Artist Interview: 1-on-1 with Tax Brandywine

Artist Interview: 1-on-1 with Tax BrandywineThe amount of talent in the city of Indianapolis amazes me. Every time I turn around I discover a new band that I never knew about… and that I can’t get enough of. This band lives right down the road from me in Noblesville, Indiana. Their lyrics are incredible, the vocals are amazing, and the sound is very “jam band” friendly. There is a difference from a jam band that just gets together to play for their friends… and a band that has potential to make it. These guys have all the potential in the world. The sky is the limit for these dudes. I love the name too. They really have the whole package. My good friend Eric Roesch introduced me to them. I’m glad he did. It’s my pleasure to introduce you to Tax Brandywine. (I told you they had an awesome band name!)

The name… I love the name. Where in the world did that name come from?

I hate paying taxes, but I love drinking a good brandywine.

Thank you very much Ricky! One cold, rainy January day in 2007 I was visiting Chicago, Illinois with my old band mate to visit his cousin who was interning to be a surgeon. We went to hang out at the hospital while he was there, but we weren’t allowed to be inside any of the operating rooms, so we were stuck wandering around this hospital. It was a crazy, long, boring day! But while we were occupying an empty hospital room, we started to discuss new band names. We were under fire for our last name which was repealed by the US government copyright office for being too similar to another name. Anyway, I wanted to create a name that sounded professional and organic at the same time. I remember looking outside the hospital window looking at the bay and I put together those words and I thought, “I really like that, it reminds me of a mafioso name.” I always remembered that name, and decided to make it my alias and band name a few years later.

You guys have a great logo. Who designed that?

Thank yo! My girlfriend Kaley designed it.  She has a great eye and is talented in the graphic design process. We were going for a natural look that was bold.

Where are you guys originally from?

We all graduated from Noblesville High School, but our families migrated to Indy from different parts of the country in our lifetimes. All of my family is from the northern California area, and that is where I was born (Roseville, California).  Johnny C was born in Indianapolis, but has moved to Ohio and New York before moving back. Laus was born in Berlin, Germany where his mother and father lived at the time. (His father still lives in Hamburg, DE) They moved to Illinois and Zionsville, Indiana with his mother before settling in Noblesville.

You guys call your sound “last wave”. Can you tell me a little bit more about what that means?

Yes… this name actually started as a spoof and then it stuck! The joke started off of an original song that I wrote called Last Wave of Warmth back in senior year of high school. This was the first song that changed my style of song writing from pop/blues/hard rock, to a more pop-rock/reggae/folk style. We used to joke that this style was the last “new wave sound” before the ultimately inevitable end of the world and Mayan calender in 2012. It was Last Wave Rock, then just “Last Wave”; it stuck, and that is what we are trying to do… be the godfathers of the last new wave movement until the Earth blows up 2012. Get ready.

You recently had a show at the ES Jungle in Broad Ripple. Do you like that room? It’s REALLY small. Of course, it is all ages.

You really do not play the ES Jungle because of the room… The organization that puts on the shows is called Piradical Productions, and they have been really great to us. Especially Stephen Zumbrun. He believes in us and puts us in front of a great crowd. The ES Jungle is in a great location in Broad Ripple, but because it’s in a church and the audience cannot technically leave and come back in from smoking or to get fresh air even. I think that really turns people off from that venue. But, they have a new venue that we are going to be playing at on December 16th in Indianapolis (Fountain Square) called the Hoosier Dome. Check it out!!

Loving the blog. You are using WordPress for that. What made you start using that content management system over another?

I’m glad you like it. We are going to continue to use that format for news updates, but it is a means to an end for the official website. It’s too hard for the public to navigate through and doesn’t offer enough media outlets. We started using it for the purpose that we could update it easily and wouldn’t need a web designer. But, we have found a new outlet that lets us do everything we want and more, and it is designed for the use of a band. It’s called and ours is going to drop soon… so get excited!

The band is also on Facebook and Twitter. Who manages all of these social media efforts?

(Pierce) I do. I like connecting with the fans, and also being the voice and face of the band. Twitter especially allows you to create your own world where people can follow feel connected to you. The music is not enough these days!

The whole rock/reggae sound seems to be pretty popular these days. Do you find there is a lot of competition in that scene?

