Thursday, May 2nd, 2024
7:00PM $20 adv / $25 door
Imagine stepping into a gig to see Barry White and Love Unlimited jamming with Mac DeMarco, or TOPS teaming up with Ween to play through Marvin Gaye’s ‘I Want You’. And centre-stage stands an unlikely lothario, who somehow makes playing such luscious, lustrous sounds look effortless – all with a shot of spirituality thrown in for good measure. Welcome to the world of Brad Stank.
Our man Brad has been on the cusp of something special for a while. In 2017, he uploaded two home-recorded tracks (‘Daddy Blue’ and ‘O.T.D.’) that he had written for his girlfriend at the time. His SoundCloud blew up, going from a dozen plays a day to 500 or more, eventually taking those two songs to 19 million streams at Spotify alone. Meanwhile, the likes of Clash and The Line of Best Fit were heralding him as one to watch, with i-D praising him as being, “Probably the only weirdo Scouse jazz crooner you’ll ever need.” And those talents grew with every release, taking in the ‘Eternal Slowdown’ EP in 2018 and his 2020 debut album ‘Kinky Om’, before lockdown mania took him on a detour into country with the ‘Hank Stankovic’ EP.
But now Brad raises the bar with his upcoming second album ‘In The Midst of You’. The stoned baritone of his voice brings the dusky, after hours vibe to a collection of songs which playfully traverse R&B, laidback psychedelia, and jazz. From the warmth of the live instrumentation and the authenticity of its ‘70s tones, it’s accomplished in a whole new way. If you’ve ever enjoyed Brad’s previous impressively unhurried slow jams, you’ll discover ‘In The Midst of You’ lives up to his early potential with new-found grace and elegance, without losing his original desert dry humour or DIY aesthetic.
“For me it was about taking that next step to where I feel like my sound wanted to go,” begins Brad. “I’ve always been a bit obsessed with Love Unlimited and Barry White and late 70s stuff, so for this album I wanted there to be lots going on, with strings, percussion and piano – but for it still to feel a little bit lo-fi. You always want to make something that feels right at the time.”
Thematically it has evolved too, subtly moving from seductive charms to a recipe for romance. It is romantic in the most direct of ways, whether Brad is purring, “I belong to you” (on, erm, ‘I Belong To You’), or sighing “It’s so unfair that you’re so far away” (‘Long Distance’). They’re lyrics that come from a new relationship, a new muse, or as Brad shyly explains, “A lot of the album was lyrically pointed towards someone in particular, so that was kind of nice.” But it’s also a question of maturity. As he questions, “When you’re getting a little bit older, how long can you really do that cheesy, sexy thing for? Being romantic is still on the same kinda vibe, but it feels natural.”
Amidst the romance, there was a good reason for Brad to bemoan the distance between him and his lover. Between January and March 2023 he spent most of his time darting between his home in Liverpool and Press Play Studio in Bermondsey, London as he recorded ‘In The Midst of You’ – a location that was far better equipped than anywhere he had previously worked in. He recorded much of the album himself: vocals, guitar, bass, drums, percussion, plus some keys which remained from his home-recorded demos. “I like the idea of doing as much as I can and then getting some experts to help with the rest.”
Leading the experts who contributed to ‘In The Midst of You’ was Stereolab’s Andy Ramsey, who co-produced the album with Brad and called on some accomplished contributors, including keys from Stereolab band mate Joe Watson and the arrangement expertise of Sean O’Hagan of The High Llamas. Meanwhile Brad enlisted the help of friends including vocals from Lydia Kitto (Jungle, Ezra Williams), and saxophone courtesy of Rachel Dover (Mike Blue) and Gal Go (King Krule). He also invited Lord Apex – “my favourite uk rapper from the last few years” – to add a “different vibe” with his smoker’s lounge rhymes on the hazily hypnotic ‘Cry Baby’.
The result is ‘In The Midst of You’, which drifts lackadaisically between standout moments such as the sizzling ‘80s soul of ‘My New Heaven’ and the tender sophistication of the ballad ‘Don’t Go, Don’t Go’. The recent single ‘Natty Wine’ sees Brad backed by soulful female vocal harmonies, as its jazzy psychedelia possesses a touch of twanging Americana while warm and vibrant live instrumentation makes for a song as relaxed as a blazing summer Sunday afternoon. And the title track is something else entirely – a sonic journey that begins with downbeat atmospherics before taking flight into joyous, swelling gospel.
Ultimately the album is chilled out escapism, which reflects the concluding words of Jiddu Krishnamurti that are sampled in ‘My New Heaven’: “You have to be a light to yourself in a world that is utterly becoming dark.” And Brad is hoping it presents new rays of opportunities for him too: not only as the first album under a new deal with Sunday Best, but after an unforgettable experience playing SXSW earlier this year, he is also plotting his most extensive touring to date. There’s another big development on the cards too, as he is poised to leave his beloved Liverpool after a decade to embrace London’s music scene with a move to Peckham.
There’s a touch of irony in that Brad never intended to be a solo artist. He grew up in Chesterfield, where his first memory was air drumming to his parents’ Dinosaur Jr. albums. His tastes broadened when he fell down YouTube’s infinite rabbit hole of music, his varied obsessions ranging from Bombay Bicycle Club to Brazilian beats and Ghanaian highlife. Initially a drummer, his first notable band project was Trudy and the Romance, whose flair for ‘50s-tinged doo-wop and rock ‘n’ roll courtesy of songwriter Oliver Taylor inspired Brad to dive deeper into writing himself. But as Brad’s early tracks took off, the opportunity to start his own solo project was too much to resist.
There have been challenges along the way. Brad was one of a number of musicians from the north-west scene who halted all creative endeavours following the tragic death of their friends Her’s in 2019, while the lockdown era not only stopped any opportunity for live shows,but also put his inspiration on pause. Now, however, is Brad’s moment. With ‘In The Midst of You’, there’s only looking up.
Beginning life as a Philly-house-show band, Mike and Tom’s only goal was to be loud. Their songwriting has evolved through experimenting with every tool available in their home recording studio.
Since 2016 Tom has been the touring drummer for Alex G and in that time Mike has recorded and produced for his solo project Shyin and Orchids but 2024 marks the year of their first official release as SNZR; Mid-Earth.