Texas Is The Reason have always been a favorite band of mine, despite getting into them far past the time when they were an active band. This past October, the band reunited for the first time since 2006 to perform as part of Revelation Records’ 25th anniversary, with an added date at the Music Hall Of Williamsburg that I had the pleasure of attending. Now, the band’s gearing up to release a complete anthology featuring two previously unreleased songs, as well as playing a couple of shows from now until April.
I caught up with Norman Brannon, the quartet’s guitarist, on what direction the band would’ve went in if they didn’t break up, what being an influence feels like, and what’s in store for the upcoming shows. The conversation is below:
How did the idea for the anthology come up?
We had the idea to do something like this a few years back. But the 7” record, they don’t sell as much as they used to, and definitely not on CD. We had this routine since 1994 and that was existing on CD and 7” for a long time. But the CD, people are obviously not going to buy it anymore. Revelation has been talking about taking it out of print for some time, but obviously we didn’t want those songs to not exist on some sort of CD package. And the first idea to kind of consolidate these records happened a few years ago when that was starting to take place. The problem with that for us, we didn’t want to do this kind of reissue repackage thing unless there was some sort of added reason or value to it.
In 2012, the band finally made the decision to record this music that had never been recorded. We had these songs that we loved and really cared about and that we never forgot, and I think that those songs were never made “real” is probably the reason why we’re doing what we’re doing in the first place. It’s to give them life. The Complete Collection was kind of our way of making these songs real and bringing them to life, but also really the final bow on this whole thing. I feel that it’s finally able to rest after this.
I listened to the stream and both of the previously unreleased songs that you just spoke about, and they have very different feels compared to the rest of Do You Know Who You Are? If the band were to stick around, would that be the direction you guys would be going in?
The interesting thing is when we started writing for the second record, there are a lot of things that can contextualize that. The first three songs that we wrote for the record [were] “Blue Boy,” “Every Little Girl’s Dream,” and “When Rock ‘N’ Roll Was Just A Baby.” All three of those songs are substantially different from each other and on some levels different from what came before them. These songs were supposed to be for our “major label debut,” so I think there was a bit of reactionary spirit to all of them.
I definitely don’t think we were going to be a band who signed to a major label and “made it” in the sense that we weren’t the kind of band who were [getting] radio singles. We just weren’t. We wrote these songs as true as we wanted for us and the major label people can decide how they feel about that—it’s their problem basically. It just turned out that we ended up writing one seven-minute song, you know, a three-minute song about a chorus. But out of all of them, “Blue Boy” had the most poppy potential to it. Still, it wasn’t a single.
I feel what was beautiful about those three songs to me and I think the reason why they’re so close to the band is that we thought these songs actually were us. I can trace the evolution sound and of us trying to find ourselves and trying to figure out what Texas Is The Reason sounds like. And these songs were kind of the first ones we wrote where we felt like this is what Texas Is The Reason should sound like. In terms of how different they are, I feel that on an aesthetic level they’re similar, but on a structural level they’re different. “Every Little Girl’s Dreams” is a bit more expansive or non-traditional, I think, than everything we’ve ever done. In the same time, I think when we made the album or recorded the album there were a lot of people who felt alienated who liked the EP and hoped that we kept going in that very raw, straight-forward, post-punk direction. I think the only constant for us is that we didn’t want to keep writing the same songs. I’m happy that you can get a glimpse of that out of these songs of where the band could’ve evolved.
Clearly, you guys must’ve been doing something right. I mean, some bands today still cite you guys as influences! How does that make you feel?
I think it’s amazing. You know, in March we’re doing a couple of shows with this guy Evan [Weiss], who makes records under the name Into It. Over It, and the first [time] I’ve come in contact with him, I just randomly came across his record last year, and I really liked it; like, I super enjoyed it. Then just randomly when the Texas Is The Reason thing started happening, I started doing some research and I was thinking, “If we’re going to really do this, what bands might we want to play with?” I looked him up and I found this write-up that said he did a short set of Texas Is The Reason covers in London once. That blew my mind! Because it made me feel how great it is to randomly come across this record, really fall in love with it, and then find out that something I did helped influence the person enough to cover a bunch of our songs at a show. That kind of stuff, that is what matters, that’s music that matters, and to me it’s a privilege.
