On their sophomore LP ‘Automatic World’, Birmingham trio The Brummies take on the influence of their musical icons to further expand their diverse and promising sound.
Stream: ‘Automatic World’ – The Brummies
It’s been said, rather proverbially, that in order to move forward in our lives, we must look back from time to time. Though that typically means letting go of unresolved pain or memories, the same can be said about rediscovering something bygone and repurposing it in a fresh manner. Digging through the remains of the past allows us to enrich our perspectives in the present and prepare for a better future, especially when that which we uncover happens to be what we were missing all along. The past can bring us comfort in times of unease, remind us of who we were and occasionally put us back on the path we were destined to follow.
For The Brummies, rediscovering and implementing vintage sounds have opened the door to the next step in their artistic evolution, now showcased on their thirteen-song sophomore LP Automatic World. Atwood Magazine is proud to be premiering Automatic World, out on November 13th Sandbox Entertainment. The genre-bending trio, having met outside of Birmingham, Alabama during their high school days and played in various bands together, consists of John Davidson (vocals, various instruments), Jacob Bryant (vocals, various instruments) and Trevor Davis (drums, background vocals).
The group’s debut Eternal Reach, released in 2018, is a bold amalgamation of ’60s psychedelic pop, ’00s garage pop, with the occasional nod to ’70s southern rock topped off with something you can’t exactly put your finger on; a quality unique to the talented triumvirate. As far as debuts go, it’s both highly ambitious and riddled with hooks that would make Top 40 mainstays jealous, a feat rarely achieved even among the most proven psych-pop albums, let alone a debut.
In regards to their upcoming release, it’s apparent that they’ve harnessed the disparate sounds of their influences to create something elusively difficult to categorize, to their absolute credit. On their official website, they list their primary influences, including “The Beatles, Elton John, ELO, Blitzen Trapper, and My Morning Jacket”, as well as “sweeping film soundtracks”, which explains everything from their chaotic psych-pop experiments to their nu-disco grooves, all the way to the soft balladry of their country-rock jams.
“Déjà vu, futures, past, all of that comes together in this record in a musical way”, Bryant tells Atwood Magazine. There are future sounds, but they are mixed with the old. Eternal Reach was all about recording to tape and capturing the vintage vibe. We recorded a lot of this the same way, but we expanded it sonically – there are a lot more synthesizers and production.” The sheer scope of their creative visions for Automatic World come through when listening to the record, which truly feels as if you’re listening to something purely brand new and undiluted, regardless of whether it’s the first listen or the tenth listen.
I was looking for something brand new
A new direction
Tied the laces back behind my shoes
To find the ending
Could be the weather
Could be the state I’m in
In the middle of a dream of mine
And I don’t want this moment to ever end
No I don’t mind
I’ve got the feeling that I’ve been here before
I’ve got the feeling that I’ve been here before
-“Cherry Blossom,” The Brummies
The record opens with “Cherry Blossom”, an immediate nod to déjà vu, embodied in the refrain, “I’ve got the feeling that I’ve been here before”. The band’s primary objective for this record bleeds through in their lyrics from the outset, and an intended optimism whilst “looking for something brand new” sets a wondrous tone for the record’s remaining twelve tracks. The reconciliation of once familiar and brand new is being splayed out here, and the results are quite uplifting. The music is again displaying a balance between styles, with a modern indie-country-rock sound taking the lead. The band’s vocals on this track soar to incredible heights, with each member taking part in a blend of classic harmony and holding their own magnificently, which suggests legendary ’70s country rock like The Byrds, Eagles, and CSNY. It’s evident that each member could be a lead vocalist in their own right, which gives them a leg up as they’re able to create lush harmonic soundscapes and give different tracks varied perspective with a stable of different voices.
The stage has been set for the next track, a bubbly, sunny tune with soul-pop flavoring aptly called “Sunshine”. The song is lyrically to the point, and what a blessing that is. The lyrics allude to a daydream about a wonderful, all encompassing lover, exemplified in the opening lines, “You’re the reason I wake up/ the first thing that’s on my mind/ I’m just laying in bed/ with my little ray of sunshine”. Escapism is a prevalent theme on this record, and we’re not complaining over here at Atwood.
