Interview: Brokaw

words by Thomas Pizzola | photos by Mat Hayward | Thursday, December 1st, 2011

There is a renaissance of heavy music taking place in the city of Seattle these days. People are becoming tired of coy, acoustic indie rock, and have decided to break out the huge amps, crank them up to 11, and rock the fuck out.

There are a growing number of bands contributing to Seattle’s hard rock resurgence, and Brokaw, featuring G. Stuart Dahlquist (bass), Rick Troy (guitar), Rich Medic (drums), and Mike Henderson (vocals), are near the top of this new wave of bands bringing the loud back to the Pacific Northwest.

All members are scene vets of various bands such Magnaaflux, Hitshed, and Hungry Crocodiles, while Dahlquist has done time in such avant-metal giants such as Burning Witch, Sunn 0))), and Asva. But the band is more than just the sum of its parts — each member brings his own experience and knowledge to the fold to form something unique and whole.

“We’ve all been drawn to a great variety of music over the years, and Brokaw certainly wears some of those influences on our sleeves, if you will,” says Dahlquist. “We lean towards playing heavy but distinctively angular music, with bass, guitar, and drums almost always playing in counterpoint and odd time — [it] seems to come naturally. The vocals are personal at turns, politically timely at others, ranting, crooning. So yeah — heavy, fucked up, chaotic loveliness.”

“We have all been playing in various projects together for many years, and decided to join forces to create something new that is distinctly different from anything we have done before,” adds Rich Medic. “We have been friends for a very long time and played in a variety of different musical roles, [which] has really helped make the music of Brokaw unique.”

This “fucked up, chaotic loveliness” can be heard on the band’s debut record, Interiors, which will be released in January by Seattle-based record label Good To Die, which already has a roster that includes other Seattle heavy hitters Monogamy Party, Sandrider, and Absolute Monarchs. It was recorded at Steve Albini’s Electrical Audio in Chicago.

“We set up a short tour from Seattle to Chicago and back, and reserved three days at Electrical Audio to track and mix the whole of Interiors,” explains Dahlquist. “It was quite a whirlwind of driving, playing a bunch of shows, recording, and the doing the same thing on the way home. Electrical is set up to accommodate bands like ours; you can actually live at the studio, so there is a certain level of intensity while working that you don’t normally have when breaking for things like going home and sleeping. Everybody is on time and ready to go 24 hours a day. It was pretty rewarding to head out for the return trip with a finished two-track ready for mastering.”

Also, the idea to go with a local label seemed to be a very good choice for the band. Good To Die is run by Nik Christofferson, author of the Seattle Rock Guy blog, as well as an active organizer of shows and a metal and punk rock-spinning DJ. For the band and label, Brokaw seemed like a perfect fit.

“Nik was a friend of a friend, and Brokaw had played on a few bills that Nik had showed up at and written about in his blog, sometimes favorably mentioning Brokaw,” says Dahlquist. “We had recorded in Chicago and sent a few demos out to various labels — overseas mostly — and had some interest there, but Nik also requested a listen. The idea of putting some music out with a friend — and close to home — seemed like a good move at the time, and still does.

“Brokaw now has stature on a local level that feels mighty good, and without Nik and Good To Die, it’s unlikely that we would have much — if any — sway around here at all. There is always a huge chance of the label failing; bands break up or simply get lazy and fail to write, money is spent on things that don’t do much to move the label or the catalogue forward… Nik seems to be pretty much immune to screwing up, and the bands on the GTD roster are all producing great music. It’s a good fit.”

The band’s formation could not have happened at a better time for them, as Seattle is rediscovering its love of loud rock. Heavy bands are starting to pop up, and people like Christofferson are there to document the scene through his record label. Don’t think the timing isn’t lost on the band.

Dahlquist comments that “there seems to be a resurgence in loud music being played by people who can really get around on their instruments and tend to come up with interesting music — not definable by any genre specific title. It’s hard to tell if things are simply evolving as the years go by, when finally starvation and experience sets in and bands simply get better or quit, or if people are just saying, ‘Fuck it, I don’t want to sound like anybody’ right from the get go and start pursuing music with an alternative path in mind. Both? It’s refreshing to go out and know you’re going to hear some good music. At this point the bar has been set awfully high, because there really are some great Seattle bands encompassing a huge spectrum of music. Brokaw needed to do their own thing if there was any chance of standing out, and we seem to be doing that to some extent.”

Medic is hoping to see the resurgence continue.

“Hopefully there continues to be a resurgence of heavy rock in Seattle, for the listeners’ sake,” he says. “The heart put into truly heavy music is undeniably pure. Anyone can identify with that. It also tends to create a healthy competition among bands who really play for the right reasons, which raises the bar for everyone, and hopefully the intensity of the scene as well.”

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