July 2019: Seven Austinites are sweating profusely inside Lechehouse, a vibey, back-house studio in Buda. They’re trying to get an intricate horn performance committed to tape so the A/C unit can be turned back on. Welcome to day four of the overdubbing portion to Berlin Sessions.
It’s a different kind of Brownout album. The band operates from a post-Brown Sabbath/Public Enemy/breakbeat existence. Also, for better or worse, the group finally counts a full-time singer – me.
We’ve decided to scrap any “new” songs previously hashed out and performed live. Creative stakes heightened, we put the band on the spot and track fresh ideas culled from sparse demos thrown into a Dropbox folder. Friend and collaborator Steve Berlin of Los Lobos leads us through this process.
As on that 105-degreee day last summer, I hang around the studio observing, listening, and fishing for lyric ideas. At times, I even join the rhythm section: drums, bass, congas, guitars, all of which were recorded live. Nothing like folks sweating it out until they get the take. Steve proves masterful at wrangling a band of producers and pushing forward consensus.
It proved a challenging and rewarding process for me personally. I found my place in the arrangements, gelling my personality with the band’s and bringing in my own thing. Steve encouraged me to take my outside-the-box vocal ideas as far as I could, then tactfully refocused me as needed. Invaluable.
We set out to make an EP, but in the end tracked 14 songs. Eleven of them are on the vinyl release, two extras are digital-only bonus cuts, and there’s a li’l somethin’ somethin’ for future use. Sixteen years in, Brownout still embraces change.
Fri., March 6, 9pm