By Tyler Fox (@TylerFox585)
If you follow my writings on Turnabout, you know I have a love for home region, Western New York. It is a place I grew up finding boring and couldn’t wait to leave. And once I did, the renaissance of Buffalo began and now I count down the days to my next visit to the area. However, one of the things I’ve always loved about WNY is the vibrant and eclectic music scene. So once I heard one of Buffalo’s new favorite bands, Humble Braggers, I knew I had to talk to the guys.
What started as a passion projected for frontman Tom Burtless, has blossomed into so much more. Humble Braggers have been kicking around Buffalo and WNY for a while, but are really gaining steam now. On top of playing shows all over the region, the band was just tapped by The CW to have two of their songs featured in some pretty popular prime-time programming.
I recently spoke to Tom and get a little insight into the band and what this whole experience has been like for him. Be sure to check out their most recent EP, Disposable Friends, at their Bandcamp page and keep up with current band happenings on Facebook.
You guys have been kicking around for a little bit. How did everything get started for Humble Braggers and how did the band get to be what it is today?
Humble Braggers got started late 2012 as a solo project of mine. I wrote and recorded our first EP, ‘Safe Haven’ and released it July 2013. In 2014 I recruited some friends to help me start playing live. We also released another EP entitled ‘Say’ that same year.
We were a 5 piece up until two months after ‘Disposable Friends’ was released. Matt Chavanne joined as our drummer this past August and Bryan Zells, previously in the 5 piece lineup, stayed on to play Bass and Guitar.
Originally being from the Buffalo area, I’ve always felt there is this absurdly strong love for local music in the WNY area. Can you speak a little bit about the band’s experience with the scene, both with other bands and with fans?
I think starting out was a little tough. Given there’s few other synth pop bands in Buffalo, we had a hard time finding other bands to clique with right off the bat. As we played more we made friends and found a plethora of other local artists making incredible music. I think there’s a very strong tight-knit community in Buffalo right now.
There’s also an incredible amount of talent in Buffalo right now – Sixties Future, MAGS, Dreambeaches, Space Cubs, Tomoreaux – the list goes on and on. I think people in Buffalo are starting to really notice what’s going on and starting to come out to shows more and more. The crowds are getting bigger and bigger at each local show we play.
You’ve played some great venues in Buffalo, including Nietzsches and Mohawk Place. What has been the best occasion you guys have had doing a show, where was it, and who else played?
I would most likely say that our best show so far was back in November with The Tins, Midnight Hollow and Kopps at Nietzsches. There was a really great crowd out that night, a lot of people dancing. The other bands absolutely killed it. Great vibes all around.
This past year has been a busy one for you guys. Let’s start with the release of “Disposable Friends.” What was the inspiration behind this album?
Inspiration behind this album stems from being at an odd age in regards to friendships. I’m about 3 year s out of college and I’ve seen a lot of friends come and go at this point. Groups of friends changing drastically.
It’s called ‘Disposable Friends’ for a variety of reasons. It’s in regards to people who remove others from their lives at a rapid pace and vice versa. It’s in relation to how we forget people who mattered a great deal to us at some point. It’s about how you can go from feeling so completely comfortable to profoundly awkward around someone.
You guys did the all of the recording and production for this album. How important is it for you to have that kind of control behind the music you put out there?
It had been extremely important. I knew how I wanted these songs to sound and feel. That had been the case for all of the albums up until this point. But it’s stressful. I spent weeks tweaking guitar tones in my bedroom.
I think I still know how I want the music to sound and feel going forward but now that we’re an actual band it doesn’t rest on my shoulders to make these decisions.
So one of the coolest things that happened recently was the band was selected to have, not one, but two songs featured on popular CW shows. The song “How It Starts” on iZombie and “What’s Fair” on The Flash. How does that type of opportunity even come about? What was that whole experience like?
Our label, Admirable Traits Records, has a deal with a licensing agency. The agency had pitched our tracks to those CW shows and they liked how we fit. I think I’m oversimplifying a good chunk of the process but that’s essentially how it went down.
It was very surreal. ‘iZombie’ was first and I remember anxiously awaiting the scene. When it happened, I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe a song I wrote and recorded in my bedroom was being played on National TV. Having our two tracks on CW has been the most surreal experience yet by far.
“Disposable Friends” is still fairly new, but what else does the band have in the works?
We’re playing Buffalo on March 4th with Kopps, Lesionread and Pinesheets at Mohawk Place. Playing Rochester in late March and Albany in April. We’re also writing the next album right now which should hopefully come out by the end of this year.
We’d like to thank Tom Burtless from Humble Braggers for his time and the photo he provided courtesy of Brian Gorman. We’d encourage you to check them out at the links above.