When the Seattle sound exploded in the early '90s and went on to define a generation, Stone Gossard was one of the people most responsible for the sound. As the rhythm guitarist of Pearl Jam, Gossard wrote some of the band's biggest hits.
His other, lesser-known band, Brad, has done pretty well for themselves as well. In the 20 years since the release of their debut, Shame, the band has released five albums. Consisting of vocalist/pianist Shawn Smith, drummer Regan Hagar and bassist Keith Lowe, Brad has carved out a different niche than Pearl Jam and hasn't had to deal with the pressures of a gigantic band. Ahead of their stop tomorrow at the Troubadour in support of their latest release, United We Stand, Gossard gives us his thoughts on why Brad and his other band are similar, an update on Pearl Jam's latest album and whether or not he's supporting the Oklahoma City Thunder in their quest to capture an NBA championship.
With the previous Brad album, Best Friends? there was an eight-year gap between it and its predecessor. Why the quick turnaround for United We Stand?
We wrote this album after we got back from our West Coast run in late 2010. We took a month or two off, then dove into making a new record. The studio was open and over a six to nine month period, we'd pop in there for three or four days and throw out an idea. Using Dropbox (a free service that lets you bring your photos, docs, and videos anywhere and share them) has helped us too because even when one of us wasn't in the studio, we could still check in and see what was going on with ideas and rough mixes. We ended up with 60 or so ideas and then we spent another month honing in on the 11 that everyone felt like had enough magic to hit the spots that we wanted. That was a fun process.
Is there enough material for another album?
Yeah. Maybe there's a couple of things that are completely finished that we didn't touch, but I think there's a lot of sketches and rough ideas that would require some more work for sure. We're the kind of band that likes to go in and write but I think we'll go in and revisit what we have that hasn't been released.
Both Brad and your bandmates from Pearl Jam released exclusive albums for Record Store Day. How did that come about?
I don't know whose idea it was, but both Pearl Jam and Brad have been involved with supporting indie record stores in the past. It's a great way of getting people in their stores and it's a cool collectible. It's pretty easy and a no-brainer to get behind.
What should fans expect from the live show? Any covers or rare tracks?
“Don't Cry” by Neil Young off his Freedom record is one. I never really heard the song before, but Shawn fell in love with it and this is the one to do. We all listened to it and it's such a great cover for Shawn. It's a little bit more heavy metal. He also does “Purple Rain” from time to time, too.
Can you believe it's been 20 years since Shame was released?
That's a trip isn't it? It doesn't seem like 20 years ago.
There's something about that record that feels like it could be released now and feel current.
In its own way, when you listen to that record, a lot of the things we were trying at that point were a little bit ahead of its time. There was a bit of a slacker rock sensibility and it definitely wasn't a grunge record. We're proud we have a style that's our own that comes natural to us. Shawn is real risk taker with his voice and his being influenced by soul music allows him to find notes that are atypical. He'll be more experimental than a throwback soul singer.
What are the similarities of making a Brad record and a Pearl Jam one?
We're both very democratic bands. Everyone is involved in the creative process. They're both wide open and anything can happen. In both bands, there isn't one person dominating and it's a combination of everyone looking out and trying to hear everyone else's songs, and playing well on them. I'm involved in production and I have my way I like doing things and it crosses over. If we haven't done anything of Mike's (Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready) in a while, let's get him going. Both bands have very different aesthetics to what gets people going. It's fun to be in two bands that have two ways of hearing music. I'm very fortunate to be in both of them.
You've said in other outlets that the new Pearl Jam album is moving along. What's its progress?
It's somewhere between half and three quarters done. That would be my best guess. We have some more recording sessions coming up, so we're still in the process. I don't want to talk about it too much because it's still pretty unbaked at this point. I love recording with Pearl Jam because it's always something new and it's amazing to work with Brendan O'Brien. He really gets the best out of us, so we're excited about that process.
Are there any plans to release any material from last September's 20th anniversary shows?
I know that we recorded it and there's footage of it. I don't know how much they filmed or what they did. I'm definitely looking forward to that. It may be a year or two before we dive back into that, it could be a bit too close to do it at this point. I haven't really heard anything about it yet, so I'm a little bit in the dark on that one.
How do you feel about the Oklahoma City Thunder, aka the former Seattle SuperSonics, making a title push in the NBA this season? Is it bittersweet?
I think everyone in Seattle would be happy. The nucleus of that team started in Seattle so in that sense, it would be bittersweet. Everyone is still a bit sad that a deal couldn't be struck to keep the team in Seattle but I think people would be excited, even as we're still sorting through what happened. It's unfortunate that they left, but a lot of fans rooted for a bunch of those guys and it was none of the players' fault that the team left.
Brad play the Troubadour tomorrow night.
Daniel Kohn is a writer based in Southern California. With bylines in an assortment of outlets, Kohn primarily specializes in music with other interests ranging from sports to food. As a transplant, Kohn loves the beautiful weather and is glad he no longer has to deal with brutal winters. If you see him, say hi and of course, he’s always willing to down a beer or two…if you’re paying.