When you seclude yourself off in a remote location for a few months to record an album, it can't hurt to get recognition for your hard work. Bronze Radio Return has seen success with their songs, like "Shake, Shake, Shake," being featured on TV spots, movie trailers, and a PGA tour commercial. The rock band is from Hartford, C.T., yes, that Hartford, the city that made Dave Chapelle walk-off stage. But they are far from what that fiasco made the citizens of Hartford seem. They are a group of friends who hope to get your feet stomping with their indie-folk-rock. Lead singer Chris Henderson talks about their experiences playing in DC, plans to possibly record in the Czech Republic, the advantages to having a large band, and more.
[FO]: When you have six people in a band, how is it dealing with so many personalities?
[CH]: Absolutely. We've kind of done it through trial and error, but I personally see having six people in our band as a greater strength than it is a challenge. Because we all come from pretty diverse musical backgrounds. A lot of similar interests. but having six guys with different takes on things actually works out really well in the studio, to have different perspectives when it comes to recording. So we, knock on wood, have been doing pretty well so far when it comes to having six people in the band. No major meltdowns as of yet.
[FO]: Are you technically the leader, where you have to make the final decision?
[CH]:We do a good job of taking different leadership roles at times. Certainly in a studio setting or when it comes to writing I often will take a leadership role. If there is an argument, I might push it one way or the other. Sometimes we might have our producer help do that as well. And then outside of the recording world, when it comes to the band business, we are democratic about it, and rely on people like our manager to help us if there is a tough decision.
[FO]: You all met at school. Sometimes people think that conservatories, school atmospheres, actually hinder creativity. How do you feel it shaped you all as musicians and as a band?
[CH]:I think it was a big part in how we grew individually. We didn't start playing together until after we had all graduated, and our studies there helped us a lot. I studied music production and technology, and that kind of world helped me a lot in how to approach songwriting in a studio from a production stand point. We have guys in the band who studied music business so we used some of those skills as well. I don’t think the conservatory hindered any of our creativity. I think it kind of made us hungry for more.
[FO]: You've said before that you are first and foremost a live band. For some artists, their live music is better than their recorded album. That raw sound can be what brings people back to the live shows. How do you feel that energy translates from your album to your live shows?
[CH]:I I almost view them as almost two separate entities. I'm really proud of the recordings we've done. We've had a really great time creating the songs and recording them, that's almost a whole different process in of itself. And when it comes to the live shows, I think it’s important to offer something different than just pressing play and playing the songs exactly how they are. In all honesty you could just sit in your house and just listen to the album. We try to offer something that’s just a little bit different. We certainly don’t sound like a different band. We sound like Bronze Radio Return. But we'll extend songs or play parts of songs, or maybe do something interesting. We're always trying to bring as much energy as we can. That kind of sounds like a generic statement, energy, but we love what we do. We love jumping around on stage, love looking for a reaction from the crowd. it’s something we get better at the more we do.
[FO]: Do you do a lot of free-styling or jamming during your shows, or is it fairly structured?
[CH]: There are structured scenarios. I wouldn't say we do overly extended crazy jams for over forty five minutes or anything, but we will have scenarios where we rehearse a fair amount. Rehearse this version of a song or this version of a song, so if the time feels right we'll play the extended part, or if we feel like we are just going to cruise through it, we'll just call the regular stuff.
[FO]: Have there been any times you didn't feel the energy from the crowd? Maybe when you were first starting out, where the crowd was just lame?
[CH]: [laughs] We've seen all different types of crowds. On the topic of loving what we do, in all honesty, a lot of times we've gotten on the stage and I've looked around and I’m up on the stage with some of my closest friends and most respected musicians I know. We've had nights when we've played to four people, and they have been some of the most fun we've had. Cause we've just let loose and had a good time, and it just felt like we were just playing for ourselves. Those are some of the most fun to do, although it’s also fun to play to the larger crowds for sure. But it’s important to play the best you can play every night regardless of the crowd.
[FO]: I've heard that about DC before, that apparently the audiences are not very energetic.
[CH]: [laughs] We've had some good luck in D.C, we love D.C. I think this we'll be our third time through The Hamilton, which is a really cool venue. But we've played at the Iota Club a bunch, and earlier on we played at a place called DC9. We've had good luck with getting people clapping along, maybe a couple foot stomping, and we've been having a great time in D.C.
[FO]: It’s interesting, you’re speaking voice and your singing voice are so different.
[CH]: You know, you're not the first person to tell me that.
[FO]: Have you always been a singer, did you have any training?
[CH]: Not at all. I didn't start singing until midway to end of college. I was always way too nervous to sing. I played in a blues band in college and we would go to these blues shows, and we'd have nobody singing. Because I was playing guitar some of the guys were like hey man you should really sing cause nobody else is singing. I kind of like shrugged it off for a while, then I final got up the courage to start singing a little bit. And I’ve been singing ever since.
[FO]: Was there a point where you decided you could sing? For some people it's very intimidating, you're thinking I think I sound good to myself but do I sound good to everyone else.
[CH]: I don't know if there was an exact time. But I remember my senior year in college, I recorded this little song, like a demo of a song. Somehow showed it to a couple people, and I was really bashful about it, and got positive feedback. And they shared it with people, then I got more positive feedback. It really comes down to, not being a trained singer with no classical background, a lot of it comes down to just confidence. You know, if you go up there with confidence and tell yourself I’m going to sing the song the way that they’re written, and hopefully people will like them. And if not, tomorrow's another day. But it’s really confidence and to not give a fuck. Cause you are still caring, your obviously caring, but it’s this attitude of here it is I hope you enjoy it.
[FO]: Does that carry over to your albums? Your first album and new album are different, but they have that same basic root to them. Did you experiment with different vocals or styles other than where you were recording?
