Brad is a band that formed in 1992 as a side project for Satchel singer/keyboardist Shawn Smith and drummer Regan Hagar, along with Pearl Jam guitarist Stone Gossard. With Jeremy Toback on bass, the band released their debut Shame in 1993. Despite poor sales (as far as their label Epic was concerned), Brad released their sophomore album Interiors three years later. The band built a cult following thanks in part to their funky rock grooves and sincere piano ballads.
No longer on a major label, and not concerned with sales numbers (after all this was just a few friends playing for fun), Brad carried on with new bassist Mike Berg to issue their third effot Welcome To Discovery Park on the short-lived label Redline Records in 2002. Never short on material, Brad self-released Brad vs. Satchel, an 11-track compilation of 2001 outtakes from the Welcome to Discovery Park sessions and Satchel tracks, which were never released.
After an eight-year absence, Smith, Hagar, Gossard and Berg are back with their first album of new material on the curiously titled album Best Friends?
“I came up with the title after many interview/articles about us…call us best friends,” Hagar said. “I thought how fun to ask the question Best Friends?What is a best friend?.. just thought provoking, I felt.”
Keeping with their unique style of piano ballads, funky grooves and straight-forward rock, Just Friends? encompasses the maturity of the band. A little bit older, a little bit wiser and maybe even a little mellower, the on-again/off-again Seattle rockers sound better than ever.
Although Mike Berg has stepped away from Brad for the time being, all four members contributing writing duties. Just Friends? has a seamless flow of diversity in soundscapes beginning with the opening piano ballad “Price of Love.” It is the second song, however, “Without Regret,” that truly showcases the tone of the album.
With its soft synth and guitar intro, the track flows into a full band furrow that is not only laid back, but tight. Smith’s reverbed vocals are sung with conviction while backed flawlessly by Hagar’s in-the-pocket drumming and Gossard’s spacery guitar leads. “Without Regret” could arguably be the best song this band of friends has ever written.
“Well, I went down the street to grab some food from Studio Litho (Gossard’s recording studio) and returned not 30 minutes later to hear basics for “Without Regret,” Hagar said. “To my frustration, Stone had played drums already, and I was feeling like I really wanted to add to the track because it was so melodic and catchy…I added slide guitar and felt good about that. Stone and I have been talking about doing it live with Gossard on drums and me playing my part. It was a straight up Brad jam with all of us pitching in to make it happen, which we did in about an hour.”
As for the songs on the album, everyone contributed with Smith continuing his quest for love, hope and peace in his lyrics. You can’t help but to be enveloped into his words like a preacher into his congregation – especially on the tracks “Believe In Yourself” and “One Love Remaining.” Along with Smith, Gossard penned the downtempo bluesy “Every Whisper,” the funkdafied “Low” and Beach Boys-eque bouncy summer jam “Holiday.”
Another standout is “Oh My Goodness.” The song is one rocker with so many hooks and so many grooves you will be singing the chorus for days.
“Oh My Goodness” is fun to play live, in the vein of “Secret Girl” or “La La La,” Hagar said. “It’s an ode to old 50’s rock stylings…a good basic stomp”
Though it’s been years since we’ve heard from Brad, and the members have been off doing their own bands, this quartet are firing on all cylinders like they have never been apart.
“Well, playing with Stone has always been a good time, since we were teenagers,” Hagar said. “He has a discipline to him that I enjoy, and a discipline that all other bands I have been involved with do not have. Shawn Smith is the opposite of this; let’s say Shawn has an indiscipline. Between the two, I get to be free and regimented at the same sitting. In short, it felt great!”