this is it: meet the band driving the BUSHWick rock scene
Words and photos by Lallie Doyle
I first encountered the Britanys when they played a small gig in Manhattan’s Lower East Side on an early evening last June. Basking in the fog of their own poorly rolled cigarettes, dampened by the ever present humidity, a horde of leather clad kids spilled onto the gritty New York pavement. Moving inside, the cliché was furthered by the soundtrack of amps being tested and clatter of converse upon converse (upon converse), lit up by the flash of disposable cameras. Reaching on my tip-toes to catch a glimpse of the anticipated act over the sea of disheveled locks of hair, my cynicism was quickly silenced by the fuzzy guitar sequences followed by the low, raspy vocals of frontman Lucas Long. The chemistry of the band, made up of guitarist Jake, bassist Lucas and drummer Steele, was evident in their charismatic melodies and witty lyrics. Quickly encapsulated by their boyish charm and palpable allure, after only two songs it was evident that I wasn’t just watching another 'friend who played in a band': this was something much more. I was witness to the flourishing of raw musical talent channeled into crisp and memorable songs, bound by charisma.
Gordon Raphael, the producer responsible for the Stroke’s debut This is It, proclaimed “The Britanys restore my faith that rock can still happen in New York.” It was Raphael who helped develop the band’s fearless early singles like Get My and Basketholder, and with clear influences from garage rock, parallels can be drawn between the Britanys’ sounds and the boisterous riffs of the early White Stripes and the rebellious poetry of the Libertines. With three quarters of the band native to New York, their sound is very much grounded in their city. In songs such as City Boys and Left, Right Order, you get the sense that the chord progressions have simply bounced off the nearest fire escape. What is evident though, is that the band are moving back to musical basics; demonstrating that in a digitised musical climate dominated by over-synthesized vocals and mechanical beats, there is a real demand for analog sounds.
It hasn’t just been key figures in the music industry that have taken an interest in these four, admittedly very handsome, musicians, but their style has been picked up by the New York fashion world too. Designer Robert James was inspired to create his By Robert James SS/ 17 collection around the band, having them walk for his July presentation and play the after-party.
This scene is nothing new to these guys, with Jake having walked multiple times down the YSL runway, and singer Lucas gracing the frames of short videos shot by Wiissa. Yet, in the post-recession era, which has had the propensity to kill the creative drive of many, the band represents an ever-growing community of musicians in Bushwick who are engaging with the artistic community of New York. Their intention is to entice you out of the house and going to see live music rather than monging out to your friend’s Spotify playlist.
A few weeks after their appearance at NYMD (New York Men's Day), I photographed the band on the roof of a building in South Williamsburg. A far cry from the Robert James’ metallic biker jackets and leopard print slacks, the boys rocked up in an array of scruffy sports shirts and tracksuit tops. Friendly and relaxed, the band exhibited their intoxicating sense of humour as they posed for the camera. Intermissions were spent posting Snapchat videos, jumping over walls and talking football, a hobby that takes up much of their free time (when they are not driving around Brooklyn in what I can only suspect was Steele’s mum’s old mini-van).
There is a lot to look forward to from this young band. They have spent the last month recording their new EP in Brooklyn’s Seaside Lounge and are soon to be taking off to LA for their first Californian show. As the boys looked out across New York, it was very apparent that they have a lot more potential to progress. I imagine very soon, on a level far beyond just the city.