Copyright © 1998 All Rights Reserved.
by Aubrey McInnis
Friday, December 18
Sunday, December 20
Arguing with two local musicians about how they should ditch their stage costumes and reveal their real identities can be a floundering endeavor, especially when they're a) Bad Bad Leroy Brown and Downtown Freddy Brown of Calgary garage punk smart-alecks, The Browns, and b) they've had a couple of beers before the interview and they're in a full-on playful mood.
If the truth be known, The Browns are always in a playful mood. Their live shows are a culmination of dynamic punkety rock mayhem, garage rock schtick (ski masks on everyone) and a caustic stage presence that would inspire the most brutal heckler to run out the door with tail between his or her legs. They released a would-be seven-inch single this summer that is really a cassette EP without one clean, radio friendly track on the entire recording. The Browns profess that they're the band you hate to love... so maybe the ski masks that they wear on stage are more of an essential protective shield than a snotty schtick - considering the people they've shocked and ticked off.
"I started to beat up Jebb Fink," laughs the man who is also known as Bad Bad Leroy Brown about their comical appearance on the A-Channel's The Big Breakfast. "I called him a sissy on live TV, he was flabbergasted. I called him a yellow-belly. I challenged him to a wrestling match and I still haven't heard back from him."
Now Jebb - and The Browns' audiences who are used to a certain amount of cocky banter - must be clued in that the boys have a schtick that is not to be taken too literally. The interview itself is littered with constant barrage of witty one-liners about how the difference between The Browns and every other Calgary band is that The Browns actually admit they think they're the greatest band around, how their main influence is the almighty dollar, how people should hop on The Browns bandwagon before it gets too full... you get the picture.
Their live show is the catalyst for their sarcastic side; they love entertaining audiences and are relying on their debut album (to be recorded in January and promptly released on Meter Records) to set the record straight about their strength not only as sweet talkers, but as a band as well. Despite their honest panache for pop garage punk, the skeptical question remains: shouldn't the music sell you before the image?
"I think that it draws peoples' attention right off the bat," reasons Bad Bad Leroy Brown. "You know masks and shenanigans are somehow remembered and eventually the music comes secondary, but we've been playing long enough and I'd say our songs are good enough that people would remember them."
"People stay and watch us from the entire start to finish," adds Downtown Freddie Brown about their bar stints and wildly successful all-ages gigs, "and I don't think it's just for what we say in between songs because when we play shows there's kids singing along to all our songs and stuff and none of these songs are recorded. I think that if it was just the schtick (then) after two shows people would stop coming, but we see the same faces there at every show. The music has to be strong enough for people to want to hear it."
"I think that when the CD comes out," he continues, "people are gonna recognize that the music is as good as the gimmick."
And the gimmick certainly prevails - Leroy, Freddie, Charlie and Dr. Emmit Brown purport that they're in negotiation with Wu-Tang's Ol' Dirty Bastard to produce their debut record and that they've convinced The New Bomb Turks to share a seven-inch release. With plenty of imagination and wisecracking bravado, they think they fit in nicely with the energetic and ambitious Calgary music scene.
"I think we totally add to it," Freddie says. "It seems so serious all the time, I think we add a sense of humor. We just make it less serious because it seems so serious right now, there's like a competitive overtone - whether it's there or not it seems like every band is out for number one. And we pretend, like, we have the same attitude, but we're obviously not that serious about it. We're kinda a sarcastic edge to Calgary. It offends some people - it makes some people mad," he says smiling. "You'd be surprised."
Leroy admits that The Browns are misunderstood by everyone except themselves and their grossly overactive imaginations and bad sense of humor add to the situation. I ask the two Browns if they would like to take the opportunity to address any issues.
"I would like to dispel the rumor that I helped an old lady across the street," (very) Bad Bad Leroy Brown jokes. "The truth is, I tripped her and stole her purse and wore her makeup for a week."
It looks like Calgary and schtick bands may be going steady for a long time to come. And if The Browns have anything to do with it, they'll be dishing it out until they get arrested for their acrid sense of humor, mobbed by their zealous fans... or headlocked by Jebb Fink.
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