Story: Melanie Broussalian
Photos: Laura E. Partain
Meet your new favorite feel-good band. The Brummies are an indie-rock band hailing from Nashville by way of Alabama and have built a career on carefree tunes with a retro sound that pays tribute to some of their favorite 70’s influences.
Their first album, Eternal Reach, released in 2018, sent them into the mainstream with “Drive Away,” a duet featuring country superstar Kacey Musgraves. They released their second record, Automatic World, in 2020, which is perfect for spring and summertime and long drives with the windows down. A new single, “Cosmic Space Girl,” came out last year and aptly features more synthesizers and a generally psychedelic vibe.
The Brummies—Jacob Bryant, John Davidson, Trevor Davis and Warren Lively
Bands Through Town caught up with the members of the Brummies—Jacob Bryant, John Davidson, Trevor Davis and Warren Lively—in between studio sessions to talk the recording process for their third album, the return to live shows, and the importance of protecting drag performers in Tennessee. Read through to get the scoop.
Bands Through Town: I’m excited to talk to you all. I’ve been listening to all your music and love it. So I’m really excited to get the chance to chat. So just to start off, for people who are just getting to know you, can you give me the origin story of the band?
Jacob: Yeah, me, John and Trevor, we grew up in a small town, Pinson Valley, outside of Birmingham, Alabama. And we moved up to Nashville, was it 11 years ago? We toured around under another name—it was kinda like a duo thing. But then we were like, the Brummies, like we’re an indie rock band. That’s what we always wanted it to be. So, in 2018, that’s when we created our first album and released Eternal Reach. And then, we met Warren, Warren’s from Kentucky. Trevor met him at a house party up on a roof one night. And we just hit it off. And Warren’s been the last member of the band ever since.
BTT: And what I love about your guys’ music is that it’s especially upbeat and positive, both in the arrangements but then also lyrically. In a world where it’d be so much easier, I feel, to write more melancholy music, where do you guys come up with the inspiration to go the uplifting route?
Jacob: I feel like it’s easier to write sad songs for some reason. Happy songs are kind of, you know, they’re harder to, to come by. But I feel like all four of us are pretty damn happy and if you hang out with us, we’re always having a good time. We’re always cutting up and laughing. I mean, we have some melancholy stuff, and we have sad songs. But on the happy side, being inspired and being around happy people, you know, it’ll come out.
John: Too many sad things to be adding more to it. So, it’s good to go against the grain.
Warren: I just think with sad songs, they’re easier to write. It’s like more of a powerful emotion. You’re real sad about something. You’re like, “Man, I just gotta get this out.” With happy songs… It’s like, I don’t know. They have to happen right. And sometimes you’re like, “Is this cheesy? Is this actually gonna sound the way I want to?” But I think we toe the line nicely, hopefully.
BTT: Love it. So, when tracing the line from your first album to Automatic World and then listening to “Cosmic Space Girl,” I can kind of hear a gradual leaning towards more of the synth-y and psychedelic. Is that where you guys feel like you’re headed in your next album? Is that a conscientious choice or is that somewhere that you guys are just like kind of finding yourself?
Jacob: I’m glad you noticed that because that is exactly kind of like the progression. Eternal Reach was like seventies, kind of like dreamy seventies, in that world. And we even intentionally recorded it that way, just classic. And then with Automatic World, we kept some of the tape, you know, drums kind of stuff. And yeah, we are seeing this progression where it’s like more synthesizers and it’s evolving. It’s like our same song, our melodies and style. But yes, we love like the synthesizer and that kind of stuff. Like ELO and everybody back in the day is always like pushing and I feel like that’s what we’re doing now.
BTT: What has the process looked like for making music this time around for this album? Are you trying anything new?
John: We all have our own studio spaces and like our own area to kind of work on music. So, throughout the pandemic and all that, everybody kind of got holed up in doing their own thing.
Warren’s got a studio there, Trevor’s place is where we practice and has like a live room. And Jacob’s got a studio there in the RV. And I had my studio here. So, we’re always just working on music, ourselves. And so, I think this time around, there’s more ideas being brought in on an individual basis, and then we’re bringing ‘em together as a band. And so, we’re kind of exploring in that way. And then when we get together, we’ll see where that idea kind of forms as a band would take it with each of us putting our own interpretation musically onto what that idea could probably possibly be. So, that’s the difference that I’ve seen in this past go around for this next album.
