THE BRITANYS IN BROOKLYN, NEW YORK, MARCH 2016. PHOTOS: HANS NEUMANN. STYLING: DIANNA LUNT/ART DEPTARTMENT. GROOMING: NATE ROSENKRANZ USING ALTERNA HAIR CARE AT HONEY ARTISTS. STYLING ASSISTANT: ALI KORNHAUSER.
Not many band names result from a quick Google search and the purchase of a misspelled URL; this is, however, the origin of the Britanys, a Brooklyn-based rock band with a decidedly punk underbelly. Shortly after founding members Steele Kratt, Lucas Long, and Gabe Schulman met at The New School in 2013, Long found the band’s title by looking up the most popular female baby name in 1994 (the year they were all born). The result was Brittany, but “I’m a horrible speller,” Long admits, “I bought the domain name with one T and just went with it.”
In 2014, the band released their debut EP It’s Alright. “Each song was different—one was upbeat and sort of hard, another very indie, and another glam-ish. It was unfocused,” Kratt explains of the record. “Now we have a tailored sound. We know exactly what we want.” During the past year, the Britanys added guitarist Jake Williams to the lineup and here we’re pleased to premiere “Basketholder,” their first release as a four-piece and a track that features production by Gordon Raphael (known for The Strokes’ This is It and Regina Spektor’s Soviet Kitsch, among others).
Currently, the Britanys can be found rehearsing four times a week in the basement of their shared Bushwick apartment, while Schulman and Long simultaneously complete their studies at The New School (at Eugene Lang College and Parsons, respectively), and Williams, a Bard graduate, maintains a day job and moonlights as a model for Saint Laurent. Tomorrow night, the group will open Hinds‘ sold-out show at Bowery Ballroom and later this week they will perform at Savannah Stopover Music Festival. Looking forward, the Britanys hope to release another EP before the leaves change shades this fall. “We’re gunning for the U.K.’s The Great Escape festival in May,” Long says enthusiastically when we meet the band in Brooklyn. “This is the first year where we’re going to start doing it.”
THE BASICS: Steele Kratt, drums, from New York City, age 21; Lucas Long, lead vocals and guitar, from San Francisco, age 22; Gabe Schulman, bass, from Boston, age 22; Jake Williams, guitar, from New York City, age 24
CURRENTLY BASED: Brooklyn, New York
BECOMING A FOUR-PIECE: Jake Williams: I joined the band in August . I passed my audition mid-summer and our first gig was August 30. I knew them because we all used to be part of the same pseudo-label recording studio called Mama Coco’s Funky Kitchen, while I was in a band called Dr. Skinnybones. I’ve known these guys for a long time, so they said, “Hey, do you want to shred?” and I was like, “Let’s do it.”
Lucas Long: Jake had direct messaged our Instagram account as well, with a funny picture from one of our shows where he zoomed-in on this person’s face who was really out of it. I thought, “This guy is funny,” and that planted a seed for when we said, “Let’s look for another guitar player.” He was the only one we really called and it ended up working out.
SHIFT IN SOUND: Long: The internet has changed a lot of things [in music]. This is the first era where up-and-coming bands are documented as soon as they put something up. When we did the songs [for It’s Alright, The Britany’s debut EP], we started off playing and hosting parties. We had no idea about the background work that goes into being in a band; we were just in it to play parties and have a good time with our friends. We’d record and put whatever on the internet without any thought process behind it. Taking that stuff down is a marker, at least for me, that we’ve actually found our sound now. This is really the start of the band and what we’re going to do. We called [It’s Alright] an EP but it’s really just three songs we recorded and put online. Knowing what an EP is now, I wouldn’t necessarily consider that one.
Kratt: I think [our sound] is more focused now. We make better use of melodies and found a way to keep it upbeat and energetic but also keep it melodic, catchy, and less fuzzed-out. Before we put [It’s Alright] out, we did something that was super fuzz and Lucas doesn’t want anybody to hear it—ever. He won’t even listen to it.
Long: It’s like looking back at pictures from middle school and thinking, “Shit, did I really wear that?”
THE WRITING PROCESS: Kratt: [Lucas] will come up with the bulk of it and we’ll flesh it out together. Recently, we’ve been working on a song that Lucas rewrites every time we play it.
Williams: During the last show, he whispered in my ear, “Oh, we’re going to change the chords like this,” the moment before we started playing. On the fly, he still changes stuff.Long: But usually it’s a very open outline I bring to the room and then we’ll hash it out.
