THE SOUND OF WIGAN TRAVELS TO AUSTIN
It doesn’t take intensive listening to figure out that the savage and raucous noise that two-piece Brown Brogues create is probably influenced somewhat by American garage bands, and also that a lot of these bands probably come from Texas. So it seems fitting that our encounter takes place only weeks before they head to the land of bands, beer and BBQs for this year’s SXSW festival, to show them how it’s done, erm… Wigan style.
The band was initially a three-piece that was streamlined when “the drummer quit about a week before a really big gig in Leeds,” states Mark, the band’s singer and guitarist.
“I had to learn drums for that show and I’d never played them before,” adds the now permanent drummer, Ben.
The band, due to “other people’s laziness” and “inability to commit” have now remained a visceral duo, although they are clear to make the distinction from several other bands who share the same set-up.
“People used to think we played blues-rock and everyone thinks because we’re a two-piece we sound like The White Stripes,” they frown. In reality, Brown Brogues emit a ferocious surge of forward momentum garage that has more in common with the Coachwhip’s confrontational – but laced with pop songs – style, or the gritty gnarl of The Cramps than anything particularly blues orientated.
They clearly know how to have fun too, both off and on stage, which is something that lustres through most when speaking to them.
“Fun has always got to be the priority when playing,” says Mark, “and people pick up on it when it’s not…We like to play house parties in tight spaces where people are drunk and dance around. Everyone is too cool in Manchester – they never dance, they just stand around on Twitter.”
A look at their new video for ‘Treet U Beta’ will serve testament to their lust for fun, as it sees them sit in a corner of a Wigan working mans club downing an ungodly amount of rum and black before going on a staggering rampage through the club, kissing one another in front of bewildered looking punters, kissing the punters themselves and tearing up the dance floor, as only you can in a working man’s club, in front of a compere.
“We didn’t want to take the piss,” explains Mark. “That wasn’t our intention; just for it to be fun.”
Surely the kissing must have drawn a bit of attention?
“I think we just did it quickly and got away with it,” says Ben.
“The compere did have a word with me though,” adds Mark. “He sent out two bouncers and they said, ‘He wants a word with you’, so he sat us down and asked what we were doing and I explained we were a band making a video. He warned us off his stage stating, ‘That’s my stage, keep off it’, and demanded royalties if any of his songs were used in the video. I was like, ‘mate, you’re singing covers! They’re other people’s songs!’”
Perhaps America will be more receptive to a kiss and a dance to the skeletal drums and mega-phone cracked vocals of Mark and Ben. The band’s debut stateside tour (before a debut UK tour, no less) is fast approaching.
“We’re sorting shows at the minute,” says Mark. “We’ve got some in New York and Chicago then we go over to SXSW and play a bunch there.”
“It was total luck really,” says Ben. “We had been planning to travel to the US anyway, but all the timings just fitted in perfectly.”
And does the trip hold any expectations?
Mark ponders for a second. “We think, or hope, it will be more open and friendly than Manchester,” he says. “People seem to open up a bit more over there I think, be less self-aware.”
“A bit more of a community, I guess,” adds Ben. “I think we should go down okay.”
“Less people on Twitter!” quips Mark.
The riotous output and minimal set up the band possess leads me to think that this may be the kind of band who are content to set up anywhere and everywhere to play a show. Weeklong street party SXSW particularly seems made for them.
“Definitely,” they both nod in solid agreement.
“I actually used to bring a second amp with me, so I could run a guitar through one and my vocals through the other,” says Mark. “It meant we could set up and play anywhere. But I got sick of carrying two amps around.”
While playing noisy garage with no bottom end is perhaps not the most refreshing thing you’ve heard, Brown Brogues good humour is. It’s what makes them so enticing – confident but not arrogant, sure but without egos, which is more than can be said about new Slough hotheads and general morons Brother who got a bit of a kicking all round during this interview. “Have all we done is give you vague answers and slag people off?” asks Mark at the end of the interview.
In many senses Brown Brogues seem to embody the spirit and essence of the very certain genre they work within, so catching them in an environment that has bred and nurtured some of the greatest will no doubt be explosive and unmissable. If you’re going to Austin this March, seek them out, otherwise just look for the nearest workingmen’s club.
By Daniel Dylan Wray
Originally published in issue 25 (vol 3) of Loud And Quiet. February 2011