Interview: The Britanys
Written by Carl Pietrusinski
Photos by Mary Kang
Illustrations by Chelsea Madamba
For the most part, college kids tend to devote the bulk of their days sitting in classes, cramming for exams, participating in student organizations, browsing aimlessly through different social media timelines, drinking the cheap light beer, and the most irritating of them all waiting for the pizza delivery guy after 2 am.
Amidst all of the typical college noise, Lucas Long, Steele Kratt, and Gabe Schulman joined forces and the result was the alternative rock trio dubbed, The Britanys. While sharing a name with roughly 15% of the females in your high school graduating class, The Britanys have found their niche in morphing a sound reminiscent of 90s alternative rock into something all their own.
Their latest EP, entitled It’s Alright dropped earlier this fall and my only knock on the project is my thirst for more. In only three songs, the threesome does not disappoint.
In the first song, sharing the EP’s name, listeners get hit with a loud garage punk sounding, chromatic guitar patterns accompanied by Long’s commanding vocals. It gives off an early punk vibe that gets you pumped up enough to run through a brick wall or even just around the block.
The band slows things down on the second track titled “Reckless.” The relaxed guitar is accompanied by lyrics that hop steadily along before building up and hitting you in the face with a tasty solo. Graciously, they ease you back down, transitioning into the final track “Blow.”
I’ll give this song the nod as my favorite track. I get a little bit of an evolved Smashing Pumpkins vibe from it (but that’s just me). However, personally I’d love to hear The Britanys experiment with this sound in the future. I’ve been hitting the replay button more than Kanye does for Yeezus. Plain and simple, this song should be on your iPod.
In only a year of existence, The Britanys have a lot to be proud of. The scary thing is, their sound is only going to get better and more polished. So be on the look out for their visuals for a new track called “Want To Be” as well as two additional tracks before year’s end.
POND: You only formed a little over a year ago, correct? How did you guys meet?
Lucas: Well we all lived in the same dorm our Freshman year of College. I think we all went into school looking to start a band but didn’t end up crossing paths until the end of the year. Steele and Gabe were roommates and best buds and had tried playing in a couple projects together that didn’t end up working out. I eventually heard that Steele was a drummer and asked him if he wanted to start a two piece together. He said that he was in, but that his roommate, Gabe, was a bass player and would be down to join. We all went away for spring break before we got a chance to play together so I decided to book a show at the Lit Lounge for the week we got back, you know to see if they were actually serious to start a band. The gig was on a Thursday so we had from Monday to Wednesday to practice and try to get as many songs as we could together. We ended up doing it. It wasn’t the best show ever, but we’ve kept on playing ever since.
POND: Who is Britany? Anyone special?
Gabe: Britany is not any specific person; she’s just kind of an enigma that was created when coming up with band names. We knew we wanted a short and simple band name, and not
being very good at coming up with names, we started thinking of actual names like Tom or Jeff. After a while we thought it might be better if we came up with a girl’s name seeing as we’re all guys. So we looked up the most popular girl names in 1994, the year we were all born, and Britany was one of them. As for the spelling of it, that just came from Lucas misspelling the name when he bought the domain name for our website, so we just stuck with it hah.
POND: Where did your interest/passion for music come from? Were any of you in bands in high school?
Steele: My dad was a drummer in a band called The Colors, that were a part of the NYC Punk scene during the 70’s and 80s, and he bought me a pair of drum sticks when I was about 3 years old. He would lie out newspaper on the sofa, and I would bang my sticks on it along to The Buzzcocks and Tears for Fears.
Lucas: I grew up listening to a lot of Nirvana, I have the same birthday as Kurt Cobain so I always felt like I had a weird connection. Looking back, I realize that it was just me being a teenager. My parents always had a good taste in music too. They would listen to everything- Snoop Dogg, Jimi Hendrix, Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin, Run DMC, The Grateful Dead, Johnny Cash, you name it. My dad would play me Jimi Hendrix Live At Monterey before I went to bed as kid.
