Brick + Mortar are a duo from Ashbury Park New Jersey on an uphill battle and gaining traction in the large and ever-changing music industry. Long time friends Brandon Asraf and John Tacon, who have been writing and playing music together since middle school, officially joined forces in 2008. Asraf leads the duo with his unique vocals and aggressive bass lines, while Tacon fills in the details with drums, samples and back up vocals. They started off by playing up and down the coast of New Jersey, gaining a considerable amount of success with their live show. Eventually they opened for Jimi Eat World, played at 2012 SXSW Music Conference and more recently they have been showcasing for different labels for representation. They came out with their first studio release independently in 2010, titled 7 Years in the Mystic Room, which was well received by critics and fans. Independent label Anchor & Hope Music has since signed them.
On Bangs, Brick + Mortar seem to have developed a new even more adventurous, yet pop, sound with an undeniable “in-your-face” aggression. Compared to 7 Years, which overall has a mid-tempo and atmospheric feel, this is a noticeable difference. The title track explodes with a jarring introductory riff. Ruff and ready heaviness, catchy melodies and distorted overtones are immediate themes. Asraf’s use of effects on his vocals appropriately adds to the draw of their creation. Tacon holds things together with an apparent ability to find the most extreme and most fitting beats and fills to compliment the integrity of the song. The groups use of samples and various synthesizers is an attractive characteristic, adding depth and a modern vibe.
On “Locked In A Cage” Asraf voices frustrations “you know I got the anger of a burning sun, now hold up just a minute down burn me down.” Possibly, this a reflection of the difficulty of finding yourself with a dream in a thankless world. Ironically, this type of honest, up-beat and aggressive production will likely gain the duo even more well-deserved attention. The melody is repetitive and infectious.
The next track seems to have become a sort of anthem for the band. “Heatstroke,” previously showcased at their live shows, offers a memorable melody over Tacon’s rolling, pounding drums. The introduction on this track is exceptionally wild. The two different choruses offer eye to eye views inside Asraf’s angst about our cold-hearted world and the woes of lost love: “The strongest thing I ever felt was feelings for you, so try to look me in the eye, a difficult goodbye, to all the things we hide.”
Brick + Mortar deliver another raucous account of life on “Old Boy.” The drums are the driving force behind this track with an upbeat, party feel. The post chorus riffing shows displays the group’s ability to play well at super speed. Asraf points out “can’t be the best, still I hold on to.” On the next song, “No I Won’t Go” is well written, though follows a predictable pop song structure and familiar sounding melody, suggesting the group is looking for a broader appeal. The production at the end of the Bangs collection keeps things lively. On “Keep This Place Beautiful” Asraf brings morbid creativity to the pre-chorus with a conscious for future generations “one day I will be dead, I will be dust, keep this place beautiful.” On the last track, “Terrible Things,” Asraf and Tacon explore the deeper sides of their minds.
Brick + Mortar have many well executed creative ideas throughout this short seven song collection. Their well-defined sound, strong songwriting and musicianship prove them worthy of praise and attention. The stronger tracks on this release, “Bangs,” “Heatstroke” and “Locked in a Cage” soar with potential and prove their abilities as non-conformist songwriters. Brick + Mortar’s blend of alternative indie pop-rock music with ambition should not fall off the radar anytime soon, and in fact may be heating up right here in front of us.