The lyrical sentiments and the throwback-soul vibe are like a sunny Saturday after a week of storms, the track shines just as its muse does, with summery synths and their one-of-a-kind harmonies providing visions of a beautiful, bright summer day with someone you love, a much needed image at this point in time. In regard to the song’s conception, Davis explains, “We were messing with the groove of this one for a while and were having trouble finding the right one when someone said loudly ‘Bill Withers Vibe’ and then it clicked and we knew exactly what it needed.” He hopes that “during hard times people can turn this one on and it gives them some light or up bringing in some sort of way.” We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.
The brilliance of “Sunshine” leads into “Call Me”, a touching gesture of care and solidarity during times of loneliness, emphasized by the lines, “But it’s just nice to hear your voice on the line/ every time/ So if you get lonely need someone to talk/ won’t you call me anytime.” It’s a somber expression of concern, emboldened by the modern country-indie pop sound they established on their debut record and in earlier tracks on this record like “Cherry Blossom”. A dazzling minor chord guitar flourish on the lyric “Call me anytime” cements this feeling of devotion to someone, even if they’ve been out of reach for a while, making it one of their most emotionally resonant tracks on the record.
Alone in your room
I can feel the tension building
Is déjà vu only a familiar feeling
Cause I know we’ve been here
And I know we’ll get there
Show me who you are
I wish you would
Lead me through the dark
Like I wish you could
The burden of love
Set it free
Take me on a fever dream
Show me who you are
I wish you would
– “Fever Dream,” The Brummies
That somber tone is contorted on the fourth track, “Fever Dream”, a sexy, AM-era Arctic Monkeys-like standout that drips with lascivious thoughts and the image of a wildly impassioned encounter. Still, there’s a yearning in their lyrics for not just physical convergence, but a collision of emotional energy and a refuge from unpleasant feelings. Musically, the track is one long showcase for the band’s chops, with each element being perfectly worked out and executed. It’s a message to the world that this band is pushing forward stylistically, and that their talents lend themselves to virtually any style.
Similarly, the theme of déjà vu comes roaring back here, suggesting not only some mystical force but again nodding to their influences of the past. The guitar work here is surely reminiscent of their ’70s rock influences with their relative sharpness, despite being somewhat subdued and deliberate. Describing how the song came about, Davidson says, “it’s a sneakily sultry song about desire that we got creative on sonically. The musically ambitious second verse was the first thing we tackled in pre-production for the album. And some of the transitions on this song are unconventional. For example, at the end of the bridge, we used the clicking of a wrench, the zip of a zipper, and a pitched down ‘oh’ vocal simultaneously to create the desired effect.” It wouldn’t be unfair to say that while being very melodic and hit-worthy, the group did some of their most innovative tinkering and experimentation on this track.
Other standout tracks on this record include “Till It Happens”, another shimmery alt-country jam with tight acoustic guitars suggesting an outdoor summer jam session, as well as “Love Language”, another groovy, bass-anchored, too-cool-for-school dancefloor stunner. “That Night” is a beautiful four-chord, string-laden open love letter recalling bands like Lord Huron, a weepy, closely produced track meant to make hearts swoon for its vulnerability alone.
“After Midnight” is yet another breezy club jam, giving this record a trifecta of potent feet-shufflers, an incredible accomplishment for a band who many perceive mainly for their alt-country-rock sound. Take it from Bryant, who has this to say about the track: “After Midnight” swelters in the heat of a late night dancehall ruled by moonlight and emotions on high. “This is our dark disco song… a great hookup jam.”
The record ends with an 8-minute, 27-second-long epic, “Island”, which is one third acoustic ditty, one third-calming fireplace sounds with pensive piano hanging under it, and to close, a bookending of some of the album’s notable melodies. It’s both a callback to the wonderful meandering of their debut with a hint of recent The 1975, and maybe even some classic-era Radiohead.
It’s a perfect way to both close and summarize the album and the desires of those who made it; a reflection on the time and hard work they put in this impressive collection, a soothing meditation that bookends their journey up to this point.
The Brummies possess a rare combination of instrumental mastery, vocal proficiency, and a boldness and confidence to make work that’s untethered to anyone else, while still paying homage to those that came before them.
Automatic World is an extremely eclectic work wherein the band is recalling their favorite sounds of the past and their own niche sounds of the present to create a synthesis that astonishes across thirteen individual, yet well-pieced-together tracks.
