Keep Talented People Here: BACE Hosts Brave Baby Electric Friends Release at Charleston Music Hall

Keep Talented People Here: BACE Hosts Brave Baby Electric Friends Release at Charleston Music Hall

Brave Baby performed an early album release show for their Electric Friends LP with SUSTO and The High-Divers at the Charleston Music Hall on May 9. The event was sponsored by BACE League of Charleston, an organization that aims to align local policy with creative culture.

Indie-pop group Brave Baby played an early album release show for Electric Friends with openers SUSTO and The High Divers exclusively for Charleston residents on Saturday, May 9 at the Charleston Music Hall in conjunction with BACE League of Charleston, Inc.  

BACE is an organization that aims to "keep talented people here," an inclusive mantra that emphasizes the intersection of the arts and local government to usher in Charleston's neo-renaissance for creatives who want to sustain a career in the Lowcountry. At the show, BACE featured a voter registration drive through the Charleston County Board of Elections & Voter Registration to encourage young, creative professionals to get involved in local policy and also hosted local charity CHARM (Charleston Health Alliance for Regional Musicians), a program of "This is Noteworthy" (a spinoff of The Music Initiative, founded by Becca Finely, Heather McDonald and John Kenney) that offers healthcare incentives to struggling musicians through insurance subsidies, medical referrals, and emergency health funding. Attendees were also provided with free drinks from Cathead Vodka and Holy City Brewing, food courtesy of Cru Catering and Warehouse, and a complimentary Electric Friends CD. The show drew a crowd of more than 800 people, with a private afterparty to follow at King Dusko hosted by Hearts & Plugs and stage design for Charleston Music Hall by Hirona Matsuda and Artist & Craftsman Supply, three of several businesses that offer patronage to BACE.  

Brave Baby formulated after founding members Wolfgang Zimmerman (drums/producing), Keon Masters (vocals/guitar), and Christian Chidester (guitar) added Jordan Hicks (bass) and Steven Walker (keys) to the official lineup in 2012. Zimmerman, Masters, and Chidester had been playing music together since the early 2000s and gained local traction with their first band, Jetadore, a short-lived pop-punk outfit that started in Charlotte in 2007. In 2009, Wolfgang began recording with Keon and Christian under the moniker Wylie, named for the man-made lake bordering North and South Carolina, but elected to change the name to Brave Baby (a working title for one of their songs at the time) to avoid confusion with U.K. rap artist Wylie. Electric Friends marks the band's second release on Hearts & Plugs, following the positive reception of their debut Forty Bells in 2013.  

"By the time we wrapped up the last album [Forty Bells], personal changes and revelations began," says Wolfgang, remarking on how Electric Friends took shape. "Out of that period, a good chunk of these songs [on the album] popped out very organically. It was sort of a worry at first if they would work out under this musical format, but the more we lived with them, the more they grew on us. It also was beneficial bringing in Jordan and Steven as well as Johnny D [Delaware] to help spread out the work load as well as creative flow." Electric Friends features a few jams reminiscent of the band's first album with pop-driven ballads like "Find You Out" and "Larry on the Weekend", but most songs went to a completely unfamiliar place in the realm of Brave Baby. Tracks like "Daisy Child" and "Atlantean Dreams" feature Wolfgang's silky baritone, not often heard in previous recordings, against a backdrop of fast-paced drum sets and prominent keys. The title track, "Electric Friends," a song Keon wrote about his long-standing relationship with Wolfgang and his (at one time) hallucinogen experimentation, includes guest violin recordings by classically trained musician Yuhong Tu that complement Keon's new breathy vocal style. "Hare Krishna" is by far the most experimental, with an acoustic 12-string guitar played through an electric amp as well as dual-part harmony, sounding almost like a bizarre by-product inspired by The Beatles during their transcendental meditation retreat in India, replete with psychotropic visions. Because of the album's complexity and sudden genre-shifting, I was initially skeptical, but I have to say on the record that Electric Friends is an absolute fucking masterpiece. "We are very proud of what we achieved," Wolfgang continues. "We are excited to see where people take this album as it grows with them."  

Although the official release date for the album is August 14, Brave Baby was eager to do an early release show in Charleston to show their appreciation for local support. Simultaneously, BACE founder Elliott Smith had been discussing a voter registration event with King Dusko owner McKenzie Eddy. Eventually, fate brought both parties together at Royal American, and the May 9th show was born. Musical artists like Brave Baby, SUSTO, and The High Divers are extremely supportive of organizations like BACE in hopes of making change for the better in Charleston. "Our town has been changing rapidly but is at a crossroads currently for the heart and soul of it," says Zimmerman. "Do we want people to only visit here? [Or] Do we want to turn this into an arts hub—a lovely place to live? BACE and CHARM work towards those latter hopes. Don't get me wrong, we love the occasional visit to the market and the Battery; but we really enjoy the flourishing food and beverage scene, pop-up gigs at places like Redux, and drinking pitchers of high life at Royal American while seeing how many people we can cram on that stage. We've spoken a good bit about where will everyone go when we are all priced out, and these organizations are out to ease those worries."

"Providing benefits and support to musicians and other artists is vital in shaping a community and culture where all creatives can not only live but prosper in their craft," adds Steven Walker. "Hopefully, more organizations like BACE and CHARM will come along in the fight to make Charleston a more prominent creative mecca, helping music and all arts flourish." Currently, BACE encourages civic engagement through partnerships with neighborhood associations and local businesses, hosts large-scale fundraising events to encourage audience participation, and aims to enact civil discourse regarding issues such as the recent midnight bar-closing debate.

One issue the band is currently facing is the cease-and-desist order from Chief Fire Marshal Michael Julazadeh, which deems that the downtown storage units (dubbed "The Space") where Brave Baby and a plethora of other Charleston bands have been recording with Wolfgang Zimmerman for the last four years is a fire hazard. When asked about any updates on the situation, Wolfgang says "We are exploring our options currently—the outpouring of support already has been refreshing. People I've never even met have come out expressing their gratitude for what we [at The Space] have been doing here. I know my studio as well as some of our bands will be fine, no matter what happens, but right now I'm trying to figure out what it takes to retrofit the place so potentially we can embrace AAA [storage facility] as a home for creatives. This cease and desist has the ability to displace upwards of 50 musicians that will have to go back to annoying the hell out of neighbors and roommates, as well as the police." The band filmed the music video for their single "Plastic Skateboard" at The Space shortly before they were issued the order. "We just remain eager and ready to keep working and grinding it out for ourselves, our girls, and our community to put the greater Charley city on the map!"

Despite these hiccups, the guys of Brave Baby continue trucking along, hoping that one day the all-too-familiar plight of the struggling musician will become a thing of the past in Charleston. "You can never discount the hours of work that go into anything," says Wolfgang. "If you think it's going to take three years, there's a good chance it will take ten." His advice in the interim? "Chip away at that 10,000 hours. Keep your rent and bills as low as possible so you can do the things you love when the collision occurs." For now, the boys are on the road for a mini-tour through the end of May, with more touring dates through APA (the band's booking agency) to be announced later this summer. Readers can keep track of tour progress and show updates through the band's Facebook page

"Everything feels so surreal," concludes Keon Masters. "It's amazing to have a community back up what your doing."