There have been few times in music history when a band relied so heavily on a movie trailer for their future, but that’s exactly the situation Jersey rock duo Brick + Mortar found the
There have been few times in music history when a band relied so heavily on a movie trailer for their future, but that’s exactly the situation Jersey rock duo Brick + Mortar found themselves in over the past year, completely by chance…much like the band’s beginning.
The duo of Brandon Asraf and John Tacon first met each other back in middle school and quickly gravitated towards each other after Asraf witnessed Tacon drumming in a talent show, even though Asraf wasn’t exposed to too much music by that point. “I actually never listened to music growing up,” Asraf revealed. “When I saw [Tacon] play drums when I was about 15, he was just so good that I thought it must have been so good to be able to do that. After that, he bugged me to start learning the bass and I just started playing all the time, probably because I had a super fucked up childhood and I was really depressed.”
From there, the duo became nearly inseparable as they discovered the ins and outs of songwriting and spent time learning music theory, namely jazz, all on their own. By the end of the 2000s, Asraf and Tacon had started playing gigs with their music right as the Asbury Park scene of Jersey started to return to prominence in the musical world. With their unique take on song structures and their gritty and hard-hitting rock sound, the band quickly established a name for themselves and began cultivating a strong following. By 2013 (and also by chance), the band had found themselves on Photo Finish Records, a small label under the umbrella of Universal, and after the release of their second EP that year, Bangs, everything seemed to be lining up for the band to really make the next big step in their career. Of course, like many bands, the music industry had a different idea.
“After Bangs was released, we started working on the follow-up EP,” Asraf detailed. “We had it done, but then we ended up getting dropped. Photo Finish was a subsidiary of Island Records/Def Jam which was a subsidiary of Universal. Universal basically ripped apart Island and Def Jam and Photo Finish ended up having to drop all of their bands because the bigger guys called the shots. The problem was we had this EP all done and ready when we were dropped so we had to try and get it back. We were stuck for maybe about six months. They just did not want to give us our songs back and we weren’t getting any response to our e-mails or calls. We were getting blown off because we’re a smaller band.”
It seems so ridiculous that a finished product would just sit on a shelf in someone’s closet, but when pressed about it, Asraf just shrugged. “It happens a lot more than people think.” It’s a harsh truth about where the music industry has ended up in today’s age and really makes one wonder just how many finished albums, EPs, or songs are just sitting on someone’s shelf, never to be released despite the time and energy spent on it.
So where does the movie trailer I mentioned in the beginning come into play? That’s best explained by Asraf himself really:
“One day, we get this very nice e-mail from Universal that said, ‘Remember that Hendrix cover you did? Well, we sold it to a major motion picture for a trailer and we forgot to have you sign off your names on it. The problem is we already sold it, so could you please sign off on it?’ We very politely told them to fuck off since they weren’t giving us our songs back or even a response at that point. Of course, from there, we started hearing from them all the time. Before that, no response. Nothing. We were like the fat girl that someone banged once and never wanted to hang out with again. We were the ugly duckling of Universal it seemed like. Photo Finish was great to us and really supportive, but they weren’t the ones who controlled the songs and our future. Their lawyers just didn’t give a shit, but once they needed something, they were in constant contact. Finally, we had a bit of leverage and we got them to give us our songs back in exchange for my signature and it brought that chapter to an end almost. It’s a crazy story. Some stoner forgot to get us to sign a contract one day and that’s the only reason we got our songs back and the only reason this new EP is out.”
The movie in question? Hitman: Agent 47. Next time you catch it on TV or before a YouTube video, listen closely in the background and you’ll hear Brick + Mortar’s cover of “Voodoo Child,” something that was recorded completely by chance and ended up saving the band’s latest EP just released this past July. The aptly-titled Dropped is a great achievement for the band after spending so long wading through a ridiculous amount of uncertainty, but despite all those hurdles from Universal, Dropped still remains their biggest test to date as a band because as Asraf stated over and over again: “we’re on our own with this one.”
After spending months building a team to promote the work and help the band reach the next step, Asraf was quick to point out that this is really make-or-break time for the duo. “It’s pretty nerve-racking,” Asraf disclosed. “I have nobody to blame except myself if this doesn’t take off. I got the songs back and are doing things in a way that makes sense to me, but if it doesn’t work out, then I’m responsible because obviously what I thought wasn’t correct. I’m so grateful to be able to do this, but the pressure is all around me and it’s really easy to get nervous thinking you actually don’t know what you’re doing.”
It’s a difficult place to be in, but one Asraf admits is a “total blessing.” They’re not bound to a label with their music, are more popular than ever, and have their music featured in a popular movie trailer at the same time their “new” EP comes out. Even if it all happened by chance, it’s great to see Brick + Mortar end up with a happy ending to one of the music industry’s most repeated and tragic stories. It leaves us with a mark in the win column and a band stronger and better than ever, making that happy ending into a hopefully tremendous rise.
Brick + Mortar play Strange Matter Wednesday, August 12th alongside local acts Sideways Orange and Kid Is Qual. For more information on the show and where to buy tickets, click here.