Review and Interview: The Brew at The Westcott Theater, January 26th

photos by Luke Rafferty

Over the past year I’ve often heard people voice concern about Rock N’ Roll as a genre, seemingly worried  that it is dying out these days due to all of the EDM and Indie music that is over saturating the mainstream. If you are one of these people, fret not. I assure you that Boston based band The Brew is keeping Rock alive and kickin’.  Before they completely brought the house down at The Westcott Theater this past Saturday night, lead singer Chris Plante of expressed his love for Upstate New York and the ‘Cuse. “We’re so happy to be back in Syracuse! We love playing The Westcott,” he yelled into the mic from his spot at his double-decker keyboard. The Boston based quartet consists of brothers Chris Plante (lead vocals, keyboards), Joe Plante (Bass, vocals) and friends Dave Drouin (Guitar, vocals) and Aaron Zaroulis (Drums/vocals).Together they are like the Fantastic Four of Rock. There isn’t a single weak link in the group on instrumentals and their song writing skills are something to envy.

photo by Luke Rafferty
photo by Luke Rafferty

Following Chris’s warm shout out the band opened with one of their new songs titled “Aftermath”. From the sounds of the track we can look forward to enjoying a killer new release. As soon as the powerful instrumentals of this track filled the room I was reminded of why I fell in love with Rock N’ Roll in the first place. Aaron has driving in-your-face drum beats that make it virtually impossible for anyone with a soul to stand still. Chris sings the band’s insightful and relatable lyrics with an honest raspy voice while his piano parts cascade over the tracks. Dave plays epic guitar solo’s on his edgy Gibson explorer with seemingly no effort and Joe coolly holds the entire sound together seamlessly on bass.  Their sheer musical awesomeness evoked multiple and loud shouts of “I love you!” from the audience on multiple occasions throughout the show.

When they vocally harmonized for the intro of radio hit “When Darkness Comes” off the album  A Garden In The Snow, I doubt if there was a single person in the room that didn’t have the chills. Later in the show they played their hard rocking version of Led Zeppelin’s Going To California which I might actually like even more than the original because of its absolute head banging break down. They also included tracks such as “Into The Remembering Sun”, “Sharks In The Pool” and “Garden In The Snow”. As soon as they left the stage the crowd cheered for an encore and they all came to play “What I Want” (the ladies love this one) and a few others as the crowd begged them not to go.

After the show, I got a chance to sit down with The Brew and ask them a few questions.

Mary Morgan Craig: So first of all who are your biggest Musical influences individually?

Joe Plante: My biggest influences at the moment are Little Feat, Radiohead and Beck has a really big influence on me.

Aaron Zaroulis: I like Guns and Roses and I like the Allman Brothers .. a lot.

Chris Plante: I’m doin’ a lot of Bruce Hornsby, a lot of Chick Corea and a lot of classical.

Dave Drouin: I listen to Iron Maiden a lot and MJ. (MJ’s Dirty Diana plays in the background)

MMC: I know Chris and Joe are brothers. How did the two of you meet Dave and Aaron?

AZ: Well the band was around for nine or ten years with another drummer and then I joined about a year ago and I met all these dudes through the power of music.

CP: Yeah but the real story behind that one is like six or seven years ago we were playing a show with our other drummer Kelly. It was a show in Newburyport, Massachusetts, that we put on ourselves. We didn’t have like a green room or a bathroom for ourselves. During set break Kelly like really had to pee, so he went outside because there was a big line for the bathroom inside. It was  a packed show with a lot of kids. A lot of younger kids, and he got arrested outside for peeing in a public place. So we didn’t have a drummer! We frantically tried to bail him out. We reluctantly went back onstage when we, you know, had to. We basically made an announcement to the crowd. We were like “Does anybody know how to play drums?” “Put your hands in the air because our drummer is arrested”, and a bunch of young girls in the crowd were pointing to Aaron who was like 13.

AZ: Yeah I was 13.

CP: And then he got up on stage and already knew a bunch of our tunes.  So we’re like oh good job, cool, thanks for sitting in. Then like eight years later or whatever it was…

DD: No six years later.

CP: When it came down to audition for the band when we were moving on from a different drummer he showed up and already knew all of our songs and he was like “Yeah, I’m that kid” and we were like “Sweet!”

AZ: Yeah I’m that Kid. (all laugh)

photo by Luke Rafferty
photo by Luke Rafferty

MMC: What was the first CD you ever bought?

JP: Green Day’s Dookie. I remember that. I really remember that day.

CP: Didn’t you get it from your 5th grade girlfriend?

JP: No. Oh Yeah ! I did. I did get it from my 5th grade girlfriend.

AZ: That was the worst Valentine’s day ever huh?

(All laugh)

JP: I love that CD.

AZ: No. Its not that bad. I don’t remember my first CD. I think it was like Tom Petty or Paul Simon something like that. Something that my parents passed down to me kinda thing.

