Brothers Jeff and Ben Brown grew up in a little town across the river from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Jeff started playing punk originally and has been writing songs since he was 13 or 14. “As soon as my friends older brother started introducing us to the music we liked, I instantly became obsessed with it,” says Jeff Brown. “"I didn't think I could be a musician at first because the popular rock music when I was young was very technical. Eventually though I discovered the Ramones and that changed all that, because I realized that a great song was more powerful than pure technical ability. So early on I started writing, even before I could play very well. In The Savage Poor I write a lot of the material, but even in Shinyribs, when I'm just coming up with a bass part, I think of it as writing and try to compliment the song."
“Ben actually learned to play guitar a lot later than I did,” Jeff remembers. “The only time we’ve ever lived apart was my first year of college – and while I was away from home somehow he got really good,” Jeff laughs. “He just showed up one day and could play and sing great. We started playing together a little bit during college and eventually moved back home to Pennsylvania to form a band with our friends (the No Show Ponies).” They kept the band name when they first moved to Austin. Jeff says there was a revolvoing cast of characters in the band, but there was always he and his brother Ben.
The Savage Poor is a band name Ben came up with for their newest band incarnation. “We felt it was a strong name,” Jeff said. “Given that we are struggling musicians and the current political situation we thought it would be provocative.” Their genre is rock at heart. “Everything we play is informed by the passion of rock and roll but stylistically we are all over the map – we throw in reggae and soul grooves with punk songs,” Jeff said. The musicians that have influenced him the most are: Morirssey, Paul Westerberg, Lou Reed, Bruce Springsteen. Their debut album is coming out in June and is called 'The Grown Ups". Check it out: https://www.gofundme.com/savagepooralbum
Having played with Shinyribs (Jeff has also been on recorded tracks with Ray Wylie Hubbard and Tim Easton, among others), Jeff brings a lot of musical talent to the band, but he is not the only one. Each person performing with The Savage Poor has played with a variety of talent including Bo Diddley and Jesse Malin. The Savage Poor is currently comprised of Jeff Brown on guitar and vocals, Ben Brown on guitar and vocals, Alex Moralez on drums, and Roger Wuthrich on bass. Joining them on Sunday, as at all recent gigs, is their producer Christine Smith on keyboards, who recently relocated to Austin. Jeff says, "Smith is as close to a band member as one can be, outside of officially joining the band. We spent months locked in the studio with her and the band all developed a great respect for her musical abilities. It only made sense to collaborate live as much as possible. The five of us are all really good friends and it really shows in what we're bringing to the stage right now."
I asked Jeff to tell me about one of their songs:
“Our first single, "Alone and Cry", is a classic wall of sound pop song. It's probably the most classic sounding song on the record that begins our journey, before we head off to weirder territories. It's got an army of acoustic guitars, piano, xylophone, and tympani on it, amongst other things. We wanted to keep the listener off balance, leave them unsure of what will be around the next corner. Before this song there is a 30 second intro of distorted howling. Then this song comes in, which is gentle and beautiful. Despite the gorgeous melody and lush arrangement we wanted the lyrics to set the tone for the record. This song begins, "The body decays, the mind gets perverted, one day you wake up afraid, that you'll become conservative." We wanted the record to be fun, but to also deal head on with these troubling times in our country. Gallows humor is a tool to do both.” Jeff says the Savage Poor plays subversive rock and roll. “We are trying to get ideas into music that challenge political aspects and cultural points of interest.”
Favorite place to eat in Austin: Taco deli – the al pastor tacos
Tips for new bands out there:
“Don’t worry about making mistakes. The only difference between pro and amateur is that the mistakes don’t bother the pro, but when you’re new and make mistakes its like your world is ending. You can't be afraid of mistakes or you'll never get anywhere new and exciting.