Gabe: Since I was very young I always enjoyed playing music in school and in private lessons (I used to play trombone and piano), but I never got too excited about it because I wasn't playing music that I really liked. Sometime in seventh grade I saw this guy playing an electric bass at a jam session and I was like "man, that's one cool sounding guitar!" After figuring out exactly what it was and learning the bass lines to "sunshine of your love" and "seven nation army," I decided I wanted to take up the instrument.
Lucas: When I first picked up the guitar I was obviously naturally attracted to Jimi Hendrix and the blues, and I used to wish I was black so I could play like him. From him I discovered other blues artist’s like Leadbelly and Charley Patton, which then kind of backwardly lead me to Jack White and The White Stripes. I became infatuated by the power of his guitar and how much emotion just two people could create.
Steele: When I was a little older my parents got me a drum kit, and I learned by playing along to different CD’s I liked. I started playing in bands when I was 12, with some of my older sister’s friends, and continued in a few groups until I went to college.
Gabe: Growing up I listened to a lot of 60's era jam band stuff like the Allman Brothers, Little Feat and the Grateful Dead. As my musical interests snowballed, I started really getting into artists like John Coltrane and Bill Evans around sophomore year of high school, which led me to the decision to pick up upright bass and apply for music school. And I used to play a lot of different music in high school. The only official band I was in was called No Soap Radio and we used to play around Boston at Berklee and at house parties and stuff like that.
Lucas: In high school I started a two piece band with my best friend at the time and we would pretty much just try to rip off White Stripes songs. We would play out here and there in San Francisco, but nothing too serious. I always knew that I wanted to be in a band though.
Gabe: Now I mostly do rock stuff, but it's been very enlightening (musically speaking) to make that full circle journey through rock and jazz and classical and other genres and end up back where I started.
Lucas: I’m just thankful that when I moved to New York I was lucky enough to meet Steele and Gabe.
POND: Who are you currently listening to right now? Who are some musicians that you look at for inspiration?
Lucas: Right now I have been really into Karen O’s new album. Temples, even though people give them shit, I still appreciate what they’re doing. We’re all really big Tame Impala fans too. I’ve also been getting into 50’s/60’s girl groups recently: The Shangri-Las, The Marvelettes, The Ronettes, and The Chordettes. More recent bands our age I’d say The Orwells, Cherry Glazerr, and The Wytches. I tried getting into Twin
Peaks and Public Access TV but wasn’t really feeling the 80’s vibe. All that aside I always look to bands like The White Stripes (or whatever project Jack White is working on), The Strokes, The Arctic Monkeys, The Libertines, The Vines, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Nirvana, The Velvet Underground, and The Beatles just to remember where I came from.
Steele: Everything I’ve been listening to recently is kinda all over the place. I’ve been listening to a lot of Sly and The Family Stone, Parquet Courts, The Stone Roses, The Beach Boys, Angel Olsen, and The Zombies. I’m really inspired by Parquet Courts at the moment, because of the rate at which they put out good material, and the fact that with each release their sound seems to vary/evolve. I also like that they create all their own artwork, and the fact that they consciously steer clear from the norm - specifically how they try to play shows at smaller/more obscure venues and that they use little social media in an era where it seems to be a necessity for any active band or artist. Im also always inspired by The Beatles, Tame Impala, Leonard Cohen, Sparklehorse and The Brian Jonestown Massacre.
Gabe: Recently I've kind of been on a latin music kick. I've been listening to some important afro- cuban records like Cachao y su Ritmo Caliente, the Bossa Nova of João Gilberto and some old school flamenco from artists like Hector Lavoe. Aside from that, I'm perpetually listening to way too much Radiohead, Deerhunter (and Atlas sound) and Tame Impala. 5. What are you looking forward to next?/ What do you have planned?
Lucas: Well we recently put up our second EP ‘It’s Alright’ in September and have been doing the best we can to get it out there. Since then we have been playing and writing a lot. We just recorded two new songs at Converse Rubber Tracks and shot a music video with Wiissa for ‘Want To Be’ that looks really great. We cant wait to see the final edit, which we should be getting soon, and we cant wait to get it out there. As of now we’re planning on releasing them late November or maybe early December. I think we all feel that this will be some of the strongest material that we’ve put out, and we cant wait to see what people think.
