Brad (Contemporary Musicians)
Although Brad may sound like a one-person project, nobody in the group is named Brad. When they formed, some considered Brad a side project for guitarist Stane Gossard. In 1992 he had garnered the most fame and notoriety with the rock group Pearl Jam. However, every member of Brad had some recognition for working in another project. As Eric Flannigan wrote in Wall of Sound, "With so many other commitments, the members of Brad are making music together purely because they want to."
Before Brad began recording together, singer Shawn Smith and drummer Regan Hagar played together in Satchel. At the same time, Smith also sang for the band Pigeonhed. Gossard played guitar for the mega-hit band Pearl Jam, and bass player Jeremy Toback had developed a solo career. Each had his own musical outlet. Yet in the early 1990s, the four members discovered a special dynamic when they played together.
The seeds of the band were planted in the early 1980s in the rich soil of Seattle, Washington. Regan Hagar played in a band called Malfunkshun with a singer named Andrew Wood. They rehearsed in the same space as another band called Green River, which included guitarist Stane Gossard and bassist Jeff Ament. The two bands became acquainted, and eventually, Gossard, Ament, and Wood formed a band called Mother Love Bone.
The musical and personal friendships continued to crossover. While Mother Love Bone started to garner attention, Gossard, Ament, Wood, and Hagar often played cover tunes in the clubs around Seattle using different band names. In 1990 Andrew Wood died of a drug overdose just before the release of Mother Love Bone's debut album. Gossard and Ament formed another band called Pearl Jam, which quickly took off.
Meanwhile, Regan Hagar met a singer named Shawn Smith and they formed their own band called Satchel. When Gossard was on hiatus from touring and recording with Pearl Jam, he would often jam with his longtime friends in Satchel. Gossard also teamed up with Hagar to form a small record label called Loosegroove Records. Since they had played together so much informally, Smith, Hagar, and Gossard decided to start their own project together.
More than a thousand miles south of Seattle, in Los Angeles, California, bassist Jeremy Toback was playing his own music in clubs and coffeehouses around town. He took a trip up to the Northwest's Emerald City to visit his friend Alex Rosenast, who owned the club Rock Candy. Pearl Jam had shot a video for their single "Alive" in the club, where Gossard later met Toback. As Brad began to form, the band realized they still needed a bass player. So Gossard's roommate suggested he call Toback. "I said, 'Stone, you haven't heard me play,'" Toback recalled to Jeff Gordinier in Santa Barbara News-Press. "And he said, 'Aw, don't worry about it.'"
Shades of Seattle Rock
When Toback flew up to Seattle, Brad began recording its first release in October of 1992. Loosegroove Records' bio of the band described them as unique among the rock groups from Seattle: "They have all the propulsive power long associated with Seattle rock, but none of the style's lyrical self-pity or grunge guitar cliches, and sometimes are thrown slightly off-kilter by rhythmic undercurrents, weird synth lines, and unexpected falsetto vocals."
When the four members originally went into the recording studio, they had no idea whether or not the project would work. "There was no guarantee that anything was going to happen," Toback told Gordinier, "and the only way something would happen was if everyone could just get along and play music together. If someone had been sitting there kissing Stone's butt, or just being in awe of him, it wouldn't have worked out."
Although the opportunity came out of nowhere for Jeremy Toback, he had no problems treating Gossard like just another member of the band. Before Brad, Toback was primarily interested in jazz, rather than rock n' roll. He graduated from Princeton University in 1988 with a degree in English. Afterward, he moved to Los Angeles to try to break into a musical career and played with several bands before discovering that he would rather be a solo artist. He began writing, rehearsing, and performing around town.
Not long after the recording sessions ended, Brad signed a record contract with Epie records for their debut album. However, the band was yet to change its name. They had called themselves Shame until they discovered a man named Brad already owned the rights to the name. According to some sources, the foursome decided to call the band "Brad" as a tribute to the owner of the name Shame. However, Gossard told Jim Greer in Spin that the story is just a rumor. "Brad is a slice of Americana, really," he said. "It's sort of an American name. It's just ... Brad."
Shame, their debut, arrived in stores in 1993. Based on the history of its members, the album received criticai attention. Greg Fasolino wrote in a Creem review, "Shame boasts the sheen of spontaneityn elusive, one-take resonance that sounds refreshing and natural."
Foundations magazine reported that "Contemplative and moody, this disc is necessary for those quiet evenings when you want to shut out the world and hang with some friends that understand. Brad are those friends, and this piece of art must become part of everyone's collection."
"Most people will view Brad as a Pearl Jam side project from Stone Gossard," a critic wrote in Intensity. "But personally, Brad is a million times better than Pearl Jam, and considering how great the music on this LP is, Pearl Jam could very well be a mere side project for Gossard."
One aspect of Brad's sound that many singled was Shawn Smith's vocal style. Deborah Frost of Entertainment Weekly described his sound as "doser to Top 40 mavens Daryl Hall and Elton John than to Seattle-sound gods Chris Cornell [of Soundgarden] and Eddie Vedder [of Pearl Jam]."
Returned to Recording After Years
After the release of Shame, the members of Brad returned to their main musical paths. They didn't go on tour or even perform live. In 1994 they regrouped to contribute a song to the Soundtrack for the movie Threesome. Brad didn't reconvene in the studio again until the fall of 1996. They spent three weeks together, with co-producer Nick DiDia at Litho Studios in Seattle to record their next LP, Interiors. "We came in and did it with no rehearsal," Hagar said in Brad's record company bio, "whereas the first one was rehearsed for five days."
"The first record was really supposed to be demos," continued Smith. "We didn't know it was gonna be a record until we were a week into it. My writing skills were at a very early stage, too. On this record, I was way more together."
Epic released Interiore on June 3, 1997. The record included guest performances by Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready and solo percussionist Basheri Johnson. "The Day Brings" became the first single. John Taft, who had directed videos for Pearl Jam, directed the video for "The Day Brings." Then, on July 7, 1997, Brad began its first tour of the United States. However, Jeremy Toback had already booked a promotional tour for his solo album Perfect Flux Thing, so Satchel bassist Mike Berg filled in for him on the tour. "Touring is key to getting these songs heard by more people than just ourselves and the people who heard Shame," Gossard said in Brad's bio.
Once the tour was over, the members of Brad returned to their other commitments. Yet they all planned to continue pursuing the rare musical dynamic they had unleashed in Brad. "It's something very family-like, and I think it feels the same way for the other guys," Gossard told Erik Flannigan in Wall of Sound. The unconventional process, energy, and sound Brad produces all point back to the idea that they're doing it because they want to.
Shame, Epic Records, 1993.
(Contributor) Threesome (soundtrack), Epic Soundtrax, 1994.
Interiore, Epic Records, 1997.
Creem, March 1993.
Entertainment Weekly, Aprii 30, 1993; Aprii 29, 1994.
Foundations, May 14, 1993.
Intensity, November 1993.
Mail Tribune, July 7, 1993.
Nerve, April/May 1993.
Paperback Jukebox, June 1993.
Santa Barbara News-Press, February 26, 1993.
Spin, May 1993.
Additional information was obtained from the Epic Records artist update website.