bill bodkin interviews the surf rock band as they prepare to perform at pop-break’s shipwrecked at the shore music showcase on thursday april 26…
It’s going to be hard not to wander in the realm of hyperbole when it comes to The Brigantines. The Jersey Shore born and based surf-pop band is fresh, dynamic and utterly captivating. Their wonderfully melodic, enchanting and fun take on the music popularized by The Beach Boys, Dick Dale and Jan & Dean shouldn’t make sense in today’s music scene — but for some reason it just so perfectly does. Yes, being based out of the Jersey Shore, playing venues that are steps away from the beach makes their music a perfect choice for a soundtrack to anyone’s summer yet, their sound isn’t just perfect for cities by the sea — it’s right for any playlist, any city, any venue. The Brigantines have this underlying sense of British influence — subtle hints of The Smiths give The Brigantines’ sound a complexity, a uniqueness, it’s not just straight up surfin’ USA, it’s more than that and it’s just a wonderful thing to experience.
And that’s why Pop-Break is working with the band on their next Shipwrecked at the Shore Music Showcase on Thursday April 26th at The Wonder Bar. We want to bring a band, still relatively new to the area, to the rock ‘n’ roll city by the sea and unleash them on the masses. Basically if The Brigantines were The Kraken, we’d be releasing them. We’re not doing any of them, we’re just giving these dudes the stage; they’re going to be the ones blowing your minds.
Pop-Break recently spoke with Vincent Minervino and Aaron Leonovich about the band, surf music, hot summer nights in the city and Asbury Park.
Pop-Break: You guys are pretty new in the scene, so let’s start off with a couple of lay-up questions — first, how did you guys come together as a band?
Vincent Minervino: We have all been friends for years and music is the strongest thread that ties us all together. Last year was very self-reflective for me. I made decisions to leave some projects behind that just didn’t feel right and make time and space for some new ideas to grow. We spent lots of time at the beach last year, just having a blast in the sun — and the inspiration just came. We actually weren’t trying to put a band together at all – just had the idea one day and it felt right. We sent a few silly song ideas back and forth and those eventually became the songs on the first EP.
PB: Give us a little background on the name.
Aaron Leonovich: We wanted name that captures the essence of the music we play, with some sort of geographic reference to New Jersey. We searched a map of looking for cities along the shore that might fit. Brigantine, N.J. turned into The Brigantines and it grew on us!
PB: Surf music isn’t exactly a genre of music you see a lot of bands playing today — why decide to form a band that produces this type of music?
AL: As a kid, I used to listen to my Dad’s surf records — The Beach Boys, The Ventures, etc. The great thing about The Beach Boys is that while growing up in California, Brian Wilson was surrounded by surf culture — which was really breaking in the early 60′s — while also listening to other pop music of the time, like Chuck Berry and bands produced by Phil Spector like The Ronettes and The Crystals. He fused the pop music of the time with the surf-craze and created something very original. So you could say that we’re doing exactly the same thing! Surf music has its roots in rock ‘n’ roll and rockabilly and we are blending pop music with surf and its original roots. I think as with other music genres, the influence comes back around after a few decades and we’re seeing that now. We like to think that we’re a part of the third wave of surf influenced music. There’s more out there if you listen for it.
PB: Talk about some of your musical influences.
VM: When we’re en route to the beach, we always put on our favorite surf albums to set the vibe — The Beach Boys, The Lively Ones, The Centurions, The Ventures, and The Challengers are a few of our favorites. Chris Isaak is a regular spin on our trips back home. Aaron and I are both really into Brit-Pop — everything from The Kinks and The Jam, The Smiths and Echo & The Bunnymen, to newer bands like The Vaccines and The Courteeners. Scott is big into Reggae, and we all have roots in punk, post-hardcore and indie rock.
PB: In your bio you say ‘This past summer (2011), we spent our days taking the “White Whale” (Aaron’s ’75 Caprice convertible) down the Jersey Shore and our nights under the marquees of New York City. We decided to put our experiences into song.’ Can you talk about these experiences and how they influenced the sound and style of The Brigantines.
