I ran into Brandon Payton-Carrillo from The Love Is Loud!! at a local festival a few years ago when RUST was just getting going. He had only recently moved to Atlanta from Milwaukee (I’m from Chicago myself) and, as we both had a similar migration, we got to know each other and have been friends since. Right after we met, Brandon brought me a copy of his third album The Breakup and I was immediately impressed with his songwriting. I described it as Motown-meets-Manchester and this description still holds true for the new double album from Brandon and his fresh Atlanta friends, The Love Is Loud!! volumes 1 and 2.
An ambitious double release, the new 2 volume set has been in the works for a couple years now, and RUST Magazine has filmed Brandon, along with guitarist Jeff Brown twice in the last year, including at one of our showcases at The Hard Rock Cafe, so we’ve had a sneak peek at the songs as they were being completed. The new set delivers more great soul/rock tracks with an added special ingredient of palpable intensity. You could call the arrangements sparse, but between the solitary notes, there’s an intricate communication happening. The ideas in Brandon’s head are so pure and straightforward that they do not require fancy embellishment or frivolous layers to have an impact. Brandon is like a bold construction engineer, building songs of flawless functionality and permanence.
One of the hallmarks of great music is when something sounds important… when you feel that there is something immediate and essential happening in the music and that you HAVE to listen to it right now. A good example of this might be U2’s Live At Red Rocks, and The Love Is Loud!! projects that same intensity and directness. There is a pure source of inspiration dictating the direction and production of these songs and this earned importance gives the whole project a confidence to pull back and say more with less.
Thematically, most of the songs reside in the relationship space of Brandon’s life experiences, while others tackle greater human issues. For instance, God Loves Everybody makes bold social statements that haven’t been so well done in several generations. This track is timeless, and at the same instance, it is particularly timely right now. It recalls an era when social issues were forefront in what artists had to say, and whether the issue is global or personal, The Love Is Loud!! speaks of it with wholeness. Right at this moment, God Loves Everybody speaks both to the global conflicts between beliefs and the American conflict between minorities and the police. It’s a transcendent musical poem that bares the inequalities self-imposed by humans on the world they have created.
Also timely this year is a resurgence of political folk music. RUST Magazine recently interviewed John McCutcheon about the life and works of Joe Hill whose lineage trails through people like Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger and Bob Dylan, all the way to people like Matt Turk, who we awarded for album of the year last year, as well as his sometimes-creative partner Fred Gillen Jr’s whose album Wage Peace we recently reviewed. The Love Is Loud!! joins these artists with the song Viva La Libertad which is an instant classic, and is a song which will surely outlive us all. It’s a rallying cry against oppression and it reminds us all that any one man can be stopped by the system, but the one percent will never be able to stop an idea.
All the songs here have been birthed with patience, and it’s clear that Brandon, Jeff and the people that helped put them together were dedicated to the highest of musical standards. Complex and sublime, The Love Is Loud!! has crafted a collection of truly timeless music, with songs that will surely have lives of their own far into the future, both hallmarking this unique point in time, and defining future moments. With so much to talk about, I went straight to the source and asked Brandon what he thought:
EP: First, Brandon, congratulations, it’s been a long road physically and philosophically to get here, yes? How has the move from Milwaukee to Atlanta affected your music?
BPC: It has been a long road!! It has been nearly 2 years since I put out new material, which is a lifetime as far as I am concerned. Atlanta has had a profound effect on the sound of the music. Atlanta has more of an electronic thing going on. If you were only to listen to the radio here, you would think people stopped playing instruments and programming is the only way to create art. Milwaukee is much more of a rock city with DIY ethos. In Atlanta the industry has a foothold here and creating something with commercial value is much more important than in Milwaukee. All of those essential elements of both cities run through the music.
EP: I don’t think the rest of the world knows what is happening on the art scene here right now. It’s amazing… downtown is being totally revitalized, galleries and exhibit spaces are opening all the time. For an artist, there are so many things to do and people to meet now. In addition to doing your music, you’re hosting a series of upcoming acoustic shows – what is your assessment of the environment in Atlanta for an artist right now?
BPC: I believe it is very vibrant with tons of talented people. There is more talent than there are venues to display their talent. So I believe people are looking for alternatives to the top down controlled club scene. Our Live at Java Vino series is that alternative, where artists can create a community.
EP: We really can’t talk about the new music without talking about Jeff. He brings such a profound and personal style to the music here, was it the luckiest day of your life when you met him?
BPC: It was! I had to woo him in the beginning to be a part of the Love is Loud!!. He adds an extra layer of mood and texture to the music that I couldn’t do myself.
EP: Who are some of the other people that helped make this new music what it is?
BPC: We had a host of wonderful performers on these albums. On Life Ain’t So Hard, we have the Milwaukee Soul legend Harvey Scales of the Seven Sounds on the track. On God Loves Everybody, we had Pearl Livingston, the sister of both Bob Marley and Bunny Wailer on background vocals. We also have my wonderful partner, Hope Adair sprinkled throughout several tracks on the albums.
EP: It seems like you took a stand here on patience – in a philosophical way. In a world where everything is faster, your music sets it’s own tempo… it has it’s own gravity – how important was it for you to “get it right” while crafting these songs, no matter how long it took?
BPC: Well, there are several songs in which we might have re-recorded three to four times. I still here a few things where a different take would make all the difference, but at some point you you have to have the confidence to let it go. So getting it right was important but getting it out was more important.
EP: There are so many great songs here, but Viva La Libertad strikes me as a spark which could alight the world, what can you say about this song?
BPC: I was thinking about some of conflict going on around the world and I felt like nobody is writing for the shaken and downtrodden. Corporate America has been pushing party tunes in part due to their structural conservatism and overall willingness not to rock the boat. So I lookrd towards my experience during the great recession through my socialist perspective and Voila!!
EP: Which song here is your favorite, why so?
BPC: There are a lot of songs I enjoy for various reasons but the song I play back for my enjoyment the most has to be Badger State. I love the story, the textures of the sound and the risk that were taken. It is my homage to the state that has my heart.
EP: Great songwriting is it’s own thing. Fads and styles come and go but a well-written, well thought-out song can grow and change with the times… which of your songs do you think will keep people inspired as other changes come and go?
BPC: Well, I hope Badger State would inspire people to visit Wisconsin. Clermont Lounge will inspire dancers to dance and musicians to use the accordion. I also hope that Viva La Libertad!! could inspire others to find their voice and possibly embrace democratic socialism.
EP: Thanks for taking the time to talk here Brandon, one last question, is there another artist out there right now that people should know about?
BPC: Totally!! My friend Kristen Englenz is a wonderful young songwriter that people need to hear. Also, if I have any say about it Pearl Livingston’s project should see the light of day this year, so keep your eyes peeled.