Portland, United States
It's a ridiculous thing to do in a recession—quit your job, start a band, go out on the road. But that's exactly what Portland's Nick Drum and Jon McNeill did. The former was a young lawyer working his way up the ladder through endless hours; the latter an ethnographer whiling away his days on product research far from home. They felt themselves settling, their freedom slipping, so when the pair finally met, they knew what they had to do. From a single jam session, Brave Chandeliers was born—a power-pop and soul-fueled answer to the nine-to-five grind ringing with heartfelt sentiment and optimism.
What began as a couple of fast friends playing cover songs—"Tempted" by Squeeze and "I Get Lifted" by George McCrae—quickly evolved into the piano-driven, hook-laden Brave Chandeliers of today: Nick on vocals and keys and Jon on guitar, plus bassist Cary Samsel and drummer Nathan Powell (tour-tested players for bluesman Terry Evans). In a sense, the band's founders had waited all their lives for this. Nick developed his voice in choir, and began piano lessons at 8 with a teacher who didn't quash his ability to improvise. Jon had instruction too, but taught himself guitar by memorizing the tabs to Siamese Dream.
It seemed significant that their first practice took place on the day of the TARP bailout. While the nation set out to fix itself, so did the men of Brave Chandeliers with a new outlook attested to by the poignant words of "Madmen," an early standout: "I can read the headlines / I know all the hard times / I'd rather take a slow night / Where you and me can get out of here / out from under the fear / and follow our lives." That romanticism couched in reality colored the band's self-released debut EP, Put Away the Camera, and helped secure them a seven-week tour around the U.S.
Brave Chandeliers' brand new album, 11 Escapes, finds the fresh-faced group already coming into their own. After locking themselves into rehearsal for two weeks, they repaired to KBC Studios, situated in a gorgeous old remodel in northeast Portland. With producer Jeremy Sherrer (Hockey, Dandy Warhols, the Gossip) at the helm, they recorded live to two-inch tape, everyone playing at once. In the parlor was a grand piano you can nearly picture as the rich notes ring out. Songs like "Sinking Ship" deliver propulsive pop à la Maroon 5, while the fuzzy raucousness of "Escape" evokes Arctic Monkeys and the upbeat jaunt of "Deep End" Ben Folds—others who put songwriting above all else.
As its title would suggest, 11 Escapes offers as many angles on the concept of breaking away. Each song acts as a window into one room, or one life, in contemporary America. "Say It's Alright" is told from the view of a repentant cheater. "Bumpy Ride" is about overcoming of a rut. "Life In Motion" takes stock of those things we simply cannot avoid: entropy, aging, time. "Viral" is about falling head over heels in love. And of course, it's deeply personal too. After all, 11 Escapes is the very document that proves that Brave Chandeliers, happily, are the ones who got away.