Brigade are Will (Vocals / Guitar), Fim (Drums), James (Guitar / Vocals) and Naoto (Bass). To most people, the band is known simply because of the family ties between frontman Will and Fightstar vocalist Charlie Simpson. They say "It's not emo, it's not indie, it's not pop. Brigade cannot be limited to genre pigeonholes". I met up with them before their gig at the Birmingham Bar Academy to find out more.
Will: For me it was really easy because I was at school and I went to a concert. I went to see a school band play in the sixth form, and I was standing watching them play and I was like, "God, that looks so much fun". They played a song by Nirvana, it was a song called Sappy, and I was knocked for six and I thought, "I've just got to do that". So I kind of got out the guitar and started practicing really.
What makes Brigade different to other bands?
Will: We're a very song-based band. The songs we write are all about the melodies, and songs that kind of have quite a simple structure in a way. That way they're often the easiest songs to listen to. It's not cus we're trying to be simple, it's just because I think a lot of the music we listen to, it's just we love good songs, you know? A lot of the bands that do it, all the kind of classic songs…crazy arrangements and you can't decide for the vocals or any melodies. That's the avenue we've gone down so I think that makes us different to a lot of the bands out there.
Do you feel the band may be overlooked because you're not part of "the scene"?
Will: Yes, definitely, every band suffers that, but I think the flip side to that is it's a real struggle now to be doing this rather than trying to be the next Panic! At The Disco to get signed or something like that. But at the end of the day, they've always got the risk of doing really well but where are they in three years time? And we hope that in three years time that we will have developed a fan base that are dedicated and will stick with us whatever we do. So we're looking at it as a kind of slow-burn thing. But the thing is, we've been so lucky with the press so in a way we haven't been overlooked. But I think we have been overlooked by a lot of musicians because they don't look at whatever else is out there.
Do you feel it is an advantage or a disadvantage that Will's brother is in a band with a higher profile?
Will: I've always said it's a double-edged sword, and I guess I'll keep saying it. I mean, it's difficult because we're constantly referred to in the same light, we're constantly compared. Whatever we do, it's always, "his brother does it and he's more successful". But it's stupid because we've been doing it longer actually. We're always going to do it, I don't know if we're going to be successful. But at the same time, we've got our supporters. A lot of people wouldn't have heard of us, so I guess that's a plus side to it. We both do our own things, we're both very supportive of each other, and hopefully people will be able to distinguish the two.
What do you dislike the most about the music industry?
Will: Who runs it (laughs). It's very much who you know. A lot of bands tick along, but unless they get that person, when somebody knows someone who knows someone else, they're not going to get heard, and that kind of thing. And also, surviving the money side of this industry is so shit unless you're really successful. It's very very difficult as a band on an independent label to survive financially and be able to do it.
Fim: But they're always looking out for the next number one. That's why there's so many "scene" bands.
Will: The labels go out the minute something breaks, like "Right, let's find the next eight bands and sell it".
Would you ever want to be part of your own scene?
Will: I dunno. I suppose not really, because then we're risking cutting our careers down to just two years. It'd be nice to be able to influence bands, you know, when people say, "What do they sound like?", it would be, "Like Brigade". It'd be wicked. But I don't think we'd like to create a little scene really.
Do you find song writing comes easily or does that depend on what's going on around you at that specific time?
Will: I think it's really difficult to find the right headspace to be totally creative. It's definitely got a lot harder, hasn't it?
Fim: We started writing and recording songs in a basic sort of way, and I think now the pressure's now on to keep coming up with fresh ideas. We're always busy either working or playing, so it's hard to find time as a band to sit down together and write songs.
Will: We can't wait for the day when we get paid to do it. And then we'll get in a room, probably, and not be able to get out any ideas (laughs). But at least it would be nice to have the opportunity to do that.
What are the best and worst things about being on tour?
Will: I think the money side of it is very difficult. And also, just being away from your friends and family for x amount of time, and sometimes it can get very stressful. They're the bad points really.
Fim: Sleep deprivation.
Will: Yeah. But for that 45 minutes, though, it's the best job in the world.
Fim: That's the best part of actually getting out and actually being able to greet people, and people seeing you and appreciating you, and it's just such a good feeling.
What's the most embarrassing thing that's ever happened to you on stage?
Will: Oh no. I don't even wanna. See, I've got this thing in my head but I don't even wanna say it. It's not great I occasionally get ill and I've had some pretty bad snot experiences. I think the front row suffered in those gigs and I've been self conscious during it when people have gone "Do you want a tissue?" and I'm like "Ooh dear". (laughs)
Who's got the nastiest on tour habits?
Fim: None of us really have any particularly horrible habits.
Will: We're all alright actually; we're quite respectful of each other, which is nice.
Fim: Quite clean.
James: Probably me because I'm the only smoker in the band, so sometimes I smoke in the van, and I don't think it's too nice for the other boys really, so that's pretty bad. Say no to smoking (laughs).
If you could do anything on an ideal day off, if you had all the money in the world, what would you do?
Fim: Go bowling (laughs).
Will: "I've got four million pounds…"
Fim: "I'll have two lanes please" (laughs)
Will: Yeah, by the time you get a lengthy massage and a round of pool somewhere…
Fim: I wanna go to Alton Towers!
Will: Go to a theme park.
Fim: That wouldn't require all that amount of money.
Will: We like bowling. We're pretty rock 'n' roll; on our days off we like to go bowling against each other.
Who usually wins?
Will: Well, it's out of James or Naoto. But yeah, it's good fun.
Who are your heroes, not just in the music industry?
Will: Adam Jones from Tool. He's a very inspirational figure to me. Yeah, he's fantastic. He's brilliant.
James: I think Matt Bellamy and Billy Corgan. Matt Bellamy from Muse and Billy Corgan from Smashing Pumpkins are very inspirational for me.
Fim: Dave Grohl. I don't know what I'd do with myself if I ever met him. I'd either go (makes ridiculous noises) or I'd just not be able to say anything. I dunno.
Naoto: Does it have to be someone from the music industry?
Naoto: Ricky Gervais. I picked up some of the language from his comedy. I love it.
Will: Any examples?
Naoto: I don't remember. (laughs)
Which question do you wish someone would ask you, and how would you answer it?
Fim: "Would you like all this money?" "Yes". (laughs)
Will: I'm sure a lot of bands get bored of being asked, you know, by guys going "How do you do that riff?" or, you know, "What chord is that?", but we've never had that so that'd be quite exciting, the first few times it happened. So I'm quite up for someone coming up and wanting to like, dissect a tune with me.