This next badass band leans a bit more toward social/political commentary than many of the other bands featured here and the imagery implanted in their lyrics tends to stand out and match their melodies so well that it will wow you from the git-go. thatwasthen (purposely one word, all lowercase- read the interview to find out why!) is a band that once you hear one song of theirs, you don’t forget them.
I came across twt by sheer coincidence. I don’t remember what or who I was looking up to lead me to them, but I’m stoked the search caused me to stumble upon this band’s website. The website itself looked pretty interesting so I decided to click on the music tab and check ‘em out. As soon as I pressed play on the song ‘2 Heart Blues’ all I could think was “HELL YES”. The bluesy, funky melody along with the soothing (with a touch of roughness) vocals flows so very well. The song is about a man who has two hearts and it’s hard to distinguish which one to listen to or follow. I believe many of us can relate to that. This all sounds simple right? Easily relatable? I can assure you, they are far from simple, and their songs WILL wow you. I cannot even begin to explain the use of imagery this band conveys so expertly through their lyrics, I can give you a sampling, but it will not do it any justice. Songs that really stand out from their self-titled album are ‘Save the Trees’, ‘Storymaker’, or ‘Mr. Politician’. Like I said, the imagery coupled with the variance of melodies just takes this band to a level above many others out there.
Twt is made up of five kick ass musicians, Brenton- acoustic/vocals, Nicky- lead guitar/vocals, Chris-drums, Nate- guitar/vocals and Benny-bass. twt started out as an acoustic, two piece band which morphed into the exceptional 5 piece band they are today. They have won UCLA’s Spring Sing show two years running, a feat which alone speaks for itself because college students can be tough critics.
You, my lovely readers, need to know this band. Brenton took some time to answer some questions for BBB, take a read to find out their history, what the significance of the name is and what inspires them to write!
When and why was thatwasthen formed?
My senior year in college at UCLA I started to write music and take it seriously for once. I used to kind of just joke around with it. Then a friend of mine started at UCLA just after I graduated, Nathan, and we started playing acoustic stuff. So we were an acoustic duo in about 2005.
Significance of the name?
It’s kind of a universal application because we’re constricted to looking at life on a timeline, so constantly looking back, you know, you find yourself saying that was then, for any number of reasons. Fondly or regret. There are so many times in your life when you look back and think ‘Gosh, if only I had done this’ or ‘That was a great time when…’ and all that applies to thatwasthen. That is the reason why it’s all one word as well, and lowercase because it’s supposed to be kind of like a timeline. Everything is mashed together.
What kind of music did you listen to growing up? How does that differ from what you listen to now?
That’s funny that you say that because I started listening to music probably at two or three years old in the back of my mom’s zx. She used to play the radio and the first music I can remember listening to was like Genesis, Peter Gallagher, Michael Bolton, Hall and Oates and all that junk. The music I listen to now is probably a little more intense than that. We like rock music, like Queens of the Stone Age, Foo Fighters, Led Zepellin, Eagles of Death Metal, Them Crooked Vultures, and all that shit.
When did you start playing music?
I started because I wanted to perform, I like to perform. I went to school for Theatre and Film/TV and decided that I would rather perform and write music. I had just split with a girlfriend and things were emotional so it kind of just went from there.
Which famous musicians do you admire? Why?
Dave Grohl, I mean who doesn’t admire Dave Grohl? He’s a hero in many, many ways. I admire all musicians really, who are respectable with their instrument whether it’s an actual guitar, horn or even the instrument of hte mixing board. Those people I respect a lot. Famous ones? Dave Grohl, Jimmy Page, Tom Petty, people who can write good music, play good songs, and stay true to themselves and their sound.
Do you get nervous before a performance?
Lately I have been. Before I used to be in theatre all through Jr. High, High School and College and I used to be the guy that was never worried. Then, when I started to realize that now it’s my own material as opposed to a playwrights. The shows have been getting bigger and all the sudden that actually matters to me.
Any rituals before a show?
Re-string before a show. We’ve learned that. Sometimes we get together for pivotal shows, more often lately, we get into a circle and do a quick bro session. An I love you, go get ‘em motivator.
Describe your show visually & musically for those who have never been.
Well, there is five of us, so you are going to see five dudes doing our absolute best to express ourselves as we’re playing music because we don’t particularly like the dude that stands around in front of the mic and just does that. We’re the kind of band that will pay the light guy an extra $20 to try and get him to really play with those lights. We play with a lot of passion. Benny, our bassist, likes to dip real low and head bang, he’s real aggressive. Chris, on drums, is a super flashy guy, he likes to throw his sticks up in the air and do a lot of the stuff in between beats. He is a lot of fun to watch and those are the guys that are in the back. You’re just really going to see five guys enjoying connecting with the music and being comfortable on stage. Sonically, well, we play really great live. It’s what we do best. We don’t have great recordings of ourselves yet but we play any room very well. You’re going to hear some big, loud rock n roll music.
How does your creative process typically work? What inspires you guys to write?
