February 2011 - THE BROUGHT LOW
With their third album, which is appropriately named 'Third Record', New York City-based power trio THE BROUGHT LOW proved again that they belong to the crème de la crème of today's classic hard rock bands. Here, everything is about the art of writing songs that will be long remembered. Of course, THE BROUGHT LOW are also able to whip out plenty of ass-kickin', soulful riffs like crazy. The combination of this talents leads to an infectious heavy sound which shows that rock 'n' roll is still alive. 'Third Record' displays a band that has internalised the Delta Blues spirit as well as the high energy rock of Detroit. It's obvious that their songs are not enforced and they radiate an agreeable and natural brightness. Due to this, 'Third Record' is one of my favourites records, which have been released in the last year. It was, therefore, high time to do another interview with lead vocalist and singer Ben Smith. Three years ago, Gideon Smith was kind enough to talk to him and ask questions, which is why I did take the opportunity to do it this time. There were many subjects on the Cosmic Lava agenda, from punk rock to Small Stone Records and more. Now have fun!
Hey Ben, welcome back to Cosmic Lava. The last time it was my friend Gideon Smith, who asked you a couple of questions, but now it's my turn. 2010 is over and I can very well imagine that it was a successful year for THE BROUGHT LOW, because you released your third album via Small Stone Records. How is your personal review of 2010? Did you achieve your goals?
Man, what a great year. We played our biggest show ever opening for Them Crooked Vultures at Roseland in NYC, went on our first real tour in 8 years and put out what we think is our best record to date and just in general had a lot of fun playing and doing the band. It was really great from beginning to end and I'm just thankful for everything that happened.
For me personally, 'Third Record' was one of the highlights this year and I think it's your most elaborated album so far. Furthermore I appreciate the fact that you are not interested in recording the same record over and over. Every album sounds different, but one recognizes immediately that it is THE BROUGHT LOW. What do you think about 'Third Record' and how important is it for you to avoid stagnation and stay inspired?
I think it's the best thing we've done so far, best record I ever played on, without a doubt. As far as not doing the same thing over, we're just always trying to make a better record than the one before and be a better band. I also think the fact that we only put out a new record every 4 or 5 years also means we're usually at a somewhat different place and digging different things than we were when the last record was made and so it comes out in the music. And you know, I definitely don't want to make the same record over and over anyway so I'm glad to hear you say that.
Once again, you have worked together with Small Stone Records. Why is it your preferred label and why did you leave Tee Pee Records after your debut album? Did you face any problems during that period?
You know, Small Stone Records is the label that wants to put out our records. That's pretty much it. Scott who runs it is a friend and a fan of the band and we have a pretty good honest working relationship. He doesn't have any delusions of grandeur which a lot of indie record label guys do. He likes music, he puts it out, he tries to get it licensed so we can all make a little scratch and make another record. What happened with Tee Pee is after the first record came out I got married and had a kid and told them I couldn't tour in the immediate future since I now had to provide for my family and they dropped us. I understood where they were coming but then of course with Tony Tee Pee being a very passionate person he had to force it into a screaming match and we had a falling out for a couple years but it's all water under the bridge and me and him are friends again.
This time you invited Eric Oblander and Dave Unger to participate in the recording of two tracks. How did that come about?
With Eric it's a funny story. There's some pretty bad harmonica playing on our first two records and a couple years ago we played some shows with 5 Horse Johnson and Eric said to me "Next time you want some harmonica on one of your records PLEASE let me do it." So you know, I wasn't going to say no. He's incredible. I wish we could go back and have him redo all the bad harmonica on the other two records. Unger was our producer Andrew Schneider's idea. We wanted some organ on that song and we all dig Dave as a dude, dig his band Cropduster, have known for years so it was a natural fit.
Please tell me more about the lyrics of some of the songs. What is the story behind 'Everybody Loves A Whore' and 'My Favorite Waste Of Time'? How important are lyrics to you?
Lyrics are very important to me and I spend a lot of time on them. I was real psyched when Heavy Slab wanted to print them for the vinyl of 'Third Record' as a lot of work goes into them and I am happy to have them out there. I had the line 'Everybody Loves A Whore' for a few years and was waiting for a chance to use it and as the music came together, which was sort of in a more punk rock style I started singing "I don't care anymore" which seemed to fit the vibe of the song and then was able to use the title line and the rest of the lyrics flowed from there. It's a pretty cynical, bitter song, but like a lot of other Brought Low songs also touches on religion and death. All Brought Low songs are pretty much about either religion, death or New York City. 'My Favorite Waste of Time' is just like a blues about fucking. The feel of the intro dictated where I was going to take the lyrics and I used a lot of blues type metaphors.
How many shows have you played this year? You have already mentioned that you shared the stage with Them Crooked Vultures in New York City. Please, tell me more about that gig and how was the feedback of the crowd?
We played about 30 shows last year. Mostly in NYC but also toured down to Texas through the mid-west and back and did weekend shots up to New England and hit DC and Philly. The Them Crooked Vultures show was amazing. The show was sold out and we probably played to around 3,500 people. The feedback was great, we rocked it though big shows like that are kind of funny. As long as you don't outright suck people are pretty open and receptive to you though they're only really there to see the headliner and once you walk off stage they're sorta forget you were ever there but it was still an incredible show and a great experience.