CP: I don’t know. I’m in the same boat. Me and Joe started finding music around the same time and I remember doing was it Toadie?

JP: Yeah Toadie.

CP: Toadie was awesome. Yeah I remember doing the Toadies.

JP: The Toadies!

CP: Yeah The Toadies were awesome.

DD: I had tapes way before CD’s.

CP: Ya. Ya no we were all actually into tapes.

JP: I bought an Oasis tape and a Blues Traveler tape.

DD: Yeah, I had the Blues Traveler tape with the cat on it. I traded my Aerosmith Pump when it was like the new thing.

AZ: Bad move.

DD: Bad move.

photo by Luke Rafferty
photo by Luke Rafferty

MMC: So are your parents as musically talented as you or are you guys the first in the family?

JP: My dad happens to be extremely talented musically. He started playing when he was about our age professionally out in California. He met my mom out there and then moved back to Massachusetts and had us children and surrounded us with music our entire lives.

CP: He was sitting in with us at a show recently.  We were doing like a more acoustic broken down sort of show. We were telling the stories behind certain songs and stuff like that. And he comes up and he plays an original song of his with us and its like the last song of the show cause it kicked so much ass.

MMC: That must be so cool.

CP: Yeah, its pretty nice.

MMC: So is that why you guys chose to do that cover of “Going to California”? Which I love by the way.

CP: Thanks! That’s an interesting connection but no we just did that cover because we were doing a gig opening for moe. at The House Of Blues and we really wanted to do something special, you know? Dave came to practice and he was like “I just Heard Going to California and was picturing it with a more driving groove under it” and we just started doing it.

MMC: Well it came out great. I love that one. When did each of you start playing your instruments and what made you gravitate to the specific ones?

JP: I went to a show when I was 17. I ate some mushrooms and I heard bass for the first time. I was tripping and I was like “I am gonna be doing that for the rest of my life.” That’s pretty much how I decided. And I had a bass so I decided just to start playing it. I picked it up that night and started playing it.

CP: That was my bass.

JP: Yeah. I stole his bass.

CP: I had a black Guild bass.

JP: It was awful to play. It was terrible, but then i actually started jamming with Dave literally four days after.

AZ: I started playing drums in the fourth grade. It wasn’t cause I started eating mushrooms though. And I got serious around my freshman year of high school and I just haven’t really stopped since.

CP: I started playing piano when I was like 3 because of my dad and then took classical lessons when I was like five. So, I did that and then jazz and a lot of stuff so I’ve just been playing my entire life. I remember when I was like 14, I really realized I could play piano. Because I never made the conscious decision to actually do it. So its been a long time. I should be better than I am.

DD: I started playing guitar at like age 14. It was mainly because I couldn’t have a drumset. I had drumsticks. I really wanted to play drums. But they were like “too loud” or something. So I got a guitar.

(all laugh)

MMC: Good thing you did

DD: Ruined my life

(All laugh)

MMC: OK so who is your biggest Rock-Chick crush?

CP: Rock Chick Crush?

MMC: Yeah, well it doesn’t have to be rock. Musical artist crush.

DD: The lead singer of Heart.

AZ: Aw this is rough man.

CP: There’s not as many hot rock lead singers as there are like pretty sexy pop stars.

MMC: Well what about Gwen Stefani?

All: Yeah

AZ: True. She’s hot

DD: I don’t know.

CP: But she’s a little too muscle-y for me.

JP: I’m a ‘Sineado’ fan. Just, you know, because… (gestures to his bald head).

DD: Did you just call her ‘Sineado’? Sinead. O’Connor.

JP: ‘Sineado’. That’s what I call her. She likes it.

(all laugh)

AZ: I’d like to take Mila Kunis out to like a nice dinner at like The Ninety Nine or like The Olive Garden.

CP: Salisbury Steaks?

AZ: Yeah yeah! I would definitely buy her a nice Salisbury steak.

CP: I like Rachel McAdams. I think she’s the hottest. I like her.

AZ: Yeah, shes pretty dreamy.

DD: I like Taylor Swift.

MMC: I knew that was going to come up.

CP: She looks like a deer. Not in like a bad way.

JP: In the headlights.

DD: That’s why I like her.

CP: I think shes beautiful but she resembles a deer slightly.

MMC: A majestic deer.

(all laugh)

CP: A majestic blonde deer.

MMC: Have you played any festivals recently? Are you planning on playing any this year?

CP: Yes. A lot. We played Mountain Jam last year.

JP: Absolutely

AZ: We played a lot of festivals last year.

DD: Its mid-winter now so..

CP: Yeah we’re actually starting to think about next year and any festival, you know. We’re having our agent and our management work with all the promoters of festivals to hopefully get the right situation worked out.

MMC: How would you describe your own music?

JP: Um, not butt rock. Rock.

