If you're one of the people jumping on that "Austin isn't cool anymore" bandwagon, you probably don't want to mention that to brothers Willy and Cody Braun of Reckless Kelly. The band will be roaring into Houston Friday night to push their latest album, Long Night Moon, which dropped last week. It's the second release on the band's own label No Big Deal Records, and the eighth release of their 16-year career.
The Brauns moved to Austin in 1996. They'd spent the previous nine months in Bend, Oregon, where they had moved after completing their home schooling. Prior to forming Reckless Kelly, the four Braun brothers (Gary and Micky of Austin's Micky and the Motorcars) had backed up their father Muzzy Braun in a Western Swing band that worked the Northwest.
Rocks Off caught up with the brothers just after their return from their three week "Livers of Steel" tour of the West Coast.
Rocks Off: There's lots of talk about Austin not being cool anymore, or that Austin is not as cool as it used to be. How do you see it?
Willy Braun: When I got to Austin in October 1996, people were telling me, "Aww, you should have been here 20 years ago; it was cool then." Now I realize there are a dozen new high rises downtown, I realize 170 people a day move here, and I know that the music scene here has gotten pretty commercial, that a handful of promoters run everything important here. But Austin can go up against any city in the world.
Cody Braun: We go all over the country, we go to Ireland and Europe, and I can honestly tell you few things make me happier than seeing that Austin city limits sign when we're coming in. I love this town. It's a great place to work from, it's a great place to eat and drink, you can get around and see all these great musicians who live here up close in small clubs. Trust me, Austin is as cool as any city. Period. I never even think about moving somewhere else.
RO: You guys have your own label now. What's that been like? WB: Well, we had label deals and it always seemed like we had an A&R guy trying to push us toward a certain market or sound they thought was for a certain market. Our thing has always been to make records we are satisfied with and that's what we try to do every time we go in the studio.
It's more work and responsibility on each one of us doing it this way, but if it doesn't work at least we know who to blame. It is more work for all of us, but this is the first time we've ever really seen any money from our recordings.
RO: What do you notice in particular about having and running your own label? WB: Well, we now employ a few people. We brought in Jay Nazz's [drummer Jay Nazz] New Jersey buddy Neil Gallagher to manage our tours and help us with publicity and logistics. It's definitely more work, as everybody has some non-music responsibilities. So in that way, we're working a little harder, but we're also seeing more of the money.
RO: What are some of your longer-range goals with the label? WB: I'd like to think that down the road we can maybe sign a few bands, maybe begin to do some management and development. We still like going out on the road, but I'm not sure how long you can do 200 days a year on the road before you start thinking of other ways to make money. I hope we can work ourselves into position to help some young bands in a few years.
RO: You guys haven't changed your sound much over the years, at least since you added Jay Nazz on drums. Is there anything fans might be surprised by on the new record?
CB: We approached this one a little more relaxed than previously, and I really like it. I think it's some of the deeper stuff that we've done. You might have to actually listen to this one four or five times before you've really gotten it. It's also a bit of less-is-more. Willie wrote all the songs, and I think he stretched himself on a couple of tunes, like "Long Night Moon" and "Idaho."
The recording is a bit spacier and quieter than most of our songs. Personally, I don't want to make the same album every time, so I'm very happy with a bit of new direction. When you've been in a band as long as we have, you don't want to play the same songs over and over.
More with the Brauns on the next page.
RO: That's kind of a trade-off, though, isn't it? Success often wants repeating. WB: It's a fine line between what your old fans are familiar with and what they already like versus playing new material. But that's something most bands face eventually. We're very conscious of our set lists, the mix of tried and true versus new tunes in the mix. It's a balance thing.
RO: This is your second studio album on your label. You've put out two live albums in your career and there was the album of Pinto Bennett covers. What are you thinking your next project will be? WB: We're actually talking about an album of outtakes and live stuff that hasn't made it on to a record. We've got so much stuff recorded that we didn't want to squeeze onto an album where it didn't seem to fit. So it will probably be a mix of outtakes and alternate versions and some live stuff.
RO: Cody, you've had some serious health problems. How are you now? CB: I had an odd chain of events that got me down. I went in to have a small outpatient operation for a hernia, you know, go to a clinic, do it, go home. I started feeling bad and it just kept getting worse until I was just completely down.
It took a week for the doctors to find some abscesses on my intestine, probably caused by an accidental cut on my intestine during the hernia procedure. Anyway, I had an operation and they removed part of my intestine. So I was in the hospital three weeks and another three weeks of bed rest at home.
RO: That had to be disheartening with a new album dropping and a major tour already booked. CB: Well, business comes second to your health, you know? I've got to say that everybody in the band and a bunch of our good friends were right there with me all the way. And I got well in time to do the tour.
RO: How did that go? CB: Well, we probably did a little less partying than usual. But we squeezed in some baseball games and also got to play some cool golf courses. I really enjoyed it and the crowds were great. We actually did better than we expected.
RO: You've been out on the road. Are you listening to anything new and exciting? WB: I've really been getting into this band out of Virginia called Sons of Bill. Pretty impressive. We've also been listening to the last Masterson's album a lot. And Jason Eady's latest one is rock solid. I dig his songs and his style. I've also been listening to this rock band out of Columbus, Ohio called Hear the Sirens.
Reckless Kelly plays House of Blues Friday with Quaker City Night Hawks. Doors open at 8 p.m.
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