Some musicians tone it down as they mature artistically and otherwise in life. But Mark Bragg isn’t like most musicians.
On Sept. 13 the St. John’s-based kit-and-kaboodle-rock musician is unchaining his third album “Your Kiss,” an uptempo, carnivalesque ragbag of songs recorded with his band The Butchers at Stagehouse Studios in St. Philip’s.
It’s been five years since his last release, 2006’s “Bear Music,” but Bragg insists there’s more than an admitted element of laziness to the time between albums.
“I’m not the hardest working musician you’ll ever meet, but I get the job done,” he jokes while chomping into a sandwich on a patio at a Duckworth St. café.
“One thing I’ve learned throughout the years is really not to give up on the writing process unless I’m truly happy (because) a great song is really worth fighting for. And if I’m on to something I might not be working on it all day or every day, but I’m not going to record it either. I’m going to keep at it until it’s there.”
“Your Kiss” is definitely ‘there.’ The lead-off title track is so in-your-face, it takes either an unhinged mood or, if you’re not familiar with Bragg’s work, a willingness to appreciate the uniqueness of his musical eccentricity and the darkness of his storytelling.
Bragg also became a father since his last album.
The relationship with his partner and four-year-old daughter “have been pretty influential on the writing,” he says.
“Although, I should qualify that. It’s narrative fiction that I do, so when aspects of my real life find their way into my songs they’re generally pretty well disguised.”
The nerdy-cool vocal quality resembling Violent Femmes singer Gordon Gano remains, but the past five years seem to have breathed a new level of energy into Bragg’s songs.
“I made a conscious choice to write some faster songs than on my previous (albums), just because of how much fun I have, especially with a really good band behind me,” he explains. “But anything is fair game.
“When it comes to styles and stuff like that I’m not a genre-specific writer. I write swampy, vaudeville-type stuff, ballads, straight up pop-rock, whatever. It could go anywhere or be anywhere.”
“One thing I’ve learned throughout the years is really not to give up on the writing process unless I’m truly happy (because) a great song is really worth fighting for." - Mark Bragg
With any luck The Butchers — Brad Power (guitar), Luke Power (piano/organ), Victor Lewis (bass), Chris Donnelly (drums), John Duff (trombone) and Terry Campbell (trumpet) — are in for some marathon training in the coming weeks and months as they promote the new record.
Standout performances on the album are “Your Boy’s Home,” “The Cutter,” and the record’s only ballad, “The Fool.”
“I felt like I hit a bit of a lyrical milestone with that one,” says Bragg, referring to “Your Boy’s Home,” an abused boy’s grown-up manifesto to his mother.
“I could see and feel that scene going down. I’ve been making more of an effort to write plain language as best I can,” he explains.
“When you’re starting as a writer you have an inclination to be kind of vague or obtuse or deep, but I’m making a point to try and write a little more plainly. And funnily enough I find it’s more effective to connect with a song a lot easier.”
The core of “Your Kiss” materialized in three days at Stagehouse Studios, but was “seven years in the making,” Bragg jokes.
Engineered by Rick Hollett and self-produced by Bragg, the approach to recording the record was different than Bragg’s previous efforts.
“We did away with headphones and put the band on the floor with monitors around and cranked it up and recorded it just like it was a rock show,” he says.
“There were touch-ups and some things had to be redone to fix some stuff up. So the essence of the recording is live, but there was a nip and a tuck here and there. We left a lot of mistakes in there too ’cause they’re fun,” Bragg laughs.
Mark Bragg and The Butchers celebrate the release of “Your Kiss” at The Rock House in St. John’s Sept. 16 with special guests B.A. Johnson and Brent Randall and His Pinecones.
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