I really don’t. It has been almost rare to be hooked up with any of these types of bands because they tend to be “really reggae” and not quite as diverse. I have yet to find too many bands with this, but I expect that to change!  Then of course you have Bruno Mars doing pop-reggae and Sublime With Rome making their comeback but nothing that is new or “last wave” about it.

Really digging the lyrics for Monday the 13th. Who writes all of the lyrics for the band?

Thanks man; I wrote those lyrics. I write the majority of the lyrics for the band, unless Laus sings, then he usually writes them. He wrote the lyrics for Marilyn, which is an example of me singing his words but they are usually mine.

When you guys practice, do you stay focused or just jam? I could see you guys just getting in there and jamming for hours on end!

(Laughs.) That’s interesting… but when we practice we are very focused. We will jam sometimes to get warmed up, but usually we are perfecting our songs!

You have a new EP coming out. What are your expectations with the new release?

Yes, we are very excited. This is going to be a 5 song EP that are all older and more poppy types of songs all lead singing by myself. Some of these tracks were re-recorded from our 215 sessions in Nashville that were never finished, so we thought we would get these out there and move on to recording our newer material for the next project. I expect this will be an interesting turning point in the band, and where our music is headed. We will get much more press from this EP than our last album, “Atrocities on the Highway”, which had a more of an indie sound. But overall I know people will want to get the new stuff!

During your first tour, your tour van was stolen. Please tell me you caught the guy… did you get that gear back?

One of the saddest moments in my life was walking around the corner of the hotel parking lot and doing the “double-triple” take of “where the hell is the van?” We never caught the guy, even though he was on camera. “The Buckeye” was found broken and mostly empty by the Atlanta police a few days later. This was a total catastrophe to get access to the van again because it was held in a city junkyard, and I had to sign the dotted line to see what was left inside. Therefore, I had to pay $500 plus gas to and from Nashville and Atlanta twice. The good news is that the guy left all of our “Atrocities” albums intact and there were clothes left inside. Whew!

Tell me a little bit more about the production of “Atrocities on the Highway”.

“Atrocities” was SO much fun to make. We were living together in a house in Nashville for over a year and this was the pinnacle of our accomplishments together for that time period. We were working everyday with engineer/producer/musician Grant (DatHobo) Husselman who is attending Belmont University there. Grant is also from Zionsville, Indiana and grew up with Laus, so the connection was made. Everything that you hear on the album was recorded in the main room in that house. We started by recording about 20 songs, and they eventually faded into a cohesive (in our minds) 12. It was mastered at my father’s home studio. All of the artwork, besides the logo, is also from Grant.

Do you get the chance to play outside of the Circle City very much?

Absolutely. We make it a point to travel as much as we possibly can. We play Nashville, Memphis, Chattanooga, Chicago, Bloomington, Muncie, and Louisville as much as possible.

Do you have jobs outside of music?

Laus and me are currently unemployed. We have jumped through countless part-time work since moving back in June. We are looking for work! Johnny C is working at Guitar Center in Castleton. He’s part-time at the moment.

Where does your inspiration come from? Not just with music… but with life.

God is a huge inspiration in my life. We are all very politically inclined, and stay as informed as much as possible on news and events around the world. We are also huge sports nuts! My team is the San Francisco Giants, Johnny’s is the Cleveland Indians… and Laus likes the Indianapolis Colts! I also draw inspiration from my dogs, including our band mascot Tosh! Over-sized vehicles and trains also inspire me.

Since you are in similar to that genre, does that mean you go to a lot of jam ban shows? There seems to be a ton of them in the area lately.

I do attend the occasional jam band show. Johnny C attends more than I do, and Laus isn’t 21 yet so he doens’t attend hardly any shows! I’ve seen Max Allen, the Twin Cats, and others that come through like Papadosio and Shaggy Wonda. I would definitely not consider us a jam band, but more a “pop rock band”.

What would you be doing if you were not performing?

I would love to be producing other musical acts in the studio. I would also like to be a hemp farmer someday.

You were invited to record at Studio 215 by Randy Peterson down in Nashville. Tell me a little bit more about that experience.

Sure, we were invited by Randy who was a co-worker of Johnny C’s at Guitar Center to come and make a demo for free in this studio he was interning for. He needed some experience behind the desk he was about to be working on full-time.  We narrowed about 8 songs, and got about 2 solid sessions in, but it was very difficult for Randy to find the time to have me come in and finish the final tracks. So it inevitably was tossed to the side and tried to pursue the songs again, and this is what “Welcome Home” is. Randy Peterson was great to work with, he was very patient and was a rad dude. I would love to work with him again!

