In 2016, local band Homebrew hopped in their van and traversed the Pacific Northwest for a string of consecutive shows. The Santa Cruz crew of musicians had been performing since 2010 around town and in the greater Bay Area, but this tour helped them solidify their sound, which mixes elements of blues, classic rock, folk and grunge—done with a flair for the dramatic, and often times with an eye toward the darker side of life.
“Before the tour, we had never gotten an opportunity to play for a week solid, where we played every single night,” says singer Alison Ducky Maupin. “Previously it had been like two nights a week or something. It just allowed us to really solidify the whole thing.”
The experience not only helped the group tighten up their sound—they found that the rock elements became more prominent, despite how diverse they continued to be—it also allowed them to take the band more seriously. It didn’t hurt that on their tour, they were playing to younger, more engaged audiences, not just bars. The youthful vibes energized them. Homebrew got to booking more and getting the word out about themselves.
The group formed in 2009 as a four-piece. The first song they ever wrote was called “With The Devil,” a moody rock tune that’s heavy on the dynamics and addresses issues about self-abuse in a gut-wrenching and cathartic manner. Things got cooking in the songwriting department shortly before their Midwest tour, when bassist Nel Barrow joined the group. The group’s chemistry had gotten tighter. At the same time, the diversity of the members was bringing in a wider range of ingredients into the mix. In the early years, even though they always brought an intense component, it leaned more toward acoustic-style music. That stopped in the post-Barrow years. A much more vibrant and immediate energy fueled the music.
When the group finally released its debut album, Bashin’, it was a culmination of their near-decade playing music. It’s a tight, rocking album that shows the full range of their musical dexterity, while also showing how the members were able to communicate. The lineup was: Matt Kotila (guitar/vocals), James Taylor (guitar), Craig Underwood (drums), Barrow (bass) and Maupin, whose intense, passionate vocals carried the whole thing.
Even though it took a few years for them to record Bashin’, all the gigging they’d been doing with their Northwest tour and more frequent and local and regional gigs after helped lock down the group’s energetic music.
“I feel like our album really clearly reflects the kind of natural way it sounds when we’re doing a show,” Maupin says. “I refer to Homebrew’s music as self-referential in the sense that we have a very distinctive style. Maybe you can say our drummer is more of a ’60s-based drummer. Matt is more of a metal guitarist. Everyone has their groove, their contribution and their role.”
The group plans to put out more music in the near future. They want to stick with the formula that got them this far, but just make it better, and continue to even defy their own rules as they make them. Even with more fast rock songs, they’ll still happily throw in the occasional depressing ballad type song.
“It’s going to have a heavy blues with bleeding hearts and dramatic lyrics that are usually kind of depressing, but also about life,” Maupin says. “One of the cool things about our music is some of it is romantic but a lot of it is about the soul. You know, heaven and hell. Just different ideas. It’s not very narrow in scope.”