Northern Transmissions chats with Martin Crane from Brazos. The band was playing a couple of shows at NXNE 2013 when we had the chance to catch up. Saltwater from Brazos is now available on Dead Oceans Records.
NT: The single “How The Ranks Was won” is a bit more playful than other tracks on “Saltwater”. Can you tell us a bit about this song?
MC: The song actually doesn’t express it self as that heavy. I think that it is a bit on the icier than other tracks on “Saltwater”. The song is also us more as a band. But there are definitely more personal songs on the album. There is a book called The Voyage Of The Albatross, we kind of lifted some of the ideas for the song from there. I wrote it with my friend Josh.
NT: You directed and wrote the video for “How The Ranks Was won”, did you have visualizations when writing the song, or did you have the concept for the video beforehand?
MC: There was a fun subtext pointing fun at what I was writing, like being in the sandbox. I kind of got manic and wrote it in four days. I couldn’t speak to anyone until I got it finished. When you immerse yourself in something, it can really spark the creative chemicals in your brain. I think this really happens to me sometimes. These periods really create images for songs or videos. Sometimes i don’t coney things so clearly in my songs. In the video, I really wanted things to be clear. I’m not sure they turned out that way.
NT: The Mix tape you made features a couple of songs by ‘The Bulgarian Woman’s Choir’, what attracted you to their music?
MC: The harmonies are incredible. A friend of mine gave me the record. I think that the music came from a Werner Herzog film. They sing in a way where the timbre in their voices changes at times. I have no idea what they are singing about. It is really like one big cohesive thing.
NT: After doing some high profile shows with The National, Grizzly Bear, and Vampire Weekend, You kind of went into seclusion to write Saltwater. Was it a difficult process writing the songs?
MC: I’m not sure if I went into seclusion. I moved from Austin to New To New York. It took me quite a while to get a band together. I wrote most of the album by myself, while pretty much in the middle of moving. The album was actually done about a year before it came out. It was all a question of scheduling, when Saltwater was done, the label had a few other releases booked during that period. So it took an extra nine months to come out.
NT: To a large degree ‘Brazos’ is Martin Crane. Is it difficult getting other musicians to understand your visions of songs, and how you would like them to be played?
MC: Music is like a relationship. I write songs. I think a good song is like a script. It should have ebbs and flows. If you work with musicians that are sensitive, the instructions are kind of built in, they get the idea. But letting bandmates and musicians make their own contributions is definitely important. They help build the script.
NT: Tell me a bit about Martin Crane the first?
MC: He was an amazing person. You can actually Google him. I’m actually technically known as Martin Crane The Fifth, it’s a great handle. Lol! I’m a little different than he was. He was an orphan, but incredibly ended up serving as the Attorney General of Texas. A friend of mine actually studied him at the University Of Texas. He was very involved in publishing people’s names that were involved in the KKK. He really wanted to make that group much more transparent. It really caused him to lose quite a bit of business, and kind of ruined him financially. He also had ten kids. I think he might have been a bit on the self righteous as well. But overall a pretty amazing guy.
NT: Which five albums are moving you these days?
Kanye West – Yeezus
Jai Paul – Leaked Demo
Chris Cohen – Overgrown Path
Nicolas Jaar – Mixes
Angel Olson – Halfway Home