BTT: I heard this Bob Dylan quote, where for him, songs just come out of the air fully formed. And I was like, “Yeah, I mean that can happen,” but I feel like that takes the collaboration out of it, too. What’s cool about what I’m hearing from you guys is you could come to the table with three notes and then you have a song just because you guys are all working on it together.
Jacob: For sure. But I do agree. I feel like music is magic because there’s not a better feeling in the world than something didn’t exist, and there’s an idea and it does come to us. John could write a song by himself, as well, but bring that to the table and then we all kind of collaborate on top of that. Even if one person does write it, we’re all recording it and we’re trying to do the best for the song, you know?
John: Yeah. It doesn’t become complete until we’re in there recording it, and we’re all actually on our instruments saying, “Okay, here’s the thing. Here’s the idea, here’s the spark that it came from, and then here’s what I’m hearing on it.” And then it just turns into what’s on the record. And I don’t think without each person doing their piece, you’re not gonna hear the product—being what it would be a Brummies song. So, it takes all those components coming together.
Warren: My favorite thing about music is like you wake up in the morning, you have some coffee, you have nothing. And then you know, whoever you write a song with or by yourself, but by the end of the day you’ve got your favorite song ever and you can’t stop playing it and telling people about it. So, I know that’s personally my favorite thing about it.
BTT: I wanna talk a little bit about touring and life performance since you guys were like a lot on the festival circuit. I would love to know what was it like coming back to live audiences for the first time? Do you remember that first show and kind of the feeling?
Jacob: Heck, yeah.
John: I mean it was exciting.
Jacob: The pandemic, we couldn’t tour, you know? And that’s—as much as we love making music, we love touring. That is our favorite thing. It’s like, we’ve got to see the world through making music and going and touring, and it’s like we’ve literally got to see the world. It’s our favorite thing, making music and touring and being out and seeing people singing and it resonating with people. ’Cause everybody can release music, but to see people are actually coming and listening and caring, it’s amazing. And I feel like in the pandemic, everybody had to stop touring.
And for me, I was like, “Are we still gonna be able to do this?” I forgot what the feeling was and then we got on stage. And we played and it was just from the first note going out, it’s like, “We’re back.” You know? It’s like, “This is it. This is all I ever wanna do. This is amazing.”
John: It makes you appreciate it, you know? And then also just hearing people talk about live music and how much they need it. And when we were without it, it really kind of put things into perspective and how much you miss it, and what it really gives to society, and us as a culture and in everyday life. It brings happiness for us as artists and for us as fans too, when we go watch people play.
BTT: And live music is kind of the only art that you feel in your body and you receive in your body. Like you go to a museum, and you see art, but you only process it through your eyesight. With music, it enters your body through your ears, like you feel it. And I think not having it made it so much more special when it came back; like you’re part of the community.
Warren: Yeah. I mean, not to diminish other types of art. I love reading and visual art and all that, but a lot of it’s after the fact. Like if I read a book or a poem or look at a piece of art, watch a movie, that’s been made and presented to me. But when you go to a show, you just see people making it right there. I think that’s really cool and something I love about it.
John: And you’re able to experience that with a group of people kind of experiencing that with you.
Warren: Yeah, and you get to mess up too (*laughs*).
Jacob: And I was gonna say, speaking of art, and this doesn’t have to do with music, but I don’t know if you know, in Tennessee they’re banning drag shows. And it’s messed up ’cause it is an art form. We go to drag shows, some of our friends do that, and it’s messed up. So, I want to go on record and say people need to know about what’s going on here, and it sucks.
John: Yeah. And art, you know, is constantly pushing boundaries, and that’s what this is doing. There are people right now trying to put a box on it and shut it up. And it’s devastating. It’s devastating to a lot of our friends, to a whole community, to a way of life, to artistic expression. It’s stupid and hopefully progress here will win out and we’ll do our part in trying to make sure that happens.
BTT: Appreciate that, and I’m glad you’re bringing it up. Finally, can you guys set the scene for the most ideal way to listen to the Brummies? Should you be driving, what’s the weather like, should you be at home? What would be the perfect scenario to listen to your guys’ music, in your opinion?
Jacob: Gosh, you know, it’s just like there’s different kind of moods, you know? I feel like someone said if you’re listening to Eternal Reach, that’s like a nighttime drive or hanging out. You’re drinking wine with your friends and you’re just chilling. And then I feel like Automatic World, like get out in that sunshine, maybe like a pool party or something and crank that, you know. Having fun at both with friends.
BTT: Thank you guys so much for your time and I can’t wait to hear what’s next. Next time you guys come to California, I will absolutely be there.
Note: This interview has been edited for length.