Seattle rock outfit Brad has only released two albums since its 1992 inception, but the act's members haven't exactly been idle. Guitarist Stone Gossard has spent the decade topping the charts and tou
Seattle rock outfit Brad has only released two albums since its 1992 inception, but the act's members haven't exactly been idle. Guitarist Stone Gossard has spent the decade topping the charts and touring the world with Pearl Jam, while vocalist/keyboardist Shawn Smith and drummer Regan Hagar have churned out two albums for Epic as part of the band Satchel. In tandem with producer Steve Fisk, Smith also issued a series of releases for Sub Pop as part of the duo Pigeonhed.
But for all parties, Brad (which also features bassist Mike Berg) has now been moved to the front burner. After 1993's "Shame" and 1997's "Interiors" for Epic, the band is seeking a new label deal for its in-progress third album, material for which has been shaped by 20 days of recording and a handful of recent live shows.
Initial sessions in spring 2001 at Gossard's Studio Litho in Seattle yielded more than a dozen songs, highlighted by Smith's gorgeous, soul-infused melodies on such tracks as "Shining," "Yesterday's Gone," and "Takin' It Easy." Hagar wrote the music and yielded drum duties to Gossard on the edgy "Revolution," which nods to the more groove-rooted rock that Gossard has fashioned in Pearl Jam.
A three-night club showcase last September in Seattle and a five-show West Coast run in November enabled Brad to fine tune the new material and road test songs written since the first round of recording. The addition of multi-instrumentalist Thaddeus Turner and percussionist Elizabeth Pupo-Walker at the West Coast shows "was a real thrill and a real energizing aspect," according to Gossard, who says he hopes both musicians will participate in the next batch of studio sessions.
"After playing some of these songs live, we thought, 'Wow, we can actually play these better now than we could when we recorded them,'" Gossard says. To bottle the energy of those shows, Smith says the group "may even record at our rehearsal space. We're trying to figure out a way to capture some of the stuff that was so good live. We want to present a few of the songs that way."
Since Gossard and Smith are always writing songs, how do they choose which compositions to work up for one of their various projects? "For the most part, I just kind of sit down and strum until something good happens," Gossard says. "Then I put it onto a tape, and if I happen to be making something with Brad or with Pearl Jam, or just recording my own songs for the hell of it, it will sort of make a stand there, or someone else will hear a demo of it and want to do it later."
"I don't think that far ahead. I don't think about it," Smith says with a chuckle. "Any song can switch around or fit with anything I'm doing. Songs are just a framework and you just do whatever you do with it."
One interesting byproduct of the Brad collaboration has been Smith's adjustment to singing lyrics written by his bandmates. "Not that everything I say has to be something I've done, but one song on 'Interiors' was about skiing, and I've never skied in my life," Smith says. "It was Stone's experience, and for whatever reason I felt funny." But on the new album, Smith notes that he "did sing one song called 'Sheepish' with [Stone's] lyrics and it turned out great. It's a really, really good song."
And although being label-less is not something to which the group's members are accustomed, Smith says the situation has made a positive influence on the material. "When we made ['Interiors'], there was a feeling that it needed to be 'produced,'" he says. "More takes, and trying to make things perfect."
Gossard and Smith both say they are looking forward to touring, aiming for a summer trek that would encompass North America and Europe. Next month, Gossard will rejoin Pearl Jam to begin work on the group's seventh Epic studio album. Smith says he hopes to re-release his 1999 Internet-only solo album, "Let It All Begin," and finish up a new Pigeonhead record, on which he has been working for two years.
What is it, then, that makes the experience of recording with his Brad bandmates so special? "Everyone loves to play music from the heart," Gossard says. "They're old friends who I love, you know? I find it very comforting and very enjoyable to spend time for these guys."