Prior to their Feb. 12 concert at The Vanguard (222 N. Main St.), vocalist James Lockhart and drummer Corey Dill of New-York-by-way-of-Arkansas-based indie rock band Brother Moses spoke with us about self-releasing, New York logistics and their dream sets. Be on the lookout for the new record, “Desperation Pop,” dropping March 6.
Is it easier to be self-releasing? Not easier, that’s the wrong word. Is it more freeing? Is it better for the creative process?
Lockhart: Oh, yeah. I remember ... not to mince words, we got dropped by the label that we were on[.] I think enough time has gone by now where we can talk about this. We sent them the album “Magnolia,” and the release that they had already put out with us had been recorded. They found us after we recorded it, and so everything was done. They didn’t have to pay for anything. And they were like, “Yeah, this is great. We’ll put it out.” And then they signed us to make a record for them — for them to put out — and then they gave us a portion of the money it costs to make it to help us, and then we went and made it, and then we gave it to them. And they were like, “Never mind, you have to give us the money back.” [Laughs.]
That wasn’t nice to go through, but that feeling lasted about 30 minutes, and then there was this feeling of like, “Oh, this means we get to do whatever we want now. And we can put this out. Yeah, we can put this out whatever day we want. We can release it tomorrow if we wanted to.”
You see so many artists now that are getting really big from self-releasing. The first that comes to mind for me is Car Seat Headrest, who kind of made Bandcamp the site to do that, and it’s not a bad place to be, so that’s really great that you all are enjoying it.
Lockhart: Definitely. And I think the same way that his stuff had like an organic spread through Bandcamp; it’s been cool to see that happen on Spotify for us without much backing. ... The algorithm will be kind to us and kind of spread us around, and people show up to shows and they’re like, “Yeah, you just came up in my Discover Weekly.”
So, the new record: “Desperation Pop.” I’m wondering if that name is something you all are relating to pretty strongly.
Dill: Yeah, I think when James brought that name to the table, it really resonated with all of us. And I think it’s the perfect way to describe kind of this intersection that we’re at, which is this art, the music that we love making, that we have loved making and this new kind of intensity, this new pressure that we’ve basically put on ourselves by moving to New York. And now we’re in this, you know, high stress city; that’s part of it, but more so, like, we left all of these things — basically everything that we that we knew and loved in Arkansas — to move here and basically take our shot. So, there’s just this pressure, now that we’re here, trying to take our shot, that we actually nail it. So, I think that’s part of it.
Lockhart: think what I really liked about it was the tension between those things Corey’s talking about: how just those two words put next to each other are kind of, you know, they’re a foil to each other. Desperation and pop. You immediately kind of feel this tension. ... Well, we’re we’re just constantly trying to find ways to make the songs fold in on themselves and explode out of themselves and stuff like that. So, it kind of worked on a dual level of accurately describing the themes and the arrangement at the same time. We’re really excited by that.
What’s the brother Moses Story going from Arkansas to New York?
Lockhart: We were students at the University of Arkansas, and we were really-fortunate-slash-really-good at convincing as many of our friends as possible to come to the shows that we were playing early on. And then we just saw it kind of grow really quickly within the Fayetteville scene and our shows all of a sudden got really big there between like 2014 and 2016 and went from, like, 50 people to 400 people, and we were like, “This is crazy.”
And I think it’s still the little bit of an insane idea in us that was, you know, “What if we took this show not only on the road, but, like, what if we picked it up and moved it somewhere else? What can happen then?” Because it really felt like a lot of things got accomplished in a short amount of time. …
I think all of us were just kind of wanting a new scene, and we toured through New York several times, and really the key was convincing Corey to join the band and convincing him to make the move. Yeah. Once Corey was in we were like, “Okay, we actually have to do this now.” [Laughs.]
Do you have advice for like any fledgling musicians from Fayetteville or otherwise who might be wanting to do the same thing you all are doing and make that leap of faith?
Lockhart: [Laughs.] I would almost say don’t do it. I would say don’t take anything for granted that you have in your current situation.
Dill: Yeah, I think that’s a really good way to put it, like, especially as a band being in New York, renting a center to practice is a logistical nightmare. We have to pay for practice space, and we’re all in different corners of this giant city and we often meet up at one location … I remember having to drive to practice 20 minutes in Arkansas was like, “Aw, this is dumb.” [Laughs.] … I wouldn’t want to do this as a brand new band that’s just trying to write our first project or something like that.
