Meet the Band: Brandon Stevens (guitar, vocals), Ben Gmetro (lap steel), Mike Allan (bass), Steve Simantiris (guitar), Matt Chasney (drums)
Finger-Picking Good: Singer-songwriter Brandon Stevens quit playing music for about 10 years to devote his attention to the Cleveland/New York-based indie record label Exitstencil that he runs. Then, three years ago, while living in New York, he started playing music again. "Seeing everyone there doing stuff got me off my ass," he says. "I started playing guitar, and I bought an expensive Gibson J-200 because I thought if I made that commitment, I would start to play again. I learned finger-picking from scratch. I started listening to [singer-songwriter] Townes Van Zandt and '70s Texas songwriters. I love the style of that stuff."
Good Press Never Hurts: For its debut album, Bicentennial Blue, the group went to New Warsaw studios in New York to record with producer/multi-instrumentalist Riley McMahon (Spottiswoode & His Enemies). "He can play any instrument," says Stevens. "We got together with him and [drummer] Will [Mason] who was in [the indie rock act] Like Bells. The three of us did it over the course of three months before I moved back to Cleveland." Stevens says he wrote over 20 songs; nine of those ended up on the album. The release has gotten some pretty good press: Performer Magazine pronounced it "Vinyl of the Month," and made comparisons to early John Lennon in a review.
Why You Should Hear Them: The acoustic-based songs on Bicentennial Blue have a quiet intensity to them. A somber song that sounds a bit like the late, great Nick Drake, "Nobody Likes a Long Goodbye" features a gentle guitar melody and hushed vocals. Earlier this year, the band debuted a grainy video for the tune. It features vintage footage of various city skylines. "Years ago, my mom and uncle went on a trip they always talk about," says Stevens. "They said it was awful. They hopped in the car. My uncle, who was only 14 at the time, ended up becoming a professional photographer and he filmed all this footage. There are even shots of Cleveland. They got it transferred to DVD at Christmas. They have general shots of everyday life and it fit well with the song.
That was my first attempt at editing a video too." For the upcoming Cleveland show, Stevens has recruited members of local acts such as Dreadful Yawns and Six Parts Seven to back him.
Where You Can Hear Them: exitstencil.org.
Where You Can See Them: Great Father performs with Mike Uva and John Kalman at 9 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 29, at the Grog Shop.