In the last issue of Screamer, there was a review of the album Control from the UK-based band The Brew. As you are reading this, the band is currently wrapping up their tour of Europe, and will be preparing for a tour of the UK in May. The crown jewel will be the Classic Rocknacht festival in Germany this June, where they will be sharing the bill with Joe Satriani and Joe Bonamassa. How cool is that for a little band from Grimsby, England?
The Brew is a three-piece band consisting of Jason Barwick on lead vocals/guitar, Tim Smith on bass/backing vocals, and Kurt Smith on drums. Looking at the publicity photos of the band, you see an older guy with two guys who are young enough to be his sons; a unique visual not often seen in music. Kurt is in fact the son of Tim, which poses an interesting question: While bands with siblings as members are not uncommon, a father/son combination is almost unheard of. Tim Smith explains: “Well, we just started jamming together many years ago when Kurt first started to learn the drums. He asked me where we thought we could take it and I suggested we start out by trying one gig a month. Now we do European tours for months at a time!”
As for the age difference…”The age thing has never been a problem, in fact many people comment just the opposite–that on stage we all look the same. I’m not sure if that is a compliment for me or an insult for the lads” he laughs.
Control has been receiving rave reviews from music critics—including this one—for good reason. Although short by today’s standards (ten tracks) each of those tracks packs a punch. A powerful blend of classic rock, blues and alternative rock, this is one album that the phrase “I can’t stop listening to it” definitely applies. The track listening is unique, too: Repeat, Eject, Mute, Pause, Shuffle, Fast Forward, Skip, Stop, Play and Rewind. All music player commands, obviously. The initial thought might be “Cute, but contrived,” but nothing could be further from the truth. Yes, the lyrics to each song do incorporate the title word, but it’s not as if it’s a stretch—the lyrics and the story lines in the songs flow naturally.
Tim Smith elaborates: “Well it certainly wasn’t contrived, it really just came about when I started looking at the lyrics to each song and I noticed a current theme running through them. Looking backwards at your life or forward or at the current moment in which you stand. For some reason the idea popped into my head that it would be really good if you could control your life with a remote control. So I started to develop the idea and theme, I put it to the lads and they agreed that they thought it was a cool approach to the album, so there we have it. I have been asked if it is a concept album, but no it’s not; to me a concept album is something like Tommy by The Who. This certainly isn’t that, the Control songs have a common theme and approach, that’s all.
A huge part to the success of The Brew has to be attributed to Jason Barwick. In the history of rock music, there have been many great guitarists, and many great vocalists, but not many who are spectacularly talented in both areas. You don’t often hear Jimi Hendrix’s vocal skills being praised, and there’s a reason Roger Daltrey’s guitar playing is rarely mentioned. True multitaskers such as Stevie Ray Vaughn, Joe Bonamassa and John Mayer are rare. When compared to the above, Barwick is truly grateful and humbled.
“Well, Stevie Ray is possibly one of the main reasons why I’m playing guitar…and be compared with these guys is such an honor really! I started playing when I was five years old I was always obsessed with the guitar from the age of two when my parents used to play Gary Moore and The Shadows and Dire Straits. Guitar playing did come naturally, but of course there was a hell of a lot of practice and dedication needed, and still is! As for singing that was something that I only started doing 4 years ago and is something that I really had to work at, but eventually I ‘found’ my voice.”
“Guitar playing did come naturally.” To every guitar player who has had to practice until his or her fingers were raw just to learn simple chord structures and solos (yours truly speaks from experience on that!) those words are a little…maybe “depressing” is not the right word, but listening to Barwick’s amazing playing on Control, it definitely inspires awe.
The songwriting process that went into Control was different from the band’s previous albums. “It certainly is a group effort,” says Tim Smith. “The process is usually a case of where we have a riff and then we all add our own touches to it and mostly we write onstage, jamming riffs and gauging audience reaction. During the writing process for Control we took two weeks out of our touring schedule and really sat down and worked on each composition, which was really something fresh for us!” The proof is in the results, and perhaps the two Smiths and Barwick are into something new and exciting when it comes to creating songs?
Looking ahead to this summer and the Classic Rocknacht festival, the band is obviously excited.
“Yeah, we are really looking forward to this,” remarks Barwick. “We have played with Bonamassa a couple of times and the first time was on the Rockpalast TV show in Germany which was really cool. We are really looking forward to a kind of ‘reunion’ and I think it’s gonna be a pretty inspiring evening of music with these guys rocking the stage!”
Continuing with the subject of being on stage, Tim Smith is asked if the band has ever toured the United States. “We have never toured the U.S., although over recent years we’ve developed quite an active fan base over there, so hopefully in the near future we shall be taking Control on the road in your country.”
That will be an event certainly anticipated by both the existing fans of The Brew in the U.S., and those who will be fans after listening to Control.