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.