Brace/Choir was formed in Berlin back in 2006 by three Americans and one Berliner. Based on real friendship, mutual musical interests and a serious attitude they’re still making music 6 years later. They, like many bands, play live shows, rehearse and are well known for solid songwriting, but what makes this band stand out is their own particular style of onstage instrument rotation where they each swap instruments between songs. Not a very common thing to happen on live shows, you’ll agree.
Through the years their sound’s evolved and by now could be described as a minimal, lo-fi, trance rock with a mantra-esque quality. Through the creative aspect of their instrument rotation, their songs differ from one another as the band members channel their own artistic vision through their individual approaches to each instrument and personal vocal style. All this along with the fact that they’re about to complete their debut LP, Brace/Choir is a band worth keeping an eye out for.
I met them in their rehearsal space to talk about their music, plans for the future and a recent onstage accident.
If someone would refer to your music as krautrock, how would you feel about this description?
Alex: It depends on what they understand as krautrock. If it’s too narrowly defined, then it would feel like we’re being pigeon-holed. If it’s more open – Manuel Goettsching or even protokraut stuff like Von Spar – fine by me. But people can hear all sorts of things that you never would have imagined.
Dave: There are some songs I’d say definitely would fit the kraut category, but I don’t know if the description really does everything justice.
How would you describe your music?
Dave: I mean, there’s definitely a kind of dimension of some sort of incantation or where there are re-circulating melodies around a certain territory or field. I guess it’s always the hardest thing to describe in a genre per se, but there’s definitely a kind of mantra-esque quality to a lot of songs, but not all of them. I think the songs are also varied and I like that aspect of it too. It’s not like we feel forced to play a particular thing, it’s a lot of different things that are open.
Adri: Especially because we’re switching every so often. There are individual approaches to different instruments and different ways of how to express that. When you’re in a normal band that doesn’t switch instruments then you have the positions set and the sound is based on how the musicians are able to develop their very own thing. The band then becomes a thing of this guitar player and that drummer. I mean it’s not a necessity, it could also mean that we’re developing ourselves into something that might not be our current ‘normal’ switching thing. We could maybe play without swapping, but because of the fact like it is right now, it just channels and transports so many more different aspects to our music. Every song is slightly different, even though a certain recurring idea is always there.
Alex: It’s like a couple of bands in one. Because he plays drums a certain way, I play drums a certain way, he plays drums a certain way, he plays guitar a certain way, he plays guitar a certain way. We’re always switching, as shitty as it sometimes is for live shows because it’s like you just got warm and then you switch. I think there is something very interesting about everybody having a very different approach to each instrument.
But for each song you know who’s going to play each instrument…
Adri: You mean before playing a show?
After the songs have been written and recorded does the arrangement stay? Do you know who is going to play the drums on this song, on that one etc..?
Adri: Mostly. We often play with boundaries that we’re facing, like, who’s able to play, do the thing best that we actually want to do.
Max: Or what’s the most comfortable. At times it’s like, “Oh sure, I could do that. I can play this and sing at the same time”, but is it the most comfortable? Does it feel right, how is it going to come across? That’s always a sort of a question.
How do you determine which version, guitar, drum line is the right one for each song? How do you decide?
Adri: That is a good question. [laughter]
Do you fight?
Adri: Sure –