POND: What has been your favorite venue to play at?
Gabe: I think we would have to say Muchmores. Muchmores is a small sized venue in Williamsburg, but it’s the venue that we
played at a lot when we first started doing shows. We definitely learned a lot playing on that stage together and I think out of all the venues we’ve played it’s the one that feels most like home. It always feels good to play there when we get the chance.
POND: We know you are Brooklyn based, what’s your favorite thing about New York?
Steele: I grew up here, and my favorite thing about the city is that there is pretty much something from every culture on the planet that can be experienced. I also like that everything is open late and the mindset that comes with living here. It’s definitely an entirely different city now than it was when I was growing up, which is a real drag, but regardless, I don’t think I could live anywhere else. Also, it’s pretty fuckin sick that Taylor Swift is our new “global ambassador”.
POND: Where’s your favorite spot to grab a slice of pizza from in NYC? *most important question*
Steele: The best slice of pizza can be had at New York Pizza Suprema on 31st and 8th ave. I also like Pizza Pete’s on 86th and Columbus, Two Boots, and of course Lombardi’s, which is THE o.g pizza restaurant.
POND: Who are some of the other New York musicians, rappers, bands, etc. that you guys listen to?
Lucas: I guess just like any other current rock band in New York the first answer is The Strokes. I think the most talented New York musician at the moment is Joey Bada$$. We’re also big fans of the CBGB’s//Max’s Kansas City scene from the 60’s to the 80’s. I remember when I like 15 and read ‘Please Kill Me.’ That’s where I discovered the New York greats like Lou Reed, Patty Smith, Iggy Pop & The Stooges, The Ramones, Television, Blondie, The New York Dolls, Richard Hell and The Voidoids, The Dead Boys, David Bowie, the list goes on. I read that book and was like man I’m going to New York the first chance I get, obviously too naive to realize that none of that exists anymore hah. Steele’s dad was actually the drummer in a CBGB’s band called The Colors and Hilly Kristal managed them, so I always ask him and Steeles mom about what the scene was like. Now Steele’s dad is a lawyer and his nickname is ‘The Cleaner’ because he gets everyone off. As for New York rap I think the most listened to in the car is Biggie Smalls, The Tribe, and Public Enemy.
POND: If it weren’t for music, what do you guys think you’d most likely be doing?
Gabe: Mmmmmm, school I guess. Honestly, other than music we don’t really have much else planned so hopefully it works out.
POND: If you had the chance to work with anyone in the music industry, who would it be and why?
Steele: For Lucas it would be Jack White, Julian Casablancas, or Pete Doherty because he has a man crush on all of them. For Gabe, his dream would be to work with Jonny Greenwood. To him he is one of the most interesting musicians out there.
Gabe: From what I can tell he seems to be the most dynamic musician that I know, someone who truly is not limited by genre and makes everything he touches shine. He’s the only guy in the “rock scene” who does everything from scoring films to quirky little electronic remixes. But really there’s so many amazing musicians that I look up to, it’s hard to pick one in particular.
Steele: Personally, I’d love to collaborate with Kevin Parker from Tame Impala because I think that he approaches music unlike any other modern musician and also because everything he puts out is gold. I’d also pee my pants if I could work with Paul McCartney, but I guess everyone feels that way.
POND: Other than musicians, who or what else influences you guys artistically?
All: Richard Serra, Chuck Close, Banksy, Rembrandt, Marcel Duchamp, Piet Mondrian, Picasso, Earnest Hemmingway, Oscar Wilde, George Orwell, Charles Baudelaire, Charles Bukowski, Hunter S. Thompson, Henry Miller, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, JD Sallinger, Kurt Vonnegut, Georgia O’Keefe, Frans Hals, Jackson Pollock, Woody Allen, Larry David, Mom, Dad, Jim Jarmusch, Pieter Bruegel, J.R.R. Tolkien, H.P. Lovecraft, Mark Rothko, Akira Kurosawa, Paul Thomas Anderson, Stanley Kubrick, Van Gogh, Stanley Donwood, and Daniel Day Lewis.