When will you have a tour in Germany? I can assure you that I'm not the only who would love to see THE BROUGHT LOW on stage...
We would love to come over there. Hook it up. Our only constraint is because we're a little older with things like wives and children and houses we can't go out for long tours but we could probably do a week of shows. We also get a lot of fan interest from Spain so we're always talking about getting over there as well.
The band started in 1999. What were the highlights and lowlights during this time? Were there moments when you were pissed off by the rock 'n' roll circus?
Well within a year of the first record coming out our first bassist quit, my Dad died, we got dropped by Tee Pee and I was unemployed and about to become a Father. Things were looking pretty bleak and that was a pretty dark time but for whatever stupid reason I just kept doing it. It's not like it's ever been a money maker or hugely successful though we're certainly accomplished a lot and have some great dedicated fans who make it worthwhile to drive a thousand miles for 1 show and a case of beer. No matter what I'm happier playing music than not so as long as I can find people to put out my records and clubs that want us to play I'll keep doing it. It's always been about the music for me, not the money, or the girls, or the drugs or whatever other myths you were told about playing in a rock n'roll band growing up.
You have had a second guitarist for awhile, before you went back to being a power trio. Why do you prefer this kind of lineup?
I think with a 3 piece everyone needs to be on the top of their game and I enjoy the challenge. My guitar playing went to shit when we had a second guitarist. I find trios more dynamic and you can actually bring it down a notch and then build it back up. With 2 guitars, playing music like ours, everything tends to get really loud and it's always at 11, which can be really powerful but also a total mess. And trios are just kind of cool and badass. ZZ Top, Motorhead, The Minutemen, Mountain, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Dixie Witch, that's some good company right there.
In your last interview with Cosmic Lava you've talked about your fondness for old hardcore punk bands as, for example, Black Flag or Adolescents. Due to the reason that I was part of the local punk scene from 1982 to 1988, I was very pleased to read about that. What is it about punk rock that fascinates you and are there any European punk bands that you like? Have you been involved in the scene?
That stuff was pretty hard to avoid growing up in New York City in the 80s. I'm from the same part of Queens as the Ramones and Reagan Youth and the New York Hardcore stuff was huge when I was a teenager. I was a hardcore kid, spent many an afternoon at the CB's matinees, wrote for zines, helped put on shows, the whole bit. I loved that it was this whole sort of alternate world with its own culture and rules and history. But you know, the most important thing is the music. I got to punk rock and hardcore because I had already digested all the classic rock stuff and I wanted more. Some reason I started listening to blues or dub or country, you know, what else ya got, I'm still hungry. My preference is for the American and English stuff though I dig some European punk and hardcore as well such as The Kids from Belgium, Little Bob Story from France, Raw Power and Wretched from Italy, and Rattus and Terveet Kadet from Finland.
What do you think is the reason that a some of the old punks are interested in music genres such as classic rock, heavy rock and doom metal?
It's just all good, loud, rowdy, electric guitar music. It goes back to the blues. You can trace a line from Muddy Waters to The Rolling Stones to The Stooges to Ramones to Black Flag and back again ya know. And, at least in America, a lot of the guys who were hardcore kids in the 1980s grew up on hard rock and metal. As you get older you go back to the stuff you grew up on. It's funny, I meet a lot of guys in the stoner rock scene that were hardcore kids back in the day and we always have a laugh talking about all the bands and crazy shit we saw back then. And you know, it's all just good music. When I was into hardcore I never sold my classic rock records and likewise when I started growing my hair out and playing hard rock I didn't get rid of my hardcore records. It's all a part of me.
What are you doing when you don't spend your time with the band? Do you have any other interests?
Sure, doesn't everyone? I enjoy doing all the normal human existence type shit. Spend time with the family, enjoy good fine and drink. I like reading books about history. I enjoy sports though try not to get too wrapped up in it as I have a propensity to yell at the television and throw the remote control. I also spend a lot of time listening to music, looking for records, reading about bands and geeking on guitar shit, all the regular things a rock ass dude like myself would be into.
What are your plans for 2011? What can we expect from THE BROUGHT LOW?
We're supposed to record a digital EP for Coextinction which is a new digital record label run by 'Third Record' producer Andrew Schneider, Dave and Chris from Unsane and Jim from The Players Club. We're still working out the details on that right now. It'll be a 3 song EP. Dave, Andrew and Jimmy also play in a great new band called Pigs, which Bob from Brought Low was the original bass player for and we're talking about doing a collaborative EP with them we refer to as The Pig Low.
Well, that`s it for today, if you`ve got anything in closing to say to the readers of Cosmic Lava, now would be the time to do it... For my part, I would like to thank you for your time and interest in answering my questions.
You are very welcome kind sir and thank you for the opportunity to talk shit about myself and my band. And I'd also like to say thank you to everyone who has written us and supported The Brought Low in one way or another through the years. I'm continually amazed and thankful to still be able to do any of this. It is one of the joys of my life and I couldn't do it without the support of our families, friends and fans.