|One of our writers across the pond, Anna Chigo, chatted with Jason Brewer, lead vocalist of South Carolina-based, The Explorer’s Club about being stranded in Montana, a tennis instruction video, and their signature retro sixties pop sound.
SoundsXP: How did you guys meet each other and form the band?
Jason: Well, I had been playing music with Neil, our drummer since middle school. We used to play in the church band and we played in the band at school. We had a little band that would lead the chapel services. We started our own rock band when we were a little older. When I was in college, I met Dave, who’s in our band, and Jim, and Stephan, and then I met Wally, who was our bass player first. We didn’t play music together when we were in college, but that’s where I met them all.
A lot of us went to the same college and hung out together, and we’d play guitar out on the porch and stuff like that, so we all knew each other. Fast forward a couple of years, I graduate college and then I decide, ok, I’ve written some new songs, (a couple of the songs that actually ended up being on our album), and I went and recorded them with our drummer. I played all the instruments and our drummer played the drums, I did the vocals. It turned out actually really good. Then I called a bunch of my old friends, all those guys that I just named, and I said: “Hey, I’ve got these new songs, do you guys want to put together a band?”
So we put our band together, started playing gigs locally in Charleston and I guess that’s how we met. I wrote some songs, they liked it, and we put a band together.
SoundsXP: How did the band name come about?
Jason: I was watching that movie The Life Aquatic, a Wes Anderson movie.
SoundsXP: With Steve Zissou?
Jason: Yeah, at the beginning of the movie he’s all depressed and he goes to this cleaning place club with the Owen Wilson character, the name of the place would be Explorer’s Club. So I was like: “Oh, that would be a good name for a band. That sounds like fun. You could really take that a lot of places.” I thought you can make your fans part of the Explorer’s Club and give them a member code name and all this silly stuff, so I thought that would be a fun thing to play with, and actually if you buy our album (Freedom Wind) on vinyl now, you get a little card that says: “This is your official Explorer’s Club membership card.” Yeah, it’s kind of funny.
SoundsXP: Are you guys playing music fulltime right now, or do you have day jobs?
Jason: A lot of us have day jobs. We definitely would like to make it a fulltime gig if the money was right, but we do all work part-time jobs and some of us have fulltime jobs. Whenever we have to tour, we kind of have to tell our bosses: “Hey, we really need this time off,” and they’re usually pretty understanding.
SoundsXP: Can you tell the story of how you got signed to Dead Oceans?
Jason: Sure can. We had booked a tour with this band called The Apples in Stereo. We had a booking agent, a manager, and a lawyer, but no label. So our booking agent at that time got us these gigs with Apples in Stereo, which also included SXSW. We met up with Apples in Stereo after SXSW. At SXSW we played a bunch of gigs and these guys from Secretly Canadian/Dead Oceans heard about us on the internet, I guess through myspace they heard our songs and they really liked us, so they made it a point to come and check us out. They came to see us play, they loved it, and as soon as we walked off the stage, they came up to us and said: “We really want work with you guys. Let’s get some paperwork together and put out an album.” So we just had a really good performance at SXSW that impressed them, so they signed us there on the spot.
SoundsXP: When that happened was that a complete surprise to you?
Jason: I knew they were coming. They had emailed our manager at the time, and told him that they were going to come see us play, so we kind of had a heads up before we turned up the heat and played well.
SoundsXP: It’s good to know beforehand. I saw that on our myspace you have a note asking people to help you fix your van, because you’re stranded in Montana. What was that all about?
Jason: We were stranded in Montana on this last tour for like three days. We hit a deer, so we missed our gig in Seattle. We hit a deer and it totally wrecked the front of our van and we didn’t have enough money, so we had to get a hotel we couldn’t afford, but it worked out ok. Insurance helped us out and actually some of our fans sent us a little bit of extra money, and every little penny helped us get home. We finished the tour, but we still might have to pay a bunch of money to get the van working better, so we’re still trying to see what we can do about that. We’re a little band on a little independent label, so every little penny was helping on that tour.
