Satchel gets Stone(d)


Everyone has to start somewhere, but Brad has the good fortune of starting at the top — or, at the very least, somewhere near it — due in no small part to their impressive past endeavors. If I had to put it all down on paper, it would go something like this:

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Once upon a time Regan Hagar was in a band called Malfunkshun with Andrew Wood, and they just happened to share the same rehearsal space with another band called Green River, which included Jeff Ament and Stone Gossard. As fate would have it, the result of this fortuitous pairing began a very influential time in music history. This spark would forever stand out as an integral part of the Seattle sound, and its lineage would intensify into a whole greater than the sum of its parts…

Ament and Gossard, along with Wood, eventually formed Mother Love Bone. But, tragically, it ended with Wood’s untimely death from a drug overdose in 1990. Soon thereafter, Ament and Gossard started Pearl Jam, and sold millions of albums. Meanwhile, Regan was molding the not so grungy Satchel with singer/songwriter Shawn Smith, whose credits include a guest spot vocalizing for the Afghan Whigs, and singing for Pigeonhed…

• •

It’s one of those things that was bound to happen. Collectively, they had all been kicking around as friends since the early ’80s. Regan and Stone (and Jeff Ament) had jammed together around Seattle under a variety of stage names, “but it took a few years for it all to come full circle, and end up to be the band that it is now,” says singer Shawn Smith. (Regan and Stone would later team up again to form their own record label, Loosegroove records.)

It may be a safe assumption to say that Brad might’ve initially caught our attention due to the presence of its most famous son, guitarist Stone Gossard, but now that Brad has our undivided attention, it’s worth staying tuned. With Pearl Jam duties on hold, Brad is now admittedly Gossard’s day job, but continues to be a diversion for Shawn, Mike, and Regan, who are still in Satchel. Nevertheless, all are in full Brad mode. So, as it stands currently, Brad is: Regan Hagar (drums), Stone Gossard (guitars), Shawn Smith (piano, vocals), and Mike Berg (bass), and they have come full circle, which explains why this side project never sounded like one.

Satchel bassist Mike Berg, who had been filling in for Jeremy Toback during Brad’s tour has officially replaced Toback upon his amicable departure from Brad in full pursuit of a solo career. Along for the ride, too, is guitarist Matt Brown, who’s also pulling double duty as Brad’s keyboardist.

On the surface, Brad may seem to be Satchel and “some dude named Stone.” Well, not exactly, but, at this point, Brad could be anything given the Seattle conglomerates flowing through its veins-easily some sort of hybrid/offshoot of its incestuous ancestors. Not so. A little less angst, but no less ardent than his Seattle contemporaries, Smith offers few Vedderisms, unless one counts the unintelligible ramblings at the very beginning of “Lift.” However, Gossard’s riffs are still down-right dirty, though not as frequently.

Although Brad is most reminiscent of Satchel — for obvious reasons — Brad prides itself on none of the above. “It would be a Seattle vibe only because we’re from Seattle,” emphasizes Hagar. “But as far as trying to emulate any band that was having any success in that city, absolutely not. We are who we are, and we sound the way we as four individuals sound together. There’s no calculated attempt… to me it seems so obvious when you listen to a Brad record. It seems very different from things that are ‘successful’ in Seattle, which is really a very small number, maybe three or four bands from Seattle that are actually successful compared to the hundreds of bands that are there.” Even with guitarist Mike McCready’s guest appearance on “The Day Brings,” Brad still fails to sound like Pearl Jam, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Interiors has an early ’70s feel. Its soulful, piano-filled, blues-oriented, pop tunes, are surprisingly more diverse than 1993’s critically acclaimed album Shame. Sure, it has its share of mid-tempo songs, including one signature ballad (“Upon My Shoulders”), but there is a greater abundance of rockers, some with punk sensibilities such as “Secret Girl” and “Sweet Al George,” or the bluesy, syncopated rhythms of “Lift,” which (along with “Funeral Song”) marks Gossard’s rare journey into lyricism. Particularly compelling is the funk-laden “Those Three Words,” with its whimsical lyrics, yet curiously haunting string arrangements courtesy of renowned cellist Wendy Sutter. Shawn Smith has perfected his falsetto, yet maintained his soulfulness delivering to us on “Upon My Shoulders” a vocal style not unlike Neil Young’s performance on the theme song from the movie Philadelphia, a vocal style that has earned Smith a mention in MOJO magazine as one of the fifty best singers… ever.

Brad has christened this second album with their first ever tour, which began early June in Utah. Now that Mike and Regan, are back from their respective visits with the stork, Brad has begun the second leg, and there will be no Pearl Jam songs, thank you for asking. You can expect to hear a little Satchel via “Suffering” or “Tomorrow.” Judging from the bevy of Seattle-oriented paraphernalia being worn at tonight’s concert, fans are clearly not oblivious to Brad’s former backgrounds. However, according to Regan, they have been quite receptive to Brad. In fact, with the release of Brad’s eclectic sophomoric effort, it seems as though listeners have gotten past that “Pearl Jam factor” and are now starting to appreciate Brad for what they are currently. “With the first album, it seemed like everyone thought that, ‘Oh, they just did this because they had some free time.’ But now that we’ve done two [albums], and we’re touring, it’s like ‘Okay. They’re a real band’. ”

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