Grand Archives’ Mat Brooke and his niche in the Northwest music scene
Maybe it’s the weather? Though Grand Archives frontman Mat Brooke might not completely comprehend it, it’s obvious that Scandinavia loves his band.
“I wish I could explain it or understand why it works that way,” says Brooke. “We’ve done a couple European tours, and in some countries we’ll show up and play to 14 people in the audience. Then we get to the Scandinavian countries and they’re just sold out, and have amazing fans out there. My only guess is that they have slightly the same climate as the Northwest, and somehow the Northwest sound appeals to them.”
Oddly enough, however, of all the bands that Brooke has been a part of, Grand Archives is probably the least representative of the sulky skies above the Space Needle. In fact, the band’s sound has come out of a concerted attempt not to write the kind of atmospheric, contemplative soundtracks Brooke had previously been known for.
“A lot of the Carissa’s Wierd stuff was very, for lack of a better word, depressing,” Brooke explains about his first band. “Really moody, slightly self-indulgent, but in a way that a 20-something musician should be behaving. And with Grand Archives we decided no more ‘feeling sorry for yourself’ kind of music, to try and portray a little more positive vibe, and remember that music is also a good outlet for having fun.”
In that respect, Brooke’s newest venture is surely successful, as Grand Archives integrates a freak folk aspect to its songwriting that’s absent from previous projects, picking up the pace and subsequently downplaying guitar feedback and other spacey ambiance. “Index Moon” is the kind of pop rock track that you could even imagine on alternative radio.
But despite the fact that Grand Archives aims to have a third studio album recorded by the end of the year, Carissa’s Wierd—which spawned Band of Horses (which Brooke briefly joined) and Sera Cahoone’s solo career in addition to Grand Archives—refuses to completely go away.
“Me and Jenn [Ghetto] have been working for a while to buy back the rights to all of our records,” Brooke explains, “and we finally were able to get them all back.”
That, however, took some work. Carissa’s Wierd’s master tapes had ended up in the hands of a businessman from Boston who owned a small label called Sad Robot. The band had worked with the label briefly, but when both dissolved around the same time, those master tapes started collecting dust.
“It breaks my heart,” the singer says. “Some-times you’ll see a copy of an old Carissa’s Wierd record on Ebay for like $60, and it’s just ridiculous and seems unfair, so I’m really excited to see this get out in a natural way.” Luckily for Brooke, the buyback was an amicable process, and the defunct band is set to reissue all its albums beginning this month, capped off by a one-off reunion show.
The reissues are being put out on Hardly Art, a sub-label of Sub Pop, Seattle’s venerable record label and the sole business entity Brooke has been involved with for years. In fact, Carissa’s Wierd, Band of Horses, Sera Cahoone, and Grand Archives have all stayed within the Sub Pop family and continue to share a rehearsal space to this day.
“It’s safe and easy to stick close to home,” Brooke admits. “From a national perspective I think people see Sub Pop as a huge label, and I’m sure that they actually are—I know they are. But Seattle’s kind of a small town, and they’ve always seemed like small town buddies. They’ve always been extremely supportive of music that come out of Seattle, and they treat their bands so well, it’s always seemed like a no-brainer to stick with them and not try to make a new formula.” Photo Credit: Hilary Harris
Grand Archives plays at 9 p.m. Sunday, July 18, at the Crepe Place, 1134 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. Tickets are $8 in advance or $10 at the door. For more information, call 429-6994.