Photo: Ben Kuhns
From professional charm to boyish adventures, this month’s Localized features Fictionist and Bramble. Boots to the Moon opens the show on August 20 at Urban Lounge. Only $5.
Aaron Anderson – Drums
Brandon Kitterman – Guitar
Jacob Jones – Keyboard
Robbie Connolly – Guitar
Stuart Maxfield – Vocals and Bass
After releasing Lasting Echo last March, Fictionist has spent most weekends on the road promoting the album. When they aren’t touring, they are typically recording and releasing singles through their Facebook page. The band brings together a comfortable sound similar to that of Wilco, and as hardworking musicians they seem bound to follow that same successful road.
Although the band is mostly drawn by the ideas of Maxfield, Fictionist is ultimately a collaboration of professional musicians. “Sometimes [Stuart] will say ‘I want something to sound like this, maybe a sound like a dinosaur having a baby,’ or ‘this is the melody line’ and then we all write parts to bring those ideas together,” says Kitterman. As the ideas build, sometimes spontaneously during a practice, they are mastered and eventually recorded.
“For Lasting Echo, we went into the studio with Scott Wiley, who did a great job. With recent recordings, we’ve just been recording ourselves and releasing them as free downloads through Facebook,” says Maxfield. “And with the exception of a few dubs, we try to set up and play everything live.” It sounds easy, but with many artists spending so much time in the studio and in the production process, Fictionist pride themselves in being their best as natural as possible. “The recording process shouldn’t be an issue,” says Jones. “There is so much technology out there that the power is in the artists. The music should be the main focus of the musician, not the effects.” Though they don’t recommend recording yourself, they do believe in staying true to the natural state of playing music. “In a lot of ways, I don’t believe in production, I believe in good music,” says Maxfield. “I find reasons to fall in love with the inadequacies.”
Though their album was released a few months ago, Fictionist continues to record new songs as they tour. Finding a fan base in Provo through free apartment shows three or four times a week, and then with the help of Cory Fox, owner of the all-ages venue Velour, it slowly started to come together. “Cory Fox is a great promoter. We worked hard to promote ourselves and after Cory saw that, he put us on the shows with bands with decent followings and it went from there,” says Jones. Through what can be considered ‘the dues of being a musician,’ the group was able to discover and develop their sound, and for the past year and a half have been known as Fictionist. Now, as the band tours mainly on the weekends, they say it’s like starting over in each new city. “Jacob does the booking and maybe he’s the best sweet talker in the world, but we’re able to play in venues in cities we’ve never been to,” says Kitterman. Fictionist credits the success for some of their larger shows to the help of PR agents in Austin and southern Utah, and a radio campaign. Although they enjoy the larger shows, they still find comfort in playing to smaller audiences in the living rooms of friends. “House shows give people a chance to see us without having to pay money. Set with the hopes that we play a really awesome show, they’ll come back to see us the next time we’re in town,” says Kitterman.
As for the side life, each band member currently teaches private lessons in their area of expertise, as well as session work and performing random gigs to support the band and their families. “We do what we love while supporting who we love,” says Connolly.
Chaz Prymek – Guitar, Banjo, Vocals
Ian Accord – Accordion, Vocals
James Miska – Vocals, Banjo, Charango
Steve Schmit – Percussion
Bramble started in 2009 during the seven-week bike/music tour of two solo musicians—James Miska and Chaz Prymek (a.k.a Lake Mary). On the final day of that tour in San Diego, Ian Accord joined them, at first with the intention to pick them up and drive them home. With accordion in tow, Accord ended up learning the newly created songs only a few hours before their show, then played with Miska and Prymek. As they returned to Salt Lake for a welcome home show at Kilby Court, Steve Schmit was “amiably forced” to join as the percussionist. “Originally we were supposed to bring upon the end of the world, but then we decided to rock out for a while,” says Prymek.
The most important part of Bramble is how comfortable they are together. “I’ve never felt like I was in a band with so many talented songwriters, and that’s pretty amazing,” says Miska. With differing perspectives, the music is able to build with each member’s own musical tastes. “We’re also not afraid to tell each other that we don’t like something and everyone is willing to take that criticism,” says Accord. Everyone in the band also plays in other projects, so the ideas are continuously flowing, as one idea that may not work well for Bramble can probably be used elsewhere.
At first, set shows were sparse. “We’d played at Boing, Urban, Kilby, a breakfast house show, but mostly busking,” says Miska. Bramble has since become infamous as a busking band. Those unaware of the term, busking means: “to make money by singing, dancing, acting etc. in public places such as in front of theatre queues.” “After the first show at Kilby, we went on to busk at the Farmer’s Market and up to Sundance, which was a whole other world,” says Prymek.
Sundance Film Festival opened opportunities simply for being “the four dudes on the street playing music.” “People started doing news reports on us, coming up saying, ‘my friend bought your CD yesterday,’ or ‘hey come play this show, I want to use your music in this movie, be my best friend, come to my crazy lawyer party, here’s some free tickets, have some coconut juice.’ It just kept going,” says Prymek, “At the end, nobody cared and we went home with hella money.”
Aside from the money, which they all said helped fund touring and the release of the H.A.G.S. EP, busking also acts as a trial zone for the songs as Bramble creates them. “When busking, we play through our set six or seven times a day and what we thought were really good ideas may turn out to be too cheesy,” says Prymek. This also works for the positive. “We find new, even better ideas, with harmonies and tidbits, especially during Sundance. We busked ten days and probably played our entire set all the way through six to ten times a day,” says Accord. Though they are known for busking, set shows are a great way to see another side of Bramble, as they can play softer songs and electric songs that wouldn’t work out on the streets.
Seeing as the band started from an adventure, you might think that’s all they do. Though Bramble going on tour is a little different from other bands, it’s still hard work. “We see it as a big adventure instead of a tour. The last tour, James and Ian booked the shows, and a lot of the shows were set up through networking with people we’ve hosted here,” says Prymek. The band found themselves playing at family reunions and ice cream shops on that tour. “That tour was by far one of the best times of my life,” says Prymek. Although touring is fun, it’s also a learning experience. Tolerating life on the road was one of the main lessons. “I hadn’t been on tour before I was with Bramble, but the tour made me realize how good it is to be home. Some people are built to be on the road. For me, being on the road made me appreciate being home. I just wanted to sleep in my bed, see my girlfriend, play with my dogs and go back to work,” says Schmit.
As for the future, Bramble is planning a tour for November in the Southwest. “We’re also going to start recording soon, do some sweet music videos, and make pop jams of the century,” says Prymek. “It’s all one big weird adventure.”
Check out the smooth sounds of Fictionist and the adventurous souls of Bramble on August 20 at the Urban Lounge with opener Boots to the Moon.