Photo by Jamie Clayton
A common misconception is that noon is the hottest part of the day. It's not: 3 to 4 p.m is. That's what time it was when I first saw Brave Baby take the stage at a food truck rodeo in the Post & Courier parking lot earlier this summer. You know, a parking lot. Pavement. Hottest time of the day. June.
Despite the heat, Brave Baby’s performance was far from tired or lackluster. Instead, it felt more like friends who have just gotten off work, picked up their instruments, and decided to have more fun than anyone else.
Photo by Jamie Clayton
Don't let their effortlessness fool you, though—their album, Forty Bells, released by Hearts & Plugs this past January is one of the best products to come out of Charleston this past year, or anywhere for that matter.
Keon Masters, Photo by Jamie Clayton
At Kudu Coffee, lead singer and guitarist Keon Masters orders a sandwich and answers questions in between large bites. It’s his lunch break; we’re pressed for time.
HG: What’d you get?
KM: I don’t know, whatever they said was the best one. Turkey and something?
HG: I read on the Hearts & Plugs site that y'all started recording Forty Bells in a storage unit.
KM: We finished it in the storage unit, too, the whole record. It’s on Line Street. We’ve been there since I was a sophomore in college. Three or four years. It’s cozy. Ryan [Zimmerman] does all of his production work there.
HG: Do you remember the first song you ever wrote?
KM: I remember trying to write a song with my friend Caleb in my bedroom the day seventh grade was over.
HG: That’s a big day.
KM: It was terrible. It was the first day of summer, and we went back to my house to hang out. We tried to write a song. It wasn’t any good.
HG: What kind of stuff were you listening to back then?
KM: Ha, Blink 182.
HG: I’m right there with you. I remember listening to Blink 182 and they would always name drop Jimmy Eat World in their interviews, so I started listening to them and it just took off from there. I had a cool aunt who took me to the Vans Warped Tour. It was a big deal.
KM: Really? Yeah, my step-mom took me to my first concert. 106.5 in Charlotte, it was like the edgy—
HG: The Weenie Roast? That was my first concert!
HG: Yep! Everlast, Everclear, Papa Roach.
KM: Same concert was our first concert.
HG: That’s insane. It was such a strange first experience for a concert, too.
KM: Yeah, I spray-colored my hair yellow. I remember seeing a girl get her nipples pierced there.
HG: So weird. You’re like, what’s that strange smell? Cause you don’t know what pot smells like yet.
KM: Yeah, you don’t even know what beer smells like.
HG: The saying goes you have your whole life to write your first record. Do you find yourself listening to Forty Bells and realizing that there’s something you wrote in ninth grade on there, something like that?
KM: Not ninth grade. I wrote a lot of terrible stuff in ninth grade. But “Magic and Fire” is actually kind of old, and parts of “Denmark.” Ryan and I recorded an acoustic version in my dorm room my freshman year and now it’s completely different. But “pas po” in Danish means “take care,” like when someone crosses the street you would say that the same way we would say, “watch out.” He dated this girl for a long time, and then she went back to Denmark, so it was like, “be careful.” Then I remember writing the lyrics to “Magic and Fire” the spring semester of my sophomore year. We went back and changed the verses and kept the chorus—so now it’s different, too.
HG: What’s the process like now, as a band? Is it music first or do you come in with lyrics?
KM: Depends. A lot of times I’ll come in with an idea, a minute of a song, and then we’ll build that. Sometimes we’ll jam and find something that we like, and I’ll take that back and develop it. Other times Ryan has a drumbeat—“Magic and Fire” is like that. “Forty Bells” just came from us jamming, and Christian started playing that opening riff on the keyboard.
HG: What’s it like when y'all go on the road—do you have a van?
KM: I traded my mini van in last January for a 15-passenger van, straight up. It says, “Tapio School of Dance” on the side. On the back door it says, “Caution: Happy and Healthy Dancers On Board.”
HG: Ha, nice. How’s the sandwich?
KM: It’s good. There’s a lot of Brie, which isn’t a terrible thing.
HG: I saw online recently that y'all just recorded some new demos.
KM: Yeah, just getting ready for round two. Ryan’s singing on a couple more songs this time around. It’s a little more groovy, a little more cool, if that makes sense.
HG: Kind of passive?
KM: Passive. That’s a good word. A little smoother. But passive, I like that.
HG: There’s a lot of storytelling in your songs, which I like. You get little references to Charleston: “Cooper River Night” and on “Lakeside Trust” there’s a line about “Coming and Bogard.” What’s the story behind that line?
KM: One night we were driving—and it wasn’t Coming, it was technically Rose Lane, but when I recalled it, it was Coming—but this guy had set up these wooden pallets in the middle of the intersection. This giant, blazing fire. We were the first ones to come onto it cause it was the middle of the night, and there’s this huge fire in the middle of the street. It was very visually striking and then a couple months later I was writing, and for some reason, “fire on Coming and Bogard” came out and I tried to correlate it to my life. I don’t mean to be to sappy or anything, but there was something happening within the family and I used Coming and Bogard as a feeling of “there.”
HG: There’s definitely some personal stuff on the record, like the song, “Grandad.”
KM: Yeah, that was Ryan’s song. Great song. Chorus on that song is great. It’s cool cause he would always laugh and say it felt like a country song, and I told him that’s why it’s so great. That’s why people are going to love it, because it could be [a country song] but it’s not.
HG: It sticks out. There are some songs that you really have to write for you.
KM: Definitely. “Cooper River Night” was one of the more fictional ones on there, but still you pull the fiction from your personal experiences.
Keon takes the last bite of his sandwich and has to get back to work, but mentions he’s going to The Killers show that night. He had a dream the night before that he would run into lead singer Brandon Flowers on King Street, so he’s carrying a cd for Flowers to sign just in case.
That music dream may not come true, but the others are well on their way.
Brave Baby will be playing Mixson’s Dog Days of Summer Block Party, August 24th, 2-4pm in North Charleston. Download their album Forty Bells on bravebabymusic.bandcamp.com or on iTunes.
Do you know something worth talking about? E-mail Hunter at firstname.lastname@example.org. No self-promotions, please!