From the opening riff to the closing chorus, the music of Brainstory’s full-length debut album, Buck, feels like it’s from a different era; though which particular era is a matter for discussion.
At times, the San Bernardino Valley trio offers ‘60s-inspired psychedelic jazz melodies set meticulously against laidback vocals.
Alternatively, the band also makes ’70s-infused Motown soul sounds that are authentically emotional and smoothly delivered.
Through it all, Brainstory—led by brothers Kevin and Tony Martin, with drummer Eric Hagstrom—remains unmistakably chic, blending the elements in a post-modern mash of memorable tunes that are as hip as they are hypnotic.
The brothers give credit for their eclectic tastes to their upbringing in a musical household, with a grandfather who was a swing saxophonist and a father who was an in-demand gospel soloist. “He was the first person who showed us James Brown, Jimi Hendrix, Chicano Rock, all kinds of music,” Tony Martin says.
The brothers formed their first band before they were in high school. “We had a punk-rock duo,” Martin says. “We would play in our room, but when no one was home—we were really embarrassed.”
When the brothers got serious about performing, they also got into jazz music, met Hagstrom and played with him in a jazz trio originally. Brainstory—named after a yearbook typo for one poor Brian Story—was a recording project that transformed into a full band once Tony moved back from the Bay Area to the brothers’ hometown of Rialto in 2014.
“In Rialto there’s not many opportunities, so the difference between us and places closer to L.A., is that we did it for the love of music,” says Martin. “Brainstory and other groups from the Inland Empire came out of that basic drive to make something from the soul. That soulfulness and passion and abandonment is in our music.”
Brainstory released two EPs on Chicano Batman band member Eduardo Arenas’ El Relleno Records before signing to Big Crown Records and recording Buck, released this month. With the record out, the band is gearing up for a West Coast tour and more.
“Honestly, my brother and I have been talking about ‘the band’ and making an album since way back when we were 13 years old,” Martin says. “It feels surreal, but that surreal feeling is giving me so much fire inside myself. I can’t wait to play and show the world what we do.”