The music of California–based folk rock group The Brevet can accurately be summed up in a single word: “American.”
I’m not talking about the cheap and clichéd version of American that rasps about losing dogs, girlfriends, and trucks. I’m talking about the energetic, cinematic, anthemic, slightly gritty, always powerful version of American—the intelligent and much-better-looking cousin of country-pop music. I’m talking about Americana. (Apparently that one letter at the end makes all the difference.)
The Brevet represents Americana—and thus American—music at its finest.
We caught up with The Brevet’s lead singer, Aric Chase Damm, for a conversation about the band’s history and historical inspirations. Enjoy!
Ethan Weitz: Give me a little bit of background on you guys as a band. How did you get started and how would you describe yourselves?
Aric Chase Damm: Our pianist Michael Jones and I were childhood friends. Right when we started picking up musical instruments around 7th grade, we started jamming and writing stuff together. Then I went to college for acting, and Michael and I actually scored all of the little student films that I was in when I was in. So that’s where we developed kind of the more cinematic larger than life sounds. And The Brevet grew from there.
Ethan: Who or what would you say are some of your biggest influences as far as both music and lyrics go?
Aric: Our music is definitely inspired by a lot of film scores—that kind of sweeping, big, building sound that evokes so much motion. As far lyrics go, we’re inspired a lot by my grandfather’s generation, the greatest generation, the WWII generation. My grandfather inspired me to write things differently, thinking about that world. So we’ve got a lot about hope, a lot about love, a lot about overcoming challenges and battles—all stemming from that.
Ethan: So you guys just released an EP, Embers, which is the second in a three-part series, right?
Aric: Yeah, and it’s just kind of tracked our evolution as a band. As we grow, we put out new stuff and keep progressing. It’s a fun thing for us to do, and I think it helps us develop as a band.
Originally we wrote this album called American Novel and we had chapters for it. But we decided to scrap certain ideas about that and create more of a tale as we released little bite-sized things, these chapters that people can spend more time with as opposed to just a full-length album.
“My grandfather inspired me to write things differently.”
—Aric Chase Damm
Ethan: Is there a specific theme behind the EPs?
Aric: In the EPs there are lots of overtones of hope, love, different things. I think Embers is cool for us because we kind of flexed our muscles a little more and we tried new things, especially with the title track. We tried to think outside of the box and develop ourselves as a band.
Emily Cardé: What is your favorite track from the new EP?
Aric: Oh man, I would probably say “Embers.” It exemplifies how we are writing songs right now. We produce and mix and master everything, and that’s a feat for us with that song. And I think it felt like an evolution and a growth to us, when we wrote that song and recorded it and had the finished product.
Ethan: What would you say is the most rewarding aspect of creating music?
Aric: That’s a tough one. I would say for me it would probably be the recording process. We have an interesting way of how we write and record. We have the luxury of having our own studio, so we’ll record bits and pieces and listen to it for a while, go back take it out, change it—whatever we want to do. So that process of figuring out what the actual song is as we’re recording it is the coolest thing, to me. It’s the most rewarding thing when you actually have a finished product and it’s not really the way you expected or thought, and you can see how it changed through the process.
Ethan: So on the flipside, what would say is the most challenging or the hardest part?
Aric: Man, I would say just flying out to all of these shows. We’ve been doing really great. We’ve been booking a lot of shows on the East Coast—music festivals and summer festivals. And I think the most challenging thing is finding a way to make it financially successful.
Emily: If you had a message that you most want to communicate to your audience, what would it be?
Aric: You know, I think one of our songs that really sits pretty close to my heart is “Hold On.” I wrote that song when I was contemplating the career that I’ve chosen. You know it’s a difficult music industry and I think everyone kind of goes through those challenges of debating and doubting yourself and doubting certain aspects of your life, and that’s what the line “please hold on to me” means. A lot of people think it’s a romantic line, but it’s really not. It’s about holding on to the pieces that make you you. Do what you love doing, regardless—you may not have financial success at the moment, but at the end of the day when you look back when you’re 50 or 60, did you do what you wanted to do? I think that’s probably the biggest message we send as a band: do what you’re passionate about and go for it.
Ethan: If you had to pick one moment or one experience—it could be an event or show or whatever—that is most memorable to you from your time with this band, what would it be?
Aric: I would say from a show experience, we opened for The Airborne Toxic Event about a year ago and it turned out to be this sold out show with like the most die-hard fans. When we walked on stage, the audience didn’t even know there was even an opener. So we had the challenge of seeing these people that don’t want you on stage—they want their bands that they love and cherish—and we had the challenge of winning them over. And that’s what we did. We have fans from that show that keep going to all of our shows and it’s really rewarding. I think that’s the coolest thing we’ve done.
Photo courtesy of Maria Gabriela Gironas.