The Brookyn-based hypnotic band explores the human side of psychedelia.
"Complexity isn't necessarily an indicator of growth."
Martin Crane of Brooklyn rock-pop project Brazos is finding time to explain his latest record in Nashville after enduring a snowstorm on tour. It's funny when Crane makes this pronouncement, as his music — much like the bedroom pop dominating the indie scene these days — has taken on more fascinating arrangements and production tricks as Brazos has developed since 2007. Saltwater, Brazos' most recent record and first with its current three-piece lineup is partially influenced by psychedelic acts of the '70s like Can that championed a "repetitive" sound, Crane says. Brazos will bring its hypnotic act to Circle Bar on Thursday.
Crane cares about creating textures backed by interesting arrangements while mastering the trance-like qualities of his psychedelic influences, but at the heart of Brazos is something simple, he explains: pop music. "Expansive pop," to be exact - a term turns up throughout Brazos' bio and press write-ups. "I think that's a good identifier," Crane says. "Everything, all of our songs, are at their heart verse-chorus." That desire doesn't dwell in the modern pop mold, which Crane recognizes as electronic and R&B-influenced. Pop for Crane is an old-school mindset, with live instrumentation as a defining element.
Such an easy-going outlook is quickly apparent on Saltwater, at times a romping record that builds wonderfully off of simple, repeating grooves. There are moments that evoke current indie peers like Deerhunter and the War on Drugs, who take simple arrangements into orbit by way of psychedelia. Brazos finds that sweet spot as well, crafting organically rich but deceivingly intoxicating tracks. That brings Crane back to that repetitive sound. "For a while, i was listening to a lot of hypnotic, kind of meditative stuff that went on," he says. "I wanted to make pop songs that are like that, that had the same kind of energy. Long songs, long stretches where they cycle, but while at the same time having verse-chorus."
That wasn't an easy task, especially with new additions Spencer Zahn (bass) and Ian Chang (drums) joining for the Saltwater recording sessions. Crane says he was still in the driver's seat while recording, but he's learned how to open up to his bandmates' vision. "Music is relationships between people," Crane says. He's already back at work with his bandmates for a new record, and it's more of a team effort this time. The music is no longer limited to his influences, but the trio's. "It's different, there's more space, pacing is quicker. The sounds are definitely coming from another place," Crane says.
While complexity is still on his mind, as Crane repeatedly tosses around words like "texture" when explaining his current and new material, he's remaining grounded. "From a songwriter standpoint, the way you sing, the way you phrase things, these things are kind of innate." Crane's affinity for hypnotics may be a red herring, as his humanity shines through each of Brazos' spellbinding tracks by way of indelible pop grooves.