(all laugh)

CP: I mean, its really just like rock n’ roll but we try to be versatile with how we deliver our songs. We get into different production techniques the same way The Beatles or anybody else would.

MMC: What was the thought process behind the Triptych project? Who did your album artwork?

JP: Well actually we decided to make the Triptych just based on the fact that we had a really large catalog of songs and certain songs fit into different groups. Like for instance, the first album was really driven by acoustic singer-songwriter songs that kinda fit into a certain category. We felt like they all really fit on the album. Then the second album we really stretched out live.  We wanted to take that same energy in the studio and do some improvisational stuff. The third record basically is really more pop oriented the way The Beatles used to like look at all their parts and really kind of like figured out how they wanted everything to fit.

CP: As far as the album artwork goes, that’s a tapestry that was meant for King Louis the 7th. It was a tapestry that was meant to commemorate like his wedding with somebody. It was back in 1495. Its called The Hunt of The Unicorn. You can see the unicorn on the second record. When you put them all together it makes one large image that kind of gives you the whole scope of the artwork.

photo by Luke Rafferty
photo by Luke Rafferty

MMC: Very Cool. What has been your best tour experience ever or just one that sticks in your mind?

CP: We were rolling through from New Mexico to Austin, Texas and we pulled over at this  like really sketchy looking Subway. We were like ‘Fuck we have to get Subway today. This is gonna suck.’ But there was a burger joint right next door that was kind of like home made burgers but you could tell it was like real like southern cooking.

AZ: They had like Boston stuff in the windows so we were like ‘Fuck it lets go in here.’

DD: Yeah it was weird. It was all like Red Sox stuff and Patriots stuff.

CP: Yeah we felt good about going there and so we walked in and just like everywhere we show up, they’re all like are you in a band or something? It was this older guy and his wife. Very old like 85 or 87. With this other lady and we were like yeah we’re in a band and hes like have you ever heard of Roy Orbison and we’re like ‘Yeah of course.’ and then he’s like ‘Have you ever heard of Buddy Holly?’ We’re like ‘Obviously.’ and he’s like ‘I used to sing with them.’ So we met a member of Buddy Holly’s band, the only guys to like background sing. They were called The Roses.

JP: And then hes like ‘Do you want to go see Buddy Holly’s studio? I’ve got a key. I live there.’ And so all Buddy Holly’s original stuff is set up there, untouched, and we sat in the same chair that Buddy Holly was (once) sitting in.

AZ: I got to play on the drumset. It was rad. It was awesome. We got it all on video too.

MMC: That’s crazy!I’m so jealous. So last year when I saw you play at Brewfest Chris was playing with a broken arm at Brewfest in Lincoln, NH, which was so impressive. I actually remember I  Instagrammed about it and I captioned it like ‘my hero’ or something. I read somewhere that you just recovered from broken ribs. What happened there ? Are you always this accident prone?

(all laugh)

CP: I wouldn’t say i’m accident prone. I play indoor soccer so I just smashed into a dude that was way bigger than me and it was like this really awkward point in my side where my fist got like  jammed right into my rib. But I didn’t know it was broken for like the first four days. I thought it was just really badly bruised.

MMC: Glad you’re better now! Do you have any advice for other bands who are just starting out?

DD: Don’t do it.

(all laugh)

MMC: I think that they should just focus on the songs and then really work on the business aspect even though that’s the last thing you want to do as a musician. That’s what it takes to actually succeed. Cause you know its a small business and it sucks to look at it that way but you can’t go on forever running out of money. So just get good content, believe in your music, and then like just be doing your work. What has been your weirdest fan experience?

CP: Oh man there’s like too many twisted stories to get into that.

DD: There’s like naked dudes getting tied up. Well we were at a festival and there’s this guy running around naked like going ‘Get off my island! Get off my island!’

CP: And then they hogtied him and had to like put him in the back of the truck.

MMC: Well why were you on his island?

JP: Well we weren’t on mushrooms and he was, so we were on his island.

AZ: Dude he was on his own island.

(all laugh)

CP: He was being aggressive toward everybody.

JP: The last straw that they wouldn’t put up with at this festival was when he went up to an old woman that was pushing a baby in a carriage and walking a dog at the same time and he like tried grabbing the dog leash from her and then they tackled him and hogtied him.

DD: I think they like duckttaped him up.

CP: It was a duct tape hogtie job. They did really well

AZ: Hogtied!

(all laugh)

To listen to this interview with The Brew, tune into The Laura and Meg Show via iTunes Radio next Thursday night (Feb 7th)at 11pm! Just click on “Radio” on the menu bar at the top of your Itunes Library. From there click College Radio> Syracuse University>WERW.

Check out the stations blog and The Meg and Laura Show

Check out The Brew’s WebsiteFacebookMyspaceSoundcloud, and the official video for When Darkness Comes

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