A Chat With: The Britanys
Based out of the Bushwick neighborhood in Brooklyn, The Britanys are a band that conjures up memories of New York City’s rock scene circa 2001. By mixing bright, punchy guitar melodies and candid, storytelling lyrics with a refreshing and earnest outlook, The Britanys deliver carefully crafted songs that set them apart and continue to catch the ears of new listeners. With their latest release, a mixtape called 1-833-IDK-HTBA, the band provides commentary on the technology obsessed culture we all live in an participate in, while still managing to nod to nostalgic influences.
Surrounding the mixtape’s release, the band created an actual hotline you can call (the number is just the name of the mixtape) and built in an old school bot on their website that visitors can chat with; Not only introducing a new take on this older technology, but allowing for the fans to have a more interactive experience with the new material. The bonus content that rolled out with 1-833-IDK-HTBA showcases the thoughtfulness that The Britanys put into their art, which extends past their music itself. As the band winds down from a busy year that saw them playing SXSW, touring the UK, and being invited to play at the Velvet Underground Experience, drummer Steele Kratt took some time to chat on the phone about their mixtape, fan interaction, and what’s next for them. Tune into our chat with The Britanys below for more.
What was your first musical memory growing up?
Well my dad was a musician so I think my first proper musical memory, at least that I can remember, is playing along to “Everybody Wants To Rule The World” by Tears for Fears. My dad handed me a pair of drumsticks and put some newspaper down on a chair in our living room and I’d just sort of bang along to that. That became something I did pretty much every day. That’s my first proper musical memory I guess.
That’s awesome. Then you just released 1-833-IDK-HTBA [I Don’t Know How to be Alone] back in October. Where did that idea to do a mixtape instead of a traditional album stem from, and what were your favorite parts of doing this project?
I think that a lot of bands put a collection of songs together and say that’s an EP. It’s not quite an album but a lot of the songs don’t really connect. So we we kind of wanted to have something that had our songs, but had some sort of thread that connected them all together. Then also just sort of like being in a digital world, so many artists release mixtapes. It was more of a casual thing between a full album and an EP so we just figured we’d do it. It’s not something that a lot of rock bands do and it’s kind of the way that a lot of songs are being released these days. We figured it’d be fun to make our own and put our own spin on it.
Yeah it sounds like a good chance to be able to experiment with something new.
Yeah it was nice, and we worked with one of our really good friends on it. Our friend Dylan Chenfeld, so it was nice to have the collaborative effort.
There’s definitely that new element to it, but the mixtape still sounds very true to The Britanys’ style. It doesn’t sound like a new band or anything drastic, but like you said, it’s not typically what a rock band would do. Was there anything outside of your typical inspirations that you looked to when writing this set of songs?
I think we just sort of looked at modern culture and how technology influences life and sort of isolates you from real life, human nature and humanity. Just that whole thought. When we were on tour for that mixtape, we were flying back to New York from London, I remember I was at the airport and I looked around at a restaurant and every single person in there was on their phone. It’s just kind of bizarre like you just walk through a public area and everyone is just staring down at their screen. I think since releasing the mixtape and speaking about that concept, I sort of see instances of that a lot more. There’s a lot of stuff to write about with that because no one really knows where technology is gonna go, what’s happening with it, how it properly affects our psyche and our humanity. And I don’t know, it’s one of those things where it can be used for good, but isn’t really. So there’s a lot in there to sort of experience and write about.
On that same note, I love that along with the mixtape, you had the functioning hotline and the Eliza bot on your website. So there was all these different interactive things to go along with the release, which goes hand in hand with needing stimulation and interaction at all times. What was the process like building all these different platforms for fans to interact with?
Well for the Eliza bot, that was something that Lucas was thinking about. He was thinking of wanting to have a chat bot, and a lot of businesses use bots on their social media pages now. So we were gonna make a bot like that, that you could have a conversation with. Once he got researching, he found out about the Eliza bot, which is like the precursor to Siri and stuff like that, cause it was done in the 70’s. So we just sort of decided to pin it to that sort of throwback and that piece of technology that’s relatively primitive, but became a huge influence in that sort of tech culture. The basis of the Eliza bot is a sort of virtual therapist, and it’s sort of you know, we figured it’s relevant and needed now. There aren’t many-- you can’t talk to a robot to just sort of help you.
