Before the Brave is the Bay Area's answer to Mumford and Sons and The Head and The Heart. Jason Perry Stevens, the visionary behind the band, sat down with me over a watermelon habanero margarita one "warm" summer evening in San Francisco to discuss "Free," the band's new single, the group's trajectory, and whether or not pizza is a breakfast food. (Stevens thinks it is, if it's cold.)
It's impossible to leave a Before the Brave show without a smile plastered across your face. To say Stevens sings his heart out is an understatement. His raspy vocals emphasize the emotive lyrics at all the right moments. The band swells and dips creating arcs not just in each song but also throughout the set. Stevens has a hands-off approach when it comes to songwriting with the band, inviting members to bring their talents to the table to create the most positive outcome for a song. When I asked him about the writing process and how it affects the live show he answered, "I don't necessarily want you to think intellectually about what the song is saying, I just want you to feel something."
There is a subtle spiritual message to the music, however. More and more indie bands are popping on to the circuit who are not labeled as such, but are part of a subversive movement speaking openly about their spiritual beliefs. Ivan and Alyosha and the aforementioned The Head and the Heart are two great West Coast examples. I speculated about this aspect to Before the Brave and Stevens gave me his take on being careful not to pigeonhole the band with a certain message, "I'm saying this is how I see the world and you don't have to accept it, but I'm going to write from what my experience is and how I interpret the world. That's not the purpose of the band, we're not trying to reach people in that way necessarily." It's a fair point that everyone struggles, regardless of their belief system.
Before the Brave's new single, "Free" speaks to this theme in a simple way. Stevens outlined the meaning behind the song, "In our lives we deal a lot with disappointment and not necessarily from others but from ourselves. I deal with so much depression because I'm not good enough or I do dumb things a lot, and this song is just about wanting to be free from all of that. I know that there's a hope for me that I'm going to be free from that struggle some day."
The majority of the band is from the West Coast and it's gratifying to hear such enthusiastic music as part of the San Francisco music scene. Beth Garber the female vocalist is also the voice behind You're the Queen Cosset. Kyle Redmond Tesse, who plays drums, is a founding member (with Stevens) of the band, and Josh Ruff plays bass. This past winter they shared a stage with Thao and the Get Down Stay Down at Great American Music Hall during Noise Pop Music Fest. The dark and intimate setting of Thee Parkside will undoubtedly be a great place to get roused by the band's lively set. Stevens reiterated something simple but wise when speaking about the content of the music, "I am who I am and I'm not going to be ashamed of that." A healthy reminder that it's always OK to rock out and be happy, which in and of itself is a freeing feeling.
Before the Brave plays Thee Parkside TODAY, Sunday, September 15, 2013. For more information, visit theeparkside.com.