cover just to humble myself, not to get too big on my own as there’s always more to learn and you can always be better, that’s one of the reason. And then there’s a side of relief for doing a Dylan song and the one of ours isn’t that bad and I feel like wow, it flows together. It’s good to appreciate respect for history and the greats we are trying to chip away and add to that put a brick in the wall, it’s good to keep learning, every time you cover a song you kind of slip into someone else’s skin and see the world through their eyes and there’s something about that. Every once in a while you get to see what the person was thinking when they chose that word and this phrase. It hits you, makes your spine tinkle because you just got to see the world in a different way. It’s the only time machine I own.