Experience the full record via our exclusive stream, and take a peek inside The Brummies’ Automatic World with Atwood Magazine as members of The Brummies go track-by-track through the music and lyrics of their sophomore album! Again, take it from us here at Atwood – keep an eye on this gifted trio: With two fantastic records in the book, these up-and-comers have proven they have what it takes to be as beloved as their own musical heroes.
Stream: ‘Automatic World’ – The Brummies
:: Inside Automatic World ::
John: You could apply “Sunshine” to a lot of things that give you life whether that be a significant other, coffee, weed, you name it. We wrote it about the literal sunshine.
Jacob: I have these cheap blinds that have been broken in my room by my bed for a while now. Every morning I wake up with the sunshine coming in and hitting me right in the face…thought it would make a fun little song.
Trevor: We were messing with the groove of this one for a while and were having trouble finding the right one when someone said loudly “Bill Withers Vibe.” Then it clicked and we knew exactly what it needed. We hope during hard times people can turn this one on and it gives them some light or lifts them up in some sort of way.
John: This song started as a jam on a keyboard that I don’t think we’ve played since the songs inception. But it sparked what evolved into “After Midnight.” This song was particularly fun for harmonies, allowing them to create its own melody in the chorus.
Jacob: This is our dark disco song. Late night hookups.
Trevor: Started with me playing this rhythm on keys one night. It was this long rocking jam that went into this dark halftime outro and eventually evolved into a more uptempo dancy song.
John: This song began with a buzzing signal from a malfunctioning amp that Jacob was using, kind of carrying a drone C note. It was later finished on piano, which allowed some interesting chords to develop. “Melancholy defined.”
Jacob: I was recording another song and my amp broke and started ringing out this tone. I started singing along to it like I would to the motor on a bass boat when my Pawpaw and I would go fishing in Alabama on Lake Martin. I started this song as a letter to everyone if i found out that I would die the next day.
Trevor: I imagine I’m driving with the windows down after a breakup crying my eyes out with this one blasting and then come to realization that I’ll be ok after all.
Been Here Before
John: Jacob was messing around with a harmonizing pedal that gave this song a life. This song feels like an interlude in the album, which is also the feeling that Deja Vu gives off. A new, unstructured, but familiar feeling.
Jacob: I was playing with a vocoder and this just kinda came out.
Trevor: One of a few songs on the record that talk about deja-vu or having been somewhere before. Drums on this were recorded with mallets real soft, until the last chorus when I changed to real sticks and played harder to help with the energy of the song.
John: This is a tropically tragic tune, crying out for answers beyond the loneliness. It’s when everything should be fine and dandy, but they’re just not. You may be with someone and still feel completely alone.
Jacob: I love a good sad beach song.
Trevor: We always all imagined this one to be the closer to the album even from the beginning of the recording process.
John: “Fever Dream” came quickly as we wrote it, “Sunshine,” and “Island” back-to-back-to-back in a three day span with our buddy Joe Hertler. It’s a sneakily sultry song about desire that we got creative on sonically. The musically ambitious second verse was the first thing we tackled in pre-production for the album. And some of the transitions on this song are unconventional. For example, at the end of the bridge, we used the clicking of a wrench, the zip of a zipper, and a pitched down “oh” vocal simultaneously to create the desired effect.
Jacob: John had this guitar thing going one day on the back porch at my studio in Nashville, TN and I started just singing along and the lyrics to the chorus just came out immediately.
Trevor: The licks and pauses in the 2nd verse was the very first thing we started on when we were in pre-production. It was fun to get all those parts together nice and tight. There is a zipper and wrench sounds in the recording going into the chorus.
John: “Love Language” came from the Gary Chapman book after trying to understand my partner, my relationship, as well as understand myself. It sparked an idea where I could become adaptable for her needs to make things work, and took form into a song. This song took on three or four different forms in the studio until we landed on what it is today. I’d probably never stop working on it if I could.
Jacob: Was a mother fucker in the studio but sounds great.
Trevor: This one gave us a run around and took us the longest to figure out. We ended up doing the sounds and vibe that was best for the song itself.
Who Should I Be
John: “Who Should I Be” was written around the same time as “Love Language.” I started it on guitar and fell in love with the movements. I was searching for answers in my relationship and found that I was willing to change who I was to be who she needed me to be. In this song though, the perspective was through jealous eyes where imagining the option of a love lost would make me do anything to keep it alive.
