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Growing up, Piers Brown enjoyed many "special occasions," as his artist father liked to call them. Huddled around a bonfire, the Brown family got toasty to the crackling of Dad's labored-over yet unfinished, unsold paintings. As the frontman for Costa Mesa band the Blue Whales, Brown now understands this dramatic gesture as a talented thirtyish musician with a wait-and-see attitude about achievement.
"Although not an excuse, I definitely have issues with what it means to be a successful artist," he says. Brown's bandmates remain patient. The Blue Whales' lineup is tight, and the guys are inspired heading into their Monday night Detroit Bar residency, during which they'll record their second album.
The Blue Whales don't see much action outside Costa Mesa; surprising for a unit with ties to OC über-band Film Star. "None of us are real go-getter clubby schmoozers, which goes a long way in getting bands good, steady work," Brown says.
The rest of the "us" includes bassist Miles "Skip" Banwell and drummer Scott Woods, who replaced original members Cory Pollock (of the Aquabats) and Mike McHugh, who owns Distillery Recording Studio in Costa Mesa. McHugh is still involved in the Blue Whales' recording process.
Brown used to dream of making it, and not in the '70s-movie-about-a-pimply-boy-who-never-gets-any variety. "As time went on, I realized that the reality of the music business is nothing like the delusional concept that [I] and so many musicians fall for," says Brown, who played shows with Weezer and toured with Fastball during his 20s. "I mean, yes, I still would love to tour the world and spread our music far and wide, and sometimes after many beers, [I start] to think, 'Well why not, we deserve it,' but that's so unrealistic, and more often than not I'm embarrassed I ever thought that was a possibility."
Ex-bandmate James Fletcher (currently drummer for Satisfaction and Matt Costa, formerly of Film Star and the Women) agrees with Brown's self-assessed anti-rockstardom, but is quick to praise as well, calling Brown "a hell of a songwriter" who stays true to his art. "I think he's a lot more into his music than his ego," Fletcher says.
A smart, artistic and humble musician and songwriter, Brown could have been huge, but was maybe too lazy and too self-deprecating. Instead, he's a guy who dreams up guitar riffs, fuses them with progressive, psychedelic rock songs, and who shows up for work each morn at a library.
But there will be no talk of late fees come Monday. During the recordings, the Blue Whales will bust out a few new songs, but not the one Brown's most enthused about, "80-Dollar T-shirt." It has a feel and intensity that represents a new direction for the band and Brown's songwriting, he says, yet the band hasn't mastered its intricate rhythm and strange time signature. But you never know. That might be the guy talking who thinks art serves its best purpose sizzling s'mores.
THE BLUE WHALES PERFORM WITH THE MIGHTY SIX NINETY AT DETROIT BAR, 843 W. 19 TH ST., COSTA MESA, (949) 642-0600; WWW.DETROITBAR.COM ; MONDAYS THROUGHOUT SEPTEMBER, 9 P.M. FREE.