Cool, and then how did the hotline come together?
When we were writing the songs about technology and how it isolates you, so it was a similar thing to the Eliza bot. It’s another hotline thing, and there’s a lot of hotlines or self help lines that people call. We made it relative to the band, but with that sort of idea like here’s something you can call with a toll free number that can give you advice or something else to entertain you with. It’s also just sick. It’s fun to be like oh, we’ve got a phone number.
Yeah totally! So kind of on the flip side of that, where’s one place you go to try to escape the outside world and your phone? Where you can shut everything else out.
My mom’s house! My mom lives like 10 minutes from me. So if I’m like particularly stressed or you know, just want a break, I’ll go chill there in my room with her and our dog. That’s mostly where I go to unwind. I don’t really get out of the city too much so that’s my little oasis.
Nice! And then another place where fans can interact with you and the band is the new Instagram page that you have called Millennium Club, which is trying to build a community amongst fans and breaking the boundaries between band and fan. What’s been your favorite part of that experience?
It’s funny cause originally we were doing a show and I was thinking it’d be cool to have some sort of Instagram where people can post things that are happening at the show and everyone can have a password. Then we took it one step further and said what if it’s just always on, and so we figured it’s just a way for everyone in the community to have their own collective anonymous Finsta or whatever. I think my favorite thing so far is we didn’t think that anyone would start posting on it and then relatively quickly people started throwing shit up there, and for a minute I just thought it was us. Like ‘oh wow Lucas has posted like 40 posts,’ but it’s not him. So it’s a lot of people doing their share of posting whatever they want. So it’s fun, but it’s so weird cause sometimes I’ll get like a DM from that account and I have no idea who wrote it. So I’m like is it someone I know, is it someone I don’t know? How do I respond to this? So that’s kind of funny. It’s interesting to get story replies from an account that you created.
[A scrolling feed of the Millennium Club Instagram is shown below]
Back in October, you played the Velvet Underground Experience in New York. What was that experience like?
We decided that we were gonna go in a style of the Velvet Underground and instead of playing our own set, we kind of just jammed through it. Like a couple sets that the Velvet Underground did in the 70s...they just started onstage with about eight people and they’d turn that into a segment, and they’d just sort of jam through everything. So we wanted to do something that was freeform and unstructured like that. So we just played like a quarter of our songs and just jammed through, and then started up with the new ones. So it was all improv. It was nice. We got Jake’s brother to play with us. My dad was in the audience and I was like hey, just come up. So my dad played like tambourine onstage with us. Lucas’s girlfriend just sat and scrolled through Instagram sort of like as a nod to Nico, who sang a little bit but mostly just hang out onstage for most of those performances. Then my friend Alexis was onstage videotaping. So it was kind of fun to play around with an idea that they did in their museum.
Very cool! So I also heard that you’re going to be recording this month again. What can you tease about the new songs and what we can expect?
I guess you can expect a lot more of inclusion and leaning on the community. I think we’re gonna have a lot of friends play sections. So it’s still really our thing, but we want it to be more collaborative. We want to have local bands from Bushwick or neighboring neighborhoods come over to the studio and make guest appearances with us.
Speaking of that, who are some of your favorite local bands from the Brooklyn area?
One of my roommates is Alexis, who is the drummer of a band called Native Sun and we’ve known them since we were probably 19 or 20, so they’re very good friends of ours. This band called The Muckers who we play soccer with, and play shows with and go play pool with and stuff like that. They’re really good. This band called Been Stellar, who are a bit younger than us, but we met them sort of through Instagram. All these bands come through and record in our house because Lucas records in our rehearsal studio. So we always have just bands coming through, which is nice. We get to meet a lot of good bands.
Awesome, then you guys went to the UK a couple months ago, so where else are you looking forward to playing next year? Anything on your bucket list?
I guess just where they want us! We played Mexico City a couple years back and that was really great. It’d be nice to explore that whole country and also just go further to central and south America, and see all that and play there. But anywhere that will have us, we’re excited to play.
Nice! Any other goals for 2019?
Just have fun. Basically. Maybe we’ll get a Nike or an Adidas sponsorship. That would be sick to be a band sponsored by athletic wear, so I don’t have to buy athletic wear.