Local Noise: Brick+Mortar

Brick+Mortar is the musical partnership of John Tacon and Brandon Asraf. John handles the drums, live samples and backup vocals, while Brandon handles lead vocals, live samples and bass.

The collaboration started in a less than stellar manner but developed into what has become one of the more promising groups to come out of New Jersey in years. “Tacon and I met in 8th grade,” Brandon recalls. “I was the new poor kid in school and at first we hated each other’s guts. Then I heard him play the drums. I was in awe. I started hanging out, listening to him play, and going to his other band’s shows. One day he said, ‘Why don’t you play the bass?’ The rest is history. We jammed everyday for hours on end.”

The duo has graced stages not only in the New Jersey area but also in Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Virginia and New York. Still, their favorite type of show is the basement shows organized on a grass roots level. “We love playing basement DIY shows in Philly, Brooklyn and New Brunswick, because the people are literally right in front of you freaking out to the music and getting fucked up,” Brandon exclaims. “The vibe is just so much better.”

That vibe is a big part of what the band does. In fact, it is the basis for what the group hopes to accomplish when they set foot on stage. “We sound like a party, or at least that’s what it feels like,” Brandon laughs. “We have bits of indie, dub and the spirit of punk. What defines our sound is how my vocal melody plays off of Tacon’s drums. Drums are a huge part of Brick+Mortar.”

Their sound is an amalgamation of everything and anything that the duo comes across that attracts their interest. “I love strange stuff like Animal Collective, Matt And Kim, all the indie underground, a lot of hip-hop and indie hip-hop, where our sampling technique has its roots,” explains Brandon. “But more than anything, bands I see live and meet along the way influence me the most. Anything DIY gets me interested.”

A big part of the mix also comes from his partner’s varied influences. “I love jazz, hip-hop, dub-step, indie hip-hop and bands like Beach House, Toro y Moi and Real Estate are growing on me,” Tacon says. “The drummer I’d say I have been into for a few years now is Logan Kroeber from the Dodos. His playing is percussive and orchestral in a way. He can also get crazy. But playing shows in new places and meeting new bands and people [is what] I find to be the most influential.”

Songs that make the group sweat, and the crowds sing the loudest include “20lb” and “185 Drop.” They also have an unreleased track that has been getting crowds worked up at the shows called “For Yellow Walls.”

The songs stem from ideas Brandon gets, and starts to develop. “Most of the time I come up with vocals and lyrics first, then build a musical landscape for each song,” he relates. “All the sampling is done from my bedroom without a computer, so we directly record to our Roland SPD-S. Once I have made the structures for the songs, I bring them to Tacon and we try to just wing it, see what feels good, and both produce the song from there.”

And where does the unusual moniker come from? “Thievery,” laughs Brandon. “I must admit, I stole the name from my best friend. We had spoken of starting a side project called Brick And Mortar, but the idea fizzled out. So when he told me he was moving, I asked if I could take the name and he gave me the okay. But it makes sense. We are builders, we write songs from the ground up every note. Every texture is handmade. We wouldn’t want it any other way.”

The energy, spirit and unique sound make Brick+Mortar’s potential limitless, even in today’s tough music business environment. “We want to keep writing good records and take this on tour nationally,” states Brandon. “I want to evolve and hope to one day write the ‘perfect record.’ We know for a fact that we are doing something truly different and if people get it, they get it. I mean, we write what we love, I sing these songs because they make things going on in my life feel right. I sing from my heart, I care about what I write as Brick+Mortar. This is just my life on record. It evolves as I do.”

The Brick+Mortar release, 7 Years in the Mystic Room, is available on iTunes, as well as at shows. You can get more information on the band at brmr.net, or email them at bookbrickandmortar@gmail.com.