You all are on a grind, right? Is it cool to call it that?
Lockhart: Sure. Yeah, definitely. [Laughs.]
Dill: Yeah, definitely fair to say that.
What makes that grind worth it? What makes you get up every day and say, “Time to grind some more”?
Dill: I feel like there’s so much excitement with everything that’s happening, and we’re getting to work with people that we really enjoy being around and things like that. I think that helps a lot. Like obviously the band — if we didn’t love each other, we would have killed each other by now. So, there’s that. But then we’re also kind of starting to bring more people on board that we are just really clicking with and really would just be friends with anyway, but then also they’re in our corner and they’re trying to help us on this adventure. So, I think that’s a big part of it: just having your squad around you, and just getting to work alongside them to accomplish this goal.
Lockhart: Also the tour. Like, the grind of touring is constantly rewarded by such small, little things[.]
You’ve got an intermission on “Desperation Pop” that’s just titled “(Goldblum)” in which Jeff Goldblum — I assume it’s the man himself — tells the listeners to listen to Brother Moses.
Lockhart: He thanks them. Yeah.
Yeah. So, there’s a story there, I’m sure.
Lockhart: We were making that EP, “Legends,” in LA, and we went to a jazz club to watch Jeff Goldblum play one night when we were done recording, because he has a jazz, little, mini orchestra that he plays it. And it’s absolutely incredible.
He’s a really, really good pianist. It was a really fun time. He was gregarious, he was walking around in the crowd kind of doing crowd work throughout the show. We were sitting really close to him and just kind of began to form a rapport, and then after his set, he immediately just comes offstage and starts talking to us.
We told them we’re in LA making a record, and we kind of joked with him that he should come back to the studio with us and play some stuff on the record, to which, he just responded, “You know, if you want me to say something right now, you can record me saying something if you want.”
What year was that?
Lockhart: October 2015.
What’s your dream tour? Who would you love to open for, or who would you love to open for you or play back-to-back sets with? Big or small, any names?
Dill: I think if Vampire Weekend was opening for us, that would be pretty tight. [Laughs.]
Lockhart: That’s perfect. [Laughs.] Let’s say we’re second of three, so a band is playing before us, and then a massive band is playing at the end. I think we definitely have our friends Rock Eupora play first. They’re a band from Nashville. They’re friends of ours, and they are just the most bonkers live band you’ve ever seen. … It’s consistently inspiring, and I think it’s the best way to start any night.
And then I think we would play, and it would be nice if people would like it. And then lastly, I don’t know, there’s so many wish-list bands for us. One of my one of my favorite bands of all times is The National, and I think they would be the perfect headline on that tour. I think the combination of the three frontmen just giving all the manic energy they can possess into one show would be worth whatever the ticket price would be, if that’s the lineup. That’s my that’s my dream tour, option one.
Dill: I don’t know how we would mesh honestly, but it’d be great to have Death Cab [for Cutie] be the big one, just so I can watch Jason McGerr play drums every night. That’d be sick. And then we’re second; we’re right before them. Maybe for a Death Cab set, maybe we have this band from Jersey that we love — that actually James lived with for a while — named ManDancing. I think we would have them play first. I feel like that bill would be pretty sick.
What’s in the future for Brother Moses?
Lockhart: Well, in personal news, two of our members are getting married this summer: myself and Moses [Gomez], one of our guitar players. I think we’re really looking forward to making some adult music. No, I’m kidding. [Laughs.]
I don’t know! I think we’re already kind of talking about dream scenarios, in terms of crafting the next record, and I think we want the next thing we make to be, like, a grand masterpiece. Like, this was a really fun project to pour some intense creative energy into and try to make a concise, hard-hitting, half-hour, little punch of a record. And from what we’ve talked about so far, I think what we’re aiming for in the future.
You mentioned Car Seat Headrest. Like that record “Twin Fantasy”: just something like that. Something sprawling and beautiful and complicated, and something you can point to and be like, “We gave that everything.” I think that’s what the next thing will be.
And drive until we die, probably. [Laughs.] That seems to be what we do: drive our faces off.