The Britanys to Play at Rod’s

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The Britanys to Play at Rod’s

The Britanys are using technology to engage fans in an unprecedented way: the band is uploading new material to a public Google Drive in real time.

The Britanys are using technology to engage fans in an unprecedented way: the band is uploading new material to a public Google Drive in real time.

PHOTO BY SOPHIA RAGOMO

The Britanys are using technology to engage fans in an unprecedented way: the band is uploading new material to a public Google Drive in real time.

PHOTO BY SOPHIA RAGOMO

PHOTO BY SOPHIA RAGOMO

The Britanys are using technology to engage fans in an unprecedented way: the band is uploading new material to a public Google Drive in real time.

By ALYANA VERA, Staff Writer

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The Britanys — singer Lucas Long, guitarist Jake Williams, drummer Steele Kratt and bassist Burke Williams —  are playing with who it means to be a band in the digital age, using technology to interact with their fans in an unprecedented way. For their forthcoming release, the band has pulled back the curtain on their recording process by uploading new music as they work on it in real time to a public Google Drive. Ahead of their show on Oct. 25 at Rodrigue’s Coffee House at Rose Hill, I spoke with the foursome about transparency, community and the role technology plays in it all. 

The Bushwick-based rock quartet are no strangers to utilizing technology to connect with their fans. For their 2018 release “1-833-IDK-HTBA,” the band set up an Instagram account anyone could post on, encouraging fans to use it as a shared finsta. With their Drive, The Britanys are continuing this tradition of interaction in a new way: both providing fans with a behind-the-scenes look at their recording process as it happens, and actively inviting their audience to weigh in on their demos.

Replete with demos, lyrics, photos and more, one can track the band’s sonic progression through the Drive: from the oft-mentioned Strokes-esque sound of the 2016’s “Early Tapes” to a sound that readily embraces the musicality of technology in “1-833-IDK-HTBA,” which features several Siri-narrated interludes, the iMessage notification sound and pseudo-industrial drum samples. The Britanys’ latest cyberspace endeavor — which invites fans to watch as the band continues to evolve their sound — is rooted in both practicality and frustration.

While Long joked that the band just didn’t have the money for Dropbox, Jake Williams said, “We didn’t like the fact that we had to do these very official releases. So the Google Drive was an alternative, where we could put stuff up on there, and people can listen or download as they want.

“At this point, we are so connected with our core fans that we’ll do four different versions of the same thing and get instant feedback, which is the best part of doing all this on Google Drive.”

The presence of multiple versions may seem to hint at differences in artistic vision within the band, but Jake Williams made it clear that “it’s never been a question of internal disagreement.

“It’s like when [Bob] Dylan released the basement tapes and then you had a different version of all these songs that you already love. We’re just doing it simultaneous with the final product.” 

Long added, “It almost breaks the barrier of even thinking too much because we’re working in live time. That’s our workflow right now.”

Feedback can be tricky, as eager fans may provide only praise rather than constructive feedback. Kratt emphasized the role of engagement and stats, pointing out that these figures help the band to see “which songs are tickling people’s ears a little bit more.” 

“When we’re happy with it internally, then we’ll put it out,” said Kratt. “From there we can see what we think works, how it fits into our views of music and what they actually think through their actions.”

This feedback has a real impact on the band’s work; take the song “I Love New York,” for example. Originally meant to be a bonus track, the audience’s reception pushed the band to change that. 

“When we played it at a show, people took videos of that song,” Long said. “That was the one that people responded to so that will probably be more of a focus track.”

The willingness to listen to their audience comes in part from how the band views their fans; Jake Williams said that the band has “never played the rock and roll card.”

“We know that we’re not Parquet Courts; we aren’t at that level. We’re at a level where we want all sorts of feedback, and people that like our music are the best people to talk to.”

By inviting fans into their process and engaging them as equals, The Britanys are using technology’s best impulse — its democratizing power  — to combat its worst — its isolating effect.

The Britanys may be using technology, but they aren’t dependent on it; as Kratt cheekily put it, “We aren’t influencers.” While they are interested in using technology to get feedback from fans, they have also done it in a much more traditional way. Jake Williams said, 

“A couple months ago, we set up in that back room and brought in groups of seven or eight people at a time and played the same set for them. Just to get that same sort of level of instant feedback.”

Technology helps facilitate this connection, but the band is aware of the pros and cons of the digital world. For Long, the archival nature of the Internet is a part of its appeal.

“It’s a social media era,” he said. “Before, you never got people uploading their songs and having that archive to go back to. Now I think it’s really cool to be able to look back and have all that be out in the open.”

The Britanys have readily used this archive, reaching into their back catalogue to toy with old songs “Reckless” and “Wanna Be” for their latest project. When reflecting on previous work, Long said that lyrics have moved to the forefront in a new way, a development that Burke Williams contributes to there being “more life to reflect on when you are older.”

But while the Internet has opened this space for reflection by way of archiving, it also has the capability to function negatively — one needs only to look at social media for evidence. Kratt says that he’s more “back-and-forth” on the issue.

“If you’re a kid growing up now and you’re driven to the point where you think about your likes and engagement, obviously that is terrible.

“I feel like there’s degrees; if you drink all the time, could be bad. If you get drunk every once in a while,” said Kratt. Long chimed in, saying that although it is “the inevitable way that we’re living,” there are aspects of social media that could change.

“I just think things can find a lot more balance. Now it’s more about just having fun with the different outlets and trying to test those boundaries.”

The Britanys have used technology to cut out the middle-man in getting music to their fans, using Google Drive in a novel way. Technology has also made it easier than ever for music to be a solitary exercise: the creative process has been democratized, and anyone with a laptop can record and produce their own music. Long said that now “a band is sort of seen as an archaic thing,” but he emphasized the radical potential for community that a band represents.

”A band is a unique thing where you’re actually making something together. That’s what always personally drew me into a band; you’re able to make things with your friends.” 

“Collaboration is really important, and not being so isolated in the creation.” 

Jake Williams agreed, saying that “the best part about our band is that we’ve always maintained this thing of really, truly wanting to perpetuate a scene.” 

For The Britanys, their community expands beyond their fans into the broader Brooklyn music scene. Rather than see themselves in competition with other bands, Burke Williams said, “Why be competitive if nobody’s buying mansions?

“No one’s getting rich off this game anymore. There is no point in doing it if you aren’t going to be happy.”

Instead of seeing other bands as their rivals, The Britanys are more focused on having fun, playing good music, and making friends along the way — and they don’t try to hide this. At a time when social media has encouraged false self-projections, Jake Williams said that the band’s social media presence is “as true as we can be a reflection of who we are.” 

Long emphasized the band’s relatability, saying that they are “just four dudes” who got their start playing parties. The Britanys have come a long way since forming in 2014 though, and in the years since they’ve gone on to perform at SXSW and abroad in the UK. 

The foursome seemed a bit nostalgic for when they were just hanging out and having fun with friends — importantly, there seems to be an imperative to not take themselves too seriously, despite nods from publications like NPR and NME. 

“We don’t do the same set of, you know this is the moment where I do my solo, and this is when Steele does this,” said Jake Williams. “We are more sincere than that, I feel.

“I think we’re one of the few bands that don’t pretend to be something they’re not. We prefer to just show ourselves as we are.”

You can follow The Britanys’ recording process on their Google Drive or listen on Soundcloud.