The Grand Rapids band plans an energetic ‘wave of emotion’ at Saturday’s Pyramid Scheme show. The revealing Local Spins interview with Brady Stablein, plus an exclusive performance video.
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Stepping in from the whimsical chill of a particularly wintry morning, Brady Stablein is draped in a gray overcoat that’s dotted with melting snowflakes. He sheds the coat and greets me with a warm hug and a guitar in his hand.
We’ve set up an interview over breakfast in advance of Brother Elsey’s Saturday show at The Pyramid Scheme, a homecoming of sorts for the Grand Rapids-based indie-Americana rock band which has been on and off tour for most of the year.
The show, promoted by Audiotree Presents begins at 7 p.m. and features Seth Beck and Further Closer as supporting acts. Tickets are $12 in advance and $14 day of show; details online here.
We make our way to the kitchen after saying our hellos. I drizzle olive oil in a pan and Brady holds down the cutting board. We begin our conversation by talking podcasts to the rhythm of a chopping knife and the sizzling of peppers.
“I listen to a lot of Joe Rogan. I also love Marc Maron and Dax Shepard. I honestly think I listen to those types of podcasts more than I listen to music. It’s a weird thing. It’s almost like I’m feeding my brain a little bit better,” Brady says.
“Having those conversations be so accessible, you learn a lot more about how people think and the way the world is and how people have different opinions. I feel like it makes me more creative listening to that stuff.”
MAKING THE MOVE TO WEST MICHIGAN WHERE THERE’S ‘HUGE RESPECT FOR MUSIC’
Much of the creative output and trajectory of Brother Elsey rests heavily on Brady’s shoulders as a songwriter.
After growing roots in the music scene of metro Detroit, Brady and his brothers Jack Stablein and Beau Stablein changed band names from the youthful title Fifth and Main to the current familial moniker and relocated to West Michigan, a move that’s made a significant impact on the band, which also includes drummer Dalton Thomas.
“There is a huge respect for music here that you don’t find really anywhere in Michigan. All the people we’ve encountered here have been engaged with our music on a real level,” Brady says, before mentioning a specific group of friends in the area who run the house show venue The Sycamore House, which has hosted acts like Winnow and Corey Kilganon.
“We’ve become really good friends with those guys. From day one they’ve been supporters, not because we ask them to support but because they like the music.”
VIDEO: Brady Stablein of Brother Elsey, “Dreamer” (Acoustic)
The band has also seen continued success in Canada at a breakaway rate, routing a number of tours to various cities and hitting a number of milestones in the neighboring country. The band has played Richardson Memorial Stadium opening for The Glorious Sons and most recently had their song “Fast Train” featured on Hockey Night Canada.
After scrambling eggs and sipping on some coffee, our conversation shifts to a heavier tone.
When asked, Brady talks openly about the tension of touring life and its effects on his mental health. He recalls a severe panic attack that occurred earlier this year when he was in Austin, Texas, for South by Southwest, where the band played the bohemoth music festival as part of the Michigan House lineup.
STRUGGLING WITH THE PRESSURES OF TOURING, FINDING SUPPORT
“I had a pretty big panic attack when we were in the car. We were heading downtown and I was in my head, I had a lot of caffeine and was thinking about a lot of existential things. It kind of snowballed and I was just like ‘F—, I gotta get out of the car’ … I don’t know what’s going on. I couldn’t breathe. I’ve always dealt with anxiety in a very mild way but it’s never been that intense.”
After that moment in Austin, Brady notes how difficult it was to adjust to the constant transition of home life and tour life. With practices like therapy, yoga, meditation and support from friends and family, he began a slow but steady self recovery.
“It was really hard to stay motivated, especially on the road. It was really hard to get a grasp on reality almost. I felt very disconnected. The biggest thing for me was time and talking about it with my friends, and realizing that so many people go through this thing, or through depression, or struggle with mental health.
“Nobody talks about it until you bring it up. And I’m lucky because my brothers and Dalton have always been super supportive, and they’re like yeah, if you just need to hang out, we’ll take care of it. It’s cliche, but the biggest thing is time. Time and not being afraid of the truth of yourself. Not being afraid to say I’m dealing with something rough right now.”
As Brady puts the final touches on a carefully crafted bowl of fresh guacamole, I warm some corn tortillas in a pan and we begin our migration to the living room to talk about this weekend’s show over breakfast tacos.
“Our set is something we’ve been jamming for a little bit and it’s really good. It really portrays the songs in a good way. We’ve arranged things differently. It’s more engaging. Just get ready for a lot of energy. It’s a really engaging wave of emotion.”
Looking ahead to 2020, the band plans to continue its extensive touring, both in the United States and Canada, and will release an EP. Most importantly, however, is the continuation of a craft and growing of an organic fan base.
“We’re in it for the long run. We’re playing the long game as best as we can, and we’re bound to hit something and hit a bit of an uptick eventually. It’s only a matter of time before that happens. Right now we’re just building fans for a lifetime.”
Brother Elsey is featured in the 2020 Local Spins Calendar, which includes Michigan music festival dates. Purchase the calendar and get details online here.
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