WORKING WITH GORDON RAPHAEL: Kratt: Nicholas Ellis interviewed us for this Argentinean/British blog, Artistas Sean Unidos, and after he interviewed us he said, “By the way, are you guys familiar with Gordon Raphael? I think you would work very well together.” We said, “Oh yeah, that would be cool,” and Nicholas said, “I have his email so I’ll put you in contact.” We thought he was fucking with us but he hooked it up. The whole time we were wondering, “Is this really Gordon Raphael?!”
Long: Gordon lives in Berlin now so it was all over email. He emailed us back and said, “I’ve heard you guys before and would be open to working together.” We sent him the stems and he sent us back the first mix. Downloading it, we were very nervous because we still thought it was Nicholas the entire time and we were just going to get garbage back.
Gabe Schulman: We were going to get catfished. [all laugh]
Long: But it sounded really good and it was actually him!
MUSICAL ROOTS: Schulman: I play ukulele a little bit…
Long: Gabe doesn’t want to talk about himself but I’ll talk for him. He’s very much a musical talent. He went to The New School for jazz bass and pretty much got to take all the higher-level classes freshman year. After that he dropped out for about a year and now he’s back at school, studying philosophy. He had an ear-training teacher who would throw inanimate objects at the ground and he’d have to tell him the intervals.
Kratt: [hits the table and a bowl with a spoon] Gabe?
Schulman: That’s a perfect fourth.
Kratt: My dad used to play drums in a band in the ’70s and he gave me sticks when I was two, so I’d just bang on furniture. I went to study jazz at The New School, too, and I was so bad at all the technical aspects. I was at the most rudimentary level and then I dropped out. So, I’m on the opposite side of the spectrum [from Gabe].
Schulman: But we both still dropped out, so…
FIRST CDs: Kratt: Aerosmith’s Nine Lives. I bought it in Idaho at an F.Y.E. music store when I was visiting my grandparents. I put it on and realized, “This sucks.”
Williams: The first Spice Girls record.
Long: I’m pretty sure it was a [cassette] tape that I asked for—NSYNC’s No Strings Attached. I was like, “Mom, I really want this, please.” She took me to the concert too.
Schulman: The Backstreet Boys.
Kratt: The Spice Girls were my favorite band when I was four. For my sister’s birthday, [my parents] took her to the Spice Girls show with all her friends. I loved Baby Spice but they said, “Sorry, you’re too young to go,” and I sobbed for a day.
INFLUENCES: Kratt: Recently, collectively, it’s been The Velvet Underground and Lou Reed. I think we all love him. With a new song we’ve been working on, we’ve definitely been looking to him for inspiration.
Long: We’ve been studying a lot of his songs recently, just going through his catalog. Not to be too cliché, but it’s also always The Beatles.
Kratt: The [Rolling] Stones, too.
Williams: We’ve said The Velvet Underground, The Beatles, and The Stones… Wow, we suck. Fuck our band. What a shitty answer. [all laugh]
Kratt: But those are the big three!
Williams: We also like David Bowie, Elvis…
Long: Recently, I think Hinds is doing a really good job. More on our level, there’s a band called Hunters in Brooklyn, which is really cool. For me personally, this is really dumb, but I always look to Alex Turner, Pete Doherty, and Keith Richards.
TAKING MUSIC (AND BEER) SERIOUSLY: Kratt: We’re at the age where we need to be making a profession so it’s time to step up and be pros. No excuses.
Long: Last year was the first—I don’t want to say “real year,” but at the beginning of last year we learned, “This is what we need to do,” and we’re obviously still learning along the way. We didn’t know anything about the business side of things and were also defining ourselves, adding Jake and everything. That settled in by fall, so this year we’ll start making it happen.
Williams: Playing music is quite possibly the one profession in the arts in which you consistently have to dream for the very tippy top. Otherwise, there’s no point. We’re not actors waiting for a good part to come along. The inception of everything starts right in this room. Ultimately, there is no restraint on what we could do as musicians. We all have the talent and the ambition, so our long-term goal is to fucking shoot for the stars. It would be silly to think, “I don’t want to be the best band in New York.” We have so many things in so many different places right now, so hopefully at some point it’ll come to fruition and all of a sudden we’ll be superstars! [laughs] Otherwise, I really like drinking beer, going to bed early… I smoke cigarettes, and sports are great… Gabe?