Story by Mike Rice.
A few months ago, Justin Brown started writing music on his own as an outlet for the unexplainable restlessness that a lot of us who work late nights feel after we clock out. This Friday, after enough nights watching the sun rise, combined with his recent departure from It Looks Sad, Brown will play his first live show as Aggrocragg. The Oddboy Collective is pleased to premiere “Pennsylvania”, a B-Side from Aggrocragg’s upcoming debut EP, a collection of self-recorded songs loaded with genuine introspection from Brown all the while incredibly danceable, after these words…
Hi, bub. How did Aggrocragg come about?
Despite what people might think, it didn’t come about like, “I’m going to quit the band and start this new project”. It came about because I get off work really late, like 3 or 4 in the morning, but I can’t sleep, so I figured I would start writing more music to get better at songwriting. And then I just found some things that I like and decided to go with it. I’m still trying to find the exact sound that I’m going for I guess. But, it’s cool because I didn’t expect that I could write by myself. Then, this might sound weird, but I wrote Bragg Towers, the first song I put out, and I was really happy with it, and then I kind of freaked out for a second because I didn’t think I could write anything else that sounded like it. It was like, “That’s it. I put out one song, and that’s it.” But then I came home the next night, and I told myself that I was going to write something, and wrote the next song on the EP. I don’t know, sometimes it’s really scary when I sit down and write, because I always feel like at any time I could just be out of ideas.
What should people expect from that?
It’s different from It Looks Sad. When we started we had these surfy influences and then it became more of this emo-pop thing. Aggrocragg definitely has pop influences, and I’m not going to shy away from that, but I’m not going to make generic pop either. If a song is catchy and upbeat I’m not going to change it just because of that. It’s me doing everything on the recordings, but the songs were written to be played live as a three-piece. Bragg Towers is mostly bass-driven, but the other ones have stronger guitar lines and some synths and things like that. I have maybe twenty songs recorded, but these are the four that I like the most so far. When I get off work, I force myself to write even though I might not really want to. There will be songs where I might go back the next day, and be like “that song sucks, but I like the melody, or the vocals, or some other shit”, and I’ll take that into another song, and then it ends up working out. But yeah, I’m going with these four at first.
You’re playing your first show as Aggrocragg on Friday. How have the songs translated into live versions?
It works way better that I thought it would at first. It’s fun. For shows, it’s me, Phil Pucci (of Serfs, Melt), and Garrett Herzfeld (of Alright, Cabrón). When we first started practicing, I felt a little bad for Phil, because there might be a couple parts where guitar doesn’t come in for a while, and I was like “you can do whatever you want in between”, and he’s come up with a bunch of little parts. And the drums on the recordings are just loops so I told Garrett he can do whatever we wanted and he wrote a bunch of really cool parts which were what I actually had in my mind but couldn’t make the loops for. So I’m really excited to play these live.
Your vocals, on Bragg Towers in particular, are catchy as hell, but the lyrics have a very stream-of-consciousness vibe. What’s your lyrical writing process like?
It’s cool. It’s weird. I don’t focus on rhyming or anything I just try to make the words fit the melody. I’ll just loop a part and start singing random words, and then go back and listen to it and pick out the melody, and then actually figure out what I want the song to be about. The songs on the EP are really personal. They’re just about how my mind works and shit I wish I didn’t do. Bragg Towers is about this bad tendency I have to not talk to people for a while. Like, I’ll go several weeks without talking to my best friend, and then he’ll hit me up and we’ll start talking and he’ll ask if I was mad at him. I’m not, I just don’t feel the need to talk to people all the time to feel close to them, and I think it’s because in the third grade I didn’t see my mom for a whole year, and I talked to her maybe once every two months. My parents were going through a divorce, and because of that my dad didn’t have any money and we had to live in this hotel called Bragg Towers. So that’s what that song is about. Just having these shitty tendencies and not talking to people and them being mad at me and having to explain to them and that I’m not mad at them. It’s just something I do and I don’t know why. There’s another song called “Sports”. That one is about me being gay, and when people find out, I don’t know, it’s weird, but they always act like upset or surprised, like “you didn’t tell me”, but I don’t feel the need to tell you. Like if they had asked I would have told you, but I don’t feel that I have to tell someone that right off the bat. It would be coming up to someone and being like, “I really like lasagna”, or something like that. I don’t feel the need to tell people that. I like guys and lasagna. I don’t feel like I have to do that. And the one I’m writing now is about leaving the band and that situation. It sucks, like putting a lot of time into something, and then having to move on. But I learned so much from that band. I don’t regret anything about it.
What’s cool in Charlotte right now?
I haven’t really been in the Charlotte music scene for forever or anything. The first show that I went to in Charlotte was only back in 2010, so I don’t really know a whole lot about how things were before. But I think things are getting stronger as time goes on. There are more bands popping up, more people are playing, more people are merging with each other to make new kinds of music here and things like that. There are times where I wish people would support their friends more I guess. I don’t know. Like go see shows, and stay for the whole thing, and not complain about cover prices, and just go see each other’s bands and help each other out. Other than that I like Charlotte a lot. Being on the road, you see other cities and the vibe of their scenes, and I feel like here it’s stronger. Other places, they don’t really don’t have supportive venues so it everything has to be underground. Or everyone just plays one genre. But Charlotte has a good mix, and there’s a bunch of places to play, and a bunch of different things to do, and people sometimes overlook that as if it’s like that everywhere, and it’s really not. It shouldn’t be taken for granted. We’re really lucky to have everything that we have.
Check out the new song “Pennsylvania” by Aggrocragg.