Written By Laura Curry
The Toms River, NJ based duo Brick + Mortar composes electro indie-rock music about what matters in the world. While Brandon Asraf plays bass guitar, his signature vocals deliver moving, dark lyrics that make an impact. John Tacon’s drumming skills are on display as he provides bombastic beats and electronic samples that create a positive and cheerful sound.
Listeners might have heard songs like “Locked in a Cage” on the radio, or their single “Train,” in the trailer for the TV show Elementary. Many of their songs are accompanied by hard-hitting music videos that capture the viewer’s attention and make them think deeply.
Brick + Mortar recently gained ownership of their EP Dropped and to celebrate, they’ve just released the new EP, Dropped Again. It’s a re-mastered version of all the songs from the Dropped EP, along with two new tracks, “One Little Pill,” which is about facing your problems and learning how to overcome them, and “Great Escape,” a thought-provoking tune about making choices and discerning between wrong and right. There’s also a remix of “Move To The Ocean” by Bauuer, and it gives listeners an EDM/trap music take on this track.
Asraf and Tacon have been working hard on a full-length album, which will include 13 to 14 new songs along with the older single “Dead Moon.” If that’s not enough to look forward to, Brick + Mortar are heading off on tour this summer, starting on July 27 in Buffalo, New York. The tour runs through August 26 and takes them all across the US—feel free to visit their website to check out the tour dates and buy tickets!
The Pop Break had the opportunity to talk to Brandon Asraf of Brick + Mortar to find out what’s been going on with the band since our interview with him last year. Asraf discusses the Dropped Again EP, their unique sound and stage presence, being a self-sustainable band and their upcoming tour and full-length album.
I’ll admit that I’m a bit confused, because the last time you spoke to The Pop Break in August of 2016, you were about to release your first full-length album. I haven’t found any clarification on this—but you never actually released it, right? What happened to prevent the release of that album.
When we started recording our first full-length record, we gained control of the masters for our previous EP Dropped from our now ex-label and management. It’s a long and interesting story that I am not legally allowed to tell you.
The original Dropped EP was worked with money we raised ourselves, despite it being on a label. We didn’t have the connections to work the record internationally, so shortly after we legally gained ownership of Dropped, we received a digital distribution offer from the label Believe Recordings. They have us act as our own label while they work it internationally, thus allowing us to ultimately still own our masters. We decided to go for it, re-master all the songs from Dropped to sound the way we always wanted them to, and take a little more time with the full-length (which is 90% done, WE PROMISE).
However, we wanted to give our fans a taste of what’s to come. So we took two new songs, “One Little Pill” and “Great Escape” out of the batch being considered for the full-length to add them to “Dropped Again,” along with the Baauer remix of “Move To The Ocean.” The honest truth is that opportunity knocked and we needed time to really craft all these songs. As Tacon puts it, every song on this new record is like it’s own album, style wise.
I have been listening to “One Little Pill” obsessively for the past [few] weeks. To me, it’s all about finding quick fixes for major problems that don’t go away easily, like mental illness. People tend to go for short-term solutions instead of facing up to the reality of their situation.
I see that the video for this song is about people being overwhelmed by the wide expanse of knowledge that’s available to them, and “One Little Pill” is the remedy. Are these accurate interpretations for this track and the video? What does this song mean to you? What message do you want to get across to listeners with this track:
You are pretty on point with your assessment! It’s about how almost anything can be your “One Little Pill” (consumerism, beauty, television, drugs, food, violence). In reality, it takes everything to truly face those problems while hopefully overcoming them. The video expresses why so many people in the world today might feel overwhelmed by the age of information.
Thematically, will the Dropped Again EP follow in the footsteps of “One Little Pill,” with a focus on mental illness, addiction, big pharma and the media’s impact on society? What other ideas are explored:
In a way, each one of our songs is like an album with its own theme. With that said, like many artists, I tend to drift toward subjects that move me, and those line up sometimes. For example, in the song “Brighter Than The Sun,” we touch upon how media makes us feel like we should live fast, die young, and not pay any attention. “Great Escape” asks “Is humanity worth saving?” and on and on. Almost every song we make has a deep meaning to us and they’re usually pretty political in some aspect, with the exception of a couple here and there.
How does the Dropped Again EP show your evolution as a band? In what ways does your sound reflect these changes:
Well, Dropped Again is a celebration of our independence. As far as sound goes, the two added tracks “One Little Pill” and “Great Escape” foreshadows the sound of our upcoming full-length record. We didn’t work with any label or producers on these songs or the new record, so it is kind-of like a test for us to see how far we’ve progressed as songwriters and producers.
What elements make up the signature style of a Brick + Mortar song? How does this relate to the idea of controlled chaos? What do you think makes your music so recognizable and distinct for your fans:
I’d say it’s the combination of my lead voice and Tacon’s angelic vocals. They always make me sound like a better vocalist! Also, we tend to go after fresh, bombastic sounds and dark themes. Last but not least: DRUMS. Honestly, drum tones and programmed electronic beats are something we really focus on. There’s also this dichotomy that occurs in our music between the overall vibe of the song and the lyrics. While my lyrics tend to be dark at times, the music and instrumentation enshrouding them tends to sound uplifting.
How have your fans come to the rescue over the years? Thinking back, is there a specific time in which you were so thankful to your fans for their support? How does your close relationship with fans fuel your passion to create and perform music:
A couple years back while we were on tour, we were robbed. We had no clue what to do so we let everyone know about our situation, made a page on GoFundMe, and our amazing fans made it happen! It just so happens that the robbery had taken place right before the biggest show of our lives, so you could imagine how relieved we were when our fans came through for us. With the money raised by our fans, we bought all new gear and finished the tour. Our fans are the only thing we know are real and honestly, without them we are nothing.
As far as your stage presence, what makes your shows so unique? What’s your favorite part about performing? At the end of your set, what do you want listeners to take away from your performance:
I honestly don’t know what people take away. Hopefully a sense of hope. I like how our performances have no rules visually. Sound wise, it’s very tight and powerful, but visually, anything goes. Richie Brown performs on stage with us, utilizing his homemade props and visuals. He is always coming up with unique experiences and ideas to incorporate into our live show. One thing we do love to do too is involve the crowd, and essentially use them as an instrument.
Do you still feel that your goal or purpose as a band is to create meaningful music about things that matter in the world? Why is this so vital to you? How does this all tie in with your hard-hitting music videos that really make a powerful impression on viewers:
In my mind, there is no point to doing anything artistic if it doesn’t make people think. I grew up in an environment that led me to meet all kinds of people, both very good in the social and traditional sense and very bad in a Breaking Bad/Better Call Saul kind of way. I came to understand if you listen to people’s stories and read between the lines, you start to realize experiences mold people and influence their good or bad choices. As far as music videos go, we always want them to have some meaning or intricacy to them.
How is being self-sustainable a part of who you are as a band? What advice can you give to DIY artists and bands that are trying to make it:
It just kind-of happened because we don’t like waiting for others to “make it happen.” I am rather crude, shameless, and think being “cool” is fucking silly, so I always just went after whatever we needed as a band. It takes a toll sometimes—as does any repeated rejection. As far as advice goes, write music that means something to you, appreciate your fans, and never compromise your dream for anything.
Now that Dropped Again just came out, what’s next for Brick + Mortar? Do you have any upcoming performances in the works:
We are planning an upcoming July and August tour, we have another music video for “Great Escape” coming out in a couple weeks, and we are going to finish this full-length record!