Jacob: This is probably the most “Eternal Reach” Brummies song on the new album.
Trevor: We wanted to have a little funky, sexy vibe to it which made for a longer outro and we added trumpet.
John: “Automatic World” found its way onto the album in the 11th hour. We fell in love with this song after tracking it separately from the rest of the album. It’s a song about love in todays climate. It can be too accessible like a lot of things today, which makes giving up and starting over seem like an easy (but probably unfulfilling) option. How love doesn’t work until it finally does, when you find it impossible to live without.
Jacob: I was just thinking about how everything is so automatic these days and everyone wants everything right now and how thats kind of fucked up. Even in love you can go and find someone immediately on tinder or whatever and it takes a little away from the romance. “All the boys are giving up on the girls” to me means that nobody is settling down and trying to work on things. Just moving on because it’s easy to do so now.
Till It Happens
John: “Til It Happens” was born in the pre-production phase of making this album. It kind of fell on us and we allowed it to grow. The lyric revolves around the vicious cycle of comfortability when it may not be the best thing for you.
Jacob: This was about a break up I had where we were just in it because it was so comfortable. We loved each other, but we were just not right for each other in this chapter of our lives. We’d break up at night and the next morning forget about it and the cycle continued.
Trevor: This song didn’t even exist until a few days before we went into the studio but we all loved the groove and knew we had to record it and finish it.
John: “Cherry Blossom” for a while was titled ‘The Happy Song’ when it was just a piano idea that our bass player, Warren Lively, brought to the table. It was just so happy. During the time of making “Automatic World” the theme of Deja Vu kept circling in our heads and felt right for this song. I really love the breakdown on this song which is a huge beat that is comedically to me, made from a phone.
Jacob: I have this superstition that if I have deja vu, I have to say it out loud or I’ll be cursed to never have it happen again. Even in awkward situations, if I have it, I’ve got to at least whisper it. This song is exactly that, but finally being able to scream it!
Trevor: We never really finished the structure or writing of this one until we ended up spontaneously doing it all on the spot in the studio. We laid it down late one of the last nights we had, which then turned into cherry blossom. It started as Happy Song.
John: “Call Me” is one of the first songs that we knew would be on the album. It started in the band room. I was on an old keyboard playing these chords and Jacob was on the drums and started singing the chorus. We finished writing it with our good friend Madi Diaz about just missing our friends and family. It’s about how we’d love to stay in better touch with the people we love. We hope that message can help others do the same. Especially in these crazy times.
Jacob: I’ve had a lot of friends move away, out of state and the country. I started writing this out reflecting on how much I missed them, and all of the things I wish I would just call them up and say.
Trevor: Was the first one out of all of these songs written. We’ve actually been playing it out live for over a year now. That’s of course, when people were still playing shows. There’s a Siri voice repeating the broke down bridge words, if you listen closely…
John: “That Night” started with a melody Jacob made that had the magic we felt from being at Bonnaroo with our best friends. It has a feeling of love and magic coupled melancholy knowing those moments are now behind us. Though the original lyric changed to what is now, it’s a song about the hope in each person, no matter what changes we go through the feeling is the same.
Jacob: This song started when I was down in Birmingham. I was talking with a friend and asked if they were really happy or was it the drugs. This song is about a lot of things all molded into one, and very personal for me. Interpret it however you ‘d like.
Trevor: We ended up changing the drum beat at the very last minute on this one, so I re-recorded them which ended up being for the better and definitely helped the song out.
Hillside (not on the album)
John: “Hillside” is a song about wonder. It’s still hard to wrap my mind around life, space, and the endless possibilities that go with the unknown. “Oh what a time to be living in” can be said for any generation because anywhere you look on this earth and beyond is full of magic. I sat down at the piano in LA where we wrote the song and started singing the long ‘Oh’ in the chorus, channeling an Arcade Fire feeling of childhood. The lyric for “Hillside” was truthfully started by reflecting on a recreational, mind bending trip that we all experienced in Joshua Tree.
Jacob: John came up with some piano chords while we were in LA and on a trip to Joshua Tree , they came to mind when I was beside this mountain. Something told me to climb to the top if I wanted to find the answers to my questions. I was wondering about a relationship. When i made it to the top I yelled out to give me an answer and heard a voice say “your friends will get your through this.” I immediately heard my voice being called by my friends as they were also climbing. We just reflected about life on top of a mountain
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