How was it playing the 25th anniversary show for Revelation Records?
We played three shows in October; one that we decided to play an hour before it happened. The first show at the Music Hall Of Williamsburg was really interesting because in my own memory it was a complete blur. It was a “holy shit, what are we doing?” kind of adrenaline rush. You just sorta run through it and it sorta happens and then you’re like, “Okay, that was good.” I knew that people literally had flown from pretty much everywhere. I met people from England, Germany and Japan. I met people from all over the world. Now you have to be more than just the $20 ticket, but factor in the airline ticket and hotels. There starts to be all this pressure when you feel like you have to make it beyond worth it, but I think it’s good to have to feel that pressure. I would feel that pressure if everyone came from across the street.
That’s one thing this band has never lost and that’s one thing I’ve never experienced in any other band. When we were together, it felt like we were on a little bit of a mission. It really felt like every show was a mission—every song, every show was a mission. Everything had to have a 100 percent kind of investment in it or it wasn’t worth doing it. Maybe that’s why we broke up when we did. Maybe there was something that we felt like it won’t have that 100 percent investment in doing so we should just stop. So that’s why I think everything we put out feels that way to people because it was that way for us—we did not half-ass it. With these shows it was the same thing. For better or for worse we went all-in.
Then we played a set at St. Vitus in Brooklyn, and that really kicked things into gear and felt like our first shows in New York. That kind of brought us back into the moment to who we were in a way. The Revelation show was different because their shows aren’t our shows. It wasn’t “our” show but we were on the bill. But there’s this feeling of belonging to something bigger than us that’s always been appealing. I think that signing to Revelation in the first place was part of that. We grew up on their records.
What’s your favorite song off Do You Know Who You Are?
My favorite song has always been “Jack With One Eye.” It’s not saying anything bad about the other songs, but that song has the most personal significance to me on a lot of levels. It’s the only song that my memory of its creation is completely vivid. It felt like when we finished and I heard the band playing it back in [drummer] Chris Daly’s basement. I was thinking that this song is the next level, like this is a real song. I remember recording the 7” which was only a demo, but Revelation wanted to put it out. When we recorded those songs and driving home from Boston, I remember turning to Chris and saying that this sounds like a real band. The great thing for me is that it hasn’t lost any of that for me either; every time we play it I’m still completely happy to play it. It’s still one of my favorite songs to play live.
What are your expectations for the next couple of shows to support the re-release?
We have a bunch of things still growing. I think before we agreed to do the Revelation 25 shows in October we made a lot of decisions about what we were going to do. If we were going to do Rev. 25, then we’re also going to record these songs, watch them get released, and be able to play them live to people who have heard them before. That’s part of making these songs alive to me. That’s coming. The exciting thing to me is that complete set of music people will have access to. We can share every song. That’s one thing as far as expectations go I’m super excited about. But in terms of a more general idea of my expectations, what I’m learning about Texas Is The Reason fans in 2013 and Texas Is The Reason fans in 1994, is that they act different compared to any of the fans for the other bands I’ve played in, in the sense that I really feel we all live inside the songs for that moment. There’s a sense of personal investment. I’m realizing from the shows in October that that hasn’t changed. That you feel that there are stories in these songs, not only for you, but for them.
I also would say that we’re playing a show in Philadelphia. We got a note on Facebook from a young lady who told us that her brother had just passed away and that he had a ticket to the show and it was what he really wanted, and apparently Texas was the last thing he heard before he passed. She asked us if we would do something special for him and we decided that we are going to do something special, but I’m not going to say what it is. But what we’re going to do we’ve never done before live, and we’ll never do again ever. That show specifically is going to be a celebrate life show.
Wow, that’s pretty intense.
Very intense. I was really moved by the story and the whole band was. To think that somebody would be so invested in your band that that’s what they’d want to hear in their final moments. Or even that they had a ticket for the show and they can’t come, that’s a lot. The East Coast shows are just as much as a homecoming as New York ever was. The East Coast in general has always been so amazingly welcoming to our band since the beginning.
See Texas Is The Reason at Union Transfer, in Philadelphia, on Feb. 16. Do You Know Who You Are?: The Complete Collection is available now. For more information, go to txisthereason.com.