A number of things. Often times the things that inspire me to write are things that I hate in this world. In that way we’re a lot like a political band, like Rage Against the Machine and Rise Against. But we do have songs that aren’t written in a hateful point of view. They may be inspired by things we don’t like in the world but sometimes they’re beautiful and soft. Like the softer side of Led Zeppelin where they play some folk and stuff like that. Often times I am inspired by things like injustices in the world, the blindsided nature of man and how often we find ourselves being selfish and things like that. That is a source of inspiration to me too. Right now I am trying my best to write happy songs that are lovely and we’re getting better at that.
What do you think you biggest break or greatest opportunity has been in so far?
We have gotten the chance to play to almost 10,000 people at UCLA’s Spring Sing, that we’ve won two years in a row. We played to 8,000 one night and 9,000 the next feels pretty darn good at the end of the day.
How do you define “success”?
Typical answer would be have as many people truly hear your music as possible. That’s not to say to listen and shove it in everyone’s face but to have people really hear what it is your trying to say and do. That is probably success. Two trillion dollars wouldn’t mean anything without that.
If your band had a slogan, what would it be?
What’s been your most memorable fan encounter so far?
We went to the East coast in June/July for the first time, we did as many shows as we could in a ten day period. We met someone who had befriended us who heard us on a podcast, I think her name was Leslie, and it was the only person I could remember that I had met before through the internet. She was so sweet and nice and enthusiastic. It was a positive thing. A lot of people think finding you through the internet is creepy but that is not the case. I think most people, that is the best way to grab people’s attention. I guess it was just making that connection from someone I knew on the internet to meeting them in person and was just as lovely as I expected them to be.
If you had the opportunity to change something about the music industry, what would it be?
That’s opening up a whole can of worms. At this point, I would really just love it to have some stability. I don’t have a solution on how to fix it but the music industry seems to be a micro chasm for all of America’s economic issues as well. It happened before and they are realizing now the power of the internet and how people can put hours, days, weeks, months and years into an album and then those tracks get turned into files and those files have the power to bring the whole thing down. Right now, the thing that is holding the music industry back is they’re grasping at sort of hollow branches, there is nothing there for them to have. There is no money. They need to take it from the ground up and maybe stop worrying about making so much money and more about proliferating art. That’s what it’s really supposed to be about. It’s hard for me to put into words but I do know that a long time ago the concept slowly changed to money and power and how much money can we make off this artist. Its ruining it but it’s been a long time coming. Basically, make it about the music.
What are you working on now, and what can we expect from you in the coming year?
We try to only look 3-6 months ahead of time, so right now we have a residency coming up at Amplify every Friday in February in LA. It’s an all ages speak easy. We will have a lot of guests and friends show up to play with us. In January we will be playing January 12th (Brenton’s Birthday!) at the Troubador which is a great place for rock n roll music. We will be playing with Bike Lock and Kid is Qual. In late January we will be recording with Mr. John Loken, a two time grammy award winner. We will be cutting a short EP.
One song you never get tired of.
“No One Knows”- Queens of the Stone Age
What is the best live show you have ever gone to?
Foo Fighters at The Forum- 2008 & 2011- You just don’t get a better show than that.
Favorite things to do NOT musically related.
Cooking. I like to cook a lot. I just sort of discovered that. I like to spend time with my family. We got up to the mountains a lot and take retreats to clear our minds. That has been helping a lot, we live in LA man and there are too many people here, sometimes you just can’t breathe.
If you could be a fictional character, who would you be?
Bug Bunny because he always gets away with it.
What is something no one knows about you but you wish more people did know?
So many gross sexual things come to mind but that’s pretty common. You know, maybe I am reading into it but that I am a nice person and I love them. I’m a pretty, hard hitting, blunt sort of guy. I don’t phrase myself perfectly and I can come off pretty off putting to most people. I guess a lot of people would construe me as a dick. So, I wish people would realize that I am a nice guy and I want the best for every person I have ever met. I am full of love.
Best prank you have ever pulled?
I’m not much of a prankster. I am the anti-Johnny Knoxville. If you mess with me, I am just going to fuck you up.
Chewing with your mouth open.
What kind of jobs did you have before you were in the music industry?
I was as student, and then right out of college I was a talent agent. I was a junior agent who represented like Zooey Saldana, Elicia Cuthbert, etc. Unfortunately for me, that was right when Entourage came out and every agent in the whole city wanted to be Ari Gold. My stress level went through the roof, I started grinding my teeth in my sleep and losing my hair. So, I decided I would rather just perform and live like a Bohemian.
thatwasthen has a couple of shows coming up next week LA! I can’t make these (but I WILL make at least one of their residencies at Amplify!) but any of you readers that can, NEED TO. Their first show next week is with last weeks badass band BETHPAGE BLACK and Kid is Qual at Detroit Bar on 1/10. Their second show next week is at The Troubadour with Acidic, Bikelock, and Kid is Qual on 1/12.
You can find thatwasthen here: