HEAD TRIPPIN’ WITH BRAINSTORY By Sandra Castillo
The San Bernardino Valley appears as an otherworldly phenomenon suspended mid-frame between the ethers of oxygenated space and layers of cirrus clouds stretched across a cerulean sky. The rolling region, positioned at the base of the Transverse Ranges and surrounded by the eastern San Gabriel and San Bernardino Mountains, is home to more than two million people who vacillate in territory marked by trailer park homes and empty warehouse parking lots. On the horizon, the Inland Empire exists in a realm not unlike the kind situated between wide swathes of Interstate 15 passing othrough uninhabited desert on the way to Vegas, reaching beyond the ennui and hope for a golden future to remind us all that this valley is really more of a mindset than a burgeoning metropolis with aspiring 21st century goals intent on conquering. RG Magazine caught up with Brainstory, the band whose members Kevin and Tony Martin, who are also brothers, and drummer Eric Hagstrom know all too well about the San Bernardino Valley that they once called home and oftentimes refer to as the “Twilight Zone.” Having grown up in the area, their music was directly influenced by the pervasive sense of isolation and restlessness that is deeply entrenched in such a region. Together since 2014, the band now resides in Los Angeles. Here is what the guys shared with the publication. Introduce the readers to Brainstory.
My name is Tony Martin, and I play bass, sing and write songs.
My name is Kevin Martin, and I sing and play guitar and write. Eric is our drummer.
What was the impetus behind the group’s getting together to form a band?
Brainstory was originally created by Kevin who sought out to record an EP while Tony was living and playing jazz in the Bay area. This was recorded in Rialto, CA with the help of Cory McCormick. Tony added some songs and played bass on the EP and finally made it back to Southern California. Eventually, we recruited Eric (we played as a jazz trio for a long time) and the band started officially.
What was it like growing up in the San Bernardino Valley?
The San Bernardino Valley is a very isolated place. Hot and dry. Not many venues. So, when we got into music and art, we had to make something out of nothing. Luckily for us, we all had people around us who were creative and definitely influenced us to keep playing. Me and Kevin grew up with musicians in the family, and Eric’s dad is basically an audiophile with a huge collection of all kinds of music. So even though our environment didn’t seem to be the best for music at the time, actually, it was.
Describe the music of Brainstory.
Brainstory, to me, is a mix of everything we like musically. Kevin and I grew up with gospel music and soul/funk/oldies. As we grew older, we added jazz, punk and other music to our tastes. I feel our music has bits of all these genres.
What exactly does “Brainstory” mean?
Brainstory was originally conceived because Kevin found an old yearbook with a typo. The name “Brian Story” was typed as “Brain Story.” The name just clicked after that.
Where has Brainstory performed?
Brainstory has played all over California and into the Midwest and as far as Nashville. Some of the cities and venues include The El Rey Theatre, the Echoplex, the Beachland Ballroom, the Fonda and many others in Los Angeles.
What musical influences have shaped Brainstory’s aural trajectory?
Jazz is definitely a musical influence in our music. Artists such as Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, John Coltrane, Stark Reality and many others have influenced us. Soul is another important component. Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and Donny Hathaway also come to mind. Funk artists such as James Brown, Sly Stone and Parliament Funkadelic also are big influences. Kevin and Tony’s dad is a big one. There are too many to name really.
What exactly is involved in sparking the creative process of the music?
Me and my brother, Kevin, write songs and take them to Eric, and we workshop them from there. Sometimes we collaborate on a song, before we bring it to Eric or we’ll make demos first. It really depends. Each song has a life of its own and is created in the way it wants to come out. Eric is key in helping arrange it all. Usually after the song is developed with the band, we go into the studio and record it.
What type of audience does the band attract to its shows?
Each Brainstory performance is different. We play the songs as written but with improvisational elements throughout. And there are parts in our live shows that are completely improvised, so it’s a one-time performance/experience. It keeps the music fresh, and through the improvisational aspect, we can reach a higher spiritual/emotional level. So far, I’ve seen that our audience is across the spectrum. Young and older people of all races and places.
What musical acts have been on the same concert bill as Brainstory?
We’ve shared the stage with Chicano Batman, Lee Fields, Sheila E, The Mile High Club, the Buttertones, Mattson 2, Holly Cook, Dr. Octagon and many more.
Is Brainstory currently signed to a record label?
We are signed to Big Crown Records out of Brooklyn, New York.
Let’s talk about Buck, Brainstory’s latest album.
Buck was recorded at the Diamond MIne Studio in Queens, NY. “Breathe” is a song about taking space for yourself to help you grow. “Beautyful Beauti” is a song celebrating the beauty of life. “Dead End” is a song about the past and its haunting nature.
What does music and all that it offers, personally, mean to each of you?
Tony: It is my life. It is a conduit for my love and all the messages beaming in from the universe.
Kevin: Music makes me happy. It has given me purpose in life.
What is the mission statement of Brainstory?
To always stay BUCK. This means to let all the baggage go and do what ya feel.