I have not seen you guys perform yet, but what can someone expect from a live show?

You can expect to see some people skanking (ska dancing), some hippies, some rockers, some moms and dads, and lots of little girls too! You might also see little green men from all the hype. There will always be the die hard Tax Collectors (Tax Brandywine fans) that will be wearing our hand-made tie-dye and spray painted shirts. The best shows are the ones where everyone is going nuts of course, so you might expect some screaming and wailing and an overall awesome time.

What’s the biggest crowd you have ever played for?

Our biggest crowds have been around 200+ people for Tax Brandywine. I have played an event before with my high school band that played to about 600 people, but I have yet to do it again with Tax. It will definitely come with time though.

You guys have some pretty cool concert posters. Who designs those?

The all talented Grant “DatHobo” Husselman designs all of our posters. He has a certain wonk about him that is undeniable, and we like his touch on our media. Here is a peak to some of his music that also inspires us. It’s so filthy its ridiculous.

Let’s look to the future for a second… where are you guys in five years?

(Laughs.)  Okay… we are in a sweet tour bus touring around the entire country with a decent opener constantly making albums and touring! I would also be taking tours in Canada and Europe. I definitely want to be a worldwide band. I’m not sure if we will be signed by then… I’m not sure we will need to be. I’m letting it roll and build.

It’s almost Christmas… what’s on your Christmas list?

Merry Christmas to you Ricky, and all the Tax Collectors reading this. The only thing I am asking for are gift certificates to Guitar Center because I want to pile them into getting a Zoom R-16 recorder. Check it. It has 8 simultaneous XLR imputs for recording and you can use it as an interface on the computer. Gear jargon… oh well, i’s awesome and affordable. The only other things I asked for is anything San Francisco Giants and I’ll be happy.

Jam bands tend to play longer sets. What’s a typical set time for you guys?

If we are hosting our own show, we typically will play two hours. We will play an hour or 45 minute set most other times. We don’t have lots of time to jam if we don’t play at least two sets!

Tell me about your relationship with Thorny Tree Productions.

Thorny Tree Productions is the limited liability company that I own and created for myself and all of the entertainment groups that I am head of so that I can file taxes and protect my bands rights and whatnot. Right now Tax Brandywine is the only project that I am managing under my company, but I expect to add more once I get Tax Brandywine more established.

There are only 3 of you… Ever think of adding more members?

That’s a good question. We love playing as a three piece, but I am not opposed to adding another member someday. They would need to be an all around musician playing keys, slide guitar, singing, and more! But we are not pursuing anyone as of right now.

In your opinion, how has the Internet changes the way people absorb music?

Well luckily, we never had to rely on physical albums being sold because we started selling music in the midst of this revolution. But it has definitely changed the industry in the sense that now we (the independent artist) are in control of selling music from our own online store.  It has empowered the artist to grab fans from emails and networking trough sites like Facebook, Twitter, ReverbNation and others to be a part of their own online world. It is very interesting and we will all be riding the waves of the technology revolution! I think that it will also spark a revival in vinyl records as well for the real “music enthusiasts”.

Speaking of the Internet, are you guys using Spotify? I noticed that your tunes weren’t on there yet.

We are not on Spotify yet… or even iTunes. We are going to get all of the arrangements ready to go by the end of the year to get our music on these major sites. I recently found Spotify and it’s incredible. We are no longer required to store our own music on our devices anymore. It’s awesome, and I hope people pay for the physical version of music again soon now that they don’t have to illegally download music anymore.

When this is all said and done, and Tax Brandywine is no more… what do you want to be remembered for? What is the legacy you want to leave behind?

I want to have a great brand developed with great songs to back it up. That includes making great records that will outlast my body, and a presence while I’m here that will spark peoples attention all around the globe.

Thank you guy so much. I could ask you questions all day! In all of the interviews that I do, I always give the artist the last word. Go.

Thanks Ricky for the awesome questions man; this was a lot of fun to participate on your blog! Please check out our new EP available for download December 31 titled “Welcome Home”. Also check out our website for the latest updates and I hope all of you have a great and safe holiday season! Goodnight and keep it wonky.

Pierce Duncan@taxbrandywine

Johnny C@johnnylongboddi


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