When legendary hip hop personality Fab Five Freddy introduced the members of Brownout at the 2017 Austin Music Awards, it seemed fitting that a legend of that stature would be tasked to pass the floor to a band of musicians who already have earned the respect of Prince (RIP), GZA (Wu-Tang Clan), Steve Berlin (Los Lobos), Bernie Worrel (RIP), and Ozzy Osbourne. The latter became a fan from Brownout’s previous two releases; Brownout Presents: Brown Sabbath and Brownout Presents: Brown Sabbath Vol. II. The project received critical praise from NPR (50 Best Albums of 2014), Pitchfork, Noisey, USA Today, and from Osbourne himself. What began as a one off night for fun in 2013 playing Black Sabbath covers with their own twist evolved into a wildly popular live act that would eventually record two albums and get the personal invite from Ozzy Osbourne to perform for him and ultimately the seal of approval from the Prince of Darkness himself.
Fast forward to 2017 and they are back from the darkness with their first release of original music in over 5 years. The new EP aptly named Over the Covers, out June 2nd, is a tongue in cheek title that speaks for itself. Bandmember Beto Martinez adds, “After spending the last 4 years touring behind the two Brown Sabbath records, we’re frankly “Over the Covers.” As much fun as we had doing that project we were long overdue for an original release and were very much looking forward to that. The title is our shout out to everyone that Brownout is back doing what we do!”
The 4-track EP was recorded in between their busy touring schedule, which includes moonlighting as Grammy Winning Latin Funk orchestra Grupo Fantasma, the band recorded everywhere from the Bay Area at Transistor Sound to the band’s own studios in Austin, TX, Level One Sound and Lechehouse studios to James Petralli (who co-produced one of the tracks) from White Denim’s personal studio, also in Austin, TX. The album was mixed by producer/multi-instrumentalist Shawn Lee and his engineer Pierre Duplan at their UK studio.
The idea behind this release was to hit the reset button on Brownout. Over the Covers has the band’s hallmark sounds – no-nonsense latin percussion, 2 guitars, horn section and a machine-like rhythm section. However, the influence of having interpreted Black Sabbath for years is also hard to ignore. The result is at once psychedelic, heavy, funky and intense. In addition, Brownout was able to add something they’d never had before in the form of lead singer/lyricist Alex Marrero, whose lyrical themes are loftier and more timeless than their previous material. Says Marrero, “For me it was all about the process of collaboration and starting to fit into Brownout as an actual new member vs. being the front man for Brown Sabbath. Part of that was tackling the songwriting. If there is an underlying theme in all of these songs it would be symptoms of the human condition, which anyone can relate to.”
Case in point: the horn and guitar heavy track “You Don’t Have to Fall,” inspired by African funk and rock of the 60s and 70s, with a little bit of psychedelia thrown in. “Lyrically, this song is about a person who finds themselves in a mildly questionable situation, shares that information with their significant other and pays a really heavy price for their honesty.” The funky New Jack Swing of “Things You Say” is brought to life as a happy-catchy-upbeat track, though the lyrics are anything but, detailing the breakdown of a relationship, the lies that are told, the deceit, and all the people that are hurt over a lifetime. “Evolver” couldn’t be a timelier track, acknowledging that the way someone is raised can expose them to racism and intolerance, but the internet puts information at everyone’s fingertips, so it is easy to educate yourself. The dreamy falsetto vocals on the chorus chant, “All we know, is what we’re shown. We evolve on our own.”
The time for Brownout to step away from Sabbath – literally Over the Covers – has been in the cards for some time, it was just a matter of finding the time to get it right. “We are very proud of our earlier releases, but they were often pieced together quickly due to everyone’s busy schedules. As a band, we feel re-energized. It’s as if we are starting fresh with our early influences behind us, and now we’ve found our own strong voice as a band.”
The members of Brownout have shown complete irreverence for scenes, movements and trends. They are not reviving soul on 7” vinyl, or fitting neatly into tastemaker DJs’ record crates, they have always stood out from the pack, but they’ve never regretted taking the long road. They are Brownout and they can give a damn of what their contemporaries are doing, they have the respect of the legends who inspired them and have had the honor of working with a great deal of their muses.
2) You Don’t Have to Fall
3) Things You Say
4) Super Bright