SoundsXP: That’s great that the fans pitched in. I watched the tennis lesson video on your myspace. Did Jim give up a career as a tennis pro to focus on music?
Jason: It’s just a thing he thought would be funny. Ever since Jim was a little kid he used to make little videos trying to be an actor, but he’s never really taken it seriously enough to be a movie star or anything. He always just wanted to write his own comedy sketches, so he thought it would be really funny to do a little tennis instruction video to make it seem like he knew what he was talking about, but he knew that it was really terrible.
SoundsXP: The part where he explains how to tell whether a tennis ball is a good one or a bad one – I thought that was hilarious.
Jason: Yeah, it’s really funny. I’ll make sure to tell him. When you write your article mention that, he’ll get a kick out of it.
SoundsXP: You get a lot of comparisons to The Beach Boys. Did you grow up listening to them?
Jason: When my mom was a kid, she grew up in Miami so that whole surfing, beachy sounding music was really popular there. She used to play it to us when we were little. I used to like the Beatles a lot when I was a kid, but she liked the Beach Boys better, so she bought me and my little brother Beach Boys Greatest Hits cassette and we used to play it all the time in the car. So I guess it just kind of stuck. Also, I’ve tried to write different styles of music, like rock n’ roll music and hard rock, you know Led Zeppelin, Rolling Stones-influenced stuff and I just wasn’t very good at it. But I could write these sunny, happy pop songs with a lot of ease and harmonies came really naturally to me, which was another influence from my parents, because they were both choir directors when I was young, and they kind of taught me how to sing and how to put parts together, so it all just kind of came together. The Beach Boys, The Birds, Mamas and the Papas, that sounds like stuff I’m most familiar with, I can write that kind of music. I feel like the Explorer’s Club sounds like kind of a continuation of all that old music. Because in the sixties, that California pop style wasn’t just “Oh, this sounds like the Beach Boys”. That was the sound in that part of the country in that era. I’m not trying to just totally rip off all those bands. The perspective I look at it from is: “I’m making a sound that is kind of a dying sound, and I’m trying to put some new life into a sound that I know has proven that tons of people enjoy it.” The new Dennis Wilson reissue that just came out sold as much as most new releases have. Something tells me that people are still looking for that sound, so I’m trying to fulfill that need, I guess.
SoundsXP: One of your songs was featured on an episode of the O.C. That was a really popular show. How did they approach you to do that?
Jason: We had a guy who had a company that pitches our music to different TV shows and they liked it and they used it.
SoundsXP: It was such a popular show that the fact that they used your music probably means that it would appeal to a wide audience. So right now are you guys on tour?
Jason: We just finished our tour. We were on tour for a whole month with Lightspeed Champion.
SoundsXP: Where did you tour?
Jason: We played all over the country.
SoundsXP: Do you enjoy the touring aspect of playing music?
Jason: I enjoy touring, but I wish I could enjoy it more. I wish it was a little more comfortable. I wish we could get a better mode of transportation, but I’ll deal with what we have for now.
SoundsXP: What are you future goals as a band?
Jason: I want the Explorer’s Club to get more and more exposure and I wanna get more and more fans and play in front of as many people as possible. I guess my main goal is to keep making music as a career and to make people happy. I wanna make people smile and have fun when they listen to our music. I’m not out to be the newest, most cutting edge, hip, artistic figure out there. I want to make good pop songs that are going to make people happy and be a good soundtrack to someone’s summer or soundtrack to their happy times.
SoundsXP: Anything I’ve read about you, that’s what people say that your album is like a summer soundtrack, so you’re well on your way to making that goal materialize. Congratulations on that. Do you know if you’ll be going on tour again soon?
Jason: We’re definitely going to go back to California this fall, and I have a feeling that we might be going to Europe early next year.