VM: Last summer, we were spending the day at the Asbury Park Beach. Aaron and [guitarist] Scott [Saint Hilaire] were in the water and I came out a little later, wearing my Ray-Bans. They were giving me shit, saying I was going to lose them in a wave. A light bulb went off in my head that it would be hilarious to write a song about losing your Ray-Bans at the beach, going to the extent of asking the lifeguard for help, putting up missing signs, etc. We went back and wrote out the lyrics to what became ‘Ray-Bans.’ We actually made signs for the missing Ray-Bans and put them up around the shore. We got a few funny phone calls!
‘Verity’ is about a beautiful British girl that Aaron met at a rock show in New York one summer night. They hung out a few times, and the lyrics are basically what he said to her the night before she left. The line, ‘We could go to Asbury’ is just a invitation for her to stay and a be a part of our lives.
Most of our other songs were written in similar ways — some random event that sparks a hook idea. For the most part, the songs are full of jokes between us all. Which is what makes it so much fun.
PB: Talk about the recording of your EP — the sound is absolutely amazing, as if it were recorded in the highest end studio imaginable, but in reality it was recorded in a basement. How did you guys get such a sweet sound and if you could talk a little bit about the actual recording of the album.
VM: I think the simplicity of that recording is what makes it great. We just put mics up, picked tones we loved and hit record. The arrangements are simple — very few layers — exactly how we would play them live. The drum tracks were recorded with only three mics. Guitars and bass were all pretty much one take. Vocals were recorded with an SM58.
We had actually never even played those songs together as a band before recording them. They were all just ideas in our head. Once the drum tracks went down, we just built the songs on top and they came alive. It was an amazing experience.
PB: People can check our EP — Next Summer on Bandcamp — if you were to pick a song off the EP that perfectly captures the spirit and essence of The Brigantines sound — which would it be and why?
VM: If I had to choose, I’d say the title track, ‘Next Summer.’ It was the first song we wrote and It captures the vibe perfectly — upbeat, slightly melancholy, has some silly moments, and tells a story about falling in love at the shore.
PB: Talk about your first show in December 2011 at The V Lounge at Verve in Somerville, N.J. — any nerves going into it?
VM: Honestly, there’s always nerves. But, we set it up so it would be a super intimate gig and invited all of our close friends. It was a packed house with a great vibe. Halfway into the first song, the nerves were gone. It was a blast.
PB: How’s the reception to the band’s sound been since you first came onto the scene?
VM: We released Next Summer last September. We knew it was late in the summer season, but we couldn’t wait to get it out. The title almost acknowledges that we knew people wouldn’t hear it for a while. We sent it out to a bunch of people, and the response was positive, but not many bites for write-ups or gigs. Interestingly, as soon as the weather started getting nice this year, things started to pick up. Our friends have been amazingly supportive, and we’ve made lots of new ones lately.
PB: You guys are playing our Shipwrecked at the Shore showcase Thursday, what are your thoughts about the Asbury Park music scene and to complicate that question — the Jersey Shore music scene in general?
VM: I can’t tell you how much we are looking forward to this show. Dub Proof and Wakah Chan both have so much vibe and the Wonder Bar is the perfect setting! Hopefully some of the dogs from Yappy Hour stick around for the show.
No but seriously, Asbury Park is an amazing place. The sense of community and level of support among artists is electrifying. Everyone we’ve met through the band has been instantly supportive. We’re excited to be a part of it.
PB: What are your plans for the rest of 2012?
VM: We have a few cool gigs coming up: May 10 we are playing ‘Barrels and Brews’ surf night at Langosta Lounge in Asbury, May 5 we have a Cinco de Mayo Surf Party at Roxy & Dukes in Dunellen, May 28th we are playing a Memorial Day bash at The Press Room in Asbury, and June 9 we’re doing LBI fest. We’re looking to play out as much as possible this summer!
Also, we are headed back into the basement next month to record a few more songs, including a few cool covers. We’re going to compile everything we’ve recorded for a full-length CD release entitled Vacation! in June or July.
Thanks to Bill and Pop-Break for the chat and to everyone for reading! See you soon! x
The Brigantines will be performing at Pop-Break’s Shipwrecked at The Shore Music Showcase on Thursday April 26th along with Wakah Chan and Dub Proof at The Wonder Bar in Asbury Park, N.J. Tickets are $5, doors open at 8pm.