The Jackson 5 did it, Kings of Leon does it—staying in the family to make a band has been a successful formula through the years. Brown Shoe, consisting of the four Baggaley brothers, can join that list. In their 10 years as a band, Ryan (vocals and guitar), Aaron (guitar), Bryson (bass), and Landon (drums) have released four albums. Their fifth album, called Lonely Beast, is being released as three EPs, two of which have already been released. With their indie roots and a taste of rock, there is an addictive quality to Brown Shoe that makes you want to listen nonstop.
Cliché: How did you all get started with music?
Ryan: I had asked for a guitar and lessons since I was 8 years old. When I finally wore my parents down, they bought me a little cheap nylon to get started on. One morning, I went to play with it, and I heard a vermin scurrying around inside the guitar. I hate rats and snakes, so I stopped playing guitar. Somewhere around 15, I convinced my parents to get me another guitar—not without much teasing from them about the previous guitar. Soon after, I learned four chords from a friend and wrote my first song. Aaron and I quickly started playing together, messing around with little jams and scraps of songs.
Who came up with an idea to form the band?
Ryan: I guess it wasn’t any one of us per se, but we had been playing more and more music and taking the songwriting seriously. Bryson’s progression as a bass player/musician at 17 really made recording and playing shows an obvious choice.
Breaking up a full-length album to three parts is a unique decision. Who came up with the idea to do that and why?
Aaron: There are a lot of reasons why. We’d put out four records and wanted to approach recording and releasing a little differently than we had in the past. The schedule for the past couple of records felt very rigid, and we didn’t want to do that again. We would spend months—years, even—working on songs, then spend months holed up in a studio, then plan a release for a couple of months, and then tour. We like the idea that we can work on every aspect all the time. Also, as a band, we constantly feel pressure to be touring or releasing, and it makes sense to record, release, and tour at a rate we can keep up with without feeling rushed. This process lets us work at our own pace and still release songs. Our last record, The Gift Horse, took us nine months to record, and this go around, it just felt like a long time to wait to release songs that we had already finished. It feels great to finish recording a song and to know that you can put it out relatively soon after being done with it.
A really big part of it was that my girlfriend worked at Sacramento News and Review at the time and there was so many records to cover that it was difficult to keep up with all the releases and really give them the full attention that they deserve. She found that with so many bands out there, EP’s were much easier to digest. So we got to talking over a couple beers and came up with the idea to release our record in three parts. So yeah, the long and short of it is that my girlfriend came up with it—there, I said it.
With the second part out now, when are you hoping to release the third part?
Aaron: We’re getting pretty close to being finished up writing the songs for Part III and some additional songs for the full-length release. It looks like we should be going into the studio soon; I’d love to say November, but I wouldn’t be shocked if it was January of 2015.
How was ‘Brown Shoe’ decided upon?
Ryan: We’re asked a lot about our name. Mostly, people are befuddled by it. We wanted a simple name that was easy to say that didn’t describe the music directly. We also wanted it to have its own connotation and for it to be free of associations with the music. When we formed our band there were a lot of “the” bands or bands with quirky, sentence-long names. One of us said it, and it stuck. In hindsight we probably should have come up with a sexier name, but “Black Rebel Motorcycle Club” was already taken.
As someone who has a large family, I know how annoying family members can be. When hanging out with family all the time, is it ever difficult?
Bryson: Yes, of course there are times that are difficult, but for the most part it’s rainbows and unicorns. We have spent enough time together that we know to not push certain buttons, not to say we haven’t had our fair share of fights.
What’s the best part of performing as a band of brothers?
Bryson: Performing as brothers has become an easy thing over the years. In the beginning, we were awful at our instruments, but were great performers. We had to disguise our poor musicianship with an intense performance. It worked a lot of the time. Today, we’ve agreed on a more controlled chaos type of performance.
What’s your favorite song to perform?
Landon: “Are You Up” is my favorite song to play; it’s just damn fun every time. And the audience always goes crazy for it.
What about your dream collaboration?
Landon: To collaborate with Fred Armisen would be great, because not only is he a good guitar player and great drummer, but mostly because the jokes he would tell in the writing process might affect Ryan’s lyrics and make for happier content.
Brown Shoe Interview: Photographed by Charles Hall