[CH]: Yeah, absolutely. I rarely go back and listen to our recorded music, but over Christmas time I was actually up in Maine, where I grew up, and we actually lost power for about five days. So somehow I ended up going back and listening to some music. Especially starting from our EP, which we recorded, gosh five years ago, to the latest record, Up, On & Over, you can almost hear my voice as I’m learning to sing. I was a late bloomer in singing, I really noticed that going back and listening, you can really hear the progression; certainly songwriting and production, but also in my voice, learning how to sing along the way.
[FO]: Do you have any plans for the next album to be any different? Or are you going to stick with going somewhere different every time and get a feeling from where you are? Do you have specific plans?
[CH]: I don't have any specific plans as of now. I think our goal time wise is to start recording the record in the fall. We've got a pretty busy touring season coming up and we'll be playing in some festivals and stuff this summer. We're excited about getting back on the road. The fall will be the first time we really get some time to go do anything with a new record. I think we will stick with the formula were we go somewhere new, and we'll work with the same production team. We really enjoy working with this producer, Chad Copelin, a great friend of ours. Working with the team of people he works with. We want to continue to grow together. As far as where, I’m not sure yet. I think it would be cool to do somewhere in the north west. We really love that part of the country. There's been talk of maybe a producer in the Czech Republic, and possibly getting stuff done out there. Which would be kind of fun. So I’m not sure yet. I’ll be interested to see where we end up going, but I’m certainly looking forward to it.
[FO]: Do you have plans to do collaborations with other artists, any people in particular?
[CH]: No current plans, but I love working with other musicians and other bands. Working on other projects, that's something that’s really new to me, songwriting and collaborating with other artists. I think you get a lot out of it, and I think it’s a fun thing for people to hear kind of different songwriters coming together on something. So while we don’t have any concrete plans for it, I wouldn't be surprised if some of that happens in 2014.
[FO]: Is there any plans for solo work? You or anyone else in the band?
[CH]: Yeah, currently I'm going back and forth to Oklahoma and working with our producer, and kind of working on a batch of songs. Its more or less a solo project, but really just a recording project. I went to school for music production and really enjoy the creative process of being in the studio. Bronze Radio Return only records a record maybe once every year, once every eighteen months, so in my downtime as a songwriter I like to kind of keep the chops up and do what I can. I wrote this batch of songs so I've been working on some of that new material as well.
[FO]: That reminds me of Ryan Tedder from One Republic, who has really established himself as a well respected songwriter and producer. But obviously still records with One Republic. Is there anyone like that who's career you want to follow, maybe not follow but aspire to have a career like theirs?
[CH]: I love the idea of linking up the right producer with other artist as well. For me personally first and foremost my goals and aspirations are with Bronze Radio Return. and that's the primary goal. Continue writing, continue to work with other people, continue to be immersed in creativity and creative places, only helps me as a writer and musician, and to contribute more to Bronze Radio as well. I don't know specifically who's footsteps I'd want to follow in. I just like the whole idea of constantly creating, constantly being busy and making more, getting better.
[FO]: Your getting recognition from different companies, your music has been in different commercials. How does that translate for you as a musician, what does it mean to you, at least on this commercial level?
[CH]: We see it as a great opportunity. We've gotten really lucky and really fortunate to have our music placed in things. We've had mostly seventy or eighty placements, and in commercials, movie trailers, and TV shows. I personally see it as a great opportunity to get our music out there. I see it as a vehicle to take an unknown indie band from Hartford, CT and reach, hopefully, a large listening audience. I've said this before but if our song is in a commercial, millions of people hear it, and maybe a thousand people are going to say, hey let me google that song or whatever, that's still a thousand that google our song. And hopefully will watch our show. We like to see it translate to people coming out to shows. I think that's a big gauge for us, is if we have a placement and we can monitor it through iTunes sales, social media. There are a lot of ways to see how effective a placement is, but at the end of the day it’s when people decide to schedule in some time to come see us play.
[FO]: Which is the next point of success for some artists. Like when MIA was featured in the Pineapple Express trailer, she took off majorly. Sometimes that success doesn't hold. There seems to be a lot of engagement that needs to be done as follow up. Do you do a lot of social media, viral video, Facebook, Twitter, engagement things?
[CH]: The current climate of being a band, really depends on how you use the tools around you. Social media is a huge tool to us. Ultimately, you are looking to connect to people, hopefully make people feel something, or get into the music. It all boils down to connecting people to your music. Currently social media is one of the best ways to do that. So that's a big part of it. Making sure people know when shows are, if people send you a message, you message them back. Kind of have this engagement with people that listen you your music. That's something we do a lot of. There are things we can do better. Are manager gets on us, “we got to Facebook more, or we got to do this more.”He brings up some good points. While I’m not an everyday Facebook-er, I can see that it’s a very important tool to use, and that comes back to there being six guys in the band. Where it can perceived as being difficult having opinions and things, I also see it as we have six workers in the band as well. Its six guys, someone who can stay on top of the Twitter, someone can stay on top of Facebook, and we've kind of have this team within our team.
[FO]:It's like six people who work for the company, who all want to see it succeed.
[CH]: Exactly, and I'm a big fan of the team mentality. And I think the ball gets pushed a lot further when you have more hands pushing on it.
[FO]: As I look at your Facebook, I see your Christmas photo, which is amazing.
[CH]: [laughs] That was a fun one. the photo team at Sears was definitely surprised when we showed up for that.
[FO]: You did that at Sears?
[CH]: Oh yeah.
Catch Bronze Radio Return at The Hamilton this Friday, January 31 at 8:30 p.m. For tickets contact the box office at (202) 787-1000, or www.thehamiltondc.com. And to check out that Christmas photo, go here.